The Guilford County Emergency Services (ES) department is tired of waiting for the county to locate land and build a new vehicle maintenance and repair facility – so it has gone on and found a temporary new home – 6342-C Burnt Poplar Road in Greensboro – for those operations.

That move will enhance working conditions for those fleet maintenance crews for the next few years until the county finally builds a brand new county-owned building for that service.

The ES workers who repair and maintain county emergency vehicles will move into the new facility in March and are expected to work out of that location until Guilford County opens a coming new ES maintenance and repair facility that’s been in the planning stage for about a decade and a half. Getting a much needed new maintenance facility for the emergency fleet is the county’s longest standing unfinished initiative, with the exception of solving the decades-old county line dispute with Alamance County.

Guilford County will lease the facility, once used for repairing large cranes, for three years at a cost of $66,000 a year. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve the move at its Thursday, Jan 19 meeting.

Guilford County Emergency Services Director Jim Albright said this week that leasing the new facility will help address some concerns regarding the immediate future, but it is by no means a permanent fix.

“This is a temporary solution to the long term problem,” Albright said. “We are leasing for a three-year term with the hope of locating land and building the new facility in that timeframe.”

The new home for ES maintenance is in southwest Greensboro near the Gallimore Dairy Road exit on I-40. In the department’s quest for a new facility, ES officials have been looking for a good spot on the I-40 corridor in southern Greensboro with a relatively central county location.

Guilford County Facilities, Parks and Property Management Department Director Robert McNiece said that this lease commits the county to paying for the space for three years, and he added that the process for opening up an ES facility is probably three years off once enough time is factored in for finding the property, doing due diligence, purchasing it, building a new maintenance facility and getting it equipped for ES workers to move into.

One county official said recently that the working conditions at the existing facility at 1321 N. O’Henry Blvd. in Greensboro were like those “in a third world country,” and another said this week that, “Changing tires outside in the snow probably got to them.” However, this deal must have been in the works well before the recent snow since the board is ready to approve it at the next meeting.

Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue served as Emergency Services director for years before retiring and becoming a commissioner. He spent much of his career with the county trying to find the right spot to build a new ES repair and maintenance facility and he said this week that this move should provide some temporary relief for what’s been a problem for well over a decade.

“This should offer some better working conditions,” Perdue said, adding that the operations will move to a new facility when Guilford County builds them one.

Most people who are planning a big move to a new home in the relatively near future have no desire to move in the meantime and then move again – especially when that move involves heavy equipment. But Perdue said it shouldn’t be that much trouble to change locations since flexibility and mobility are built-in characteristics of ES operations.

“You’ve got some lifts and other equipment, but the majority of what we have is highly portable,” Perdue said.

He added that some space at the current repair facility may be used for vehicle storage since space for that purpose is tight.

In the meantime, the county’s Board of Commissioners has been holding a large number of closed session talks about the acquisition of real estate, and sources say some of those recent discussions involve the search for a new ES maintenance site. Those sources say the county is down to two or three locations for that purpose.

Albright recently told the Rhino Times that his department had been trying to find and purchase an existing structure that met the needs and then modify it. However, he said, a big shift in thinking occurred when those involved finally realized they would need to buy land and build the structure from scratch.

Albright said the facility needs to be centrally located and must be a “Category 4” structure – one that’s built to survive hurricanes, tornadoes and other serious events that might take out a normal building. He added that trying to find a suitable existing building in the right location turned out to be virtually impossible.

Guilford County’s Emergency Services has been repairing its vehicles at the current facility on N. O’Henry Blvd. in Greensboro since 1982.