The evidence seems clear now that one Guilford County project is cursed by supernatural powers and, no matter how hard the Guilford County Board of Commissioners tries to get the project done, it will always be thwarted in one way or another.
The project with an amazing history of snafus – and the one that hit another big roadblock on Thursday, Jan. 17 – is a proposed new $14-million vehicle maintenance facility for Guilford County Emergency Services (ES) that, among other functions, is intended to be the primary site where the county repairs and maintains its large fleet of emergency response vehicles.
Guilford County officials were talking about a need for a new facility of this type at the turn of the century, and, about a decade and a half ago, the need for it was labeled by Emergency Services as “urgent.” At that time, Guilford County officials began the effort to get the project done once and for all.
Again, that was about 15 years ago.
On Thursday, Jan. 17, the project was put on hold once again. This time, it was due to the fact that the Guilford County Board of Commissioners was concerned that the construction company set to get the contract to build the facility hadn’t made a “good faith effort” to bring any black-owned businesses in on the job. In fact, according to the company’s proposal, it planned on using no black-owned companies.
Those pressing for the construction of the new vehicle repair facility say that ES staff have to leave vehicles being worked on outside, drive them to other storage facilities at night, and must make other adjustments due to cramped conditions. For instance, repair crews may repeatedly move vehicles out of one spot so that others may get by. According to Emergency Services staff, those all add up to a major loss of efficiency and a big increase in the time it takes to service vehicles and make repairs.
In past years, the project has been held up by various factors, such as proposed sites that seemed favorable at first but then did not check out, the 2008 financial collapse, temporary changes in plans that at one time called for the facility to be combined with a Guilford County Sheriff’s Department facility and many other snafus.
Nearly a decade, ago, the project looked very close to getting done but it turned out the broker that brought the land deal to the county was the same broker at the center of a massive scandal involving the Guilford County manager at that time. The land purchase for the proposed site was killed by the Board of Commissioners once that scandal erupted.
Before the Jan. 17 commissioners work session, the approval for the construction contract appeared ready to sail through, but then Commissioner Skip Alston made his case to the board in a work session. Now, the board will not address the matter until the Board of Commissioners annual retreat, which is at the end of February this year. At that time, the board may move forward with a modified arrangement with New Atlantic Contracting Inc.– the lowest bidder and the company at the center of the controversy – or the board could redo the construction bid process from scratch.
While many county commissioners – both black and white – expressed concern over the lack of black-owned business participation in the project, many also share a concern for the fact that this facility has been so needed for so long.
Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue was a long-time director of Guilford County ES before he retired and became a county commissioner. Perdue, who brought the project before the commissioners several times when he was ES director, remains a major advocate for the project.
At the Jan. 17 work session, it was evident that Perdue was frustrated that something – yet again – was obviously going to postpone the project.
“This can has been kicked down the road so much that we’ve had to replace the can a couple of times,” Perdue told the other commissioners at the work session. “There are bad conditions and operations and things that just haven’t taken place because this hasn’t been done for many, many years – and if we go out for bids again, we’re going to get a higher bid. That’s more than likely.”
Over the years, the number of ES vehicles has grown significantly.
Guilford County ES began repairing its vehicles at a facility at 1321 N. O’Henry Blvd. in Greensboro in 1982. One county official said several years ago that that location often looked like something one might see “in a third world country,” with workers at times servicing vehicles outside in the rain and vehicles stored haphazardly due to a lack of space at the location. Two years ago the county began renting additional space at another location as a “temporary fix” to some of the problems.