Windsor Town Center needs new roof

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Repairing interior moisture damage at the Windsor Town Center and replacing its 70-year-old roof could cost just under $300,000.

Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors, on Nov. 5, signaled a willingness to work with the town of Windsor on some type of cost-sharing arrangement to fund the unexpected expense.

According to a report by Alpha Corporation, there are approximately 2,000 square feet of wet insulation beneath the roof and large areas of roof repair where gravel has been swept away, leaving the underlying ply sheets exposed to the weather. There’s also visible mold on some of the ceiling tiles.

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The town had scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 10 on whether to borrow money for the project, which had yet to begin by press deadline. In October, some Town Council members questioned whether the building — a converted middle school gymnasium the town leases from the county school system — is worth saving, but ultimately voted to move forward with the hearing.

The center, which opened its doors in November 2018 after a $1.2 million renovation that didn’t include roof work, took in just $4,756 in rental fees from Nov. 3 of that year through Dec. 7, 2019, according to town records. But its expenses from opening day through Dec. 5 totaled $98,165 — $13,978 more than the town had budgeted. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on large events, usage is down to about half what it was last year.

Vice Mayor Durwood Scott, who acknowledged he had voted in favor of the $1.2 million renovation at the time, said “the whole picture” has changed due to the pandemic.

“To put that much money into a building you don’t own, I think we’re going to get some criticism for that,” Scott said. “I’ve heard some say the county is using it more than we are.”

Councilman Greg Willis, however, said the town couldn’t “come close to” building a similar facility from the ground up for what it spent on the 2018 renovation.

“Yes, there’s a cost impact and yes it hurts, and the timing stinks, but … we knew it was not going to pay for itself,” Willis said. “The people of Windsor deserve something for their tax dollars other than to fund the salaries of a dozen or so employees. … If we can’t fund those types of projects, we need to consider reducing services or cutting taxes.”

The town has received a quote from Farmers Bank for a loan of up to $300,000, which would be repayable over a five-year term at 2% interest. Mayor Glyn Willis is hoping the county will consider contributing half that amount.

“Are you standing here telling us right now that the town cannot maintain the building?” Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson asked.

“It will be difficult for the town, with our tax base, to maintain the building,” Willis replied. “If this ends up being $300,000, that is over 10% of our budget on a given year … our general budget’s about $2 million.”

Willis assured the supervisors that the town still intends to take primary responsibility for the town center’s upkeep, but “recognizing the size” of the unexpected expense, he said Windsor was “seeking help.”

He then pointed out that the facility has been an asset to residents outside of Windsor’s incorporated limits by virtue of the town having offered use of the facility free of charge to Isle of Wight County’s Department of Parks and Recreation for county-sponsored programs serving the central and southern regions of the county. In fact, 70% of the events held in the town center during August and September this year were county-sponsored programs, Willis said.

Still, “$150,000 to the town of Windsor is quite a commitment,” said Board Chairman Joel Acree. “There’s people watching this … that think government, town being no different, either one of the towns for that matter, have a lot more money to throw around than we really do, because we try to be very conservative.”

Several supervisors suggested lending the full $300,000 to Windsor, with the understanding that the town would pay back the county rather than needing to go through Farmers Bank, thereby saving the $25,000 it would otherwise pay in interest.

“If we’re going to provide the money on an interest-free basis it’s going to have to come out of general fund reserves,” said Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice. “We’re not overwhelmingly rich, but we’re healthy. We’re preparing for a rainy day. This happens to be what I consider a rainy day.”

The town also requested county assistance in providing maintenance on approximately 1,500 feet of a drainage ditch that runs in a town easement between South Court Street and East Griffin Street near the site where the town is constructing its new public works building. Due to the flooding risk and impact on the town’s construction schedule, the Board broke with its tradition of not taking action during a work session and voted unanimously on Nov. 5 to allocate $223,442 from its stormwater fund for the project.