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County buys Conway/Severn Rescue building

JACKSON – With a unanimous vote at their regular meeting here on Dec. 7, the Northampton Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of the building which used to house the Conway/Severn Rescue Squad.

Because the Conway/Severn Rescue Squad was no longer operating, the county will use the building to help provide EMS services to citizens in that area. Currently, Northampton County EMS operates in that area from a two-bay building in Milwaukee.

This purchase will move them into a bigger and newer space located on N. Church Street in Conway.

“It would be ideal for the county so we can have rescue coverage on that end of the county and cut down on response times. Seconds save lives,” said Northampton’s Economic Development Director Franklin Williams as he presented information about the building.

He noted that the purchase would be a good investment due to its location, its storage capacity, and its office space.

“It’s an ideal acquisition and I think it would benefit the county greatly,” he concluded.

Board Chair Charles Tyner said he was glad for the opportunity to upgrade. He also emphasized the benefits of everyone working together on this project, including the towns of Conway and Severn.

“I want to commend those two towns for saying they’d help us with this project,” he noted.

County Attorney Scott McKellar then presented a purchase agreement for the commissioners to approve. He noted this purchase is not technically an economic development project but an enhancement to the county’s emergency services.

“This is the product of several months of very hard work,” McKellar said. “The problem was that property was built and financed by the USDA.”

That meant there was still between $500,000-$600,000 owed to the USDA by the current property owners. With negotiations, however, McKellar reported that the USDA agreed to accept only $175,000 for its purchase, which will allow the county to receive the title to the property free and clear of any liens.

“If there ever was a homerun, this is a homerun,” the attorney said.

McKellar said he expected to have the sale closed by the end of December, and the property owners will remove any personal property from the building by January 15.

“How quick can we get a motion,” asked Tyner with a laugh.

Commissioner Kelvin Edwards motioned to accept the agreement and Commissioner Geneva Faulkner seconded. It passed with a unanimous vote.

Tyner requested that the county put the Milwaukee building up for sale since it would no longer be necessary to use.

In addition to the rescue squad project, Williams also briefly presented updates on other projects the county is currently pursuing. Those include Creecy School in Rich Square, workforce housing in Jackson, and the former J.W. Faison Senior Center building.

For the Creecy project, Williams explained the county had finished renovating the gym to provide more recreation opportunities to the community, but they would also like to continue renovations on the rest of the old school building. They’re also in the process of working with sponsors to create a community walking trail at the site.

The workforce housing project, located on a 10-acre site beside Central Elementary School, was already previously approved by the Board. They’ve since turned it over to a developer who plans to construct 50 housing units which will be available for teachers and local, state, and federal government employees.

“Rooftops is what we’ve got to have, folks,” remarked Tyner, who added he hoped they’d have a groundbreaking celebration soon.

With the closure of the J.W. Faison Senior Center in June 2019, the building was left vacant and Northampton County seniors were left without the opportunity to continue the activities they had there before. Williams recommended the county try to acquire the building to develop its own senior program to fill the void left behind.

“We’re the only county in our region that does not have a senior center owned and operated by the county,” Tyner stated in support of the idea.

All three projects received unanimously favorable votes from the commissioners to allow work on each to continue.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on in Northampton County,” Tyner concluded.