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Murphy casino project on track for summer

fr murphycasinoWhen the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise board opted to get rid of the project manager position for its Murphy casino construction project last year, some skepticism ensued as to whether the project could still continue on time and within budget.

The project manager provided the tribe an on-the-ground representative who could make sure the work being done was up to snuff and being charged appropriately. The TCGE had decided to save money by slashing the position.   

As the casino gets closer to its projected opening date, fears that turning the project manager’s tasks over to TCGE members aren’t proving true, said TCGE chairman Ray Rose. 

“Our internal team continues to perform very strongly,” Rose said. “It introduces a certain level of efficiency to the process, so we’re very happy there.”  

The project is expected to finish within its $110 million budget and meet its deadline of late summer 2015, Rose said. Doors will likely open sometime in August or September, and the process of recruiting and hiring the 900 employees needed to run the place will probably begin in April. 

“We know that Cherokee County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, so we’re hoping we can draw on that, including some tribal membership down there,” Rose said. 

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As for the building itself, it’s starting to look like a casino. 

“Hotel and casino structures are up,” Rose said. “Framing is done, but now we’re at the point of interior heating, air, sprinklers, all that stuff. It won’t be long until everything is in the walls and inspected and wall finishing is going on.”

As challenging as the construction of the buildings themselves is the coordination required for those projects to jive with the road and infrastructure development surrounding them. The casino and hotel must be joined to Murphy’s sewer and water systems, and the N.C. Department of Transportation is busy building a roadway out to the site. 

“We’ve had monthly meetings since these projects were started where we meet and discuss the coordination effort, whatever’s coming on each of the projects, scheduling times to work, when deliveries are going to be made,” said Brian Burch, DOT division construction engineer. 

As part of the coordination, the DOT will be completing the water and sewer line to the casino and hotel, with the TCGE reimbursing them the cost. The DOT project was progressing faster than the building construction, Burch said, so it wound up being more efficient for the DOT to do the work itself. 

“The TCGE would have been coming in behind us and tearing out some of the infrastructure, so it made more sense for us to go ahead and put it in prior to us doing our work, so the only way we could do that was for them to reimburse us that cost,” he said. 

The TCGE will reimburse the DOT a total of $881,000, with $654,000 of that paying for the sewer line and $226,000 for the water line. 

In addition, the DOT is building turn lanes and a roadway from U.S. 19/74 to the tribal boundary and a bridge over the Valley River. The roadwork will cost about $4.4 million and the bridge about $2.5 million. Those projects are about halfway done and expected to be complete by April, Burch said. 

“It has been a mild winter, and so it’s allowed contractors — not just on this project but throughout our division — to continue to work, where in winters past they haven’t been able to,” Burch said. 

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