Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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ACC trustees approve request to move new burn tower to Burlington’s training facility

Alamance Community College’s trustees have endorsed a request to explore a possible partnership to build a new burn tower for firefighter training at the Burlington fire department’s existing training facility at 128 Stone Quarry Road in Haw River – not at the site of ACC’s forthcoming Public Safety Training Center in Green Level.

That shift would require approximately $750,000 to be reallocated from the nearly $21 million budget for a new regional Public Safety Training Center currently planned for construction off Sandy Cross Road in Green Level.

Rendering of the new fire training building which trustees voted to move to Burlington’s training facility rather than put at the new Public Safety Training Center to be built in Green Level.
The existing fire tower at the Burlington training facility. It would remain, based on current plans.
This building, a so-called smoke training facility would be replaced by the new fire tower, based on preliminary plans.
Examples of three scenarios for fire training: (left to right) a living room, bedroom, and kitchen.

That shift in the planned site of the burn tower marks one of several changes to ACC’s plans to build a new Public Safety Training Center, which is one of three new facilities and upgrades to multiple existing facilities being funded by the $39.6 million bond package that voters approved for ACC in November 2018. The other two new facilities, a Biotechnology Center of Excellence and student services center, opened on the Graham campus last month.

Meanwhile, ACC’s trustees previously approved several earlier revisions to the scope of the plans and increases in the construction budget – which has nearly doubled since 2018 – for the Public Safety Training Center due to inflation in building materials and labor.

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ACC trustee Bill Gomory, who serves as chairman of the college’s building and grounds committee, briefed his fellow trustees during their latest meeting last week on the request to brainstorm with Burlington city officials about building a new burn tower at the city’s training facility off Stone Quarry Road.

The site of the Public Safety Training Center and the city’s fire training facility are about eight minutes’ driving time apart, Gomory told the board.

The basis for the request is a lack of adequate water pressure to support the burn tower at the site in Green Level, Gomory said during his report on the building and grounds committee.

While Green Level’s public works department initially thought that there was sufficient water pressure to support construction of a burn tower, a subsequent independent test that was conducted for ACC earlier this year revealed that Green Level’s water system would only provide about half of the water pressure needed to meet fire code.

Consultants for the project have concluded there is no cost-effective way to address the discrepancy in the amount of water pressure provided by Green Level’s water system and the volume needed to comply with the fire code, the trustees were told last week.

“We can get tanks, but filling them to capacity would be onerous to the residents of Green Level,” Gomory said, adding that officials in Burlington “have a fire tower that they are wanting to replace.”

“There [are] all kinds of things that would need to be settled before something comes up for approval,” Gomory said, apparently referring to any future revision to plans for the construction of a new burn tower and its location at the city’s training facility along Stone Quarry Road.

Meanwhile, the trustees were assured last week that, despite the intent to move the burn tower to the existing training facility in Haw River, other fire training activities would remain at the Public Safety Training Center Green Level.

ACC’s trustees subsequently voted unanimously, 8-0, to authorize ACC’s administration to enter into discussions with Burlington city officials about building the burn tower on the site of the city’s existing facility along Stone Quarry Road.

Trustees Julie Scott Emmons, Mark Gordon, and Sylvia Muñoz were absent from the meeting.

Trustee Jim Butler abstained from voting, telling the board, “Being the mayor of Burlington, I should probably refrain from those activities.”

Construction at the site in Green Level is currently estimated to begin in late May of 2024, which ACC officials have attributed to long lead times for delivery of electrical and HVAC components.

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