by Burwell Stark
RALEIGH — Joe Bryan, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, began the Nov. 18 public meeting with the first state of the county address from the new Wake County Justice Center.
Bryan said that the board and county employees continue to make Wake County “one of the best places to live, work and play in America.”
Shortly after the address, the board recognized retiring County Manager David Cooke, 53, for his more than 17 years of service to the county and for reaching the total years needed for retirement eligibility by state (30).
Cooke was hired as deputy county manager in 1996. One of his first acts was to serve in the emergency operations center in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran.
In 2000, Cooke was named county manager and his tenure as such has been marked for 13 successful bond referendums and many budgets adopted by the board.
Earlier in the year when he announced his retirement, Cooke wasn’t sure what the future had in store for him. “I’m open to doing new things. I haven’t closed any options out.”
Until a replacement is found, Deputy County Manager Joseph Durham will serve as interim county manager.
New agreement sought with Wake School Board
Shortly after the bipartisan bonhomie of Cooke’s service recognition, the board voted to ask the Wake County Board of Education to enter into an interlocal agreement to “implement improved business practices for the construction and maintenance of public school projects.”
An interlocal agreement is a contract between government agencies that work to provide services to the public.
Sponsored by Commissioner Tony Gurley and based on HB 857, which was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in August, the agreement seeks to foster cooperation between the two boards to “decide that future public investment to be made by the taxpayers in property and facilities used for school purposes may be more fully utilized, maintained or accounted for by an ownership structure different from the current approach.”
The goal of HB 857 was to increase utilization of the design build model for public buildings, and also to increase open bidding and competition for the construction services associated with public buildings to allow local firms the ability to compete for local bids.
The interlocal agreement specifies what responsibilities the two boards would have regarding school construction and maintenance.
The agreement recognizes the right and responsibilities of the school board in “construction, improvement, ownership and acquisition of school property” that are wholly located within the county. Furthermore, the commissioners will get involved in school construction, maintenance and ownership only when requested to do so by the school board.
Then end result would be, hopefully, increased dialogue between the two boards.
The commissioners were divided along party lines in their opinions of the interlocal agreement. While Democrats have a majority of seats on the school board, they have the minority of seats on the board of commissioners. The Democrats on the board of commissioners predicted that the school board would not receive the interlocal agreement favorably.
The final vote passed, but along party lines.
It will be brought before the Wake County Board of Education at their Dec. 17 meeting.
Other school related business
The board of commissioners addressed other school needs as well. They voted to approve the plan of record for the Wake County Public School System 2013 Capital Improvement Program.
Voters approved the proposal Oct. 8.
Additionally, the commissioners voted to grant a 99-year lease to WCPSS for the construction of Abbotts Creek Elementary at the location of the former North Wake Landfill on Durant Road, in north Raleigh.
Lastly, the commissioners voted to name the new Career and Technical Education High School the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy.
Vernon Malone was a long-time educator and community leader who became chairman of the board of education after overseeing the merger of the city and county school boards.