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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Take 3: Brunswick County approves raises, Port City United announcement, city acquires Harrelson Building for $11M

(Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — As news unfolds throughout the week, Port City Daily tries to cover topics that remain top-of-mind to the community. However, small newsrooms like PCD can’t always get to everything. (Consider supporting our work here.)

Here’s a weekly roundup of headlines that are important nonetheless and should be on the public’s radar — but didn’t necessarily make it on the site as soon as the news dropped.

Brunswick County approves salary increases, new pay structure for county employees

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners Monday approved salary increases and updated its pay plan structure for all current and future employees.

“At the end of the day, this is about making sure our county has the best team of people possible,” chairman Randy Thompson said in a press release.

Employees will either receive a new salary using the previous pay range or a 7% cost-of-living adjustment — whichever is greater.

READ MORE: New Hanover County boosts first responder pay, starting this week

ALSO: Wrightsville Beach rundown: CFPUA merger study, employee raises and bike/ped

CATCH UP: City to consider $7.5M pay bump to attract, retain employees

“The state of the job market these past two years has made it difficult to fill positions across all sectors — but it’s been especially tough for local governments,” Thompson explained. “We feel confident these recommendations will make us competitive regionally and further support retention efforts among current staff.”

The estimated cost to implement the changes for the current fiscal year — ending June 30 — is $1.85 million. 

The estimated annual cost for FY 2023 is $9.78 million — approximately $4.4 million of which will be earmarked for public safety and another $1 million for utilities-related jobs. There are no proposed tax increases necessary to support the new wages, according to the release.

“Our team is committed to providing Brunswick County residents with robust and efficient services,” county manager Steve Stone said in the release. 

Brunswick County has been working with consultants through a partnership with the Cape Fear Council of Governments and Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) since 2021 to ensure it is offering competitive compensation to attract and retain quality talent. The consultants studied salaries and non-salary benefits for similar roles in local governments, utilities, and private sector organizations across North Carolina to make their recommendations.

Previously, the county evaluated its pay plan in relation to the consumer price index and similar jobs in the market on an annual basis. — Chris Six

Port City United announces community resource coordination partnerships for schools

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Port City United announced partnerships with three Wilmington-based nonprofits Thursday to bring 22 community resource coordinators into schools who will help connect students and families with much-needed resources in the county.

The three nonprofits — Communities In Schools of Cape Fear, Voyage and Leading Into New Communities (LINC) — have longstanding relationships in the community.

“These three nonprofits have been working in our community for years. They’ve developed inroads and a strong reputation for helping others. Our goal is to provide additional connections that these organizations can use to expand their reach and impact to assist more students and families,” Port City United Director Cedric Harrison said in a press release. 

Port City United, a newly-established department for New Hanover County Government, is part of a county investment to provide resources and connections for residents and increase family stability. PCU is focused on three areas: preventing violence, the establishment of a 24-7, locally-manned contact center to provide resources and support, and partnerships bringing community resource coordinators into schools.

Thursday’s announcement addresses that third goal. Twenty-two coordinators — including a Latino coordinator — will be funded through the county to be placed in “impact-zone identified” schools, according to the announcement. 

“Our community deserves to have easier access and a better process for wraparound services, but sometimes they don’t know who or how to ask,” Harrison explained.

Working with parents and school personnel, the coordinators will provide “intensive case management” and ensure educational, nutritional, health and social needs for students are being met while connecting students and families to community resources based on their needs.

Fifteen of the new coordinators will operate out of Communities in Schools of Cape Fear, an organization that works with more than 1,000 students annually who are at risk of dropping out of school to keep them on a path to graduation.

“Our staff works directly with students with the greatest risk factors throughout the school day, doing whatever it takes to break down barriers and unlock student potential,” Louise Hicks, Executive Director for Communities in Schools of Cape Fear, said in the release. “We are thankful for the county’s investment in our work and appreciate the opportunity to expand our services to reach more local families and surround more students than ever before with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.”

Four will be based with Voyage. Formed in 2008 as The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence — an initiative under the United Way of the Cape Fear Area — Voyage provides a wide array of services and inter-agency collaboration to connect youth with pathways to success.

“Voyage operates really with a focus on community health and it’s not just about empowering young people but helping empower the communities they live in,” Voyage Executive Director Genna Wirth said in the announcement. “Teaming with Port City United, our schools and our communities, we believe, can really create a synergy that can lead to a cooperative effort to do what’s best, not only for kids, but for New Hanover County as a whole.”

And three will be based with LINC, an organization that encourages empowerment and positive life choices while reducing barriers in education and employment for African American men aged 16-21. 

“Our youth development program known as LINC Initiative to Educate, or LITE, has been in four of our county schools for several years. This expansion will provide comprehensive case management to students who are in need, as well their families,” Frankie Roberts, LINC Executive Director, said in the press release.

LINC also provides residential and supportive services for adult men and women returning from incarceration.

Seven “impact-zone identified” schools have been selected for placement of the new coordinators: International School at Gregory, Snipes Academy of Art and Design, Forest Hills Global Elementary, Rachel Freeman School of Engineering, D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, Williston Middle School and New Hanover High School. — Chris Six

City purchases $11M Harrelson Building for additional office space

WILMINGTON — The city is looking to expand its office space with an $11-million purchase of a downtown building and adjacent lot, totaling nearly an acre.

Council approved Tuesday buying the two properties, 115 N. 3rd St. and 210 Chestnut St., for a combined price of $11,226,625, which includes closing costs, due diligence items and operating costs. The city approved an additional $25,000 for any additional unexpected expenses or changes in the settlement.

Fully staffed, the city employs 1,100 positions and has expanded over the years. The city already leases two of the five floors of the 3rd Street structure, known as the Harrelson Building. Buying the structure outright will save the city $420,000 in rent for fiscal year 2023 alone. 

The 50,750-square-foot building will not be fully occupied by city staff. Current tenants — United Bank, Re/Max Executive, Masonboro Construction & Development, The Harrelson Company, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey, & Leonard LLP and Star News Media — will continue to lease portions of the space. It will also continue to bring in $114,184 in rental income for the city.

Built in 1990, the .66-acre Harrelson Building has been home to downtown office space since its existence. It’s also strategically located adjacent to City Hall and another city-owned building, making it a valuable acquisition to meet future space needs in an “efficient and financially responsible way,” according to city spokesperson Jennifer Dandron.

The property is currently owned by BWH, LLC and Harrelson Buildings LLC, and is managed by Bobby Harrelson. The city entered into a purchase agreement on Nov. 8, placing $25,000 into an escrow account. With the sale now approved, the closing date is scheduled for Apr. 29.

The city has offices spread across the city, including downtown and on South College and River roads. — Amy Passaretti

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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