Troubles Ahead for New School Design and Construction

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CORRECTION APPENDED: Due to an editing error the original article attributed a quote to Joe Desormeaux when, in fact, Paul Coble said it.

If Monday’s Wake County Commissioner’s meeting is any indication, the Wake Board of Education could have a hard time moving forward with school construction projects.

A motion for the allocation of funds for the design and construction of three schools did not pass after heated discussions about costs, design process and county input.

Wake School’s Facilities Manager Joe Desormeaux requested a budget reallocation of $2 million and the appropriation of about $1.9 million to start the design process. Commissioner Paul Coble then began questioning Desormeaux on the design process, asking specifically, how they are saving money.

“What I find confusing is the use of the word ‘prototype,’” Coble said. “The apparent cost that you are asking for in this situation is on design. Are y’all using prototypes?”

“We are using prototypes,” said Desormeaux. “These are designs that have built by designers at another location within the state, but not in Wake County.”

“What’s the advantage of using a prototype from somewhere else if you’ve never built it?” Coble asked.

“I think my idea of a prototype and your idea of a prototype are probably different,” Coble said. “To me a prototype is a building that we have built successfully and we build it again and again and again.”

Coble went on to say that modified prototypes were essentially whole new schools.

“I don’t understand how we are saving money on the use of prototypes,” he said.

The conversation moved toward a broader discussion about when Commissioners should be brought into the construction process.

“Wouldn’t it be really nice if the two boards could get together and agree that the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners would engage in this type of discussion together and allow this Board of Commissioners to see that type of information before we are supposed to vote on it,” said Commissioner Tony Gurley. “I would much rather have spent the last two weeks looking at information that had been developed cooperatively.”

Commissioner Betty Lou Ward moved to approve the reallocation of funds for the designs of the three schools, but it failed along party lines with Republican Commissioners Coble, Gurly, Joe Bryan and Phil Matthews voting no.

At their Nov. 18 meeting, Commissioners passed a motion to form an interlocal agreement regarding construction projects with the Board of Education. The Board of Education has not formally responded, but they have formed a committee charged with communicating with other governing bodies.

The Board of Commissioners expressed a desire to meet with the Board of Education, but a meeting is not scheduled.

Another motion for the allocation of $1.1 million for the design of two other Wake County schools was tabled pending future discussions.

Additional Land Purchased for North Raleigh Middle School
Meanwhile, Commissioners approved funding to purchase additional land for a future middle school in North Raleigh.

A motion for $660,881 passed unanimously.

Gurley observed that the reason for the additional purchase was a lack of site access.

“We’ve already purchased the majority of the site for this potential middle school,” Gurley said. “I would much rather have not had the time lapse between purchasing the majority of the site and then coming back and then purchasing this 3.64 [acres] to allow us access to it and would caution future land purchases to have designated access included.”

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