12/07/05 — Consultant could cost $120,000

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Consultant could cost $120,000

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 7, 2005 1:51 PM

In a first step toward resolving concerns about the state of the county's schools and the budget, the Wayne County commissioners approved a consultant's plan to conduct a financial and facilities review for the school board at a cost of $120,000 during their meeting Tuesday morning.

At a joint meeting of county commissioners and school board members last week, Evergreen Solutions, a Florida-based consulting firm, presented a proposal on conducting the reviews for county schools.

With the commissioners' approval, it will be up to the school board to support the measure before the consultant is officially hired. The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. in the board room of the administrative offices on Royall Avenue.

Before the vote was taken, Commissioner Jack Best said the commissioners should be willing to take a public stance on the issues that were not included in Evergreen's proposal. Even if the recommendations made in Evergreen's final report are not agreeable to the commissioners, he said they should be willing to consider them for the children.

"If we are willing to take a public stance, then we should do it," Best said. "If not, then we can just keep arguing with the school board."

Best stressed the importance of both boards using their time and money wisely to address problems in the school system.

"If the people (Evergreen Solutions) do not take up the problem we have in the central (school) district of being non-integrated, then we are wasting money and time," he said. "If they don't come and tell us the costs of the small schools and the large schools, then it is a waste of time and money."

And after hearing the information, it will be up to the county commission to take the lead when it comes time to act, Best added.

"If we are not willing to take the recommendations, then this is a waste of money. We need to figure out from the top to the bottom of the list what is a priority and figure out what we can afford. Even though there might be things on the list we don't like, we should take the recommendations from the top to the bottom."

The motion passed by a 6-1 vote. Commissioner J.D. Evans, questioning whether to commit to the proposal, voted in opposition.

Last week, County Manager Lee Smith said the price for Evergreen's services depended on the magnitude of the company's proposal. Smith said at the time that it could cost as much as $80,000. In actuality, it will cost $120,000, with the money already appropriated in the county budget for the study, Smith said.

Responding to concerns regarding the cost of hiring a consultant, Commissioner Efton Sager said when compared to the possible savings, $120,000 could be considered a small amount.

"When we talk about $120,000," Sager said, "if we save millions, isn't it worth it?"

In other business, the commissioners:

-- Nominated and elected a new chairman and vice chairman. Commissioner Atlas Price was elected to replace chairman J.D. Evans, while John Bell was chosen to take over for Price, who served as vice chairman last year.

The positions are decided upon by the board every December. As outgoing chairman, Evans said he and the commissioners have laid the groundwork to allow the commissioners to continue to work in the best interest of the county.

Price said he and the board look forward to working together on issues facing the county in the coming year. He said he will focus on a resolution of the school facilities issue, ensure the Highway 70 commission moves forward and lay the groundwork for a new county animal shelter.

-- Requested a loan extension from the Southern Bank and Trust Co. of Mount Olive with regard to the Mt. Olive Industrial Committee of 100 participation loan. The request is a financial extension on the Mount Olive shell building, which is currently being used by the Economic Development Commission to lure industries into the county. According to the request, by Jan. 31, 2006, the county would be billed for the accumulated interest. Although considered a loan extension, the designation would not jeopardize or invalidate the commitment-to-purchase agreement between the county and the industrial committee.

-- Approved the tax listing period for 2006. The listing period for real and personal property will begin Jan. 3 and end Jan. 31. Any listing made after the deadline will be subject to a penalty of 10 percent of the taxes levied. Failure to list property is a Class 2 misdemeanor.