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Three town halls in county under construction, on schedule

By Allen Turner, The News Reporter

For the first time in memory and perhaps for the first time in history, construction is simultaneously underway on three new municipal seats of government in Columbus County. Although completion and occupancy dates remain uncertain, officials say that the new buildings should be occupied in Whiteville, Fair Bluff and Cerro Gordo in early 2019.

Construction of the new Whiteville City Hall is expected to wrap up February or March according to City Manager Darren Currie. Fair Bluff’s new Town Hall building expansion is expected to be ready for occupancy by Feb. 1 according to Town Consultant Al Leonard. Cerro Gordo’s new Town Hall should be ready by March or April, according to Town Clerk Wanda Prevatte.

 Construction of the new Whiteville City Hall is expected to wrap up February or March.

Construction of the new Whiteville City Hall is expected to wrap up February or March.

The new Whiteville City Hall at the intersection of South Madison and West Columbus Streets will replace the old building, which was demolished due to mold problems, and is being financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Division. The Fair Bluff and Cerro Gordo facilities are being built with Golden LEAF Foundation funds to help the towns recover from damages suffered in Hurricane Matthew two years ago.

The total cost of $3.4 million for the new Whiteville City Hall includes razing of the old City Hall, acquisition of an adjoining property and demolition of a house on that property, architectural fees, furniture and all technology-related expenses. The new 10,700-sq. ft. building will replace the old 3,500-sq. ft. City Hall on the same site. The city currently operates out of 6,000 sq. ft. of leased facilities at Hill Plaza.

Fair Bluff’s previous Town Hall was destroyed in flooding after Hurricane Matthew and the town used $202,000 in state funds to acquire the former BB&T building, which has served as the seat of government services since the flood. 

The building is being expanded with $682,337 from Golden LEAF to add a new Town Hall facility and police station. After they are occupied, the existing space that formerly housed the bank will be devoted to housing the town’s visitor’s center, which also was destroyed after Hurricane Matthew.

The current Fair Bluff building is 2,308 sq. ft. The town hall addition will be 3,174 sq. ft., while the new police department will be 2,155 sq. ft. The new town hall will contain a large conference room/commissioners’ chambers, a smaller conference or meeting room, four administrative offices for the mayor, town clerk, project manager and utilities department as well as large file and storage areas. The new police department will have a chief’s office, squad room, booking and interrogation rooms, a holding cell and restrooms that include shower facilities, according to Town Clerk Peggy Moore.

In Cerro Gordo, Town Clerk Wanda Prevatte admitted excitement about the construction of the new Town Hall underway at 84 Cherry St. 

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “We were in the old Town Hall for many years and it’s going to be very different, but it’s exciting to be moving into a new modern building with all LED lighting. Everything will be really nice once it’s finished.”

Cerro Gordo’s new Town Hall is being funded with a $459,000 Golden LEAF grant that included funds for property acquisition and construction. The new building will be a little more than 1,800 sq. ft., larger than the old 1,500 sq. ft. building on Railroad Street that was destroyed by floodwaters. The town has operated out of a building at the Cerro Gordo Baptist Church since the flood.

The new building will have a lobby, council chamber, offices for the mayor and clerk, two filing rooms and two restrooms, Prevatte said. The new Town Hall will have plenty of room for parking on its two-acre lot, something that was sorely lacking at the old Railroad Street location. 

Stuart Rogers