By Chris Berendt Staff Writer
January 23, 2014
With 26 buildings and more than 400,000 square feet to maintain, Sampson County has its hands full with upkeep costs — and the county’s Public Works director warned this week that deferred maintenance issues must be accounted for or the problem will “slip away” from their control.
The Sampson County Infrastructure Maintenance Program, introduced in 2012 by Sampson County Public Works, details the county’s 26 buildings and their 462,117 total square feet, which all told has a present replacement value of nearly $83 million.
Public Works officials said this week that the county should be setting aside approximately $724,000 to meet maintenance needs, a number that is up from last year.
The maintenance program takes into account eight key components in all buildings, including roof, HVAC, interior finishes, exterior enclosures and site improvements, mostly parking lots. Other components include all plumbing (fixtures, water heaters and coolers), electrical (outlets, lights and generators) and fire protection, specifically sprinkler systems.
A massive, up-to-date program, the report details every aspect of those buildings and the dollar figure that should be annually earmarked for maintenance and upkeep within it.
That dollar figure continues to rise.
As they did last year, during a budget meeting this week Public Works director Lee Cannady and Public Works facilities maintenance superintendent Brian Royal again took commissioners through their method of data collection, in which every square inch of all 26 county-owned and maintained buildings and its running M&R (maintenance and repair) costs are tallied on an continual basis.
“Deferred maintenance is at $1,661,314,” Public Works officials stated. “As you can see, it is still apparent where funds have not been expended.”
The current 10-year forecast for total costs, with all components, is $7,240,441.
“The proposed average amount that needs to be set aside annually would be $724,044 whereas last year it was $694,178,” Public Works staff said in their report to the board. “It is imperative that we continue to try to set reserve funds aside in order to meet the annual projections. Without these reserve funds, we will continue to compound these increased deferred maintenance costs.”
In 2013, the deferred maintenance stood at $1,571,897. The 10-year forecast last year was $6,941,781, meaning the average amount that would need to be set aside would be $694,178, whereas in 2012 (without all the components) it was $503,833.
In the massive report, every building and its attributes — year built, building square footage, replacement value and deferred maintenance — is listed, along with the facility condition index, which takes 1 minus the deferred maintenance, divided by the replacement value. That percentage is taken off the 100 percent condition.
Overall, the facility condition index has declined slightly due to depreciation, from 98.1 percent in 2013 to 98.0 this year. It stood at 98.9 percent in 2012.
Cannady has called the comprehensive document “the best tool” he’s had at his disposal in 20 years.
“It was hard to keep track (previously) when it was time to do something to that particular building,” said Royal. “Every time a new component is added, replaced or moved from one of our buildings, it is (now) updated through the system.”
The extensive infrastructure study shows exactly where funds, once set aside, should be spent. A great deal of effort has been expended in the last couple years toward the program, and the board subsequently established capital reserve accounts.
As part of the 2012-13 budget, commissioners established capital reserve maintenance accounts for long-term facilities upkeep. A total of $370,000 was approved, encompassing $150,000 for the county, $112,500 for Sampson County Schools, $56,250 for Clinton City Schools and $56,250 for Sampson Community College.
“We are very appreciative of the Board of Commissioners taking the initiative to set aside funds to create for infrastructure improvements,” Cannady said.
However, continued funding is vital.
“I can’t tell you how important this is — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure any day of the week,” said Cannady. “I know we’ve fallen on (tough) economic times, but when we started this in 2012, our deferred maintenance was $503,833. The following year it went to $694,178. In 2014, it’s 724,044.”
The problem will not get any smaller and requires that money be set aside for necessary upkeep, so deferred costs do not pile up to the point they become unmanageable.
The 462,000 square feet is roughly 17 percent of the total square feet for which the county is responsible for maintenance. Sampson County Schools represent another 1.5 million square feet, or 55 percent, and Clinton City Schools are 610,000 square feet, or about 22 percent. Sampson Community College makes up the remaining 6 percent, at 150,000 square feet.
That is more than 2.74 million square feet of space that the county is obligated to maintain, Public Works officials have said.
Over the last decade, Sampson County has invested more than $140 million in bricks and mortar infrastructure for local government and the school systems. The county obtained USDA financing for much of the money, primarily for a 40-year term, meaning after 20 years of regular utilization and normal wear and tear, the facilities will still be encumbered with 20 years of debt.
While Public Works officials lauded the board with taking the initiative to set aside funds for infrastructure improvements, it was important that funds continue to be set aside.
“It’s slipping away,” said Cannady. “Each year we don’t set aside money and don’t do anything, it adds up. I can’t stress enough the importance of this document as a useful tool.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.