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DSS dream becomes reality

WINDSOR – Signed, sealed and almost delivered.

On Tuesday, Bertie County officials placed their signatures on financial documents that will provide a $3.3 million loan for construction of a new Department of Social Services (DSS) building.

“This is a great day for Bertie County,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Rick Harrell said as he signed a mountain of paperwork to close the deal. “Our board is committed to bringing the best services to the citizens of Bertie County and what was done here today strengthens that commitment.”

The loan, acquired through BB&T at a 3.93 percent interest rate, will be used to pay for land purchase and construction as well as for fees associated with architectural and engineering work.

The new 19,727 square-foot building will be constructed on county-owned property near Bertie Memorial Hospital off US 17. The new facility promises to meet the current needs of Bertie County DSS. It will replace a 30-year-old building which is deemed too small as well as in a bad state of repair.

According to Richard Andrews, the building’s architect, the new DSS building will contain adequate space in which to consolidate separate facilities and create new organizational synergies.

“We are thrilled to soon offer our citizens a building they deserve,” Bertie DSS Director Morris Rascoe said. “This plan has been in the works for a while now and I’ve been impressed by the way our board of commissioners and our other county officials have paid attention to all the small details in order to offer the best to our citizens.”

Over the past several months, the Bertie Commissioners, during their regular meetings, have discussed the DSS building issue, everything from the height of the office, the number of rooms and even down to the fine detail of the slope of the roof.

The end product will provide space for 60 private offices, large and small group conference rooms and space for record storage and data communication. The building will also include a covered area at the main entrance in order for DSS clients to avoid inclement weather.

The office will sit on a 15.7 acre parcel of county property, 2.8 acres of which will be occupied by the building and a paved parking lot large enough to accommodate 90 vehicles.

A new asphalt road will provide access to the building from US 17.

“This is everything we’ve dreamed of and more,” Harrell said.

The loan will dedicate $3 million for construction, $200,000 in architectural and professional fees and $100,000 for the county to recoup a portion of the $225,000 it paid for the property.

County Manager Zee Lamb said the loan is scheduled to be repaid in 15 years. He added that construction is scheduled to begin within the next 90 days and the project will take approximately one year to complete.

“The full amount of the loan will be placed into an interest bearing account at a 5.31 percent interest rate,” Lamb noted. “That means the county will see a small return on that money until it is needed to be drawn down to make the first payment.”

The DSS building is another in a string of major improvements Bertie County officials are providing for its citizens. The county commissioners borrowed $6 million for construction of a new middle school, scheduled to open next year, and are in the midst of repaying a $1 million loan for the new Bertie County Health Department building and $3.97 million the county borrowed for renovations to its elementary schools.