AppalCART project set to resume

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*Article courtesy Watauga Democrat story – January 23, 2012

AppalCART project set to resume
by Kellen Moore

The wheels of progress often move slowly, and few know that better than the AppalCART staff.

Two and a half years have passed since the town granted a building permit for a new headquarters on the N.C. 105 Bypass, and the structure still sits unfinished.

But AppalCART transportation director Chris Turner and board chairman Jerry Moretz said recent developments will soon spur activity at the site, and completion is again within sight.

“It’s been a frustrating project because of a number of reasons, but I think now we are finally poised to get the contractor back to work,” Moretz said.

Problems began to arise in spring 2011, when McCarroll Construction of Arden began to experience financial difficulties, partly due to subcontractors going out of business, Turner said.

Couple that with bitter winters and an overall poor economy, and the going was tough.

An audit was performed on the construction company, followed by a mediation session in August between McCarroll, AppalCART and the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Public Transportation Division, which administers state and federal grants.

The parties reached a settlement in which the NCDOT agreed to provide a $300,000 grant to enable McCarroll Construction to resume work, Turner said.

But shortly after, another problem arose when the Federal Transit Administration threatened to not fund a steel canopy system for the bus parking areas. The roughly $700,000 canopies were added through change orders, but the FTA was concerned that the pricey project should have been bid out separately.

But just this month, the FTA resolved the issue and allowed the project to be added via change order.

In the next week or so, passers-by should notice work picking up again at the 23,000-square foot building, Turner said.

Footers will be dug for the canopy, which is intended to provide shelter for the rear of the buses and will allow drivers easier access for maintenance purposes even in severe weather.

The canopy system also is engineered to have no posts in the parking lot, which should make driving and parking easier, Turner said.

Numerous other projects also need to be completed, including the solar and rainwater collection systems, the heating system, some plumbing, generator installation and final indoor finishes.

The staff hopes to move to the new building in May or June, Turner said.

“Most passengers won’t see a big difference, but AppalCART staff certainly will,” board member Angie Boitnotte said.

While the construction has blown through its original August 2010 end date, the $5.5 million project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is on budget, Moretz said.

“It will be a very impressive facility when it’s finished,” Moretz said.

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