A venue that regularly hosted large college classes and community events before becoming water-logged, mold-infested and uninhabitable is poised for serious repairs during the fall semester, with a targeted January 2015 completion.
Sampson Community College’s Activities Center was the beneficiary of a budget allocation under the county’s recently-adopted 2014-15 plan. The 7,000-square-foot, 200-seat auditorium has been closed for nearly a year now until mold and water infiltration issues could be abated.
A new roof came this past spring, but that was just the first step in solving the overall problem.
SCC officials pleaded with the Sampson Board of Commissioners for the better part of the past year for the money required to make the extensive repairs, as well as for lighting upgrades across campus for student safety. While the board left the college in the dark on the latter request — it was cut from the recommended budget during deliberations — they heeded the call regarding the more costly Activities Center project.
Reached by phone Tuesday, SCC president Dr. Paul Hutchins and Dr. Bill Starling, vice president of administration, said needed renovations to overhaul the Activities Center were on tap.
Starling said the college authorized the architect to request bids along state guidelines for the needed work and hopes to have those bids submitted by mid-September, at which time they will be evaluated and an award decision made.
“We would hope that could be completed by the end of the fall semester so that building can be back online after the holidays by the spring semester,” Starling remarked. “It will take 120 days to complete the work (once the contract is awarded).”
Starling cited the faulty building envelope, water infiltration issues and a damaged mechanical system among the many problems. Some design elements reached the end of their life, but the building was also “poorly designed to begin with,” generating a perfect storm of problems, he said.
Like Starling, Hutchins pointed to “initial design issues” that ultimately doomed the building.
“That’s probably our best bet to have that building back open in January,” Hutchins attested. “I’m just grateful the commissioners recognized that building was important not only for the community college but for the community. I’m very happy the commissioners saw the importance of not delaying this.”
The county board allocated $540,000 for the auditorium as part of the this year’s budget.
“This building cannot be utilized until this work is done,” county manager Ed Causey told commissioners during budget talks.
There was an additional $80,000 recommended by Causey for improved lighting to address safety of students that attend night classes, but that hit the cutting-room floor. That $80,000 cut from the 2014-15 capital outlay request “will have be absorbed through current expense to address current safety concerns,” Hutchins said.
The SCC president said he was appreciative the board saw fit to fund the greater of the two needs at the Activities Center.
“With mold in the ventilation it was just not healthy to have people in the building,” Hutchins remarked. “It’s been approaching a year that building has been out of use, and that’s a sad commentary for a community college in a great state like North Carolina.”
A recommendation from a health and safety consultant company this spring was a complete overhaul.
“The presence of mold is so significant throughout the building that their recommendation is that the HVAC be completely replaced and all the porous materials — ceiling tiles, carpet — be replaced completely,” Starling told commissioners earlier this year.
Pictures showed visible mold in the walls and thermal images revealed the presence of water intrusion throughout the auditorium.
“The recommendation is that, in addition to all the heating and air conditioning repair, the bulk of the brickwork on the building has to be completely re-executed,” Starling noted.
The exterior brickwork will cost approximately $127,000, on top of the HVAC replacement and interior work, estimated at about $413,000, bringing the total work to be done to approximately $540,000.
Those are expense above and beyond a roof replacement done in April at the Technology and Activities Center buildings, for which county commissioners allocated $336,716. The roof replacement in April curbed water intrusion inside the Activities Center from getting much worse, but the exterior brick work, HVAC and duct work all has to be replaced due to mold and mildew infestation.
“The re-roof solved a major part of the problem, but it’s just one piece of what we need to do to get that building operational,” Hutchins noted.
Since then, the college has been in a holding pattern. Funding this budget cycle will finally move the project forward.
“It is a widely-used meeting space by a lot of different organizations not just for the college. It has an impact, bringing people in for meetings and generating revenue at local restaurants,” Starling stated. “It’s an important building for us and the community and right now we’re not able to use it at all.”
“It’s good to see that work resume,” Hutchins added. “It will be wonderful for that building to be back open.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.