Groundbreaking for new Craven Department of Social Services building set for November

Craven County Department of Social Services

The official groundbreaking for the new Craven County Department of Social Services building has been postponed from October 16 and is now tentatively set to take place on Monday, November 20. The event will be held at 2818 Neuse Blvd. in New Bern following the County Commissioners meeting, which begins at 8:30 a.m.

According to Assistant County Manager Gene Hodges, the approximately $10 million project to expand the DSS facility calls for construction of a two-story building on the existing site that will measure 10,000 square feet on each floor. He said the new standalone facility will be joined to the existing building when completed.

The project will be funded through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money the county received during the COVID-19 pandemic that was earmarked to help local governments recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Hodges said the bidding on the project should begin around the first part of November.

“We’ve not gotten the hard bids on it yet from all of the subcontractors but we’re under the assumption that we’re trying to land this project at $10 million all in,” Hodges said.

An artist rendering shows the plan for the new Craven County DSS facility that will be connected to the existing building.

The expansion and renovation was included in the Craven County Facilities Master Plan and Needs Assessment that Oakley Collier Architects presented to Craven County Commissioners in 2019. The expansion will be made possible by the relocation of the Craven Area Rural Transit System (CARTS), which used the parking lot in front of the DSS building, to a new location across from the Craven County Judicial Center in July. 

Hodges said the area that once housed the CARTS vehicles will be used to provide additional parking space once the DSS construction begins. 

The expansion will address the critical overcrowding situation in the current facility, which accommodates more than 200 employees.

According to Hodges the construction work will not affect DSS services. 

“There will be construction traffic but we’re going to make sure they plan for deliveries to be outside of normal working hours, so there shouldn’t be any impact there,” Hodges told county commissioners in August.

In February, the board selected Barnhill Contracting Company for the DSS project. During their April 3 meeting, commissioners approved a construction manager contract with Barnhill as well as a pre-construction fee of $195,000 for the initial portion of the construction phase. 

According to Hodges, the DSS expansion project is scheduled to take just over a year to finish, with a completion date set tentatively for early 2025. 

The Craven County Department of Social Services provides protective services for children, oversees public assistance programs such as Medicaid and Energy Assistance, and serves seniors through meals on wheels and health promotion activities, among other services.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.