Sluggish economy good for Durham

DURHAM Much needed construction projects are expected to cost less than expected, saving the county millions and speeding up projects that could create steady employment for hundreds of people.

"It appears our bids are going to be about $20 million under budget," said Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin.

There's no time like the present for Ruffin. With blighted buildings bulldozed, the county is poised to build a new human services complex on Main Street.

It will house the health department and social services.

Bid proposals show the price will likely be $20 million cheaper than expected.

"That is a real bargain for Durham County," Ruffin said. "We'd be foolish not to take advantage of that."

Ruffin said the county's AAA bond rating means it can borrow money nearly interest free.

While some communities have delayed projects, the economic downturn has an upside for Durham County and construction companies are hungry for business.

"Competition is king," Ruffin explained. "Material prices are going down."

So, millions in upgrades to the Durham County Memorial Stadium will likely cost less.

It's also good news for the long awaited center, which is set to open in 2012, replacing the cramped courthouse.

In addition to saving the county money on current building projects, there's also talk of doing the same with future construction like the expansion of the jail.

"In fact, we're looking at other capital projects we may want to advance in order to secure those same types of savings," Ruffin said.

Those savings could add up to new jobs, according to Ruffin. Putting the county to work ultimately means people to work.

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