County embarks on millions of dollars in capital projects

Alamance County’s manager has unveiled a number of proposed capital projects to the county’s board of commissioners that, together, are expected to set the county back more than $20 million.

County manager Bryan Hagood went over a number of these high-dollar endeavors when he presented an update on the county’s capital financing plan to the commissioners during their most recent regularly-scheduled gathering on March 1.


Mortar in the courts
Hagood kicked off his presentation with a review of some proposals that he has previously pitched for the renovation and expansion of the local court system’s facilities in Graham. He reminded the commissioners that these projects are part of a long-term plan he has crafted for the 200 block of West Elm Street, which is presently home to the sheriff’s office, the county jail, and the county’s criminal courts building.

Hagood conceded that these projects include some “way down the road” ventures like parking decks and a proposed expansion of the county jail. He nevertheless told the commission that he’s eager to move forward with other parts of his plan – such as the construction of a new administrative building for the court system.

“It’s important that we look at these [projects] now,” he added, “because we’re already behind.”

Hagood said that the plan for this new administrative building presently calls for the construction of 28,000 to 31,000 square-foot facility at an estimated cost of $11.7 million. He added that a debt issue to pay for this project has been tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2022.

The county manager reminded the commissioners that this new edifice will allow many of the court system’s administrative functions to move out of the Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. Court House, which would be revamped to house civil proceedings that now take place in a civil courts building which stands next to the county’s headquarters.

Hagood put the cost of these renovations at $1,944,000 and suggested a prospective debt issue in the spring of 2022, with groundbreaking to take place in June of the following year.

Hagood told the commissioners that these proposed upgrades would free up the county’s civil courts building to centralize some of the county’s own operations, which are presently dispersed across several facilities in Burlington and Graham. Hagood estimated a cost of $4,860,000 to renovate both the current civil courts building and the county’s adjacent headquarters with a proposed debt issue in August of 2024 and a groundbreaking in the spring of 2025.

“These are all conceptual plans, and the dollars are conceptual,” the county manager went on to acknowledge. “But, basically, it would be close to gutting these two buildings.”


New ambulance base, stat
Hagood also touched on a couple of other high priority projects that he told the commissioners he’s eager to get underway. He noted, for instance, that a debt issue is already slated to take place in October to cover the $1.5 million tab for a new HVAC system in the county’s human services center.

Another item, which Hagood conceded has just recently vaulted to the top of the county’s to-do list, is the construction of a new EMS base in or around Mebane. The county manager proposed a debt issue in March of 2022 for this $3.5 million facility and floated tentative completion date in March of 2023.

The county manager added that he and his colleagues have already identified a potential site for this 10,000-square foot building and assured the commissioners that the county has enough cash in hand to pay for the site’s acquisition.

In a subsequent interview with The Alamance News, Hagood attributed a spike in demand to the proposed construction of this new ambulance base in the eastern reaches of Alamance County.

“The volume of calls coming out of that area,” he explained, “is what’s driving the decision to put a new EMS base in Mebane.”

Hagood would not identify the potential location that he has in mind for the new ambulance base.

Pharmacy order
A third high-priority project that Hagood presented to the commissioners is the potential renovation of the former Medicap pharmacy in Burlington, which the county currently leases to serve a drive-thru location for tax payments. Hagood said that the county could acquire this building with cash it already has in hand but would have to borrow the funds to renovate the facility. He added that this $1.7 million project could begin with the building’s purchase later this year.

“We have reached a point where we need to make a decision,” he added, “[whether] to purchase that building or vacate [once it’s no longer for tax payments].”

Commissioner Pam Thompson suggested that this building could serve as a new home for the county’s veterans office, which is currently squeezed into the county’s office annex at the northwest corner of Maple and West Elm streets in Graham.

Hagood added that the county’s capital financing plan has enough available funds or sufficient debt capacity to cover all of the projects that he presented to the commissioners.

“The funding is there to pay for these projects as we know them today,” he insisted.

The county manager nevertheless said that the top priorities for him at the moment are to determine the fate of the former Medicap pharmacy, negotiate the purchase of the site for the new EMS base in Mebane, and obtain quotes for the new HVAC system at the human services center. He also stressed the need to begin the necessary preparations for the court system’s new administrative building and, ultimately, the proposed renovation of the Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. Court House.

The commissioners gave Hagood the all-clear to get started on these four endeavors.

Commissioners appoint committee headed by chairman to study court needs for future construction projects: