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Senate budget orders DHHS headquarters out of Raleigh to Granville County

May 29, 2019

The state Department of Health and Human Resources’ headquarters would move from the Dorothea Dix campus in Raleigh to Granville County under a plan floated in the Senate budget proposal released Tuesday.

The budget includes $250 million for the move, which caught the department and Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration by surprise.

Granville County offered to donate land for the project in a letter that went to Cooper, DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and a number of legislators within hours of the budget’s release. County Manager Michael Felts pitched a business and industrial park called Triangle North Granville, which is north of Interstate 85.

Felts said in the letter that the DHHS headquarters would be the park’s first tenant and that the state would have wide latitude in selecting a location within the park’s 527 acres.

DHHS leaders had hoped to move to land the state already owns on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. The Dix campus was sold to the city of Raleigh in 2015 and is to become a park.

The Senate budget orders the move to Granville County with just a few sentences hundreds of pages into the spending proposal, saying the state “shall select land located in Granville County suitable for the relocation of the Department of Health and Human Services facilities at the Dix Campus in Raleigh.” Another part of the budget authorizes $250 million to build a new facility.

The move would cover at least some 1,800 employees working on the Dix campus. The department has hundreds of other staffers working in Raleigh at satellite locations.

The governor’s office said Tuesday that it was not consulted about the proposal, which was first reported by The News & Observer.

This language doesn’t appear in the House’s budget proposal, and it is not final. The Senate plans to vote its budget through this week, then negotiate differences with the House before sending a spending plan to the governor, who could sign or veto it.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina was not happy with the proposed move, which came to light on the same day the group’s executive director stood with Senate leaders at a press conference to praise salary increases included in the budget proposal.

SEANC government relations director Ardis Watkins said in a statement that the new commute would cause the state to lose “many well-trained career employees” and increase congestion on already busy roads.

“We cannot imagine that citizens traveling those roads on a daily basis now would appreciate this,” Watkins said in the statement.

In his letter, Felts told state leaders that Vance-Granville Community College is 5 miles away from the park, offering courses in health sciences and human services that could help produce potential employees. Felts also said that J.F. Webb High School in Oxford offers college-level courses in biomedical engineering and medical sciences.

DHHS oversees a range of health services in North Carolina, including Medicaid, mental health, substance abuse treatment, disease prevention, social services, pre-kindergarten and other early education programs and services for the blind, deaf, hard of hearing and elderly.

If the language is approved in a final budget, DHHS would become the second state agency to move out of Raleigh. The state Division of Motor Vehicles plans a move to Rocky Mount, a change supported by both the governor and the legislature.

This year’s House and Senate budget proposals both include funding for the DMV move, which SEANC has also opposed on behalf of agency employees.

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