It is not about if, but when, a large chunk of the County Complex steeped in history will be gone, with its dilapidated state making its demolition a foregone conclusion and safety necessity.
The county will soon be soliciting bids for the demolition of the old County Home on Rowan Road, which was previously infested with asbestos and has not been in use for years, has been discussed at length in previous Sampson Board of Commissioners and is still very much on the Public Works Department’s radar.
Public Works director Lee Cannady said there was “no doubt” the building would be coming down.
The time frame for getting the building demolished is still in the air, but Cannady and county managerial staff have noted their intent to move as quickly as possible. Inclement weather, as well as a wealth of other projects, including courthouse security and a project by which the first of the county’s water wells will come online, have put a possible demolition project on the backburner — however as the weather warms up, that is expected to change.
Currently, Cannady said, Public Works is identifying gas lines with Piedmont Natural Gas and developing the best course of action to move them so gas lines are not interrupted with the pending demolition.
Once a contractor is in place, the job could be done in short order. The specifications on the job are not firmed up, but will be included in the bid package. The Public Works director said the site will likely become more parking, which is vital to a complex that is running out of it.
“That is our most heavily-trafficked corner that everyone uses. You can tighten that time frame pretty good if you have the right equipment to get in, get out and be done with it,” Cannady has said. “If we can get that, that would be ideal. We don’t want that to linger on, because there is liability — both the contractor’s and ours — so the sooner we can get it out and be done with it, we’ll be better off.”
Board chairman Jefferson Strickland said he wanted to honor the history of the structure in some tangible way. He expressed interest in having a ceremony that paid tribute to the rich past of what he called “a historical building.”
“It was called the Old Age Home, then the old County Home,” said Strickland.
A two-story brick structure measuring about 16,000 square feet, the home is located just off Rowan Road and formerly housed the majority of the county’s services, including the Cooperative Extension Service, the Department of Aging, Emergency Management, Head Start, Public Works, Soil Conservation and Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (what is now the Farm Service Agency).
The issue of demolishing the 16,000-square-foot structure was discussed by the Sampson Board of Commissioners in early 2013. It had long been believed that asbestos contaminated the building, but had only recently been confirmed at the time. Asbestos, exposure to which is known to cause serious illnesses including cancer, was discovered in the plaster ceilings and wall, pipe insulation in the crawlspace, vinyl floor coverings and the heating system.
The asbestos was removed from the building last year.
It did not pose a problem, but had to be removed and disposed of by certified crews to ultimately get rid of the dilapidated facility. If razed as it was, a safety hazard and tremendous liability would have resulted when the substance becomes airborne, county officials said.
The county previously set aside $230,000 to tear the building down and clean up the property. With a $50,000 asbestos removal to go along with any demolition and subsequent disposal costs, the total expense has been estimated at $180,000. Cannady said the county wants to try to get the best possible price tag on the rest of the process, to include the demolition, transporting and disposal of the structure.
“The biggest cost to all this would be landfill fees,” the Public Works director remarked. “There’s somewhere around 2,180 tons of debris that has to be put somewhere. If you do quick math at $30 (a ton), that’s about a $70,000 to 80,000 fee to get rid of the debris.”
Cannady and others are expected to negotiate with Waste Industries representatives in an attempt to waive or reduce those landfill tipping fees in an effort to avoid a possible mark-up on the tip fee that might come through a contractor. That way, a contractor who is awarded the bid would simply be bidding on a project that involved tearing down the structure and hauling those materials.
Cannady said this week the meetings have not yet taken place. Strickland said he would be sitting in on them if asked to, but knows for certain he wants to see the structure’s place in Sampson County history honored, even after it is gone.
“I think it should be remembered in some manner,” Strickland noted. “That is a part of Sampson County history involving generations much younger than me. There should be some marker recognizing that, because some people do not know its relevance to the county and the importance it had.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.