Next set of Fire District restructuring begins after Board of Commissioners approval

ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Board of Commissioners met Monday with the restructuring of a new set of Fire Districts as well as a presentation of an improvement plan for the Health Department. These were the top items on the agenda.

The process of restructuring the Fire Districts in Randolph County to remove the 15-cent tax rate cap that these districts had continued with four new districts was brought forth before the board for approval to start the process.

The process – which has already been completed for Guil-Rand, Climax, West Side, and Franklinville Fire Districts – began with the board’s approval to abolish the current capped Fire Districts for East Side, Level Cross, Randleman-Sophia, and Tabernacle and establish a public hearing for September 6 to be held so that the new districts can be formed.

The four fire departments will still cover the exact same areas, with the only change being that they will no longer be held to a 15-cent fire tax cap, albeit the departments still would have to get approval from the Board of Commissioners for any proposed tax hike.

“This is not a tax increase,” said Chairman Darrell Frye. “Any increase has to come before this elected board of county commissioners, and they have to approve a request. It puts every fire department here under the same guidelines and the same rules.”

The board also approved two contract addendums, with the first being with Smith-Sinnett to add $185,000 for the design, bidding, and construction administration of the Randolph County Health Department.

“The original Health Department was built in the early ‘80s, so it’s about 40 years old,” said Robert Carmac of Smith-Sinnett. “It’s had some minor renovations done over the years, but the majority of those renovations were a make-do situation. Most of the buildings and exam rooms remain as is. I remember when I was young, going into the health department as a kid and the same orange countertops that had been there for years. Given what we’ve gone through over the years, there is no secret the value that the health department provides to the community. But they are very much in a make-do situation.”

Smith-Sinnett was originally commissioned to conduct a space needs study for the health department and brought forth a preliminary plan of action for a redesign.

“They are trying to make-do, but I think through this study and what we’ve shown is a plan to provide better customer service, better flow for the patients that are coming, and a better usage of the space,” Carmac said.

According to Carmac, they will ask for a $1.5 million base bid for construction, with a 6-8 month design window and an 8-12 month construction window which would see the completion of the project by late 2023 to early 2024.

The second approved addendum was with the contract with Hobbs Architects for the Historic Courthouse Museum design to add $44,950 to the project to design the replacement of the upstairs HVAC.

The board of commissioners approved a request from Bordeaux Construction for additional funding and a time extension for the Randolph County Detention Center expansion project.

The approved funding request will be provided as a change order to the contract for a total of $322,796 in two different contingencies.

“In addition to the money, we are also requesting for a time extension of four months,” said John Witcher from Bordeaux Construction. “This is a two-month time extension for the Phase 2 issues that we encountered with the smoke control system required by the state and then also a two-month time extension that would be added on to the end of the project so that we can deliver the maintenance building for the project.” 

According to Chairman Frye, the additional funding will not need to be taken from the budget and is instead already interspersed in the project.

“We do have some funds in other areas of this project that don’t require any budget amendments or the setting aside of any additional funding at this time,” Frye said. “We still have about a year to go in this process, and some other issues could turn up, but right now, this does not require us to budget additional funds to complete the project as we know it today.”

The board also then approved a resolution with Lancaster Customworks, Inc. to enter into an economic development incentive agreement for the construction of a new facility. 

“Lancaster is a high-end upholstery manufacturing company located currently in 18,000 square feet in the city of Archdale,” said EDC President Kevin Franklin. “The company has been around for 30 years, and they are continuing to enjoy consistent growth and double-digit sales over the last several years and have just outgrown the facility they are in now. There is no room around the current building for any further expansion, and so they are looking at a new location to build a brand new facility in the city of Archdale, and it’s just a stone’s throw from their current location.”

According to Franklin, the incentive package would have a total cash amount of $120,700 over five years. Of that, $79,000 will come from Randolph County, and up to $41,700 will come from the city of Archdale.

“The full investment of the project is anticipated to exceed $5,000,000, which will include $4,295,000 in real property and about $731,000 in machinery and equipment for that facility,” Franklin said. “They will retain their current full-time workforce of about 25 employees and plan to create 27 new jobs overall in a five-year period related to this expansion. The average annual wage of the new jobs will be at least $46,000, about $6,000 on average more than the current annual average wage here in Randolph County.”  

The Annual Settlement Report was presented to the board for the 2021-22 tax year, and it was reported that Randolph County had a 99.24% collection rate for real estate, business, and individual personal property.

The board also appointed Debra Hill to a new, four-year term as County Tax Collector and approved a request from the Board of Elections to reclassify their part-time office assistant 3 position to a full-time election programs specialist. 

The board then approved the request to purchase four 2022 Type I Ford F-450 4×4 TraumaHawk ambulances for $1,146,164 from Northwestern Emergency Vehicles, Inc. through the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s competitive bidding program.

Finally, the board approved the submission of two applications for USDA Rural Development loans, each for $2 million to be paid out over ten years with zero percent interest for the Farm Food and Family Education Center.

The Randolph County Board of Commissioners will next meet August 1.

By Ryan Henkel, North State Journal