11/27/10 — Facilities, it's time: County's capital budget includes other priorities, but schools should be at top

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Facilities, it's time: County's capital budget includes other priorities, but schools should be at top

Anyone who thinks the county is brave enough to ask its citizens to finance more than $280 million in capital improvements has been sitting out in the sun too long.

The list of projects released in the last couple of weeks by Wayne County's Board of Commissioners is more like a hope chest -- what the county would accomplish if there were no budgets and no worries about state funding.

But since there is a budget, and the governor is already starting to prepare state agencies and governments that cuts are coming, the wish list now becomes a priority list -- and that means some projects will have to wait, again.

So where do we start?

There is no doubt that the county needs a new jail -- that is a time bomb ticking away, and you know what eventually happens when you patch and repatch a building that has long ago exceeded its ability to get the job done.

And perhaps there might be a need for some county office changes -- officials have long said that the agencies in question have great need for better facilities and more space.

But as the commissioners sit down to look more closely at the list, one item pops out to anyone who has followed the drama that has bookmarked the school facilities question for more than a decade.

It is time, really, for the county to say it is going to do something about the concerns of parents, teachers and school officials -- and mean it.

The county commissioners and school board have buried the hatchet in the last year, choosing a more civilized, less aggressive mode of interaction. Their goal: To work together to see if they can get something done instead of arguing about what needs to be done and who is supposed to pay for it.

And that is a good thing. Bickering year after year has not done anything to get this problem solved.

The school board has not really pushed the commissioners, giving them time to get the projects in motion, but every once in a while making a comment to remind them that the work needs to be done.

So, now it is our turn.

It is time for school facilities in Wayne County to be more than a project on the back burner. It is time to figure out not only what we are going to do about the repairs that need to be made at some schools, but also how we are going to handle the space issues that are of great concern in others.

And since we are talking about capital projects -- now is as good a time as any to make the facilities projects a priority.

Several school projects do appear on this year's capital projects list -- and they seem to have a bullet, making them top priority. And that is how it should be.

The commissioners are in a tough spot, too, being stewards of a budget that is precarious at best and worrisome at its worst.

But now is when we need leadership -- and a call to do what is right, even when it is hard.

Now is when we need to say Wayne County puts children first -- and put our money where our mouths are.

Really, it is only fair, and it is most certainly, time.

Published in Editorials on November 27, 2010 10:40 PM