Craven County Commissioners approve $8.6M for new DSS expansion project

The Craven County Department of Social Services building in New Bern (NBN Photo/Todd Wetherington)

A total of $8.6 million has been approved for an upcoming project to expand Craven County’s Department of Social Services building. 

A budget ordinance for the project in the amount of $8,681,861 was given the green light by the Board of Commissioners during their Dec. 4 meeting. 

According to Assistant County Manager Gene Hodges, in July 2022 County staff began working with the design team of Oakley Collier Architects to develop an expansion project for the Department of Social Services building, which is located at 2818 Neuse Blvd. in New Bern. The project calls for construction of a new 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 work 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. 

In February 2023, the BOC selected Barnhill Contracting Company as the Construction Manager at Risk 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. A total of $1,068,139 was budgeted to cover the architect and engineering fees based on the initial estimate of the construction costs and Barnhill’s pre-construction proposal fee. 

Barnhill prepared bid packages and opened bids on Nov. 7 and 15. After all scope of work reviews were completed, the final construction costs related to the DSS project totaled $7,286,961. 

Additional construction items related to network connectivity, cameras, access control, landscaping and independent testing, which are categorized as “other than general construction costs,” have been estimated at $320,000.

An estimate for furniture, fixtures, and equipment came in at $710,552 and a 5% project contingency of $364,348 was also included in the project budget ordinance approved Monday. 

The Craven County Board of Commissioners and Department of Social Services Board broke ground for the DSS facility expansion project on November 20. The expansion will address the critical overcrowding situation in the current facility, which accommodates more than 200 employees.

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

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 commissioners.

Hodges said the DSS 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.