Wake school officials and town staff thought they were near an agreement last Tuesday night after meetings with North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson and other top DOT officials who agreed to find the money to pay for paving of a dirt road that would serve the new Bryan Road Elementary School.
But that plan hit another snag Tuesday night as council members questioned a new set of changes made by the school system to help bring the cost of the project down.
The Wake Board of Education is seeking a special use permit that would allow it to build the elementary school on a portion of a 50-acre site along Bryan Road. School officials initially asked the town of Garner not to require it to pave Bryan Road, but council members insisted that a school couldn’t be served by a gravel road.
After a testy public hearing in which council members took umbrage at veiled threats that another Garner school might not get renovated if the school system had to pay for paving the road, town staff, school officials and Mayor Ronnie Williams met Monday with Tennyson and other DOT officials who seemed willing to pull unused funds from its budget to help trim the county’s obligation.
Wake schools initially budgeted $1.5 million for road improvements. The town’s rules call for paving the two-lane road from Clifford Road to Ackerman Road, and building a third lane along the stretch of road where the school would be built. To reduce the cost, though, school officials proposed eliminating curbs and gutters from the project as well as a sidewalk along one side of Bryan Road.
That’s where Tuesday night’s rub came with council members.
“You’re going to build an elementary school not to current standards and we are setting up to build a middle school not to current standards,” council member Gra Singleton said. “We are putting ourselves in a position where other people can come in and say ‘Hey, you let them build without curb and gutter.”
In response to a question from councilman Buck Kennedy, planning director Brad Bass confirmed that the town’s rules require curbs and gutters.
“Does South Garner High School have curb and gutter around it,” Singleton asked Bass. He said it did. “What you’re asking us to do,” Singleton said is to go backward 20 years on our policy.”
Kennedy suggested that the town could delay the requirement for curbs and gutters until the school system gets ready to build the middle school at some point in the future. A condition of approval for that project would be that the school system install the curb and gutter as the town’s policy requires.
Kenneth Haywood, a lawyer representing the school board said the school system was doing everything it could to keep the project within budget and meet the town’s requirements.
“We came here tonight in the spirit of cooperation, and want to do everything we can to be able to cooperate, which is what we’ve been doing the past week,” Haywood said. What I am concerned about with what I’m hearing is that we are turning this into a piecemeal fashion. We want whatever improvements are going to be done to Bryan Road to be done now.”
Kennedy told Haywood he could do that by agreeing to install curb and gutters around the new school as it is being built.
“That would take care of it. I think everybody would be happy,” Kennedy said.
Council members agreed to push the matter off for a second time, continuing the public hearing until the board’s Jan. 4 meeting.