Town officials mull cost of department building

Strasburg might need to dip into its savings to pay for a new Department of Public Works building.

Town officials met last week to hear an update on the design and eventual construction of the department building in the North Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park. Town Council has approved initial plans to build the 18,000-square-foot facility, including storage space, conference rooms and administrative offices, on about 12 acres of land near First Bank in the park.

Department Director Jay McKinley gave a report to Town Council about the project so far. Wendell Construction is designing the facility while English Construction is building the project.

Council agreed earlier this year to borrow $3.5 million to pay for the project, but it likely needs to take the remaining $1.5 million to cover the cost, Town Manager Judson Rex said Monday. The town can take $2 million out of the water and sewer funds, Rex noted.

“So, there was quite a bit of discussion about that and I think council recognized and appreciated the fact that we’ve engaged citizens and council members and staff together to come up with this approach,” Rex said.

Council reached a consensus at the work session, but not a unanimous agreement, to adding another half-million dollars to the project, Rex said. A couple of council members suggested the town borrow more money rather than use savings. But Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena expressed concerns Monday about adding to Strasburg’s debt, which she said might affect the town’s borrowing power, the rates it can receive and how it would pay off the loans.

“I really want to know … what are we going do to pay back these kind of debts that we’re incurring,” Vena said. “Sure, we say we have this allocated for the next 12 months but we’re talking big numbers here. I’m not talking hundred thousands, we’re talking millions.”

A team of Strasburg officials, council members Scott Terndrup, Vena and private residents has recommended that the town increase the project budget to $5.5 million, Rex said. The extra $500,000 would help cover the additional costs needed for architectural elements to meet at least the spirit of the town’s new development standards and to cover unexpected expenses.

The project is 10-15 percent along in the design process. The team voiced concern with a cost range of $5.6 million-$6.9 million and recommended the designers cut the square footage of the indoor part of the facility by 15 percent, reducing the cost to $4.8 million-$5.8 million, according to a staff memo. The size of the outside storage area has nearly doubled. Staff members are moving forward with surveying and having a geotechnical study performed on the site.

Strasburg officials split the department into Town Hall, the old water treatment plant, the area of the former public works facility and a warehouse at Borden Lumber on East King. The town vacated and razed the former department building after an inspection of the building showed structural problems.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com