State Politics

Some Council of State members quiet on Dorothea Dix vote

Raleigh has offered about $38 million for the Dorothea Dix campus; the state proposes to keep 64 acres and sell 244 acres to the city for about $52 million.
Raleigh has offered about $38 million for the Dorothea Dix campus; the state proposes to keep 64 acres and sell 244 acres to the city for about $52 million. Staff photo by Shawn Rocco

The final decision on the sale of the 308-acre Dorothea Dix property to Raleigh rests with the Council of State, a 10-member panel of statewide elected officials chaired by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The council is expected to vote on the contract in May. The terms of the deal were first announced in January: Raleigh has agreed to pay $52 million for the former psychiatric hospital campus, but would lease back a portion of the property to the state Department of Health and Human Services for as long as 25 years.

The deal will be approved if it gets support from Council of State members who backed the original Dix land deal. In December 2012, many of the same members voted for a $500,000-a-year lease proposed by outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue.

In 2012, only two Council of State members voted no: Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. They were the only two Republicans on the council at the time. Troxler said he “did not think the deal was as good as it could be for the state.”

Now there’s a third Republican – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest – plus McCrory, who negotiated the deal. Democrats hold a 6-4 majority, though the governor often does not vote.

Asked about the Dix deal this month, none of the three Republicans were ready to throw their support behind it. No formal contract has been released. Instead, officials have produced a more spare offer sheet.

Berry, according to her spokeswoman, “is waiting to receive a copy of the contract for review. She will not comment on the deal until she sees the contract and has a chance to review it.”

Troxler is also awaiting more details about the sale before deciding, a Department of Agriculture spokesman said. The same goes for Forest.

“Once the lieutenant governor receives the details, in their entirety, he will review and make a decision accordingly,” Forest spokesman Jamey Falkenbury said.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, however, is already ready to vote yes, according to his spokeswoman. Cooper is expected to be McCrory’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.

A spokeswoman for Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said he also backs the deal “because it would benefit the public as a recreational space and benefit the city, region and state as an economic development tool.”

Another Democrat, State Treasurer Janet Cowell, is “very supportive of the deal,” her office said.

But three other Democrats – Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and Auditor Beth Wood – said they want to see the contract before announcing how they’ll vote.

McCrory has said that he expects a vote at the next Council of State meeting which is set for 9 a.m. on May 5. He said this week that’s he’s “confident” the deal will be finalized.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have filed a bill that would revoke the deal and sell the land to the highest bidder. That legislation hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing.

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Twitter: @RaleighReporter

2012 Vote on Dix: 6-2

Here’s how the Council of State voted in December 2012 when it was presented with the original lease agreement for the Dorothea Dix property, with an asterisk for those still in office:

Yes: Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, Treasurer Janet Cowell*, Attorney General Roy Cooper*, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin*, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall*, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson*

No: Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry*, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler*

Abstaining: Auditor Beth Wood*, who said the deal was rushed and was concerned her office might become involved with the deal later

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