Wake reopens quest for school site

For now, though, spending will go ahead on the current Forest Ridge site.

Staff WriterNovember 19, 2009 

  • Wake Superintendent Del Burns could announce today that the school district will adopt a new round of austerity measures because of the lingering effects of the recession.

    Burns has scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. to make an announcement about the district's budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year. State revenue collections are down, fueling fears that cuts will be ordered.

    Kevin Hill, chairman of the school board, said he's not aware of the specifics that Burns will recommend but thought Burns would lay out the strategies Wake will implement because of the state's budget problems.

— Newly elected Wake County school board members are cheering a recommendation Wednesday to explore four new sites for a high school in northeastern Wake as alternatives to the disputed Forest Ridge High property.

The four new board members have not persuaded the current board to stop spending money on Forest Ridge High while a review of alternative sites takes place. But they expressed satisfaction that a group formed by the county is now looking at two other sites in Raleigh and two in Rolesville.

The new board members said Wednesday that they still intend to halt Forest Ridge spending when they take office Dec.1.

"If you're still looking at other sites, why are you spending more money [on Forest Ridge]?" said JohnTedesco, one of the newly elected members.

The four sites under review are:

Property near Ligon Mill and Taylors Ridge roads in Raleigh.

A parcel near Louisbury and Mitchell Mill roads inRaleigh.

A tract suggested by Roles ville Mayor Frank Eagles on U.S. 401 near Louisbury Road in Rolesville.

A parcel near Catlett Farm and Rolesville roads in Rolesville.

The review group, composed of staff members from the county, school system, state Department of Transportation, Raleigh and Rolesville, will bring back cost estimates on the four sites next month.

The Forest Ridge High School site at Forestville Road near U.S. 401, the has had a contentious history.

In August 2008, the county commissioners vote 4-3 to not purchase the site amid questions about the cost of clearing the parcel's rocky soil and the school's effect on traffic. But commissioners reversed themselves in October and approved the deal by a 5-2 vote.

Forest Ridge has also been dogged by the question of whether a slave cemetery is on the site.

Infrastructure costs

Criticism reached a higher pitch in July when school administrators said off-site improvements, including road work and water and sewer lines, would cost $7.5mil lion, far higher than the budgeted amount of $1.6 million.

At a joint meeting Wednesday of the school board and county commissioners, Commissioner Joe Bryan said the process has been an "embarrassment."

He said that he wouldn't have reversed his initial opposition and voted to buy the land had he known how much the off-site improvements could cost.

Current school board members have stuck with the Forest Ridge site, citing administrators who said that even a two-week delay would set back the school's 2012 opening by a year. Design work has taken place, but construction bids aren't scheduled to go out until next year.

"I'd hate for this area once again to be suffering for four more years," said school board member Lori Millberg, who leaves the board this month.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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