Construction on the renovation of the former Town and Country Shopping Center has begun and what will become an office complex and recreation center is expected to be completed by late summer of next year.
County Mayor Mike Foster said the project was bid in two phases and Cambridge Constructors of McMinnville was the low bidder at $1.6 million on the first phase and $726,000 on the other for a total of $2.3 million. Under terms of the agreement, Foster said at least 40% of the labor must be from DeKalb County and 25% of the materials must be purchased locally. "The county commission unanimously voted to recommend to the purchasing committee that Cambridge be awarded the contract. We had four bidders including Cambridge, Lee Adcock Construction, J&S, and another company out of Cookeville. Cambridge was $407-thousand dollars cheaper than the others. We compared all the equipment and everything in the specs and they awarded the contract to them (Cambridge). The first thing we were concerned about was the roof. So this will include a new roof on the entire building, a new roof and insulation, an all new central heat and air system for the entire building, and a new facade on the front of the building."
"The project was bid in two phases because we didn't know what the estimate was going to be. We set it up so we could winterize and weatherize the entire building, get the heating and air done, get the facade done and get the southern portion of the building from the old food store all the way down to and including where the old Pizza Inn was located. All of that was in one part of the bid. The other part of the bid was for where the senior citizens and recreation area will be. It (bid) came in under the amount we were expecting. The first part (bid) was for $1,611,000 and that's for an all new roof, all new central air and heat, facade, painting the exterior building, and doing all the interior walls from food center down to Pizza Inn. The other part (bid) was $726,000. It will include all the remodeling for the entire building, including adding desks and work stations for the four offices that are being moved from the courthouse."
According to Foster, the county can afford this project without having to raise property taxes. In fact, he said the county's debt service payments will actually be less than they are now, due to a better bond rating and a re-structuring of the county's debt."We (county) had some notes. Some of them had been here a long time, some were short term and some for a longer term but the payments on them were $465,000 a year. By re-doing the structure and by getting a new bond rating of A plus from Standard & Poors, even adding this new building, the payments are now $406,000 a year. That's nearly $60,000 a year less. Plus we're renting two parts of the building that's going to bring in about $57,000 a year so our debt service is going from $465,000 to $349,000. That's a tremendous savings, enough to do the utilities and everything on the entire building."
Again Foster said the work has begun on the building and it should be ready for use by next summer. "By contract, they have to be done by eight months or they start paying a penalty. The part where UCHRA is moving into, they have to have it done within four months."
Foster said when completed, the building will offer public use for a variety of purposes. "We all know that we want to have something for our young people to do and there are a lot of things incorporated into this building. There's absolutely no new costs to any taxpayer. We're going to be moving four offices out of the courthouse. We'll have a drive-thru window for the county clerk. You'll be able to drive up and get your car tags and never have to leave your car. That will be a good thing for people who have trouble negotiating the steps at the courthouse. So the county clerk, trustee, property assessor, and register of deeds which are all interconnected will be moving there (shopping center), moving to the south end of the building. Plus we've built in two storage areas, several hundred feet each, where we can have archives."
"Adjoining that (courthouse offices) will be the UCHRA. They will be leasing approximately 4,700 square feet. They will be moving their facility in there. Motlow Junior College and Tennessee Tech will be having some extended classes there so they (students) don't have to drive to Motlow or Cookeville for extended classes. We'll have six classrooms for that, one of which will be set up as a training center for computer literacy. A lot of industries are needing that. Other people also need it. It's to help create jobs and increase the productivity of people with jobs and give them a better opportunity for employment and maybe allow them to get a better job than what they have right now. We'll also have another meeting room in that area (of the building)."
"Second Harvest Food Bank will have an area in the back (of the building) where they can store their food and distribute it in a much better way. In the (food center) store part, there's about 3,500 square feet for senior citizens. Adjoining that area is an exercise room of about 2,000 square feet and then there's a museum area for things that are pertinent to the county. Adjoining that will be a game room, and then an auditorium with a stage area which will also include an overhead projector which could be used by industries for training. It could also be used as a mini-theater, seating about 230 people. We'll have a scaled down gym with basketball goals where kids can go and play along with two other exercise areas."
"We already have some grants and we've applied for others where we can get things we really need without it being an additional cost to the county."
In October, 2009, the county commission voted to purchase the 62,000 square foot complex for about $750,000. The property covers 5.21 acres and includes a large paved parking lot.