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Clemmons discusses building new village hall facility

Village shifts to state’s state-at-home order

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

While Clemmons declared a third emergency declaration last week addressing the coronavirus pandemic and shifting to the governor’s stay-at-home order, the village recently looked to the future with its annual retreat — including a discussion on building a new village hall facility.

The day-long retreat, which was held on March 12, included surveys conducted among council members where they reviewed capital projects along with other financial matters and procedures. Building a new village hall facility, as a long-term project, received 67% support in a PowerPoint weighted survey-based voting system among the council and mayor.

The two other options — remodeling and expanding the current facility, and not doing anything and leaving the facility as is — each received 17% support.

As for funding village hall improvements/expansion/relocation, the top choice receiving 40% support was being important enough to dip below minimum fund balance (of the self-imposed $3 million), followed by important enough to raise taxes if necessary (31%), important enough to lower other town service levels (11%), and then not important enough to impair other services and/or raise taxes (17%).

The timing of the retreat came just before focus on the coronavirus pandemic intensified with the stay-at-home orders locally and across the state and nation, resulting in the detrimental effect on businesses and the economy.

Now the village is trying to figure out when to have a budget workshop, hoping to delay it as long as possible to get more information ahead of the looming June 30 deadline for the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget.

“This year is going to be really interesting,” Mayor John Wait said. “We’re going to do the best we can to figure out what the numbers are going to be. It’s not going to be an easy calculation.”

But at the same time, the council thinks it’s time to replace the village hall facility that was built and opened in 1994 on U.S. 158 just west of the intersection with Lewisville-Clemmons Road and Middlebrook Drive.

“I gave up my office last year,” Wait said. “That was sort of a signal that we don’t have sufficient space for all the staff with have and the growth we’ll have over time. We’re making what we have work, but as far as regular space, we don’t really have enough.”

Besides lack of room, Wait said that the heating and air system is in need of being replaced and other repairs are needed.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said that the hot water heater is located in the same room as computer equipment and other electronics, which is problematic, and there is other wear and tear in the 6,000-square-foot facility. However, he said that the bigger issue is the need to add square footage.

“Right now if I added another person, I’m not sure where the heck I would put them — I guess In the closet,” Buffkin said. “In the future, we’re not going to be able to operate this village with the same number of staff members, administrative staff especially, as we currently have.

“I think we’re all in agreement if we build something new, there’s no reason to build something the same size as this. Look at what Lewisville did. They built something larger than they currently needed, and they were planning for the future.”

Buffkin estimated that the current estimated cost to construct a new town hall would be about $300 per square-foot and some 10,000 square-feet would be needed. The council discussed possibly assuming debt for a new building.

Buffkin said that that there is obviously value for the current building and land, and, along with a piece of property the village purchased on Harper Road years ago, “those two pieces could pay off a substantial chunk of that cost right there.”

The time frame estimated to build a new facility, even if the location had already been selected and land purchased, would be about two years. With that being the case, council consensus at the retreat was to authorize Buffkin to prioritize and proceed with improvements needed below the $10,000 threshold needed to be presented to council for consideration.

As Wait said regarding considering building a new village hall at this point in time, “Being interested in it and actually pulling the trigger are two different things.”

Among other capital projects on the docket at the retreat, funding sidewalks was considered not important enough to impair other services and/or raises taxes with 59% support. Meanwhile, funding sidewalks was important enough to raise taxes if necessary (29%), important enough to lower other town service levels (12%) and important enough to dip below the minimum fund balance of $3 million (0%).

As far as the priority of sidewalk projects under development, Harper Road — Morgan Elementary to YMCA received 33% support as did U.S. 158/Tanglewood Connector. Harper Road — I-40 to Morgan Elementary received 26% support, and Idols Road — Middlebrook Drive to Tanglewood Road received 8% support.

On other topics, the development of the Blanket Bottom Growth Plan was considered to be 50% very important and 50% somewhat important, while 83% strongly agreed that Clemmons needs to revise its sign ordinance, and development and implementation of a nuisance ordinance was evenly split between being in favor of, opposed to, and not sure/no opinion.

Ann Stroud, finance director, made a presentation that included five-year projections for the village based upon current levels of revenues and services. She advised based on these projections in Fiscal Year 2022-2023 that the unassigned fund balance would go below the $3 million mark previously set by council.

Stroud further started in Fiscal Year 2023-2024 that the village would start dipping into fund balance. She estimates there will be an approximate 6% increase in the tax base from this year to next year.

Meanwhile, Clemmons will be watching with interest the numbers that will be coming in during this most unusual spring during the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the local economy.

“The biggest impact will be the impact on sales tax, which is the second largest source of the general fund revenue,” said Buffkin, who added that there is a three-month delay from the time when the tax is collected by the merchants until the village sees it. “We won’t see the whole impact until the June/July time frame.”

That further complicates the timing of scheduling the budget workshop.

“We’ll try to delay the budget workshop as long as we can,” Wait said. “The longer we can wait, the more information we’ll have about how things are going to be as we reopen, the economic impact and things like that.”

And as Wait mentioned in last week’s council meeting, the village did indeed issue a third state of emergency declaration when the previous Clemmons shelter-in-place order expired last Thursday by following the governor’s stay-at-home restrictions, which are currently in place until Wednesday, April 29.