By Richard Sullins |

Lee County Republican Party Chairman Jim Womack was appointed by county commissioners Monday to fill a vacancy on the Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees.

Womack was named to replace Julian Philpott on the trustees’ board, but Philpott’s absence as a trustee could be short-lived. The shuffling of appointments will continue at the commission’s next meeting in July, when it’s expected to act again to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of trustee (and Republican Lee County commissioner) Bill Carver from the trustees’ board earlier this month.

When he spoke to The Rant last Saturday, Carver believed his position would be filled alongside those already on the agenda on Monday. But he said discussions between commission Chairman Kirk Smith, a Republican, and others prior to the meeting led to a postponement of the filling of the second vacancy.

Carver said Tuesday this decision was made in order to create a second application window for interested citizens to apply.

Four others, including Philpott, expressed interest in the original appointment. They were registered nurse Rebecca Yarnell, Central Carolina Hospital Director of Physician Services Oscar Moreno, and retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel David Bernard.

On Monday, Carver said “it is refreshing to see all the numbers who people who have applied to serve on these boards. I just hope they won’t be disappointed if they don’t receive their first choice.”

Smith said the commission’s goal was to limit the number of boards or committees an individual could serve on during a calendar year to two, preserving the opportunity for others to participate.

Buggy Building purchased, EMS contract amended

The commissioners approved a plan to purchase the Buggy Company building on Chatham Street for $5.125 million, with a closing date of June 30. The county will make a down payment of $1.5 million and pay the balance in 48 monthly installments of $75,520.83.

The structure was built in 1907 as home to the Sanford Buggy Company, an employee-owned offshoot of the Tyson & Jones Buggy Company in Carthage. The building was restored several years ago and is being purchased from the Progressive Development Corporation.

The city of Sanford will continue to utilize space in portions of the building for at least four years. The same is true for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, whose current contract won’t expire for another decade. The building is now home to SAGA, as well as joint city and county planning offices that provide zoning, building inspections, strategic mapping and neighborhood development.

Commissioners also approved a proposal to add an additional $132,606 to the contract that went into effect nine months ago with FirstHealth of the Carolinas for an additional Basic Life Support (BLS) vehicle to the county no later than October 2022, adding an additional six percent in costs to those already fixed in the franchise agreement that runs through June 2026.

The ambulance will initially be staffed with two emergency medical technicians when the vehicle goes into service. FirstHealth will immediately begin looking for a medic to staff this new BLS vehicle, which will be upgraded to Advanced Life Support status once the medic begins work with the unit.

The cost of another ambulance on top of the remaining four years on the county’s EMS contract adds another $208,669 to the previously agreed number of $3,477,818, establishing a new total of $3,686,487 for the contract. Commissioners agreed to and will have paid a total amount of $750,000 by the time the first year of the contract ends in September.

Property reappraisal update

Tax Administrator Michael Brown gave commissioners an update on the process of the reappraisal of real property that will take place next year. State law requires property be reassessed at least every eight years and the process takes place every four years here.

The last reappraisal was in January 2019, and the next will come in January 2023. The county has 32,117 parcels of land divided into 226 neighborhoods. County staff will do the valuations for residential properties and a vendor has been hired to do assessments for commercial and industrial property values, according to Brown.

The process of conducting those valuations takes about two and a half years, and Brown said he hopes to have them completed by June 2023. Notifications of property values will be mailed in late January and early February. After commissioners set the tax rate for fiscal year 2023-24, tax bills will go out in July 2023 based on whatever rate is adopted for that year.

Moore training facility update

Lee County Manager Dr. John Crumpton informed the board that of a letter from the North Carolina Division of Environmental Quality approving the remediation plan for environmental concerns at the Moore Training Facility on the Sanford CCCC campus.

Crumpton said work on implementing the remediation plan for the facility, which was occupied until December 2021 by Magnetti Marelli, will begin next week and the bulk of work should be completed by August.

Crumpton said to this point, Lee County has spent $111,193 on the CCCC project that will nearly double the size of its main Sanford campus. Crumpton said he will commit the remainder of a $250,000 allocation from commissioners this year to the project and expects to come back for more in July.

Crumpton sees no reason for CCCC not to proceed with the related projects that make up the Moore facility and told the board the buildings could be occupied once work is completed.

There is some urgency in finishing the Moore facility before next summer. VinFast, the Vietnamese EV automobile and battery manufacturer that announced North Carolina’s largest economic development project ever in late March, wants to use the facility in Lee County to train employees on the mockups and machines it will use at the plant in the production of two models of its electric cars that will come off the assembly line in 2024.