911 Increasing Emergency Management Costs in North Carolina

The design and cost estimate of a new emergency management facility didn’t consider building standards specific to public safety/emergency operations/911 facilities, which will raise costs from $7 million to $10 million.

by Chris Berendt, The Sampson Independent, Clinton, N.C. / January 9, 2019

(TNS) — Now that an architectural firm has been selected for the construction of a new Emergency Management facility, Sampson County leaders are pushing forward with a timeline to see ground broken for the headquarters — to include two separate facilities — later this year. The increased cost estimate was explained by county staff, which offered the caveat that if proper funding is not obtained, the project will be scaled back.

The Sampson Board of Commissioners on Monday selected ADW Architects out of Charlotte for the project, authorizing staff to negotiate and execute the contract for services, with that contract not to exceed $10.5 million.

Late Tuesday, county administration released information that explained the increased cost estimate for proposed Emergency Management facilities — from $7 million to $10 million. At the commissioners meeting Monday, Chairman Clark Wooten said the public were already inquiring as to the reason for increased costs, requesting staff provide some bullet points that could answer those queries.

Staff obliged, noting first that a preliminary design by the Wooten Company was completed in February 2019 for the primary purpose of facilitating our efforts to obtain grant funding.

”It was understood that a final design and engineering process would be necessitated prior to construction,” county staff stated in the memo to board members Tuesday, provided to The Independent upon request. “It should be expected that construction costs will escalate in the 20-month period between the preliminary design and the construction bidding in Fall of 2020.”

County manager Ed Causey said this week that the preliminary cost estimate from the Wooten Company back in early 2019 was a year-old, very rough, and the Emergency Management project has since also taken on changes.

The preliminary design and cost estimate did not take into account the building standards specific to “public safety/emergency operations/911 facilities.,” county officials explained. That includes those from the National Fire Protection Association and FEMA, as well as construction standards for facilities constructed with NC 911 PSAP (public safety answering points) grant funding, among those the county is seeking to aid in paying for the building.

Those 911 facilities must be “hardened” facilities with very detailed security components, including concrete walls and roof, ballistic glass, raised flooring with comprehensive grounding systems, redundant HVAC and critical power systems.

“This elevates the construction costs for the 911 facility,” county officials stated in the memo.

”It is our intention that this project be funded by grant dollars to the fullest extent possible, and a large component of this grant funding will be our application for grant dollars from the NC 911 Board,” the memo continued. “After extensive consultation with funding consultants, representatives from the 911 Board, and with those counties who have been successful with 911 grants, it has been determined that our grant application will be the most successful if we construct two facilities, one specifically eligible for 911 grant monies and another for our other emergency services.”

County leaders pointed to the potential need for site preparation/elevation that was not considered in preliminary design and cost estimations. The costs for the hardened facilities visited by local officials varied based upon bid timing. Richmond County’s construction cost was $422/square foot, whereas a Martin County facility cost was $200 more per square foot, at $622.

”It is acknowledged that our plans would have to be scaled back if all the needed funding was not obtained,” the memo concludes.

A Feb. 1, 2020 deadline has been set for an upgraded cost estimate and programming. That information is needed to apply for NC911 PSAP grants and other funding sources. The architect will also need three months for plan development, along with IT consultation.

A target construction start has been slated for October 2020 and is likely to take 15-18 months.

The county received $3.5 million in North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (NCOSBM) funding earlier this year by Sampson County will be expended first, according to the timeline.

The proposed facility would be situated in the bend on Commerce Street off of U.S. 701 Business in Clinton, between Sampson-Bladen Oil Company and the Sampson County Law Enforcement Center. The county owns 22 acres on both sides of Commerce Street that has not yet been developed.

The new building would replace the aging and outgrown facility on Underwood Street, which is roughly half the size. The current building was constructed in 1956 and served as a North Carolina National Guard Armory until it was released to the county in 1995.

Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.

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©2020 The Sampson Independent (Clinton, N.C.)

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