Triangle Politics

Tata: Wake voters need to 'cowboy up' on school construction spending

August 18, 2012 

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Wake County Public School Superintendent Tony Tata tours Herbert Akins Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, NC on Jan. 25, 2012

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata says voters will need to “cowboy up” to pass a school construction bond issue next year to maintain the area’s quality of life.

Tata talked about the need for a new bond referendum on WRAL-TV’s “On The Record” show that aired last Saturday. Tata said that with Wake potentially adding 50,000 more students in the next nine years that “it’s just not even in the realm of conceivability that we’re not going to be able to construct the schools.”

“We’re going to continue to grow,” Tata said. “If we want the business, if we want the quality of life that Wake County citizens have come to expect, then we need to cowboy up for it.”

The school board is working to determine the amount of the next bond issue and which new schools and renovation projects would be funded by that borrowing. If county commissioners agree as well, a referendum could be on the ballot as soon as May.

Landfill future discussed

The South Wake Landfill opened in 2008 and will accept garbage for another 35 years, but county planners are already considering what else to do with the 833-acre site, on the west side of Holly Springs.

County commissioners this week got a look at a draft plan for eventual uses, such as waste-to-energy projects, cultivation of biofuels, a transportation corridor, recreation and private development.

But Commissioner Tony Gurley, always on the watch for government overreach, wanted to make sure that landowners who gave up property for the project were properly compensated.

The county should not condemn property for a landfill, then later use it for recreation or sell it for development, Gurley said.

“The people that had the land taken from them are still there in that area,” he said.

County Manager David Cooke noted that the draft is part of a long-term planning process for the landfill. Several of the uses could begin before the landfill is closed, according to the plan. After the North Wake Landfill closed, the county turned much of the site into a public park.

Manager explains $116K bill

Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen found himself on the defensive recently when he was asked why the city racked up $116,000 in bills for contracts not approved by the City Council.

The money is owed to information-technology firms that help the city by providing staff expertise for the computer system and customer-support center. The council voted to renew the contracts, which had expired at the end of June.

But first, Allen got a stern reminder.

“I bring this up,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said, “because we had a discussion a couple of years ago and council made it very plain we were not going to pay people if we did not have a signed contract in place.”

McFarlane was referring to a dustup that occurred in 2010. An architect performed $455,000 worth of design work for a downtown public safety center, without a signed agreement in place.

The resulting uproar caused the council to forbid any contracting work without signed contracts.

Allen attributed the new problem to a staff error. He said a vacancy in the IT department contributed to a deadline being missed.

“I’m sorry the error occurred,” he said. “We don’t think it will occur again.”

Councilman Russ Stephenson asked what changes Allen will put in place to prevent similar errors. City administrators will now use a checklist to keep contracts on schedule, Allen said. “It’s already forefront in everybody’s minds,” he said.

Political Trails

• Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, Council of State, General Assembly and local offices will speak at “A Patriot’s Picnic” on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. at Harold D. Ritter Park, 301 Lochmere Drive West, Cary. There will be speakers, food, music and kids’ activities. The event is sponsored by the Wake County Republican Party.

• Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and Council of State offices have been invited to speak to the Democratic Women of Wake County on Aug. 30, at the N.C. State University Club, 4200 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. The event begins with a reception and cash bar at 5:30 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7:15 p.m. Dinner is $18 for members, $20 for nonmembers and $5 for anyone wishing to attend and not eat. For reservations, email democraticwomenwakecounty@gmail.com or call 919-467-0151 by noon Aug. 28.

Compiled by Thomas Goldsmith, T. Keung Hui and Matt Garfield

Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send e-mail to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Send items by noon Thursday.

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