The county has received more than $40,000 in Homeland Security grant funds to outfit two emergency shelter sites with upgraded lighting and generator power in the event of disasters and storm events, with installation for the project expected to take place later this year.
The Sampson County Board of Commissioners officially approved accepting $41,268.22 in recently-received Homeland Security grant funds to upgrade emergency lighting and generator power at the Union Elementary School and Hobbton Middle School shelter sites during a recent meeting, moving the grant process forward.
The project will provide LED lights and power outlets in critical locations within facilities used as primary shelters to ensure and enhance the county’s ability to sustain operations throughout long-term power outages during significant events, as well as I-40 lane reversal, local Emergency officials said.
Jerry Cashwell, assistant Emergency Management director, reviewed the project with commissioners and requested that the board authorize acceptance of the grant and execution of the grant’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) by the county manager when completed. There is no cost share requirement for the funds, Cashwell said.
“Both schools serve as primary evacuation shelters,” said Cashwell. “Currently, we have no general population shelters that have complete emergency power. In the past, we have utilized small portable generators and portable lights, and it’s limiting as to what we can actually illuminate or provide in the shelters. Those were the two facilities that had an existing generator on site.”
Cashwell said the last full-fledged generator project involved the adult daycare and cost close to $60,000. He said projects at other sites were being considered, but funding is always an issue.
“They’re on the radar,” said Cashwell. “We’re just looking for an opportunity to fund projects.”
This project was proposed to the Department of Homeland Security through the Domestic Preparedness Region 2 Committee. It was presented by the Emergency Management Sub-Committee and supported by the Law Enforcement Sub-Committee, chaired by Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Pope. The Domestic Preparedness Region 2 Group is one of nine such regional groups across the state. It encompasses Sampson and eight other counties stretching from inland Cumberland to the coastal Pamlico.
The Region 2 Group approved the project and presented it, along with several others, to the N.C. SERT (State Emergency Response T Team) for approval, which it gave.
“We are waiting for funding on the federal government,” said Cashwell. “It has, for all practical purposes, been approved. We’re just waiting for funding to be put in place, hopefully later this month or early October.”
Emergency Management director Ronald Bass said the MOA is anticipated to be prepared on the federal level in September or October of this year. The project was previously presented to the Sampson County Board of Education and subsequently came to the Board of Commissioners.
“Once approved by the Board of Commissioners we will be ready to begin the project as soon as the MOA is signed and in place,” Bass said. The EM director said he would ensure the project is completed and be responsible for the grant. Lonnie Hill, with N.C. Emergency Management, will be doing the paperwork on the federal level for the grant.
The funds, and successful completion of the project, will allow for DPR 2 counties to better support regional shelter capabilities, officials said.
“In the last year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to bring half a dozen projects or so to Ronald and Mr. Causey. For one reason or the other, our conversation always ends or begins with ‘sounds good, how do you pay for it?’” said Cashwell. “I’m pleased to present one of those project complete with funding.”
Commissioner Jefferson Strickland made a motion to accept the grant funds and move forward with the process for the project. “And we hope that you do not need them,” he said.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.