Joe Bryan and Paul Coble: Let Raleigh voters decide what's fair on Dix

March 18, 2013 

Let Raleigh voters decide what’s fair on Dix

Having both served as a mayor and as chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, we have supported parks and open-space issues to improve the quality of life for all Wake County residents. But we must applaud state lawmakers for questioning the recent deal between the State of North Carolina and the City of Raleigh on a long-term lease for the property at Dorothea Dix.

It appears that the former governor made a hasty deal to hand over the Dix property to the city for a price that does not seem to be fair to North Carolina residents. It is appropriate that our new governor and state legislature take a hard look at that deal and its effects on residents of the state and, in particular, on those suffering with mental illness.

Turning over the Dix property to Raleigh for a mere $500,000 per year hardly takes the value of the land into account and shortchanges anyone who valued the location and services of Dix Hospital. A more appropriate deal might be to have the property fairly appraised and then to offer a portion for purchase or long-term lease at a fair market price for a park.

The City of Raleigh, with a firm offer in hand, could then ask voters to support a bond issue that would provide the financing needed to obtain the property for city uses. The state would benefit by receiving the value of the property in a lump sum, which it could use to improve mental health services at Dix or to build a new facility in another convenient location.

Either way, those needing mental health services would have new or improved facilities in the centrally located capital county and would not need to travel to Butner, Goldsboro or Morganton. An additional benefit would be the time saved for law enforcement officers who spend hours escorting individuals needing evaluation to facilities outside Wake County.

It would seem to be more important to watch out for the needs of those who may not be able to help themselves than to add additional park land to the city at an unreasonably low price.

This could be a win-win for everyone if the state would offer a portion of the Dix property to the City of Raleigh at a fair market price, supported by an independent appraisal. The city would gain a new and exciting park with the support of the taxpayers, and, more importantly, the state would have the financial resources to improve services for the clients of mental health services and preserve the true legacy of Dorothea Dix.

Joe Bryan

Chair, Wake County Board of Commissioners

Former mayor, Knightdale

Paul Y. Coble

Wake County commissioner

Former mayor, Raleigh

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