11/23/08 — District and county staffs will meet on facilities plan

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District and county staffs will meet on facilities plan

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 23, 2008 2:00 AM

Wayne County school board and county staffs could meet Monday or Tuesday to work on tightening the timeline for the school system's $22 million facilities plan.

County Manager Lee Smith, county finance officer Pam Holt, county attorney Borden Parker and the county's bond attorney met earlier this month to review the schools' tentative construction schedule.

A series of questions were developed during the meeting and sent to WCPS Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor, Assistant Superintendent for Auxiliary Services Sprunt Hill and Assistant Superintendent for Finance Nan Barwick.

Smith said the current timeline is not specific enough to pass muster with the Local Government Commission whose approval is needed if the plan is to go forward.

"We need to require a timeline with specific dates," he said. "They have a schedule that is an early draft. We need to tighten that up. When you start talking about LGC approval, you have got to be pretty exact."

More information is also needed on items in the project that the schools have removed including asbestos abatement, demolition, drainage and stormwater runoff.

"They have removed them from the project and have made statements that they would be paid for out of school money," Smith said. "So we are asking that they have got to describe the stormwater runoff at Norwayne. What is it? How much does it cost? Where's the money coming from? Because the LGC has got to know that. We are asking them to give us more detail and specifics."

The county wants an update of all of the other projects as well.

"Their estimates were (from) May of 2008 and some were earlier than that, so they need to update those and make sure they are on task there," Smith said. "Are the estimates good and are they going to have enough money? Those were issues raised Tuesday by (Commissioner) Jack (Best)."

Other questions that must be addressed revolve around the county assuming ownership of the schools to act as securities.

"We will actually be the owner of the facilities to be financed," Smith said. "We have asked for the current insured values and square footage for security purposes because we also have to put that on the application that will be included for the banks because it is for security collateral.

"A part of that is preparing the timeline for the county to take possession of the schools because the projects will be the county's. We will be writing the checks. We are the owners, and that being the case, right now the schools use Department of Public Instruction insurance for property and liability purposes. We are asking if the county can still utilize that or if I am going to have to go to another insurer, and if so, we have got to find out what that cost will be since we will be leasing the facilities back."

Smith said the county could give a "triple net" lease to the schools.

"That means if I lease to you that you are responsible for all costs," Smith said. "You pay me a lease amount, but you are responsible for the insurance, the upkeep, everything on the facility."

The final question concerns a timeline for permit approval.

"They have got to do sedimentation control, water control program and those things take time," Smith said. "I think they have it built into the back of their timeline, but we need to show it because the LGC is very specific about permits."

He added that permitting could be complicated because some schools are located in the county, while others are in Goldsboro and Mount Olive.

About $16.4 million of the project is to be financed with another $4 million to $5 million from the county and schools.

The county plans to use lottery and sales tax proceeds, not property tax revenues, to repay the loan for the schools. Up to $2.5 million in general reserve funds could be used as well.