Replacing the aging Sampson County Emergency Management Services’ building has been a topic among county officials for years. A study has been proposed that would get the wheels moving in that direction.
The proposed 2018-19 budget includes $3,500 to obtain a preliminary proposal, including a cost estimate, for the replacement of the EMS building, located at 107 Underwood St. off of U.S. 701 Business in Clinton.
“We have been discussing the need for a new EMS building for the last several years,” County manager Ed Causey stated. “I am not suggesting now or next year that we’re going to go out and borrow money to build a new EMS building. However, if we want to secure grants and other funding in a proactive way, unless we have something reliable to help us project the cost, most people might not give us consideration.”
In February, Emergency Management director Ronald Bass told the Board of Commissioners that 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, it is in dire need of replacement,” Bass told commissioners. “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 EMS building, which contains the Emergency Management office, the EMS office and the E-911 dispatch center, was constructed in 1956. It previously served as a North Carolina National Guard Armory until it was released to the county in 1995.
Causey said receiving any grants would likely be dependent on some initial groundwork being laid by the county.
“Our best opportunity for this facility is to obtain sufficient grants or non‐loan monies for the construction of the new facility,” the county manager stated. “To receive serious consideration for non‐loan monies, we need to develop a realistic cost estimate and develop preliminary schematics for the proposed building.”
Prior to taking the helm as Sampson’s manager in 2010, Causey was with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working closely with county officials. He likened the proposed $3,500 EMS building study as a foundation for something down the road, similar to the county’s sweeping school construction.
He recalled when county officials first approached him in 2001 about building a set of new high schools in the county. The $100 million-plus endeavor ultimately came to fruition with the construction of schools several years later, but discussion occurred for years, he noted.
Years-long talks have similarly taken place in regards to the EMS building.
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.
The building suffers from lack of space for documents and equipment, as well as personnel themselves. He pointed to the Emergency Operation Center as a 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.
Over the years, there have also been several incidents of severe flooding, compounded by poor drainage issues.
“The building pretty much sits in a bowl,” said Bass.
The $3,500 study will provide a “reliable cost estimate and reliable projection” for constructing a building that would alleviate the existing issues.
“If we don’t venture a little bit,” Causey said of the study, “we’re not going to get there.”
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.