RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Following a vote a decade ago to fund renovations and construction of more libraries, Wake County is behind on several of the projects as construction costs rise.
“To me, it was a missed opportunity to be able to stimulate the economy and provide a service for our citizens,” said Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson.
In 2007, voters approved by a margin of 73 to 27 percent a series of bonds to fund projects at Wake Tech, in parks and at libraries. That meant a property tax increase of 2.25 cents per $100 of assessed value. For a home valued at $200,000, that meant an annual increase of $45.
During a meeting Monday, county commissioners heard that several projects are years behind schedule. Additionally, a proposed library in North Hills may never be built at all.
County staff members told commissioners, who were not in power in 2007, that new construction stopped when the recession hit. The county still moved forward on renovation projects at the libraries.
At the time of the vote, county leaders told voters the bond would fund new libraries in Middle Creek, Morrisville and North Hills. Additionally, it would fund expanding or relocating libraries in Cary, Fuquay-Varina and Wake Forest.
All of those projects were scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2013. None were.
The Middle Creek project finished in 2017. Wake Forest’s will be done this year. The others are scheduled to be done next year, with the exception of North Hills.
Since 2007, the North Hills area has boomed with new construction. Now, the county is struggling to find enough land that’s affordable to build the library.
“There was really no reason not to move forward on the construction even though we were in a recession. An argument could be made that that was the perfect time to build,” said Hutchinson. “Now, the costs have gone up significantly in terms of construction.”
County staff told commissioners Monday that in the last year especially construction costs have risen significantly. That’s led to a $1.9 million funding shortfall on the Cary library, a $950,000 shortfall on the Fuquay-Varina library and an anticipated shortfall in funding for the Morrisville library.
Commissioners discussed reallocating money intended for the North Hills project to cover the costs of the other projects.
They will also consider leasing space in a future development in North Hills, but county staff warned it may be too expensive.
“I know that if I had a library that was closer to my home, I’d probably even take more advantage of the services,” said Michelle Carr. “It’s very cathartic for me. It’s part of my relaxation. It’s part of my work. It’s part of what it just makes the quality of living in Wake County.”
County commissioners asked staff members to discuss the potential North Hills lease with Kane Realty and report back to them.
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