Sampson County Emergency Management officials have outgrown their aging building and are seeking grant funding toward a potential move down the road.
The topic came under discussion during a recent Sampson Board of Commissioners planning session. Emergency Management director Ronald Bass said the space has become too small and the building, which already lacks some basic amenities, is susceptible to flooding during even moderate rains.
“While the current building has served Sampson County well,” said Bass, “it is in dire need of replacement. We have submitted several grant requests to both state and federal agencies to assist in the procurenent of a new facility, but we have not been successful with any of it to date.”
The Emergency Management Services building is located at 107 Underwood St., Clinton, off of U.S. 701 Business in Clinton. The Emergency Management office, the EMS office and the E-911 dispatch center operate out of the building, which was constructed in 1956. It previously served as a North Carolina National Guard Armory until it was released to the county in 1995.
When Sampson Emergency Services moved into the building, there was just one ambulance, three EMS employees, four Emergency Management employees and three 911 dispatchers on duty at any one time, Bass noted.
Today, the building houses two ambulances, an EMS operations chief, an EMS training officer, an EMS shift supervisor, six EMS employees, four 911 dispatchers, the communications manager, assistant manager and the 911 addressing coordinator.
Bass highlighted some of the problem areas in the building, including lack of space for important documents and equipment, as well as personnel themselves.
He noted that, over the years, there have been several incidents of severe flooding. In 1996, Hurricane Fran was inches away from flooding the entire 911 center; in 1999, waters from Hurricane Floyd entered the hallway of the center; and in 2016, Hurricane Matthew brought water up to the center’s door. With each of the natural disasters, Bass stated, vehicles were flooded and water in the parking lot stood a foot and a half deep.
Hand in hand with the flooding, the building has major drainage issues, the EM director noted.
“The building pretty much sits in a bowl,” said Bass.
Among other issues, the facilitylacks ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, has no exhaust removal system, its restrooms and front foyer are not air conditioned, there are HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) issues; and just one bay door on the Underwood side of the building, meaning one exit and entrance for vehicles.
Room is also a major concern. Bass said there is no room for decontamination of EMS equipment, for personnel files, sensitive information or archived files that have to be retained indefinitely or for future growth for employees or equipment they operate.
He pointed to the Emergency Operation Center as a prime example, saying space was “inadequate” to support additional emergency staffing. Emergency officials cram themselves in to the county’s emergency operations hub, a 32 foot by 19 foot room within the building, during natural disasters to hear state and local updates and coordinate response.
“We have a very small area there to work in,” said Bass, noting that out-of-county officials also utilize the space, including swift water rescue teams and others.
“It gets full and loud,” added Susan Holder, assistant manager and public information officer for the county.
A remodel on the 911 Center is being completed from 911 funds approved last year. Bass said he wanted to continue to seek grants and see what can be done to alleviate some of the other issues in the building.
“I’m not here to ask for a new building. I’m here to let you know some of our concerns,” Bass told commissioners during the planning session, noting he wanted to give county officials a “snapshot” of some of the issues with which emergency personnel are contending. “The building has certainly served the county well, and still is.”
“We need to search harder for grants,” said board chairman Clark Wooten.
He asked County manager Ed Causey what the county’s options were in regards to the search for grant monies.
“At this point, we have the 911 monies. If we had somebody on the legislative side who was pushing to make our wishes known, that does help,” the county manager said. “I’m not talking about a special appropriation, but if they would encourage the assistance where they could now.”
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