Capital projects full steam ahead

Published 10:57 pm Saturday, October 24, 2009

Two capital improvements projects in the city are getting extra money from the stimulus pot.

City Council members voted to accept a $741,100 energy efficiency conservation block grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money will be used to provide new energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment and lighting at the old Nansemond County courthouse, soon to be renovated into the new Visitors Center, and will be used to replace the existing heating and cooling equipment at the human resources building.

The $100,000 going toward the new Visitors Center was a welcome addition to the budget for that project, Suffolk Capital Programs and Buildings director Gerry Jones said.

“That project was directly tied to the energy assistance block grant funding,” Jones said. The low bid for the project came in at $855,000, but only $755,000 was in the budget for the project, Jones said. The stimulus funds bridged the gap.

“We were able to cover the shortfall with the stimulus funds,” Jones said. “We had to get creative.”

The human resources building also will benefit from the grant. About $473,000 will go toward replacing 27-year-old heating and cooling equipment, Jones said.

“The original equipment is on its last leg,” Jones said. “This is a major capital project that needs to be done, and now it gets done with no local tax dollars.”

The new equipment is expected to save the city about $35,000 per year, Jones noted.

Besides the Visitors Center and human resources building, several other capital projects in the city are nearing completion.

The new King’s Fork Public Safety Center, which will house a fire station, Suffolk Fire Department administration offices and the Suffolk Emergency Operations Center in about 25,000 square feet of space, should be ready for operation around May 2010, Jones said. The $7.9 million project will house an ambulance, fire engine and ladder truck.

The city also plans to revamp the Henley Place parking lot, located between the municipal complex and West Washington Street. The project, which will include landscaping similar to that used at the new police administration building across the street, should begin in December, Jones said.

“It’s going to create a nice gateway into the municipal complex from the Washington Street side,” Jones said. That project is expected to cost roughly $250,000.

An upcoming expansion of the animal shelter, estimated at about half a million dollars, will enable sick and healthy animals to be separated. Finally, a renovation of the old Phoenix Bank building into a museum is expected to start around January 2010, Jones said.