TO:                  Mayor and Town Council


FROM:            W. Calvin Horton, Town Manager


SUBJECT:       Introduction to Concept Plan and Preliminary Budget for Town Operations Center


DATE:             October 27, 2003



This memorandum introduces the following four items and summarizes their conclusions and recommendations.  It also presents background and discusses topics common to both the Transit and the Public Works portions of the Town Operations Center.


We ask the Council to adopt conceptual plans and preliminary budget figures for the Town Operations Center, and to authorize the Town Manager to submit an application for concept plan review as part of the Special Use Permit process.  In item #6c we ask the Council to make a decision on the inclusion of a day care facility as a separate item.  The last memorandum is a report with a comparison of the School System’s bus facility and the Chapel Hill Transit’s operational needs.




The next two memorandums, items, #6b and 6c, discuss the concept plans and cost projections for the Public Works and Transit portions of the Town Operations Center being planned on the Town’s site on Millhouse Road. 


The planning and design process began in December 2002, and is moving toward the submittal of an application for a Special Use Permit, beginning with concept plan review by the Community Design Commission on October 22.  Such a schedule is necessary for the Town to be able to complete the construction of the new site, move to the new site and demolish the improvements at the present site before December, 2006.


The Council considered a revised concept plan on September 8, and requested that the Manager reconsider the Public Works portion of the site, returning with a plan whose projected cost would be about $20,000,000, a 26% reduction of the preliminary budget presented in September.


The budget need not be final until the construction bids and financing bids have been opened, negotiations completed and the contracts approved by the Council.  However, adoption of a preliminary budget resolution now would indicate the Council’s wishes regarding the budget and design issues.  It would be possible to make amendments during the design process as more information becomes available.


A preliminary budget decision tonight would provide guidance as the designers move from a conceptual plan to design drawings.  It is important for meeting our 2006 deadline that the Special Use Permit application reflect, at the very start, the Council’s wishes.


Memorandum #6c on the Transit Operations Facility describes the concept plan proposed and the preliminary budget recommended.  Reductions made after the first plan was presented on June 23 include space reductions based on changing the planning horizon from 30 years to 15 years.  In addition, reductions in off-site costs were made between September 8, and now, based on the changes proposed tonight in the Public Works plan.  Costs of off-site improvements are being split between the Transit and Public Works portions of the project.  The projected cost of the Transit portion of the project would change from $18,217,800 after the sales tax refund proposed in September to $17,916,000 recommended now. 


Memorandum #6b, on the Public Works portion of the project, describes the Public Works Operations Facility that could be built for $20,000,000, with an explanation of the changes from the $27,000,000 plans proposed in September.  We also provide options for adding to the reduced project, with the various impacts of each, and a recommended conceptual plan and preliminary budget.




The Public Works and Transportation Departments are located on the Horace Williams Tract, on land leased from the University of North Carolina.  The lease expires on December 31, 2006, and will not be renewed.


In December 2002, the Council approved a contract with Corley Redfoot Zack for the development of a site analysis, needs assessment, concept plan and preliminary cost projection.  This process has made it possible to provide preliminary cost projections for budgeting purposes based on the concept plan based.


During this process, we have been guided by the values of sustainable development, environmental sensitivity and fiscal prudence.


On June 9, the Council agreed to finance this project through the use of Certificates of Participation.  Steps will be taken to pursue this financing when the design drawings are closer to being ready for bid.


On June 23, the draft preliminary plan for the new Town Operations Center as well as the preliminary cost projections were presented to the Council.  Over the summer, we worked with our consultants to consider the comments made during the public participation phase in June as well as by the Council on June 23, and gathered more information pertaining to off-site utilities, demolition of existing facilities, program revisions, phased development, and building system alternatives.


On June 23, the Council also requested a report on the demand among Town staff for a day care facility at the Town Operations Center.


On September 8, 2003, the Council approved the expedited review of the Special Use Permit for the Town Operations Center. It also appointed its representative to the Public Arts Commission’s Public Art Review Committee.


On September 8, the Council reviewed a revised concept plan and preliminary budget that reflected a 15-year planning horizon instead of 30 years.  The Council requested review and revisions of the Public Works portion of the plan, so that they could consider what a $20,000,000 budget would mean for a Public Works Operations Facility.




As we look beyond concept plans to design drawings, and as we look for ways to save money, the subject of different building systems has been important. Because four of the six buildings on the site might be suitable for pre-engineered metal buildings, we spent considerable time on researching options. Our study of the possibilities of pre-engineered metal buildings included research with representatives of vendors, our value engineers, experience of our staff, Corley Redfoot Zack and their sub-consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff.


We pursued the question of how much money might be saved by using pre-engineered metal buildings and what other types of costs and benefits there might be.  As with other cost projections, it was difficult to derive estimates of cost savings, because we have only conceptual diagrams and no plans at this stage.  Nevertheless, we concluded several key points:


We believe that daylighting is important for energy conservation and the quality of the work environment.  Once the cost of the non-standard roof needed for daylighting, the masonry walls and possibly structures to hold overhead equipment are added to a standard pre-engineered metal building, the small cost differential that may remain would not be worth the loss of durability and initial and future design flexibility. Perhaps more importantly, we believe that it is essential to have a clear line of responsibility and authority for the quality control of design and construction. On a project as large and complex as the Town Operations Center, this clear line of control and authority is even more important.


Therefore, on balance, we believe that it would benefit the Town to use a single design team and conventional construction to accommodate high performance buildings that would provide initial and future flexibility at little or no more cost than pre-engineered metal buildings.




On September 8, the Council appointed its representative to the Public Arts Commission’s Public Art Review Committee for the Town Operations Center.  This group will decide the type(s) of art appropriate for the project and will then make recommendations to the full Public Arts Commission regarding the type of artist(s) that should be recruited and selected.


The rules for the type of art that is possible differ between the Transit and Public Works portions of the budget.  If the Transit portion of the project is largely funded with federal grants, then the art financed must meet the federal guidelines.  Federal Transit Administration’s literature includes the following:  “The definition of art can be interpreted broadly for these purposes, from free-standing sculpture to wall pieces to functional elements such as seating, lighting, or railings to artists being part of an interdisciplinary team in which the artist contributes to the overall design and specific art pieces may or may not be created.”  This same piece states, “The incorporation of art into all areas of transit projects that are visible to the public is considered to be an eligible capital cost…”  Therefore, the Public Art Review Committee will need to decide which portions of the Town Operations Center are “visible to the public.”


Restriction on public art for the Public Works portion of the site come from the mode of financing, Certificates of Participation. Approval of the Local Government Commission is required for issuance of such debt.  We expect that generally the same principles will apply that apply to public art in projects financed by General Obligation Bonds.  That is, the art must be an integral part of the structure or, in some cases, a “furnishing.”  We believe that funding for the public housing structure could not be used for art.




The inclusion of a day care facility on Millhouse Road is discussed in an accompanying memorandum.


Since June, we have refined the initial cost projection for this facility, using the same allowances of 10% for contingency, 10% for design, value engineering and testing, and 1% for art.   The resulting figure is $1,591,941.  However, as noted in the accompanying memorandum on this subject, additional research needs to be conducted before we can have reliable figures for both capital and operating costs.


We recommend that the Council consider the capital and operating cost, demand for services and other policy issues related to a day care facility separately from the costs of the Town Operations Facility. The only measurable impact on the operations center project would be that the Federal Transit Administration probably would not allow the land used for the day care facility and the land across the road and railroad tracks to be counted as part of the local contribution of the cost of the transit operational facility.  If the day care facility is not built on the site identified for it, we believe that the Federal Transit Administration would allow us to count the entire parcel, including the acre across the tracks, as part of the local match.


A site for a day care facility is identified at the southern entrance to the Operations Center.  It would be possible to consider the projects separately without precluding a decision to include or exclude the facility, or to proceed with construction of the day care facility at the same time as the rest of the project.




Below is a summary table of the recommended preliminary budgets, before sales tax refunds for the June 23 figures and after sales tax refunds for the remainder, for the Transit and Public Works portions of the Town Operations Center:




Public Works


June 23, 2002

30-Year Plan




September 8, 2003

15-Year Plan




October 8, 2003

Lowest Cost Plan




October 8, 2003 Recommended




* This project is eligible for up to 90% federal and State funding, with Chapel Hill being responsible for 47% of the 10% local match

**Includes $1,120,400 for Public Housing Maintenance functions, whose debt service could be paid for by federal HUD funding over a period of years.




  1. September 8, 2003 Memorandum: Preliminary Budget and Concept Plan for Town Operations Center (p. 7).
  2. October 21, 2003 letter from Mark Probst of Parsons Brinckerhoff (p. 21).
  3. Overall Concept Plan – 30 Year Plan (p. 23).
  4. Overall Concept Plan – 15 Year Plan (p. 24).
  5. Overall Concept Plan –$20 Million Plan (p. 25).
  6. Enlarged Concept Plan - $20 Million Plan (p. 26).
  7. Overall Concept Plan – Manager’s Recommended Plan (p. 27).
  8. Enlarged Concept Plan – Manager’s Recommended Plan (p. 28).