January 26, 2008

NYT - Building Costs Deal Blow to Local Budgets

Dare County Courthouse, Manteo, NC originally uploaded by infomotions
Saw this piece in the New York Times on the effect of rising building costs on local and state governments. It is interesting in light of the recent flawed building estimates handed to the county Board of Commissioners.
"State and local governments in many parts of the country are struggling to pay for roads, bridges and other building projects because of rising construction costs, adding another burden to budgets already stressed by the troubled housing market."
The news of the revised estimates on the cost of converting Dare County's historic courthouse are shocking. Missing an estimate by a factor of 100% makes pretty good copy. The engineers have some explaining to do and the Commissioners have a couple of choices. They can go on with the admittedly expensive rehab project, they can build a new meeting room beside the new county administration building or they can remain in their current meeting place. It looks like they may take a while to make the choice. Good for them.
I am not surprised the conversion of the courthouse has turned out to be very expensive. I don't know the specifics of the plans but I expect it is expensive in large part because the standards for public meeting space are high. You need handicapped access, lots of fire exits and a very solid floor, things a building built over 100 years ago didn't have when it was built and still doesn't. (The much maligned former board chairman Stan White opposed the plan for just these reasons, interesting that he and the plan's current critics have so much in common who knew)
I hope the BOC finds a use for the courthouse. I am not sure what the best use it but it would seem a real shame to see it torn down. An investment of several million to extend the useful life of this historic building won't look so foolish to our grandchildren when they are able to see the roots of our county.
I give the BOC credit for taking their time to make a decision and for moving to make sure they can choose the option of adding the council chamber to the new administration building if that turns out to be the best option. It is always cheaper to make changes while you are building as opposed to doing then after the building is complete.
As the Times article points out this trend isn't going to change any time soon. We can expect higher costs for these projects in the future. Thank heaven's the county has completed (or nearly completed in the case of CHHS) the Board of Educations's building agenda.
Note:If you want to comment on this please don't write about my support of beach nourishment. It simply isn't relevant. There are lots of other things I voted to spend money on over my 20 years in elected office. Find something other than protecting our economy. I did vote to build Nags Head's beautiful Town Hall. It was not cheap. It holds an art collection valued at nearly a half million dollars. Maybe you should criticize our spending on the septic health inititive that pays homeowners to have their septic systems pumped or our water quality monitoring program, it doesn't provide any direct service to taxpayers.
Note 2: No more anonymous comments. Pick a name and play along!


At 8:17 AM, Blogger TheRealOBX said...

I will only leave two thoughts. First i think the email from Ray Midgette on Uncle Jacks Blog. May lead one to think about over inflated government budgets. Not that I'm saying the county is not getting what it pays for but at some point Functional Obsolescence is just too much to overcome and it is just better to start with a new building.
My second point is are the increasing costs of government construction due to government waste or the declining value of the dollar? You could argue the declining value of the dollar has alot to do with it, but I can now get mork done on my home cheaper due to all the out of work construction employees.
Not that I know why government projects get so overblown but seems a little fishy.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Kevin Schwartz said...

Okay, I'll comment. Just tear the damn courthouse down and do some sort of worthwhile economic development project, or sell the land, or turn it into a park. The point is, people are just way too attached to old so-called historic buildings. They are just structures - sticks and bricks - they are not alive. People need to just let go and have their memories and photos. Why do we have to "preserve" every rotted-out, crumbling, code-deficient thing? I could not look a taxpayer in the eye if I voted to spend a dime on rehabing that place. Not to mention the thousands of hours of staff and elected official time that has already gone into it. Sheesh.

How's that?


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