Northampton studies new DSS facility

Published 8:01 am Tuesday, April 21, 2009

JACKSON — A new “green” home may be on the horizon for the Department of Social Services (DSS) here.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved the schematics as reviewed and presented for a new DSS building and directed county staff and the county manager to position the county to move forward in positioning the county for stimulus money for the project.

Though the approval of the project does not incur debt to the county, DSS Director Al Wentzy and County Manager Wayne Jenkins said it positions the county to receive possible funding from USDA for the new building.

Wentzy explained in his presentation to the board that Jenkins “has indications that this building project is preliminary qualified by USDA for funding” and more information is forthcoming.

“This is a time-sensitive project as the federal government is seeking ‘shovel ready’ projects for funding,” said Wentzy in his decision paper.

Jenkins said the $6.1 billion the state is receiving from the federal stimulus bill, those funds will be distributed through the governor’s office and programs that are already in place, such as USDA Rural Development.

He added a tremendous infusion of funds will be placed in USDA, especially in the loans and grants program.

If the funding does come through, DSS is in a position to replace their ailing 85-year-old building with a new energy efficient and environmentally friendly “green” building.

According to Wentzy’s presentation, the approximately $8 million building would cost about 20 percent more, but would have an estimated cost-offset period of five to seven years.

He said he anticipated 50 percent of the possible funding from USDA to be a grant and 50 percent to be a low interest loan.

Additionally, the design will incorporate acquisition of a new phone system with slight modifications and a new security system.

Commissioner James Hester (D-1st) asked where the new location of the building would be.

Wentzy said the building would be located in the same general area as the current one (on NC 305 north, just outside of Jackson). Wentzy said the county is currently speaking with the landowner.

The commissioners approved the motion with no objections.