Thursday, July 18, 2024

$2.5M grant to offset rising cost of Pender County’s law enforcement center

A new 911 facility (in the bottom right corner in teal) is part of a larger law enforcement center for Pender County; a $2.5-million grant from the N.C. 911 Board will help to offset some associated costs.

PENDER COUNTY — Pender County is receiving some financial assistance on a multi-million project combining three law enforcement facilities into one.

READ MORE: With financing technicalities sorted out, Pender County can move forward with expanded jail

ALSO: Pender County looks for ways to cut costs on rising $46M new jail

Next week, the board of commissioners will vote on a $2.5 million grant award from the North Carolina 911 Board to go toward the relocation of the county’s 911 facility.

The new center will be part of the county’s combined law enforcement facility with a detention center and sheriff’s office. The county plans to sign off on a $48-million USDA loan for the construction. 

The 911 grant money can only be used toward 911 operations and the county anticipates the bulk of it, $2.1 million, will cover construction costs. The remaining funds will be used toward project management and technology consultant services, equipment —  computers, servers, monitors, and data center infrastructure — as well as furniture.

Of the 96,000-square-foot building, the 911 center will comprise 3,810 square feet and have space for seven workstations. The facility must adhere to Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Fire Protection Association, and National Emergency Number Association standards.

According to the grant application, funds will be reimbursed to the county once it submits contracts, purchase orders and invoices for expenses. There will be no disruption in 911 operations while the new building is under construction.

The county’s 911 center must develop a technology schedule for the new facility by January 2025, with a transition plan in place by March 2026, according to the grant agreement.

The North Carolina 911 Board, created in 1998, oversees the funds received from 911 service charges and all revenue paid into the 911 fund statewide. One way it disperses funds is through grants.

Pender County submitted a grant for money toward its law enforcement center in May 2023. It received notice of its award in September as one of 12 call centers to receive grants. The 911 Board doled out $16.5 million in 2023 toward facility improvement and equipment upgrades.

Pender County also has $243,000 in rollover funds from the board from annual funding it receives, also to be used toward the new center.

Pender County first approved plans for its law enforcement center in October 2021, but the prospects of a new jail, specifically, have been in the works for over a decade. Moseley Architects began the initial design phase in 2021, outlining a 242-bed jail double the size of the county’s current one with core facilities — kitchen, cafeteria and laundry services — to accommodate up to 350 beds.

A $5-million alternate bid on the project would add another 78 beds.

Located at the corner of Old Savannah Road and a proposed new road off Penderlea Highway, the project was put on hold in July 2022 pending deed restrictions per a USDA loan, which took a year to resolve.

Rep. Carson Smith introduced a bill in the spring 2023 General Assembly session clearing up language around donated land. 

The state granted Pender County 100 acres of land northeast of Burgaw, with a clause that would revert ownership back to the state if the property were no longer used as its intended purpose. USDA feared the state would take priority over a deed of trust needed to secure a loan on the property.

The 30-year loan could come with 4% interest; though the county won’t fine-tune its financial model until after a construction contract is awarded. Combined with debt incurred from the Department of Health and Human Services’ new facility and the Pender County Schools 2022 $178-million bond, the county could see a 9.25-cent tax-rate increase to offset the costs.

Financial advisors Davenport Group told the county it could take on roughly $100 million in debt without a tax increase, but the combined projects go well above $200 million.

In July 2023, Moseley Architects restarted plans for the law enforcement center and began preparing construction documents.

The county anticipates bidding out the work for construction of its law enforcement center by Feb. 29, originally anticipated to be done by November — a second delay due to the legislative hang-up with the USDA loan. Based on the grant agreement, a construction contract should be in place by April, with a two-year construction timeline.

The goal is for the law enforcement center to be operational by October 2026.

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