LUMBERTON — The ribbon was cut Monday on a new Robeson Community College building officials hope to soon set on fire.
“It’s not every day you have a building you get to burn down over and over again,” RCC President Melissa Singler said. “Fun times.”
The building in question, a burn building, sits at the college’s Emergency Services Training Center, located at 5825 N.C. 72 East in Lumberton.
The $1.8 million, two-level building is 3,121 square feet in size, said Robert Ivey, RCC Fire and Rescue Training coordinator. The old burn building was built in 1997, and consisted of six metal cargo containers, which over a period of time became unsafe.
Construction of the new facility began in October.
“I remember coming out here and the mud was up to your knees. It was a mess,” Ivey said. “I purposely came out here once a week ‘cause every time I came once a week, I saw something different and then it finally got to be the structure it is today.”
The structure will be used to simulate fire scenarios to help train law enforcement, emergency services personnel and firefighters. Fires in the training structure will be created through the controlled burning of combustible materials such as wood pallets, hay or cardboard, with a state certified live burn instructor present. Those materials are then placed inside the building to create smoky conditions.
“We call this a burn building, but this is a multi-purpose building. Every time I come out here, I think of another way I can use it to train,” Ivey said.
The burn building was designed by Raleigh-based Moseley Architects and built by Driven Contractors, a business located in Maxton.
The building is designed to last up to 30 years, if maintained.
“It’s probably overbuilt, but it’s designed to be overbuilt,” Ivey said.
Sammy Cox, RCC board of trustees chairman, said the new building measures up to other burn facilities across the state.
“It’s probably the nicest one in the state. I’ve never seen one quite as good,” Cox said. “I hope that it helps our firemen train well.”
The project began three years ago with the initial idea to build two structures, a burn building and tower, but funds were not available for both as years went by and costs went up.
“We weren’t able to build a second building, a training tower, but we were able to retrofit our old training tower and it serves the same purpose,” said Steven Hunt, RCC vice president of Workforce Development and Continuing Education. “That was Robert’s idea.”
It cost $200,000 to renovate the old burn tower, Ivey said.
The buildings were paid for with a portion of $7 million the college received in 2016 from the issuance of state bonds. The college plans to use the remaining funds to expand the law enforcement building and construct an emergency services building on campus.
Ivey credited the accomplishment of the new facility to the Training Center Renovation Committee, which consists of county fire chiefs Paul Ivey, Jerry Wagganer, Glonnie Scott, Craig Maynor, Tom Taylor, Justin Hunt, Evans Jackson, Steve West, Shaun Phillips, Richie Adams and Steve Britt.
The building will have its first “cure burn” on Saturday, Ivey said.
“We actually have to cure the inside of the building,” Ivey said.
Fire training in the building will begin in October.
After the ribbon cutting, the RCC board of trustees met and approved a $36,125,067 budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year. This year’s budget is an increase of more than $6 million from the previous fiscal year thanks to increased enrollment and CARES act funding, said Tammi George, vice president and chief financial officer.
Of the $36 million budget, $19.4 million was allocated by the N.C. Community College system, up $2.7 million from the past year’s budget, which was short $1 million from the previous year because of a drop in enrollment.
“$2.3 million of that is directly related to enrollment growth,” George said.
The Robeson County government allocated $2.6 million in operating funds and $500,000 in capital funds, up $230,000 on the operating side and $200,000 on the capital side for construction on a new maintenance building. Additional institutional funding also was up $2 million because of CARES Act funding received from the federal government, George said.
“Just for the record, this is the earliest we’ve ever had a budget in my 15 years being here,” George said.
This past fiscal year’s budget was approved in January, the college’s third quarter of the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Also Monday, the trustees learned that RCC has reaffirmed its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The commission is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in Southern states.
The board also learned that the College and Career Readiness department now ranks No. 6, up from their No. 7 ranking, in the state for full-time enrollment.
Also at the meeting, the board heard a presentation on a Polysomnography, or sleep study, program that will be available at the college in about six months.
“We don’t have enough sleep techs,” said Taylor Locklear, the sleep technologist who will teach the course.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.