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Halifax supervisors tee up school borrowing of $135 million, employee pay raises

Halifax County is poised to borrow $105 million to build a new high school with an additional $25 million set aside for elementary school upgrades — the recommendation of the…

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More / March 17, 2016
Dear Viewpoint:

The Great Halifax School Rehab (aka) Echelon Apartments Problems, Continued – I covered the first three issues last week. This week continues with the next 3 issues and the following week I will conclude with the grand daddy of them all. Stay tuned.

4 Problem: If Echelon does not put in an elevator to the upstairs, they have eliminated what, 50 percent of the potential rental capacity for the building. I thought a priority for the County Board was increased tax revenue from occupants? I hope the Board dinged Echelon for this deletion? But it doesn’t seem so. Accounting for the roof pitch, it seems like at least a 40 percent reduction to me. Notwithstanding age, who would opt to use such a long flight of stairs to their apartment with no elevator? I can think of only one customer: low-incomes types. I’m sorry this looks so much like a dumb deal. I wouldn’t even want to think about carrying groceries, and much less furniture, up such a large flight of steps on a frequent basis. Wouldn’t that get old fast? On the bright side, if there is one, they may become the fittest folks in Halifax if they don’t die of a heart attack?

5 Problem: As I drive by the Old Halifax Elementary School I note significant peeling of paint on the columns and exterior moldings. This will, if it hasn’t already, rot the columns and create a possible structural hazard. In addition, with so many glass windows which are subjected to heavy weather damage, what happens if someone in the here after gets hurt by falling timber or flying glass? How can the Board accept a one year delay by Echelon to begin rehab of the old school? Who is liable? It seems another ding to the Echelon proposal should have been justified just for that. Did anybody look at this stuff in detail before diving into this shallow proposal? There goes that fishy smell again…Yes, Echelon may have built some “nice rehabs” according to our bureaucrats. I am sure other County bureaucrats may have hired someone with construction experience as consultants.

6 Problem: Has anyone looked at the integrity of the pavement surface on Mountain Road lately? I counted about 25 lateral cracks just along my frontage. I started to count from the Anglican Church going Westerly but I just decided, what’s the use? It should not surprise anyone about the cracks in the road pavement, every Big Rig in the Country carrying God knows what cargo over Mountain Road.

Last year there was a City Water leak in front of my house that I think might have been caused by the cracks in the pavement which over time has disintegrated the road base. We’ve had a lot of rain and snow to help. The water line break near my house was upstream of my meter so our water bill did not change, but I wonder about the contamination from the leak going back into our drinking water? I admit I don’t have the foggiest idea of what is under the road. Are we being poisoned by this? Is the water under the road causing the cracking of the surface? Probably. I doubt the Halifax bureaucrats care at this point, but now they plan to subject another 50+ unidentified people probably young people to the possibility of tainted water? Who is liable for tainted Town water?

This brings me to Problem #6: Yes, there is more. If Mountain Road, at least in the Town limits, needs to be resurfaced and the road substratum also has to be strengthened, that’s a BIG job. What alternate routes will be used for Mountain Road traffic? With lateral cracks every 12 feet and almost continuous longitudinal cracks running in the outboard tire tracks; Folks, I think we have another legitimate problem for the Town Manager that ought to be addressed regardless of the Echelon Apartment Project. Funding to essentially replace the road and/or water pipes is going to be very expensive and will stretch the Rehab time considerably.

7 Problem for the Echelon Apartments is Asbestos fibers. I haven’t heard anything about the issue of Asbestos, which was popular building material used in the construction of buildings in the era of the Halifax Elementary School. The issue is in the removal of the asbestos in accordance with the regulations stipulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Fines for violations are heavy. By inhaling asbestos particles you can get asbestosis which is a form of pneumoconiosis or disease of the lungs. The cost of the removal of asbestos during rehab in accord with the EPA requirements is not cheap in money and time. Is that another County liability? Who knows? If it hasn’t wasn’t addressed in the “unsolicited Proposal,” it should have been.

Has anyone on any board said anything about this issue? If so, I must have missed it.

What is Echelon’s take on this? They’re the experts. The Board said so. I hope that it was addressed in Echelon Proposal before the County’s award of any contract. If that wasn’t addressed, the County budget is at risk which is probably greater than removing the fuel tank(s). Surely Echelon addressed the potential asbestos problem. Since they have so much experience with old building restorations you would think Echelon would have pointed out this serious issues in their proposal. Don’t forget only the Town and Board saw the Echelon proposal. I didn’t hear Echelon mention it in their presentation, but I also didn’t hear much depth in the discussion either. Most of it was about money and what a favor they were doing for us in Halifax. It is an important issue because of the cost of removing asbestos and the residual threat of what is left to new apartment renters. That alone would give me pause to rent one of those apartments. Dying of lung disease is very painful. You suffer until you can’t anymore. I would think the County could also be partly liable for the death of a person who has rented one of these apartment units and it is attributed to asbestosis? I am sure the Mountain Road neighbors will want the EPA to monitor the Rehab as this is a windy area.

The eighth Problem is the negative impact of the Echelon Apartment building on the residential property values along Mountain Road. I think it has been demonstrated that the Board doesn’t care much about the impacted citizens of Halifax Village. I don’t think any one of these affected will forget it either. I certainly won’t.

Donald L. Maiden

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