Wayne County will apply to the state lottery commission for expanded grant funding for the new Fremont Elementary School while seeking restoration of forfeited lottery funding.
The Wayne County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to pursue the modified grant funding. The Wayne County Board of Education voted Monday in favor submitting the new funding application.
Before the commissioners’ vote, Wayne County Manager Craig Honeycutt reviewed the process that led to the new funding application.
The county approved an application Jan. 19, 2021, for a Needs Based Public School Capital Fund grant from the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission. The original grant was approved, with a maximum of $15 million and a local match of $5 million.
“Part of this grant award included that the county would not receive its lottery funding for a period of five years,” Honeycutt said. The grant was awarded in April 2021.
The county modified its agreement with Wayne County Public Schools on Sept. 21, 2021, to state that the guaranteed maximum price for the school would be at or below $23 million.
“This meant that Wayne County has committed for the Fremont Elementary School construction project $8 million toward construction, plus the loss of lottery funds of approximately $6 million over the next five years,” Honeycutt said.
New provisions in the state budget affecting the Needs Based Public School Capital Fund now allow a maximum $30 million award, along with a 5% local match of $1.5 million, as long as construction has not begun on the project, Honeycutt said.
“In working with our legislative delegation and Wayne County school board, we would like to reapply for this grant under the new funding guidelines since no construction has begun on the project,” Honeycutt said. “This would not change the scope of the original Fremont Elementary School project, but allow us to lower our matching funds for the project and to save our lottery funds over the next five years.”
By reapplying, the county is in no danger of losing its current grant award, only supplementing it, Honeycutt said.
Commissioner Barbara Aycock moved to submit the application “so we can save millions of dollars.”
Commissioner Wayne Aycock thanked the school board, school system and county staff “for jumping on this and working on it as quick as you have.”
“I’m excited about this,” said Commissioner Antonio Williams, “because now we can get our lottery funding back that we wouldn’t be able to have for quite some time.”
Chairman Joe Daughtery thanked the school board for “due diligence” in finding out about the funding provision in the newest state budget. He also thanked legislators for recognizing the funding need.
“I hope that we get awarded this,” Daughtery said. “My understanding is that it has precedence over any other application.”
Daughtery said Wayne County had lost its lottery funds for this year and asked the county manager to check on whether those funds would be reinstated.
Barbara Aycock said the school board and the county board had worked well together on seeking the additional funding.
“I think we have formed a partnership, and hopefully when the Rosewood school starts we can continue this partnership,” she said.
The deadline for the latest grant application is March 15 with an anticipated date of award announcements around April 12, said Joel Gillie, Wayne County public affairs director.
Tim Harrell, assistant superintendent of support services with Wayne County Public Schools, provided a brief update on the Rosewood Middle School construction project.
The school system is preparing to start the request-for-qualifications process for selecting an architect or designer for the Rosewood school, Harrell said.
A request for qualifications is generally used in government as a screening step to establish a project’s vendors as part of a two-step process. Responses to a request for qualifications describe a company’s general qualifications to do the project. Companies that qualify are then eligible to submit responses to a request for proposals.
“It’s going to be a unique process because we will be potentially saving part of the building there, the newer building that was built around 2000, maybe the gym, and with the funds that we have trying to be as cost effective as we can,” Harrell said.
The state budget approved in November allocates $20 million for construction at Rosewood Middle School.