Planning for the Harnett County Resource Center & Library officially began in 2014 when the County began looking at space needs. Numerous departments (including Social Services and the Harnett County Public Library) were running out of space, and County staff needed to come up with a plan to address growth pressures for the coming decades. It’s no secret that Harnett County is growing rapidly and that this growth means more demand for County services.
In 2017, the County made the final debt payment on the Harnett County Courthouse, which freed up additional debt capacity for County projects. In September 2017, the Harnett County Board of Commissioners approved a Project Ordinance for a new building in the Harnett County Government Complex. An architect and construction manager were brought on board and County staff worked with them to refine the scope of the new Harnett County Resource Center & Library, value engineering the project to reduce costs on the new facility.
This September, the North Carolina Local Government Commission authorized the County to issue Limited Obligation Bonds to finance the project and the County sold just over $21 million worth of bonds to fund the complete project, which includes the new Resource Center & Library, addition to Social Services and Government Complex site improvements.
Addressing and Planning for Growth
So why is the new Resource Center & Library necessary? Harnett County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina and in the United States. In 1990, Harnett County had less than 68,000 residents. In 2018, the county’s population was almost double that at 134,214. And we’re only expected to keep growing. The N.C. Office of State Budget and Management predicts Harnett County’s population to reach 161,000 by 2030 and to top 177,000 by 2038.
All of this growth means more demand for County services, which means the County has to plan today for the needs of tomorrow while also addressing the growth of the past several decades. The Resource Center & Library and DSS expansion will allow Harnett County to do this by providing adequate space with room to grow for County departments that are currently out of space.
In addition to demand on County services, growth has also put pressure on the County’s school facilities. The Harnett County Board of Commissioners continues to work with the Harnett County Board of Education to address the county’s educational needs. In addition to increasing teacher supplements and providing School Resource Officers at all Harnett County Schools, the Harnett County Board of Commissioners has approved resolutions declaring their intent to issue approximately $51.5 million in bonds to finance two new schools – a replacement for Erwin Elementary School and a new elementary school in Northwest Harnett County.
Funding for these projects come from the $100 million bond issuance Harnett County voters approved in 2014. This funding may only be spent on school needs, and none of this bond allocation is being used for the Resource Center & Library project. County Commissioners have worked closely with their financial advisor to make sure the new schools and the Resource Center & Library can be completed without the need for a tax increase.
Accomplishing the 'Master Plan'
The new Resource Center & Library also helps accomplish the County’s existing Master Plan. When the land for the Harnett County Government Complex was purchased more than 20 years ago, the goal was to bring all County services to a single campus. The first step in that process was construction of a new Harnett County Courthouse along with a building to house the Department of Social Services and the Harnett County Health Department. Since that time, when the County has built new facilities, they have been located in and around the Government Complex.
The Resource Center & Library project will bring all but a few County departments to the Government Complex and surrounding campus. In addition to the departments that will occupy the new Resource Center & Library, the space left behind will bring other departments to the Government Complex including Harnett County Development Services, the Harnett County Board of Elections, and the County’s IT Department.
Consolidating County services will mean more convenient access for the County’s citizens. It will also mean greater collaboration between the County’s departments and less travel time between sites, which will result in cost savings. In addition to consolidating County services on a single campus, the Resource Center & Library project could also allow for the elimination of nearly $100,000 in annual rental payments for leased space, and will leave more than $1.8 million worth of property that could be sold or repurposed. Additional cost savings will be realized with more modern, energy efficient facilities that will require less maintenance.