Sunday, October 2, 2022

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Commissioners allow ACC to shift funds from biotech center to training facility

Alamance County’s commissioners have agreed to let Alamance Community College reshuffle some funds between two bond-subsidized projects in order to increase the amount of money available for a proposed law enforcement training center that ACC plans to set up within the town of Green Level.

The commissioners formally signed off on this reallocation on Monday, allowing the community college to transfer $2,950,218 to this training center from a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, already under construction, that recently received a seven-figure infusion of funds from the state. The entirety of these two facilities was initially supposed to be bankrolled by a $39.6 million bond package that the county’s voters approved in 2018.

Since then, however, runaway construction costs and other factors have forced the college’s administrators to pare back their plans for some of the bond-funded initiatives and scout out alternate sources of revenue to supplant others.

The windfall that allowed the commissioners to approve ACC’s requested transfer actually came from the state government, which recently earmarked $3,651,550 to furnish and equip the college’s bond-subsidized biotech center. The college’s administrators concede that they were able to find other ways to plug the holes in the biotech center’s budget before the state signed off on its allocation. That project was consequently able to spare some $2,950,218 to increase the training center’s budget to nearly $15.4 million.

ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood (right) and consultant Tom Hartman during county commissioners’ meeting on August 15.

“This is about moving money from one pot to another. The total amount of the bond project is not going to change…A conversation for another day is that we need more but not less [money overall for the training center]. But this is going to help us get closer to that figure.” – ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood

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Algie Gatewood, the president of Alamance Community College, assured the commissioners that this reallocation will allow ACC to salvage more features in the training center’s original plans without having to increase the amount of bond revenue that’s set aside for this project.

“This is about moving money from one pot to another,” Gatewood told the commissioners.

“The total amount of the bond project is not going to change…A conversation for another day is that we need more but not less [money overall for the training center]. But this is going to help us get closer to that figure.”

Steve Carter, the vice chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners and a member of ACC’s board of trustees, noted that previous cost increases in the training center’s budget have endangered ACC’s plans for a fire tower as well as an indoor firing range at the facility.

He added that the requested allocation will be enough to preserve the fire tower but not necessarily the firing range.

“I think it’s imperative that we get that indoor range. If we don’t, I know I won’t get any sleep because my phone will be ringing off the hook.”  – Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson

Sheriff Terry Johnson proceeded to urge the commissioners to find a way to cover the cost of the indoor firing range so that firearms training won’t take place strictly outdoors, where he admitted it could pose a nuisance for neighboring residents.

“I think it’s imperative that we get that indoor range,” the sheriff went on to add. “If we don’t, I know I won’t get any sleep because my phone will be ringing off the hook.”

This is a preliminary layout of the training center, as first presented in 2017.

Commissioner Bill Lashley observed that the college could theoretically save $5 million if it scraps its plans for the indoor range altogether and instead farms out this training to a local, privately-owned venue that already has indoor shooting facilities.

County commissioner Bill Lashley during August 15 meeting.

In response to Lashley’s suggestion, John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, instructed the county manager to contact some of the private shooting ranges that may be able to accommodate the college’s needs.

In the meantime, the commissioners voted 4-to-0 in favor of the community college’s requested reallocation. Steve Carter, the vice chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, recused himself from this vote due to his double role as the commissioners’ representative on ACC’s board of trustees.

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