Safety upgrades not included in budget

May. 29, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

With the Lee County Board of Commissioners’ mandate of no new capital projects in the coming fiscal year, the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center is not set to receive any of the community college’s requested safety improvements.

The Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees and the Lee County Commissioners are scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Monday at the Gordon Wicker Conference Room at the Lee County Government Center, located at 166 Hillcrest Drive, to review the college’s budget, including the safety improvements.

The primary safety concern are the movable walls inside the grand hall, said CCCC President T. Eston “Bud” Marchant. Installed when the civic center was first built decades ago, they are at risk of deteriorating and falling with each use, he said.

The estimated cost to replace the walls that partition the hall is estimated at $350,000.  

The other concerns, Marchant said, include items that are considered to be cosmetic and safety-related. There is no place to store the center’s lawn mowers and gasoline, the restrooms are showing signs of rust and a number of cracks are appearing in doorways and windows that could allow water or pests to enter the building. The estimated cost for those repairs and renovations, Marchant said, is estimated at $47,000. 

Explaining that the walls are “our main problem,” Marchant said, “As the walls deteriorate, so does our ability to use them. We will need to begin the discussion about the civic center and its future.”

The college holds the civic center as a public trust, he said, and its higher purpose is to serve the needs of the Lee County residents.

“It’s showing its age, and it’s beginning to fall behind in terms of its ability to be appealing to outside groups,” Marchant said. “I personally believe it’s an economic engine in our community.”

Lee County Manager John Crumpton said there simply weren’t enough funds in the 2013-2014 budget for the repairs.

“The commissioners said ‘No capital projects right now,’” Crumpton said. “We don’t have the funds at this point.”

There hasn’t been any discussion among the commissioners concerning the civic center recently, he said, but they will be prepared to discuss the center during the upcoming budget workshop.

CCCC Trustee Chet Mann, who co-chaired the college’s subcommittee on the future of the civic center, said he was disappointed the improvements would not be made in this fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“Commissioner [Chairman Charlie] Parks seemed positive when we met with him in person,” Mann said. “He asked us for a list of improvements; we gave it to him, and we thought we were going to get some positive feedback. Our concern, as trustees, are these safety issues.”

Trustees passed a resolution in April seeking a countywide vote to fund a $23 million bond referendum for renovations to the civic center and other capital projects at the college’s Lee County campus. The resolution calls on the Lee County Commissioners to provide funding “by issues of bonds or otherwise” to meet the capital needs. Crumpton said the bond would be for the 2014 election, and the resolution has not yet been presented to the commissioners.