Reader questions need for county offices

To the Editor,

We’ve seen several newspaper articles over the past month or so about different county projects. When we put them all together we see county wants to spend about $6 million renovating three different buildings, and all essentially are for major additional office spaces. I keep wondering why we need so much more office space when our county is not growing; and may actually be shrinking. Here are the three projects:

1. Old Court House. We’ve owned it forever. We’ve already spent about a $1 million on it and now it appears another $2 million is planned. That will be about $3 nillion plus new furniture and equipment $$$$ on this building that we were told many years ago was no longer suitable. That’s why the new Court House / Gov’t Center was built.

2. The old Dobson Lowes Grocery Store. The county bought this last year for $1.5 nillion and now plans to spend another $2 nillion converting it to new office space. That’ll be at least $3.5 million and then who knows what $$$$ for furniture and equipment. That’s a huge building and a lot of new offices space.

3. New City School Central Office. The county bought the old Pike building in Mount Airy some years ago for $500,000. It has not been used in a while but now the plan is to spend around $2 million to convert it to a new central office. Perhaps the most puzzling part of this is that our entire total school enrollment for all our school systems (including the city) has been declining for the past 10 years. We have hundreds fewer total students now than in past years and the total keeps getting smaller.

The new facility will be 22,000 square feet and much, much larger than the present offices. From the plan shown in the newspaper recently it looks to me like 14 offices for directors and various upper level administrators, plus another five offices for other ranking officers. Then add the clerical staff. It will have three conference rooms and four different reception areas. Then nine storage rooms (one is 650 square feet).

There are large rooms for staff wellness, kitchen, service/repair, and training. The superintendent gets a whole suite. Finally there’s a fancy board meeting room with more seats on the dais than our city hall has. And don’t forget the extra $$$$ for furniture and equipment. The word “palatial” seems a good description, and none of this money goes to students or teachers.

And the kicker is that all these three projects are to be done with borrowed money.

If we really need so much additional office space for the county and the school system there’s not been much of an explanation made to justify it. Total school enrollment going down as it has for years certainly indicates our total population is likely going down also. So why the need for so much more office space? Do we have that many more employees now than five to ten years ago? It seems to me the only thing growing in Surry is local government. There’s to be a public hearing on these projects on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at the county board meeting. There will be people there speaking in favor but usually those are the ones with a vested interest. I hope many citizens will attend and let your thoughts be known.

John R. Pritchard

Mount Airy