Fire Marshal’s Office to start charging for specific services

ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday, September 6, with the Fire Marshal’s Office’s request for a new fee schedule, the fire district reformatting, and the purchase of property for the I-74 Industrial Site; the key items on the agenda for consideration.

The Fire Marshal’s Office brought forth a request before the board to add a fee schedule to some of the services that the office provides.

“Since the inception of the North Carolina Fire Code in the early 1990s, Randolph County Fire Marshal’s Office has provided permit consultation, plan review, and specialty inspections services free of charge to contractors and the like,” said Fire Marshal Erik Beard. “Randolph County is one of the few counties in the state that had not charged for these services.”

However, due to the growing volume of requests that the Fire Marshal’s office has received, around 3,000 inspection activities, and 700-800 specialty inspections per year, the office has requested that they start charging for these services.

According to Beard, the office will not charge for annual and routine inspections and only would have an instituted fee if there were issues with violations not being corrected in a timely manner.

“We’re not looking at it so much from a revenue standpoint as much as just recouping costs,” Beard said.

The board was given an update on the status of the Farm, Food, and Family Education Center.

“We are actively working on the project, and we have completed the schematic design for the first phase of the design,” said Kristen Hess of HH Architecture. “This reflects a long schedule, and, as you can see, we still have a long way to go. The idea is that we’d be opening in the first quarter of 2025.”

The center will include pastures, demonstration areas, a food hub, a commercial kitchen, a covered outdoor arena, a large assembly room, offices for Cooperative Extensions, Soil and Water, 4H, and much more for open use by the public.

“In terms of budget, we’re at $29.3 million,” Hess said. “It’s still early, and prices are coming down, fortunately, so we’re hoping this will improve, and we’re working to improve it, but this is where we are today. In terms of where you are from a funding standpoint, you’re just $1 million short, and I don’t think you’ve even tapped into all your fundraising and grants and all of the opportunities yet. But you’re really, really close.”

The board of commissioners also approved the acceptance of an Eastern Triad Workforce Initiative Grant.

“ETWI funds are meant to address workforce needs,” said Randolph Community College Vice President of Instructional Services Suzanne Rohrbaugh. “Any gaps, any areas we can grow. Ultimately our goal is to provide a trained workforce to meet industry needs, and we feel like the budget before you does exactly that by reducing a lot of the administrative costs. This year, we have the opportunity to go through just Randolph County. We have allocated our resources accordingly, and $750,000 is what’s been allocated to the county.”

According to Rohrbaugh, the funds will be focused on three areas: To generate and develop CTE interests, to pay the program director, and to ensure that high school graduates are prepared to take the next steps in their lives and careers.

“This $750,000 has been a fixed amount since 2018, from Day 1,” said chairman Darrell Frye. “But before, it had been going through Guilford County, and they took 40% of this money for themselves to administer our program. So in the past, we’ve only been getting about $450,000 of this money. This year, we get the whole $750,000 because it’s coming directly to each one of the counties.”

The board then approved the purchase of two lots totaling about 30 acres of the I-74 Industrial Center site – which totals 160 acres – at $35,000 an acre to be eligible to receive funding from the Department of Commerce’s Utility Grant. Along with that, the board approved the acceptance of a $1 million grant and authorized an agreement with the NCDOT for the design and alignment of Wall Brothers Road.

“This is a 160-acre site that we’re looking to develop into an industrial park,” said Economic Development Corporation Business Recruitment Director Crystal Gettys. “The property is located at the interchange of I-74 and Highway 311 in Sophia. The Randolph County EDC has been working with the private developer, Randolph County, the city of Randleman, and the City of Asheboro in providing the infrastructure necessary to support the development in the future industrial park.”

The board held public hearings for the abolishment and reforming of Fire Tax Districts for the East Side, Level Cross, Randleman-Sophia, and Tabernacle Fire Districts in order to eliminate the $0.15 tax cap that the districts had. 

These four districts are a part of the greater reformatting of every fire district, with four other districts – Guil-rand, West Side, Climax, and Franklinville – having already been reformatted earlier this year.

The change is not a tax increase but instead a process to put all of the county’s fire districts under the same rules and provide a more streamlined method for the districts to potentially request a tax increase if needed.

After no public comments were brought forth, the board abolished and reformatted each district.

The board finally accepted a $2.5 million Wastewater and Sewer Grant and designated it to be applied to the Seagrove-Ulah Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Capital Project. In addition, they approved two budget amendments, one for an additional $1.5 million for the Emergency Services VIPER Tower and an additional $2 million for Public Health Facility Renovations.

The Randolph County Board of Commissioners will next meet October 3.

By Ryan Henkel