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Canton glimpses the future of fire, police, town hall buildings

Canton’s new police headquarters will require substantial renovation. Cory Vaillancourt photo Canton’s new police headquarters will require substantial renovation. Cory Vaillancourt photo

Architects selected by Canton’s governing board to plan renovations on a pair of buildings purchased to replace those damaged in deadly 2021 flooding presented recommendations and cost estimates to officials last week — a major milestone that keeps the town moving on the road to recovery with an eye on the future. 

When a wall of water cascaded down the Pigeon River into Canton’s central business district on Aug. 17, 2021, a number of homes, businesses and town facilities were damaged and haven’t been used since.

Those facilities included two historic town-owned buildings, the Armory and the Colonial Theater, as well as the police headquarters, fire department and town hall buildings all co-located on Park Street.

The new police department will be located at the corner of Main and Academy streets, in a former bank previously owned by Champion Credit Union.

The new town hall will be located just up Academy Street, also in a former bank previously owned by CCU.

A site for the new fire department has not yet been located, however the town did purchase  both CCU parcels, with adjacent parking lots, for $3.4 million in January 2023. CCU will consolidate its operations at a massive new facility currently being built on the eastern edge of town, near Food Lion.

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In February 2023, the town selected South Carolina-based Craig Gaulden Davis Architecture to oversee work on the Armory and the Colonial Theater, while simultaneously selecting Charlotte-based Creech and Associates to handle work on the police, fire and town hall projects.

That May, Creech presented a 14-month timeline for the planning phase, which included the space needs assessment they presented Feb. 9.

“This is a very exciting agenda item to have on here because it represents the next step,” said Canton Town Manager Nick Scheuer.

On behalf of Creech, Michael Supino and Peter Wasmer outlined the condition of the newly purchased buildings, suggested repairs, mapped out usable square footage, projected future space needs based on population growth and also took a stab at cost estimates.

“So, as we look at the future town hall … this building is in relatively good shape,” Supino told Canton’s Board of Aldermen/women, referencing 12 categories that listed the quality of structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as doors, windows and indoor air as “good” or “very good.”

The future town hall’s ADA accommodations will need an update, but the presence of asbestos and lead paint also presented concerns. 

news Canton new town hall

Once renovations are complete, Canton’s new town hall will have enough space to cover anticipated growth over the next 20 years. Cory Vaillancourt photo

At 10,222 square feet, the building comes very close to serving the town’s space needs over the next 20 years of projected growth. The Creech assessment projects the town should have 10,671 square feet to meet that need. The unusable former town hall on Park Street had 8,437 square feet of space.

Notably, there are plans to retain the bank’s vacuum-tube drive-through for use in customer service at the future town hall.

Architectural and engineering costs associated with the renovations come to $344,000. The cost of the actual renovations themselves tops $1.2 million, including a $161,000 contingency budget as well as a 4% escalation estimate of $31,000.

The future police station, however, will be a different story altogether.

“It is a beautiful building, a historic building,” Supino continued. “We do a lot of historic renovation at our firm. This one, being a building from the 1920s, has shown its age. There’s been several renovations over time, some of the items have been upgraded, some have stayed as-is. You’ll notice on this one that a lot of the marks for the different categories are definitely well below the ‘good’ mark.” 

Only doors and windows were rated as “good” by Creech. Nearly every other aspect of the building is rated as “fair.” The roof is failing, hazardous materials are present and all structural components in the building must be removed and replaced in conjunction with the complete demolition of the interior — essentially, rebuilding the entire structure inside its historic shell. 

Over the next 20 years, the town is projected to need 8,600 square feet of space for the police department. Like the future town hall, the police station comes close, with 8,200. The former police headquarters on Park Street, located inside the town hall building, had 7,400.

Creech estimates the architectural and engineering costs at $2.3 million with renovations an additional $4.2 million, including a contingency and escalation budget of more than $650,000.

Despite not yet having acquired a lot to build the new fire station, Supino also offered some opinions on what it would need, and what it would take.

The current fire station comprises 5,688 square feet, but 20-year estimates put the need at 13,310 square feet. It would take a parcel at least 2.8 acres in size to site the building and its apparatus support, along with administrative, fitness and residential components. The total rough cost, without real estate, tops $5.3 million.

Fire Chief Kevin Wheeler, who was in attendance for the presentation, said he thought it was a great project but expressed concern that a dramatic change in location could affect response times.

“Where we’re at now is perfect,” Wheeler said. “You move a half a mile, a mile, that throws everything off. So, finding that perfect spot, it’s tough.”

Police Chief Scott Sluder was also in attendance, and commented on how inefficiently space was used at the old police station and at the old town hall. The 11% increase in proposed space for his new police headquarters, therefore, will be more beneficial than it might appear on paper.  

“That’s going to help us quite a bit,” said Sluder. “Plus, we’re centrally located downtown, we’re highly visible, we’re right there where we’re accessible to the community so there’s a lot of good things that are going to come out of that building.”

Once the town gives the approval to proceed, any or all of the future police, fire and town hall projects will take around 36 months to complete.

Natalie Walker, Canton’s CFO, said that what remains of an $8.3 million allocation from the General Assembly used to purchase the future town hall and police department will just about cover the projected costs of their renovation, along with an additional $2.6 million from FEMA.

Walker also said that while funding for the future fire department as well as the land needed for construction has not yet been definitively identified, talks are in the works.

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