06/05/09 — Capital budget set for county

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Capital budget set for county

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 5, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County stands about a 95 percent chance of accomplishing all of the work on its $9.2 million capital improvement plan during the next budget year despite the economic slowdown, County Manager Lee Smith said.

Many of the projects relate to safety and operational issues that cannot be ignored, he said.

Seven projects account for roughly $7.3 million of the total.

They include: $248,660 for elevator upgrades; $350,060 for courthouse/annex renovations; $750,000 for economic development outlay; $856,000 for emergency telephone upgrade; $2 million for landfill expansion; $420,000 for software upgrade for tax listing/collector; and $2.5 million for county schools capital improvements.

The $4 million landfill expansion is actually being split over a two-year period. The money will be used to build a new 20-acre cell at the Dudley landfill.

The $2.5 million set aside for the schools is local money that county commissioners appropriated for the system's planned building project. The future of that project is somewhat uncertain since the lottery money that was going to be used has been taken by the governor to help balance the state budget.

Routine replacement of the county's 911 emergency telephone system accounts for $856,000. Revenues generated through the 911 telephone service fees will be used.

Smith said the system has to be upgraded about every seven to eight years. The last time it was replaced was around the time he became county manager some seven years ago.

For years, the county appropriated money as needed for economic development. It was decided four years ago to make it a budget item, Smith said.

Money in that line item are used to pay for land and/or property options. It also has been used to furnish local matches for grants such as the North Carolina One grants used to attract industry to the county. The most recent grant went to Triangle Spring, which is locating in Mount Olive.

A 20-to-30-year-old software system will be replaced in the tax department at a cost of $420,000.

Smith said the county wanted to replace the software, which includes one used for appraisals, prior to beginning the county-wide revaluation within the next two years.

The old software, he said, is on a mainframe computer that is getting harder to maintain and find parts for.

Two others projects account for almost a half million dollars.

The county will spend $270,000 for two new ambulances that will replace two older models, Smith said.

Smith said the cost of maintenance and repairs makes it more cost effective to buy the two vehicles. The county, he said, cannot afford to have emergency vehicles out of service.

The old vehicles could still be used for back-up, if needed, he said.

Another $200,000 will pay for renovations at the Department of Social Services office. Heating and air conditioning work and elevator upgrades account for the bulk of the project, Smith said.

Smith said he was "not thrilled" at the prospect of spending the money at the old building.

The county earlier this year purchased the old Masons department store property on North William Street. The plan is to turn it into office space, a move that would allow the county to close the old hospital building on East Ash Street that now houses DSS and the Health Department.

However, the economy has slowed progress on that project and it could be five to seven years before the move could be made, Smith said.

Another $248,660 is budgeted for upgraded elevators in county buildings, including the Sullivan Building (the old tax building).

The $350,000 for renovations at the courthouse and annex is mostly for heating and air conditioning and related work, Smith said.

The plan also includes $200,000 for the second and final payment on the old Belk-Tyler building in Mount Olive.

The county purchased the property for $200,000 earlier this year from Mount Olive College. It will eventually be the home of Steele Memorial Library.