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Library, senior complex win budget approval

Jackson County commissioners whittled down three construction projects on their wish list to two last week.


The three construction projects are a new library, a senior citizen complex and a new recreation center in Cashiers. The county can borrow money to start two of three in 2008. The third will have to wait until 2009. Commissioners decided to build the library and senior service center first and put the Cashiers rec center on hold.

Commissioner Mark Jones — a county commissioner who lives and works in Cashiers — wasn’t thrilled about the decision to delay the Cashiers rec center until 2009, but did agree. The county already has land for the new rec center and is in the midst of site preparation. Jones said he would agree to delay construction until 2009 “as long as I have a comfortable feeling from commissioners and the county manager” that it would indeed happen then.

The senior service building could end up getting more money from the county and be larger than the public library. The architect designing the senior service building presented his plans to commissioners last week. The building will house a senior daycare, a 300-person dining room for serving meals to seniors, space for games and crafts, and offices for Council on Aging staff that provides senior support services.

The building is nearly $1 million over budget so far. The county had penciled in $3.6 million, but the architect’s blueprints call for a $4.5 million building.

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“My question is how to shrink this cost by $900,000 so we can get it back on what our budget is?” Commissioner Tom Massie asked the architect.

The architect wasn’t overly receptive to the suggestion, however. Although Massie asked several times about ways to cut costs, the architect made no recommendations on how that could be accomplished.

The building does include some extras: a lobby featuring a vaulted cathedral ceiling with exposed beams, massive skylights, a stone fireplace, and a large back porch with rocking chairs and benches for example.

Commissioner William Shelton specifically asked the architect if money could be saved by paring down the lobby.

“It depends how much we pared it down,” said the architect, Dennis Ford with Cope Associates in Knoxville. The architect said the amenities in the lobby are a nice touch that will make the building more inviting to seniors.

“It’s a beautiful facility and all that, I’m just concerned about the cost,” Massie said. “We know costs are going to continue to go up in the next year by the time we get around to actually constructing.”

“I’m not sure what else I can tell you,” Ford replied. The architect said none of the square footage of the building could be sacrificed, but that he would look at scaling down the lobby.

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