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Library Planning, New Tech and EMS Upgrades Top OC Spending Plan

By Elizabeth Friend Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:18 pm
CHAPEL HILL- Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday took a first look at a plan to spend $209 million in capital investment projects over the next five years.

County leaders plan to spend $18.7 million in the next fiscal year on a host of projects including a library branch, communications and technology upgrades and improvements to the EMS system.

County Manager Frank Clifton told the board many of the projects on the list are the culmination of years of planning.

“Some of these projects are eight, nine, ten years old, and they’re moving forward incrementally,” said Clifton. “We’ve made a concerted effort to take projects that were at one time someone’s vision and put them into reality in the past several years. Rather than take on a lot of new projects, do something about projects we’ve committed to in the past.”

The plan sets aside $600,000 next year for design and land purchases to build a Southern Branch Library in or around Carrboro. The full project is slated to cost $8 million.

Next year’s plan also calls for $875,000 to build a stand-alone EMS station, but Commissioner Earl McKee argued that might not be necessary, given that the Orange Rural Volunteer Fire Department has agreed to co-locate an ambulance at its Phelps Road station.

“I will be advocating to push back or remove that first year EMS station completely, under the reasoning that the Phelps Road station takes the place of it,” said McKee.

Upgrades to the EMS communications system will cost $1.7 million, and the board is setting aside an additional $700,000 for other information technology needs.

By 2018, county leaders hope to complete construction on the new library, three EMS stations and a new $30 million dollar jail. The county will also spend $6.6 million to expand the Southern Human Services Center, with an eye to opening a new dental clinic in Chapel Hill to replace the Carrboro clinic that closed in 2011.

According to growth projections, no new schools are needed until 2017 at the earliest, but Commissioner Alice Gordon reminded the board that many schools in both districts are more than four decades old and may need renovation.

“I just think it’s important to underscore our conversation about the older school facilities,” said Gordon. “I bring up the Culbreth Science Lab because it’s been hanging around as an inadequate facility for so long, but it could be the first of several projects that we stage.”

This was the board’s first glance at the manager’s recommended five year spending plan. Commissioners will review the plan at a work session on April 11.

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