01/20/13 — County Commission wants to look at facilities

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County Commission wants to look at facilities

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 20, 2013 1:50 AM

Wayne County commissioners not only want an inventory of all county buildings, but also their cost to taxpayers, who the tenants are, and whether or not they are paying for use of the buildings.

They also want to know if rent is paid locally or through state and/or federal funds. Just as importantly, they said, are the county's maintenance needs for each building.

Chairman Steve Keen said commissioners are interested in the concentration of county buildings inside Goldsboro, particularly in the downtown area.

"We want to know, in the city of Goldsboro, how many facilities, how many employees work at those facilities," he said during the board's Thursday planning retreat. "That will tell us that if we move away from downtown that we are moving those employees away from downtown, which would be detrimental to downtown because you are taking the employees away from your breakfast, your lunches and all of this."

He noted that the previous board had purchased property several years ago on William Street to house a senior center, Health Department or Department of Social Services.

The county also has a large campus at the old hospital on East Ash Street that now houses county offices, he said

"Downtown facilities, do we stay where we are and make it better?" he said. "If we do a jail or health, do we keep everything downtown? Do we partner with city of Goldsboro?"

Facilities were among the top issues identified by commissioners during their seven-hour planning retreat Thursday at the Goldsboro County Club.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery asked if the survey would include any property -- land -- the county owns.

"Just the bricks and mortar right now," Keen said. "Of course the land absolutely, but I am just trying to get a hand on the brick and mortar."

Commissioner Wayne Aycock said that at some point he wanted a list of everything that the county owns, including land.

Keen said that the goal of the board's facilities committee is try to find out what the county owns. Keen serves on that committee with Vice Chairman Ray Mayo and Aycock.

Mayo said the committee also wants to "get a hand" on the facilities as far as maintenance.

"I do understand we have some maintenance problems in some of our facilities," he said. "We are going to identify what they are and set a priority of how we will address it and the approximate cost. For example, we already know that a lot of the heating and air units in some of our facilities are 20, 25 years old.

"So we might as well go ahead and start looking at the possibility of replacing them. Not only are they not efficient, but it probably would be cost effective in the long run if we did replace it because of the efficiency of the new unit."

Keen also said the board wants to determine who are in the buildings and whether the maintenance is in their budget.

Facilitator Wanda Sykes asked about the county's capital improvement plan. The county did not have one this past year, but there is an internal one, said County Manager Lee Smith.

"As a staff, we saw with a new board coming in obviously there would be some changes that we needed to really take a hard look at all facilities," Smith said. "I think the staff recognizes it, too, that you just can't look at things staring you in the face, you have to look at the other 50 behind you and look at it comprehensively."

That includes the schools, Smith said.

Once the existing buildings were cataloged, the next step would then include taking a look at any ones currently being planned.

"I.E., the library in the southern end," Keen said. "We have the library, and because we are doing this facility breakdown, all of a sudden it has stirred the library that has been proposed. We are having to look at all of the facilities."

Commissioner Ed Cromartie suggested adding an "in the pipeline" category since the library project was already moving.

The jail is also a good example because it is ongoing, too, Keen said.

Daughtery said he had done some number crunching after receiving some emails about the jail, and that he was concerned over how much the county is paying to house prisoners outside the county.

"Just doing some quick numbers on that, my understanding is that we are paying $55 per day per prisoner to house them outside the county if we are lucky," he said. "Use the $55 number and average that out when there were 40 prisoners going out every day to other counties and you (extrapolate) that out. That is $800,000 per year that this county is paying to house prisoners outside the county."

That cannot continue forever, he said.

The county is going to have to recognize with the $800,000 that it could probably fund a new jail and bring those dollars back into the county, Daughtery said.

Smith said he, his staff and Sheriff Carey Winders wanted to bring some ideas about the jail to the facilities committee.

"There are some things that we can do to keep it right here and things that we can do to stave off a brand new facility in the next five to 10 years, kind of stop gap, and keep our money here," he said.

"We just need to be looking at some other options," Daughtery said. "If we going to have to expand based upon our space available then we need to oversize that to where we can actually bring in federal prisoners, and we will have a revenue source from that to offset our other costs."

Commissioner John Bell cautioned Daughtery that if the county was going to set aside beds based on the "feds" that those beds would have to be set aside even if they weren't being used.

"They can sit there for a year and not even be utilized," he said.

Mayo said that one of the first things the county had take care of, though, was to refurbish the existing jail to keep the state from mandating that the county built a new one.

"Which they could do if our facility got much worse," he said. "That is one reason that it was such an emergency to get this jail refurbished. Is the $800,000 that has been brought up include sending out inmates while the jail is being refurbished?"

That will be temporary cost, he said.

Daughtery said he was just going by the numbers that he and other commissioners were getting.

Bell noted that it still costs the county $40 to $50 a day to house a prisoner in the county jail.

The facilities committee will be responsible to the commissioners to come "out of the gate" and work on all facilities, Keen said.

The jail is just a small part, he said.

"It is only a minute part of the whole, but we do not know as commissioners what the whole is," he said. "A study is being done as we speak. We are about 65 to 70 percent through with that. By the 15th of February the county manager will get us a report on where we are with that whole."