The Orange County Board of Commissioners, by a 4-to-3 vote, has approved a three-million dollar upgrade to the Cedar Grove Community Center.
Supporters on the Board hope the renovations will actually create an incentive for businesses to stay in Orange County.
“Just like people in business try to create brand loyalty, we would create brand loyalty in Orange County.”
That’s Orange County Board of Commissioners Chair Barry Jacobs, explaining why he was inclined to support a suggested $3.07 million upgrade to the Cedar Grove Community Center.
At Thursday night’s meeting, Commissioners were presented with two plans. One was dubbed the “base plan” to upgrade the Community Center. The plan included an internet café, two group rooms, a recreation room, a classroom and a park-and-ride shelter.
The $2.36 million price tag was just $113,526 more than had been previously allocated.
The “alternate plan” presented Thursday night cost $3.07 million, and would involve renovating two classroom wings to be suitable for storage and truck access.
One potential user of those spaces would be The Piedmont Agricultural Processing Center, a Hillsborough non-profit that helps new small food businesses get off the ground.
A few Commissioners were wary of spending the extra money, with other priorities such as education to think about.
And some were skeptical of the idea that leasing out the storage spaces to start-up businesses would necessarily keep them in Orange County as they grew.
“I’d also like to just suggest the possibility of doing one wing and not the other,” said Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier, “because I think we’ll have the storage space that we’ll need from other places.”
There were money concerns all across the table, even among Commissioners who seemed inclined to support the alternate plan. Jacobs talked about the possibility of doing it in phases, so that costs could be spread out.
But County Manager Michael Talbert urged commissioners to do it all at once, and do it now, if they were going to do it.
“Our borrowing cost is extremely low,” said Talbert. “The construction cost is not going to get better. It’s going to increase over the next five years as the economy improves.”
The idea of creating business incentives appealed to Commissioner Earl McKee, who said he’s going to be speaking a lot on that subject in months to come.
“I see this as a work in progress, and a way to use this facility, rather than tear this facility down,” said McKee.
The “alternate plan” won the evening, but just barely. The vote was 4-to-3 in favor of the more expensive alternative plan, with Commissioners Penny Rich, Alice Gordon and Pelissier voting no.