At a cost of $1.12 million, you might think a “space study” is a study of outer space using high-tech telescopes.

However, it’s actually a comprehensive study of the buildings and other real estate Guilford County government owns.

While county officials agree that that’s a hefty price tag, even conservative county commissioners believe the study will save money in the end by allowing Guilford County government to maximize the efficient use of office space and other county-owned space.

Guilford County has hired a consulting firm to conduct the study, which will take about a year to complete.  The study will examine a wide range of things including HVAC and electrical systems and it will reveal what repairs are needed.

Some taxpayers are complaining that the cost is too high, however, Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad – who’s tight with county taxpayer money – said at the board’s first meeting in October that the study is important and necessary.

“Just reading the title of it, maybe you don’t get the gist of what was just explained,” Conrad stated after the presentation. “If done correctly, it’s actually going to save taxpayers quite a bit of money in the future – both in proper utilization of current space and, of course, empty space.”

Conrad pointed out that many aspects of the buildings will be examined.

“I do think this is needed in the county,” Conrad said.

Commissioner James Upchurch said he agreed with Conrad’s comments and added that some members of the public may not understand just how involved and beneficial the study will be.

All three Republican commissioners voted to pay for the study and that resulted in a unanimous vote by the board.

Eric Hilton, Guilford County’s facilities director, told the commissioners: “I don’t think a week goes by that one of us in our department doesn’t say we need a comprehensive space study so we can figure this out. We have undergone a tremendous amount of change in the way county space is used since the pandemic.”

The study will examine mechanical and electrical conditions in buildings, and county officials will find out “what is weak and what is strong.”

Hilton said it will also provide more up-to-date numbers.  He said that inflation has made previous data on repair costs virtually irrelevant.

According to Hilton, the result will be “a living document” that his staff will be able to interact with.

He also said the pricing is in line with what Buncombe County paid for a study and that that county has about the same amount of property.

“I think they actually paid a little bit more than that,” he said.

Commissioner Carly Cooke wanted to be sure market value numbers would be included, and Commissioner Frankie Jones asked that, since the study will take a year, the board be kept informed of the progress and the findings.

Hilton said he will come back to the board with periodic updates.