With costs for a major remodeling project expected to rise, the Benton County Board of Commissioners has authorized an increase in the borrowing limit for the project.

The commissioners voted 3-0 on Tuesday to take out a bank loan of up to $7 million to complete a package of renovations at three county facilities. That’s $750,000 more than the county initially planned to borrow for the work, which includes previously completed remodeling of the Sunset Building at 4077 SW Research Way, an expansion of the Avery Complex at 360 SW Avery St. and a major renovation of the Public Service Building at 530 NW 27th St.

The entire project was initially expected to cost $9.75 million. The county had about $2.5 million available in reserve funds to go toward the project, and a federal grant covered another $1 million of the cost.

That left $6.25 million remaining to be financed. But according to county budget manager Pat Cochran, it now appears that more money may be needed to complete the work because some cost projections may turn out to be low and a bustling construction market is allowing contractors to charge more.

After the meeting on Tuesday, Cochran said it may still be possible to complete the work under the original budget, but having the higher borrowing limit now gives the county needed flexibility in securing financing.

“It’s not something we want to do, and we’re going to work real hard to bring that number down closer to the original number of $6.25 million,” he said. “We’ll check in with the board in January before making the final decision on financing.”

The county plans to solicit loan offers from banks in the first week of January and hopes to close on the loan by mid-February. Cochran said the loan would be repaid over a 15-year period through a combination of internal rent payments by county departments and, after the county finishes paying off the note on the Sunset Building in 2020, the redirection of funds now used for that purpose.

In the meantime, work on the Avery Complex expansion began about two months ago and should be finished by the end of February, Cochran said.

Baldwin General Contracting Inc. of Albany is the general contractor on the project.

The Avery Complex houses employees in the county’s Public Works, Community Development and Natural Areas and Parks Departments. Some of those employees have been working in newly remodeled offices at the Sunset Building on a temporary basis. Once construction on the Avery Complex is complete, they’ll move back over there.

That will free up space for some support and administrative staff of the Health Department to relocate permanently from the Public Service Building, which is scheduled for renovations to accommodate an expanded clinical staff for the main county health center.

Work on the Public Service Building is scheduled to start in March and wrap up by spring of 2019, Cochran said, with some services scheduled to move to temporary quarters in modular buildings at the county fairgrounds while construction is going on.

A general contractor for that project will be selected in January.

In other business on Tuesday, the board voted 3-0 to formally adopt a new special road district approved by voters within the district in last month's special election.

The Asbahr-Pilkington Special Road District was approved with a maximum tax rate of $3 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the purpose of maintaining roads within the district, which is east of Highway 20 and south of the Children's Farm Home, just north of Corvallis.

The roads included in the district are Northeast Asbahr Avenue, Asbahr Place, Fair Acres Street, Morning Street, Pin Oak Street, Holly Acres Street and Pilkington Avenue.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.