County manager debuts budget for proposed capital improvements

Alamance County’s manager has unfurled a proposed capital improvement plan for the next fiscal year that calls for just over $22.5 million in outlays on facilities owned by either the county, the local school system, or Alamance Community College – a nearly fourfold increase over the previous year.

This plan, which is a prelude to the county manager’s forthcoming budget, was formally shared with the county’s board of commissioners during its latest regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

During that morning’s proceedings, county manager Heidi York assured the commissioners that she and her colleagues have tried to stick to the basics in their proposed allocations for the county’s brick-and-mortar constructions.

“We’re playing catch up on facility maintenance,” the county manager elaborated,” and I don’t have any large, new projects in here.”

The $22.5 million price tag that York attached to her recommendations nevertheless amounts to a sizeable increase over the plan that she presented to the commissioners a year ago, which called for roughly $6.1 million in outlays for the county, the school system and Alamance Community College.

York went on to lay out the particulars of her latest recommendations for the county as well as two educational institutions that rely on Alamance County’s government for their building-related expenditures.

In the case of Alamance Community College, York has proposed an annual outlay of $536,000 – matching both ACC’s request to the county as well as the sum it was earmarked in the county’s current annual budget.

York acknowledged that her proposed allocation for the Alamance-Burlington school system is a bit shy of the roughly $4 million that the schools had sought from the county for the next fiscal year. Yet, at $3.9 million, this proposed outlay is still $600,000 more than the commissioners had set aside a year ago for the school system’s facilities needs. York added that this figure contains some $1.5 million in safety upgrades, $770,000 for deferred maintenance, $325,000 for athletic site improvements, $480,000 for vehicle replacement, and $250,000 for playground and classroom replacements.

In the meantime, York broke up her recommendations for the county into two categories based on the size of the proposed outlays. The county manager’s smaller proposals were ultimately rolled into a line item for “pay-as-you-go” maintenance that York has tentatively put at a $2.83 million. This sum, which represents an increase of nearly $1.1 million over the county’s current “pay-go” expenses, include some $1.5 million for roof and HVAC work at the county jail, $350,000 for upfits and repairs to the Historic Court House, and $1 million to rehabilitate county-owned athletic fields.

This final outlay for athletic fields is the second of three such annual appropriations that the commissioners initially pledged to take on a year ago. The county’s administrators have since plowed the first of these $1 million expenditures into the renovation of a county-owned ball field at B. Everett Jordan Elementary School – a project that the county’s administrators expect to wrap up later this spring. Although technically owned by the county, this ball field had previously been maintained by the school system, whose alleged insouciance with the field’s upkeep drew a remark from commissioner Bill Lashley during the county manager’s presentation on Monday.

“The B. Everett field was run through the parks and recreation department,” Lashley went on to declare, “because the school system could not get it done.”

In addition to her “pay-as-you-go” plan for the county, York also zeroed in on a number of larger capital projects that she acknowledged will demand revenue from somewhere other than the county’s general fund.

These big-ticket items include $5 million to upgrade a former Becton Dickson building in Burlington that the county has previously purchased to serve as a new home for its 9-1-1 center. York conceded that a grant from the state government will cover the proposed overhaul of this building, which will ultimately allow the county to combine its 9-1-1 center with other emergency services, including a separate complement of emergency dispatchers that the city of Burlington currently maintains on its own turf.

Also included York’s capital improvement plan are $5.2 million for a new computer aided dispatch system and $5 million for a “federally-mandated” upgrade of the county’s emergency radios. York admitted that these two items will probably require the county to take on an installment loan in the next fiscal year.

In addition to her annual capital improvement plan, York also rolled out a purely conceptual five-year plan that mapped out the county’s proposed capital outlays through the spring of 2029.

With a total price tag of $97.1 million, this long-term proposal contains five year’s worth of “paygo” allocations for the county, ACC, and the school system. Also included are $13.5 million in upgrades to the new 9-1-1 center during the first two years of the plan and $40 million for years two through five to repair or replace some of the higher priority roofs and HVAC systems owned by the county and the Alamance-Burlington school system.

Omitted from both the five-year plan and the county manager’s proposed capital improvement budget is a proposed expansion of the facilities that the county provides to the local court system. The commissioners are currently mulling over three competing proposals to meet the court system’s needs. These include a $67 million plan to renovate and expand the Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. Court House in Graham and a downsized version of this same project whose particulars are still being hammered out by a consultant.

A third option that has support among some of the commissioners would cede the county’s own headquarters to the courts and relocate the county’s displaced operations within buildings which would have to be purchased throughout downtown Graham.

In any case, York assured the commissioners that she doesn’t expect them to render a verdict on her proposed capital improvement plan until they adopt the county’s next annual budget later this spring.