Morganton City Council members got a few steps closer to building a children’s discovery center downtown after its regular meeting at City Hall on Monday night.

Council members approved a $35,000 contract for a feasibility study of the Thinkatorium Discovery Center, a proposed 20,000-square-foot children’s museum downtown, during its regular city council meeting.

The purpose of the study is to evaluate the size of the building, market, costs and attendance numbers for the children’s museum/discovery center. It will be run in conjunction with the Thinkatorium Board of Directors’ work with an architect, the city said.

Private donor ConsultEcon Inc. submitted the proposal to carry out the study at a cost of $35,000. Last month, the council adopted budget amendments to receive $15,000 from the N.C. Commerce “Homegrown Grant” and $15,000 from Linda and Eddie Wall. The remaining $5,000 will go to travel expenses and will be funded from the 2019-20 Main Street Budget, the city said.

The study should be completed in 60 to 75 days. The Thinkatorium Board of Directors, a group of 15 individuals that is in the process of applying for 501c(3) status, have been meeting over the summer to plan the foundations for the center’s development, according to information from the city.

In other business at the meeting, council approved the purchase of multiple new vehicles for several departments. The vehicles will cost the city $898,394.

The vehicles include:

» City of Morganton Public Antenna System purchasing a bucket truck from Altec Industries with the NJPA Sourcewell Contract for $104,538.

» Public Safety is purchasing eight patrol vehicles from Ilderton Dodge through the N.C. Sheriff’s Association, including up-fit equipment like mobile radios and in-car cameras from N.C. State, according to Jason Smith, support services supervisor for MDPS. This contract totals $400,000.

» Public Safety is purchasing two service trucks, one animal control truck and one CID vehicle from Modern Chevrolet of Winston-Salem through the N.C. Sheriff’s Association for $148,000.

» Public Works is purchasing a 2-ton dump truck with snowplow and salt spreader. The contract is to West Carolina Freightliner through the N.C. Sheriff’s Association for $121,693.

» Public Works is purchasing a 1-ton dump and snow plow from Asheville Ford through the N.C. Sheriff’s Association for $65,520.

» Public Works is purchasing a Kubota Utility Tractor for Cemetery and Grounds from Sourcewell NJPA contract from New South Tractor LLC for $56,637.

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The costs for these purchases came in under budget estimates, City Manager Sally Sandy said. Financing for the new vehicles were awarded to BB&T at a rate of 2.03 percent for the three- and four-year terms, and 2.05 percent for the five-year term, according to Finance Director Karen Duncan.

» The council also approved a Water Resources Department request to purchase a new trailer mounted sewer jetter for $65,083.13 from Southern-Vac under the N.C. Sheriffs Association. The sewer jetting unit is for use in flushing out sewer mains in the collection system. The replacement of the small jetter unit was approved with the 19/20 CIP budget.

Council also approved a new generator to power City Hall in case of a power outage or other emergency. Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina has agreed to lease the city a 170-square-foot tract, free of rent, according to information from the city.

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Also during the meeting, Mayor Ronnie Thompson appointed Jennifer K. Moua, of Valdese, to the Human Relations Commission. The commission “is a committee established by the mayor and city council to address matters involving race, discrimination, human relations and to encourage and promote tolerance and goodwill to all people,” according to the city. Her term will expire on May 3, 2020.

Johnny Casey is a staff writer and can be reached at or 828-432-8907.

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(1) comment


Can I get half of $35k to do a study on doing studies?

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