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Upgrade of town building on hold

Plans to renovate a newly purchased downtown building to house Indian Trail town staff are on hold.

Town officials say they want to reconsider the best plan for now and the future.

Last week, officials were ready to sign a contract with an architect to design renovations for the Blythe building, an 8,000-square-foot downtown structure, where the entire town staff was to move for several years.

Then came news from an architect that the Blythe building can't hold the whole town staff. And renovations to the Blythe building and the current town hall came back with an unexpectedly high price of almost $1 million.

“I think we're having heartburn over the cost of the renovations,” said council member Dan Schallenkamp at a council meeting on Tuesday. “(What has changed is) the realization we can't fit all of our staff over there. And the cost came back certainly higher than I envisioned.”

After a lengthy talk, council members decided to hold a work session in early August on Indian Trail's long-term plans for a town hall..

“I agree with (council member) Jeff (Goodall) that we should step back and let the taxpayers understand what we're trying to do,” Mayor John Quinn said at Tuesday's meeting. “This exercise is a result of concerned council people wanting to use their taxpayer dollars correctly.

Indian Trail bought the Blythe building last year for $1.2 million. Town officials and an architect walked through and said then it was big enough for the entire town staff. Town officials also planned to convert the town's existing administrative building into a large meeting space for the council and the public.

But architect James Golightly told the town earlier this month that after trying five designs, he couldn't fit the whole town staff, with about 25 employees.

Golightly said the Blythe building could be renovated for the engineering and planning departments. He suggested the administrative staff stay in the current town hall. The council would continue meeting in the adjacent civic building. And the old planning department would be used by sheriff's patrol officers. In all, town staff and elected officials would use four downtown buildings.

Now the council wants to revisit long-term plans for a single, large town hall, which has been discussed for years.

According to town officials, a space study commissioned several years ago predicted the town would need 28,000 square feet of administrative space over the next 20 years. The town also had a rendering of a large building with a bell tower, but town officials never moved forward.

The town has talked about building a town hall in developer Dean Harrell's downtown project on Indian Trail Road, or tearing down and rebuilding on its current site.

On Tuesday, council member Goodall urged council members to look at the larger picture for a town hall.

“What is really frustrating and costly to our taxpayers is this hastily made decision to purchase this property is consistent with a continued and costly trend to provide short-sighted band-aid approaches to our largest and most important needs and projects,” Goodall wrote in comments after the meeting.

Some council members have recently defended the purchase, saying it could be used for anything from a parks and recreation building to a police department in the future.