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Wendell board moves up town hall, downtown projects

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WENDELL — Town leaders Monday approved $800,000 to begin design work on two construction projects ahead of schedule.

Of the funds voted on by the Wendell Board of Commissioners, $500,000 will be to design a new town hall. The town had planned to hire a design firm next fiscal year, but Town Manager Marc Collins said construction costs should be cheaper if the town gets an early start.

The manager added that a new town hall can’t come soon enough. The current town hall is too small and does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said.

“There’s literally no space left for staff at this point,” Collins told commissioners.

The remaining $300,000 is to design and construct new downtown parking and event space on Campen Street near Main Street. That project wasn’t supposed to start until 2022, but Collins said there were several reasons to move the project up two years.

A private business owner has announced plans to renovate the building next to the planned parking space into a microbrewery by next spring. Collins said by working with the brewery’s timeline, the town can avoid tearing up the road more than once to install utilities, lighting and other improvements.

Construction on the new downtown improvements should finish by June 2020.

The $800,000 will come out of the town’s reserves. The town will not take on extra debt.

The town will eventually take out a loan to fund $4.5 million in construction costs to build the future town hall.

In other business, commissioners:

• Established a commissary kitchen use in the town’s unified development ordinance.

• Rezoned 450 Old Wilson Road from corridor mixed-use to highway commercial.

• Approved a work plan from the Wendell Appearance Commission to prioritize public art projects.

• Approved closing several downtown streets Saturday, Oct. 5 for the Harvest Festival Parade and to permit alcohol in Town Square during the event.

• Approved town staff to negotiate a final contract with Carolina IT for information technology services.