County clears school project funds
By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 13, 2014 1:46 PM
Wayne County commissioners have approved more than $12.3 million in school renovation projects.
The move came after commissioners turned back an attempt by Commissioner Steve Keen to add another $600,000 to the total by including projects at Rosewood Middle School. He also suggested adding projects at Southern Wayne High School.
The three priority renovation projects that were approved had been sought by the Wayne County Board of Education. They include $1.8 million for the central attendance area, $3.85 million for Spring Creek Elementary School and $6.6 million for Charles B. Aycock High School.
The schools have the money available to do the projects without having to borrow.
Monday's meeting was the continuation of commissioners' Feb. 4 session when they tabled action to allow the Board of Education to provide the most recent numbers for the three projects.
Commissioner Joe Daughtery made the same motion Monday as he did at the board's meeting last Tuesday -- to proceed with the projects and to pay for them from the school board's reserves with the payment first coming from lottery proceeds.
Keen said he agreed with the motion, but that he had questions on the priority list submitted by the Board of Education last year.
The list indicates facilities upgrades for other areas of the county that needed to be completed, he said.
Keen said he was looking primarily at the Southern Wayne area and had talked to Commissioner Ed Cromartie about those since the school is in Cromartie's district. Keen said he had visited the three Rosewood schools that are in his district.
Keen said he recalled comments by school board member Thelma Smith from last year's joint session that the gyms needed to be air conditioned.
He then offered an amendment to include $570,000 at Rosewood Middle School if the money is available.
"Over the years I know that the school board has always been a little bit leery about us putting something on the table first before we discuss it with them," Commissioner John Bell said. "Mr. Keen, I am not disagreeing, but I am just saying that I don't think we should get out in front of the schools board.
"We should ask them, and if that is what they want to do, then we can consider funding it. But I don't think we should just put it on the table and send it over to them and say that we have approved this for you. I just think that we are getting ahead of the game. I am not knocking your idea. The project needs to be done, but I think it needs to come from the school board."
Cromartie said he had spoken to staff at Southern Wayne and to school Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor about projects at Southern Wayne.
Some of the projects at Southern Wayne including roofing have been done, he said.
"I know some of these things are being done internally by some of the shop classes," he said. "I am of the opinion as Mr. Bell said, and I have real concern that we get out in front of the Board of Education, which is not our job."
Cromartie asked that Keen withdraw his amendment so the school system could be offered an opportunity to respond directly about Rosewood since commissioners do not know what parts have been done.
"I was assured that once we approve the renovation projects that are listed here they will be able to go forth and hire their architect," Cromartie said. "That architect will be used to design other projects that are in the pipeline because you can't not just send the maintenance crew out there and start building something without drawings."
Keen said he was not trying to put commissioners in front of the school board. The items were prioritized by the school board and commissioners are not telling that board what to do, Keen said.
"When has it become a crime to get information and look and see if it is possible that we might add more funding to the Board of Education so they can take care of more projects?" Keen asked.
Commissioner Bill Pate said that like Keen, he would like to see commissioners proceed with the projects.
"But these numbers may not be up to date, sort of like the numbers last week (for the three renovation projects)," Pate said. "Not to tell you to change your amendment, but perhaps they could come back to us with up-to-date numbers and we could move very quickly on that, even at the next meeting if the money is there.
"I would like to know what the real dollars are today. If they have spent money on these projects, if so these numbers probably aren't correct any more."
If school board wants to "jump on that project" Keen talked about then that is where commissioners come in, Bell said.
"I don't think anybody is disagreeing they don't need to be done," he said. "I just have a problem putting something on the table before the school board requests it, officially requests it."
Commissioner Ray Mayo said the list Keen was referring to was submitted in April, 2013.
Daughtery said that his motion was about the school board's capital improvement plan and not the "wish list" that Keen was referring to.
Keen withdrew his motion and Daughtery's original motion was unanimously approved.