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County looks at move into old hospital

 The former hospital facility on Gamble Drive in Lincolnton has been vacant since Carolinas Medical Center moved into its new building in Boger City in mid-2010. The county is considering moving many of its offices to the location.


Staff Writer
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners was presented Monday with the proposed schematic design for renovations to convert the old hospital on Gamble Drive into county offices, should the decision be made to move forward with those plans.
However, when that decision will be made remains unclear. Following the presentation by Philip Fieler of Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects, County Manager George Wood suggested commissioners further discuss the matter, particularly financing and phasing, during a work session in March, before which they can prepare questions and concerns they may have about the project.
Wood added that he had asked for the presentation to be made during Monday’s meeting to follow up on discussion from the commissioners’ budget retreat in December.
As the Times-News has previously reported, county officials have been weighing the cost-effectiveness of the project for quite some time, including whether it would be better to renovate the building or to try to sell it and build a new government center. Based on previous estimates, the cheaper of the two options appeared to be the renovation.
Fieler, who previously helped conduct the county’s space-needs study, noted that the overall price tag for the renovation would likely fall between $13 million and $18 million. He also laid out the time frame for the various elements of the project, saying that occupancy could occur 24 to 30 months after approval.
The partial design plans that were presented outlined in detail how the existing space would be allocated to the various county government departments, in addition to noting improvements deemed necessary following the onsite review carried out last year.
Three county offices are already housed in the old hospital at this time. In December, both the Veterans Services Office and the Home Health Office relocated to the Medical Arts Building within the complex, with the latter’s move saving the county roughly $30,000 on rent over the next year.
Additionally, the Register of Deeds Office temporarily relocated to the complex in November while its permanent facility is undergoing renovation.
Assistant County Manager Martha Lide told the Times-News in December that the plans for moving county departments to the old hospital had been shelved because of the expense.
Depending on what decision is made following the work session in March, the project could “go dormant,” said Wood.
In other board of commissioners action at Monday’s meeting:
Commissioners unanimously passed a design contract for Rock Springs Park and a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) application, in addition to a revised master plan, for the proposed East Lincoln Rescue Park.
The board unanimously approved a request for a waterline extension for residents of the Planter’s Ridge Subdivision.
A request to erect a sign for the Lovable Lincolnton Possibility Tour was passed unanimously.
Commissioners unanimously signed off on a proposal from Martin Starnes & Associates to continue providing the county’s audit services for an additional three years, as presented by Finance Director Leon Harmon.
Three zoning public hearings were conducted. During its separate meeting Monday night, the Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of all rezoning requests and will bring its recommendations before commissioners at the next meeting.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to move the next scheduled regular meeting from Jan. 23 to Jan. 30.

Image courtesy of Nayeli Ramirez / LTN

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