Alamance Community College officials say they’re running down every possible lead to close a $5,691,515 funding gap needed to build an indoor firing range at the college’s third bond project – a public safety training center planned for Green Level, construction of which has yet to begin.
The budget for the forthcoming public safety training center was previously increased from its original budget of $10.4 million to $12.9 million in April 2022. The latest revised cost now stands at $18.7 million, ACC’s trustees were told this week.
ACC officials have attributed the price escalation to rampant inflation throughout the construction industry. The contractor hired to build the facility, Greensboro-based Samet, and a third-party construction cost estimator, Palacio Collaborative, have been working since July 2022 to provide ACC’s administration with firmer numbers, and came back last month with a revised cost of $18.7 million, which reflects the additional $5.7 million to build an indoor firing range, ACC’s trustees were told Monday night.
“We are working diligently to find the $5.6 million so we can have a firing range to complete the public safety training center. I have been in conversation with Chris Verdeck [director of Basic Law Enforcement Training at ACC], sheriff [Terry] Johnson, and others about the importance of the firing range,” ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood said Monday night.
Meanwhile, ACC trustee Steve Carter, who also serves as the Alamance County commissioners’ vice chairman, floated the possibility that donations would start pouring in if the public safety training center were to be named after Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson.
“If this was to be named something along the line of the Terry S. Johnson law enforcement training center, there’s local money that could be brought forward,” Carter told his fellow trustees Monday night.
Carter also urged Gatewood Monday night to ask the county manager, Heidi York, to add a presentation on the facility to the commissioners’ meeting agenda for their upcoming meeting on Tuesday, January 17. “Now that we’ve got a hard number, I think it would be a good idea to do that,” Carter said.
Gatewood recalled this week that he and Johnson have worked closely “since day one” to develop the plans for the public safety training center, which was originally envisioned as a $10.4 million facility with a firing range, fire tower, driving pad, as well as classrooms, as detailed in the $39.6 million bond package that voters approved for ACC in November 2018.
Gatewood seemed to be heartened during this week’s discussion by support from state and local law enforcement agencies, which he said have expressed interest in using the forthcoming facility and include: the State Bureau of Investigation; North Carolina State Highway Patrol; a division within the state Department of Transportation; and N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement. “I can assure you, if we get the firing range, this group will grow,” he told ACC’s trustees this week.
“We have letters of support from about five or six agencies who want to use the center, which will generate more [full-time equivalent students and state funding for enrollment],” Gatewood said Monday night. “Of course, we have all of our local training that we do; we think it’s imperative we find $5.6 million.”
“The regional aspect is huge,” trustee Julie Scott Emmons responded. “Is it too late to rename that a regional law enforcement center of excellence? If there are so many state agencies that want to use this, particularly to train corrections officers, there must be some funding.”
Gatewood told the trustees that he had met last month with the county’s legislative delegation and asked them to consider sponsoring “some kind of special appropriation” to provide the funding needed to build the indoor firing range.
“Will that come to fruition? I don’t know,” Gatewood acknowledged. “We haven’t stopped there: we also continue to look for grants.”
The major contributing factor to the higher estimated cost of construction is because the date to put the project out to bid has been pushed to July 2023, ACC’s trustees were told Monday night.
ACC associate vice president of administrative services Tom Hartman, who oversees capital projects for the college, told the board that removing the indoor firing range would narrow the funding deficit to $127,221, a gap that could potentially be made up through “additional value engineering,” or tweaking the remaining scope of the project.
“The other entity is the county commissioners,” Gatewood told the trustees. “When the bonds passed, they had a premium of $3 million [for which they could’ve been issued]; they decided not to issue that to us. It is our understanding there is roughly $3 million of unauthorized debt.”
Yet, even if the remaining bonds for ACC were sold at a premium, that would still leave the college with a shortfall of $3.6 million for the public safety training center, Gatewood said Monday night. “We are looking at some possible ways where we could do some really creative financing,” he added. “It’s a tough, tough deal but it’s very important.”
There are currently several public safety training centers based at North Carolina community colleges, including: Blue Ridge Community College; Fayetteville Tech; Pitt Technical Community College; and Wake Tech, in addition to several municipal and private training facilities.
Second bond-funded facility to open next month
Meanwhile, ACC’s second bond project, a student services center that fronts Jimmie Kerr Road, is scheduled to open early next week, Hartman told The Alamance News Monday night.
In other business, ACC’s trustees voted unanimously Monday to raise a cap on contracts for emergency repairs that the college’s president is allowed to approve without first seeking approval by the college’s trustee board. The previous cap of $5,000 was adopted in the spring of 2013, during the tenure of then-ACC president of Dr. Martin Nadelman.
With the policy amendment approved this week, ACC’s president will be allowed to approve any budgeted projects up to $50,000. Any projects requiring state funds and exceeding $500,000 will continue to require approval by the State Board of Community Colleges, in keeping with state law.