Commission preps for closer relationship with school board

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Wake commission Chair Tony Gurley’s state of the county address took center stage at Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday.

During its six hour meeting the commission approved portable fingerprint scanners for the Wake County Sheriff’s Department, delayed temporary banners for the Davie Street parking deck and recognized outgoing Commissioner Lindy Brown (D.)

The state of the county address is given each year by the board chairman, an annually appointed position, which Commissioner Paul Coble (R) will reportedly take over at the end of Gurley’s tenure next month. Speaking of the past year, Gurley was careful not to paint too sunny of a picture in Wake County but stressed that Wake is in a better position than many others.

Tony Gurley, center, gives his state of the county address.

Gurley cited the county’s success in providing health and human services, public safety, libraries and emergency management. He told the board room, “Wake County is still recognized as one of the best places to live and that is because of our services,” a viewpoint that Republican candidates did not often emphasis on the campaign trail this year.

Gurley said of the past year, “We have worked in close cooperation with the school board.” No one laughed, but it seemed almost humorous given that the outgoing majority condemned the school board’s neighborhood schools policy as an act of re-segregation. A speech writer from the public affairs office said, “He added that part.”

Gurley noted the particular cooperation of school board Chair Ron Margiotta, who attended the meeting and stood for applause. Gurley told the Record last week that the new commission plans to re-introduce “purpose and function” budgeting for the school board and that Margiotta supports the plan.

Brown’s last meeting

Monday was Lindy Brown’s final board meeting. She will be replaced by Phil Matthews (R) at the commission’s next meeting. She received an award from the commission for her efforts in affordable housing, libraries and mental health care.

Lindy Brown, left, at her final county commissioner’s meeting.

James West (D), who replaced Harold Webb on the commission, said of Brown, “I haven’t worked with her very long but I know that she has always fought for people who don’t have a voice.”

Brown told the commission, “I’m leaving with my honor and integrity intact… I’m only taking a four year vacation. I’ll be back.”

Fingerprint Scanners

The county commission also put its final seal of approval on a plan that will put 140 portable fingerprint scanners in the hands of law enforcement officials in Durham and Wake counties. A federal grant will provide most of the funding for the scanners.

The scanners will search a database of everyone arrested in Wake County and other participating areas.

Gurley volunteered to be scanned by the device during a demonstration and was mystified his fingerprints didn’t show up. Gurley has a conceal and carry handgun permit, which required him to give his fingerprints to the state. But Sam Pennica, director of the City/County Bureau Identification said those fingerprints are only in the process of being integrated into the database.

Davie Street Parking Deck

The commissioners opted not to make a decision on giving a developer a three year extension to continue work on the Davie Street parking deck. The developer, Concord-Empire, argued that the state of the economy prevented it from finishing the multi-use building on schedule.

The company has already received multiple extensions. Commissioners indicated they wanted to grant the request but delayed making a decision because, as Commissioner Joe Bryan (R) said, “It looks like the developing company drafted this language without the county’s input.”

Commissioner Stan Norwalk (D) said he was also concerned that the extension would preclude the county allowing another company to come in and finish the project. Members of the commission and the developer agree the deck is an eyesore and are planning to hang banners on the side of the building.

A second drafted agreement will come before the commission Dec. 6.

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