Commissioners discuss projects that require the help of legislators
Posted at 6:00 am Wednesday, March 8, 2023
At its regular meeting Monday (March 6), the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners discussed asking lawmakers for money to help start several possible public safety projects. Funding would come from the state budget, which is written and approved by the General Assembly and then sent to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office for final approval.
North Carolina Sen. Jim Perry sent a letter to commissioners asking what projects they would like to see funded by the state. The same letter was sent to the other counties represented by Perry, Craven and Lenoir.
Three projects discussed by the commissioners included upgrades to the first responder radios, improvements to the emergency communications building, the detention center and the sheriff’s office.
Upgrading the radio stations will require about $2 million, chairman Freddie Waters said during the meeting. Interim Emergency Director Chris Newkirk said the department has already applied for federal funding for portable radios for fire stations. Pocket radios will cost $1 million, and ambulance radios will cost about $700,000, plus about $300,000 for additional technology infrastructure. The new portable radios will allow for more seamless communication between fire stations and law enforcement agencies, Newkirk explained.
Chairman Waters shared that the new public safety complex will cost approximately $5.5 million. It will house emergency communications and the sheriff’s office. He also shared that the new detention center will cost approximately 22 million dollars for 140 places.
The estimated cost for all three projects will be $29.5 million.
“Senator Perry is asking us about potential capital needs, so I don’t know a better time to ask than when someone asks, ‘We’re working on the state budget.’ Do you have anything on your wish list,’” Waters said, paraphrasing Perry’s letter.
Waters explained that it may be better to build a new public safety center rather than improve the current facility that houses the sheriff’s office and emergency communications. He said engineers indicated potential problems with raising the floor and building additional bathrooms.
Speaking about which projects to request funding from Sen. Perry (as well as House Rep. Keith Kidwell), Commissioner Ed Booth said the “wish list” is a “great list.”
“Even if Senator Perry does this, we also have the famous Kidwell who brought $20 million to this district last year. So maybe we can get some money this year. I think it’s a great mission,” Booth said.
Although he did not agree with the idea of building a new detention center in Beaufort County, Commissioner Hood Richardson asked the Council to require Perry and Kidwell to work on the construction of new prisons throughout the state at a cost of $50 million. Richardson believes the Beaufort County Detention Center should be improved, not a new facility built. This request is known as a regional request.
Commissioners voted 6-1 to send all three county requests and Richardson’s regional requests to Perry and Kidwell. Commissioner John Rebholtz was not present at the meeting. Commissar Stan Deadridge was the only vote against.