Bids came in too high for a redesigned community center in the Rogers Road neighborhood, so Orange County commissioners are headed back to the drawing board.
With an original price tag for the center of nearly a million dollars, Orange County Commissioner Renee Price said the bidding process will be reopened until those responsible for paying for the center’s construction — Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County — receive a plan that’s within their budgets.
The Rogers Road neighborhood, a historically black and low-income community in Chapel Hill, housed the county’s landfill for 41 years.
In exchange, the municipalities promised the neighborhood a community center and infrastructure upgrades.
The previous center — located in a 70-year-old home off Purefoy Drive — was shut down Aug. 11, 2012 for violating fire and safety codes.
Although plans for the new center were revealed last April, bids coming in above the budgets of the municipalities delayed the process.
Price, who was a member of the Historic Rogers Road Neighborhood Task Force, said some of the specifications in the original design were too costly.
“We’re hoping the bids come in at around $650,000,” Price said.
The original building was slated to have a commercial kitchen — people in the neighborhood had indicated interest in starting a catering company — and a computer lab for students to use after school.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation into allegations of environmental racism in the Roger’s Road neighborhood last year, further postponing the original project.
One of the issues in the neighborhood include a lack of access to sewer services.
The investigation has spurred some county and town officials to act quickly to provide remediation to the neighborhood.
Price said she is relieved there was at least a new bid schedule planned for the community center project.
“The sooner the better — at lease we have a timeline,” Price said.
This month, the county will advertise the project to potential contractors to promote interest.
A pre-bid conference for interested contractors will take place on Feb. 20 before the bid opening on March 13.
The bid will be awarded between April 1 and 18, making the process roughly two months long.
“The timeline is the nature of the process and not something we have much control over,” Price said.
Jeff Thompson, Orange County’s Asset Management Services Director, said allowing five weeks for bidding gives contractors a generous amount of time to tender bids.
Thompson also said the timing of the project was to the municipalities’s advantage — there aren’t many projects on the market at this time so there will be more interest from contractors.
Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow said he agreed construction should begin this year and said he hoped that within a couple of years, the county and towns would be celebrating the opening of the brand new center.
“It’s something that should have happened 40 years ago,” said Storrow, also a member of the task force.
“It’s imperative that we move quickly and responsibly to finish this project.”
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