07/30/06 — School board, county commissioners will talk facilities

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School board, county commissioners will talk facilities

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 30, 2006 2:07 AM



News-Argus Staff Writers

After months of discussion and weeks of waiting, Wayne County's commissioners, county officials and school district board members and staff are finally ready to get serious about facilities.

The first meeting of the committee charged with determining the county schools' facilities' needs is slated for Aug. 15, school officials announced Friday.

The facilities master plan team was created on the recommendation of Evergreen Solutions, the consulting firm hired by the Wayne County Commission to determine construction and renovation project needs for the school system. The study came on the heels of months of debate concerning what the district actually needs for facilities and operating expenses -- and how much the county can afford to provide.

The two boards met with Evergreen representatives in May to discuss the consultants' report. After that meeting, the boards determined they would appoint members to a steering committee to discuss not only facilities needs and the findings of the report, but the possibility of asking for a bond referendum to finance some of the work.

At its July 10 meeting, the Board of Education named members to serve on the master plan committee, and said they were anxious to begin meeting.

The county also appointed its members to serve.

But that is where the joint meetings ended.

A full meeting of the group was stalled because of conflicting schedules, Commissioner John Bell said."As far as I know, the two boards couldn't come up with a suitable day to meet," Bell said.

Assistant County Clerk Cindy Furcron said there were many attempts to get both boards together after the Board of Education appointed its committee members and before County Manager Lee Smith began a pre-arranged medical leave, but the groups could not find a time that would work for all those involved.

The only day both boards could agree to meet was the day Smith was scheduled to have neck surgery, and he would not have been able to attend, Commission chairman Atlas Price said.

Although it would have been possible to have the meeting without Smith, Commissioner J.D. Evans said it wouldn't be fair to exclude him from the meeting because of the contributions he has made to this point.

Smith and Wayne County Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor have met multiple times to discuss the school funding and facilities issues.

"We could have, but I wouldn't advise it because of the detailed information between Lee (Smith) and (Superintendent) Dr. (Steven) Taylor. I wouldn't want to have a meeting and speak for someone else," Evans said.

He added that having acting County Manager Joe Gurley in Smith's place also would not have been an appropriate alternative.

"Joe could be at the meeting, but he wouldn't be able to speak on behalf of Lee. He's the key person in this process," Evans said.

Taylor said the date for meeting has now been set. By that time, the commissioners expect Smith to be in attendance and fully recovered.

The group plans to use Evergreen's schedule as a guideline, Taylor said.

"Once we have that first meeting, we're going to move very quickly," he said.

Price said the commissioners will be prepared to find solutions to the problems facing the county schools' facilities.

"We want to get this done just as soon as anyone else," Price said.

The master plan team will be made up of representatives from the two boards. Representing the school system will be Taylor, Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability; Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services; and board members Pete Gurley, George Moye and Lehman Smith.

In addition to Smith, those serving from the county include commissioners Price, Bell and Jack Best.