Bank building purchase ‘a net savings’

County officials offer tour of 1934 administrative building, mold and all 

By Kevin Spradlin

* Dec. 1: Commissioners agree to buy bank building

ROCKINGHAM — There’s no hiding it, county officials said Tuesday.

The Richmond County Administrative Office building at 125 S. Hancock St. is old. With a  cornerstone showing the dedication taking place in 1934, the structure features leaky pipes, drafty windows and an antiquated elevator. The latter will take at least $60,000 in repairs before the county is able to sign a new maintenance contract on the unit.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

So the intended purchase of the First Bank office at 1401 Fayetteville Road, announced Monday night near the end of the Board of County Commissioners monthly public meeting, can produce a long-term cost savings overall.

Late Tuesday morning, meanwhile, County Manager Rick Sago, Director of Public Works Bryan Land, Tony Sweatt, in maintenance, and Commissioner Kenneth Robinette led a walking tour of the county’s administrative building in downtown Rockingham. There’s plenty of reasons the county has looked for nearly 17 years for  new location, Robinette and Sago said. The mold, leaky pipes, drafty windows and 1930s-installed fire suppression system are just four of them.

The commissioners agreed to the $1.7 million purchase, with an option to buy $100,000 in furniture already in the building. If the deal doesn’t close within 12 months of the signing of the contract, First Bank could be levied a daily fine of $500. The agreement is not yet official has it has not been approved by First Bank representatives.

The deal looks like this — a maximum of 2.45 percent interest on the $1.7 million loan — from where is to be determined — to be repaid in semiannual payments of $50,640, or $101,280 each year. The county expects to spend up to $75,000 to remodel the First Bank location — mainly taking down a wall here and there and putting up another wall or two.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

Estimated annual utilities at the Fayetteville Road location costs $16,000. At 125 S. Hancock St., utilities cost $28,500 every 12 months — plus another $10,200 at the old ESC building used now for law enforcement purposes, at the corner of East Franklin and South Hancock streets, plus another $3,800 annually for the planning and building office. The annual savings in utilities alone would be approximately $26,500 — or roughly 26.1 percent of the annual debt payment on the First Bank building purchase.

Additional savings could be realized, officials said, with less elevator maintenance costs because the unit at First Bank, constructed less than nine years ago, is much newer. The annual maintenance contract on the elevator at 125 S. Hancock St. costs $20,500, but Sago said the company wants $60,000 in repair work completed before it’s willing to sign another contract.

“You’re talking antiquated equipment where you gotta beg people to work on,” Sago said.

The goal, Robinette and Sago said, is to reduce the number of county office buildings from five to eventually two. The county offices for tax collection, water, administration, veterans office, finance, GIS and building inspections all would move to the First Bank location.

The move, Sago said, is “customer service-driven. It’s about the taxpayers.”

Standing in line at the tax office or water department on the 15th day of each month will not be largely unnecessarily. Online bill payments will soon be available, and the new location will have two drive-through lanes.

After the Post’s initial story published Monday night, many on Facebook seemed opposed to the idea.

“All that money for such a small building and no room for growth,” wrote Tina Mabe Knight. “Looks like we have better, larger spaces available with better locations than that. As if the bill for the new courthouse wasn’t enough.”

Opined Ken Thayer, who suggested a tax hike was likely: “Another poor decision by the county.”

Certain offices would stay put — such as the Sheriff’s Office and the jail, of course, and perhaps the Register of Deeds along with — at least for now — the Board of Elections. The consolidation of county officers, as Robinette told The Pee Dee Post Monday night, has been a part of the dialogue at the commissioners’ annual retreat for nearly 17 years.

“This just didn’t fall out of the sky,” Sago said.

Rabbinate said it’s a long-term savings to taxpayers.

“If we didn’t do this, we should be run out of office,” he said.

First Bank officials, meanwhile, plan to close its other Rockingham location at Richmond Plaza and build a new facility at a yet-to-be-determined location in the Rockingham area. First Bank is not the only financial institution looking to consolidate to offer more effective services to its customers. Much like the county and First Bank, Fidelity announced in May it was closing its downtown Rockingham branch. In October, bank officials said the branches in Hamlet and Ellerbe were to be closed as well. Work is currently underway to construct a new, centrally located office on Highway Business 74 in Rockingham.

A bank official said the move was simply due to the cost of doing business.

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  • mltex

    The old Hancock building is 29,152 HSF and the First Bank building is 10,151 HSF, if that makes sense explain it to me. The Daily Journal reports that the purchase price is about $300K below estimated tax value. Looking at the property card online I only see about a $30K difference. So what happens to the Hancock location? If any government offices are to still be at that location, then the repair costs, utility cost and upgrades will still have to go forward. All I see is the county looking at a shiny newer building.

  • mltex

    In explaining the utility savings, how are they going to get the people from the Planning and Building Office, law enforcement from the ESC building and the Hancock Building into the First Bank Building? I hope the bank building is wrapped in spandex.

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