N.C. Guard will get new building

Economic stimulus funds will cover most of the headquarters' $56 million price.

Staff WriterMarch 26, 2009 

— North Carolina will build a $56 million emergency nerve center in West Raleigh to coordinate the state's response to hurricanes, floods, terrorist attacks and other disasters.

The new building will serve as headquarters for the N.C. National Guard. But it will also house the state Division of Emergency Management, the regional communications center for the Highway Patrol and other state agencies.

The center is among the first major public works projects in North Carolina mainly funded by the federal stimulus package, which is designed to jump-start the ailing economy. About $41.5million of the project's cost will be paid with federal stimulus money, and the rest will come from the state.

"This project is a big win for North Carolina," Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a statement.

"It provides a state of the art facility that will better coordinate key state services and is ready to put people to work in much needed jobs."

The 237,000-square-foot facility will be the state command center where governors and state and federal disaster officials can oversee emergency relief efforts.

Among other things, the new center will have a wall projecting TV-camera views of highway congestion across the state, enabling officials to respond more rapidly to severe traffic tie-ups such as the one that occurred on Interstate 85 near Charlotte during an early March snowstorm.

Perdue said the two-year construction project will create up to 4,200 construction-related jobs. State officials said Wednesday that they were not familiar with how the job estimate was calculated but said they relied on a figure provided by Brien/Atkins, the Triangle architectural firm that designed the building.

No one was immediately available at the firm Wednesday to explain the job estimate.

By comparison, the $221 million Raleigh Convention Center, which opened last year, employed 6,000 people during its construction, according to convention staff members.

Summer ground-breaking

Bidding on the project will begin next week, and construction is expected to start this summer. The new facility has to meet certain requirements to qualify for economic stimulus funds: Ground must be broken in 120days, American products must be used, and prevailing wages must be paid.

The facility will be located on an 18-acre site on District Drive, near a complex of state properties along Blue Ridge Road. It is expected to take two years to complete.

U.S. Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat and one of the House appropriation committee leaders, helped line up the funding. Price said the project was the "highest priority new construction project in the country" for the National Guard.

The National Guard has been attempting to replace its 1960s era headquarters on nearby Reedy Creek Road since 2003. The 137,000-square-foot building is over capacity and does not meet modern security requirements, said Maj. Matthew Handley, the Guard spokesman.

"We have people in closets," Handley said.

About 500 National Guard employees will operate out of the center.

While the center started out as a National Guard facility, it has morphed into handling a broad array of emergency agencies.

The biggest is the state Division of Emergency Management, which is now mainly headquartered in downtown Raleigh. About 112 emergency management employees will move to the new building from several scattered offices, according to Mike Sprayberry, the division's deputy director.

Also moving into the new building are 23 Highway Patrol employees who handle communications for Troop C, the 12-county area that includes Wake and Durham counties. They are currently working out of an older building on District Drive.

The state Department of Transportation will move 25 people to the new building, including the state traffic management center, which has a network of 300highway cameras across the state; the Interstate Motorist Assistance Patrol or IMAP; and the state Turnpike Authority.

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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