Garner Cleveland Record

School system and Garner butt heads on Bryan Road paving

An attorney for the Wake County school board stepped before the town council Monday night, and described a young girl named “Anna,” a first-grader, sitting in a classroom at Vandora Springs Elementary school that needed to be renovated.

He said she doesn’t care about site plans or road conditions. She just wants to learn in the best school environment possible, Kenneth Haywood, the attorney, said.

He added the renovations at Vandora Springs Elementary depend on the construction of a new elementary school in Garner, and said that if the town council did not approve a special use permit for Bryan Road Elementary, the young girl “Anna” would continue to take classes in an outdated school.

“Without Bryan Road Elementary School, there will not be a swing space for those students to move to for the year for those renovations to be made to Vandora Springs Elementary,” Haywood said.

Council members were not pleased with Haywood’s message, when referring to the attorney’s “Anna” story, nor were they pleased with him implying that it would be the council’s fault if a solution could not be reached.

“I don’t like being spoken to in an intimidating fashion,” mayor pro tem Kathy Behringer told the attorney. “I think that is not appropriate in this situation. We have some problems to work out and the way you have addressed us is not respectful.”

Behringer said she and others in Garner led a petition, lobbying for school board members to address mold and asbestos concerns in the school for years. She said she believes there are other ways to get Vandora’s renovations done even if Bryan Road Elementary wasn’t built.

The issue is this: a section of Bryan Road, where the school site sits, is currently unpaved, and town staff says it is not suitable for an increase from school traffic.

The town has asked the school system to come up with money to improve the portion of Bryan Road that is gravel before the school opens. The section that is gravel is about 2,100 feet, from the intersection at Ackerman to Clifford Road.

But the school system believes it is not responsible for road improvements to a road that is maintained by the state.

Haywood cited a statute in the law stating that N.C. DOT is required to pave roads that buses ride on leading from state maintained roads to public schools.

“Placing that requirement on the school system leads us down the path of not being able to join together at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the summer of 2017,” Haywood said.

He asked the town and the school system to come together to make DOT pay for the road.

According to the district, those road improvements could cost more than $2 million, money they say they don’t have from the school bond funds provided for building the school.

“That is approximately 10 percent of the total costs to build this school,” Haywood said.

At a November planning commission meeting, town staff introduced two conditions which required the school system to have at least one part of the gravel road improved before the school opened.

The planning commission in November, and the town council Monday, asked why the school system would buy a school site that sat near a gravel road.

Haywood said the school system was not expecting to bear responsibility for the road. He said the school has since looked for alternative payment methods such as grants that will help pay for the paving of the road if N.C. DOT does not do it.

“We want to work this out,” Haywood said. “We’re not trying to make a fist against fist.”

Council members said they would be willing to hear other approaches to getting the road paved.

The council agreed to push off the conversation to next week’s council meeting.

“We want the school to be built,” council member Gra Singleton. “We don’t want to slow down the renovations at Vandora Springs. But we also don’t want the school to be built on a dirt road.”

Said council member Buck Kennedy: “To come up with another reason to delay (the renovations) is unconscionable.

“We are frustrated with the attitude that comes across of, we’ll give you the leftovers and if that doesn’t work, we’ll postpone until you get your mind right,” he added. “We are exasperated.”

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland