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by Burwell Stark
The Wake County Board of Commissioners discussed construction, grant applications and fund appropriations Monday. Additionally, the board recognized Oct. 18 as Capital Area Veterans Stand Down Day and October as Breast Cancer Awareness month in Wake County.
Commissioners also laid out their vision to become the healthiest capital county in the nation. Currently, Wake County is ranked the healthiest county in the state of North Carolina by the national County Health Rankings project.
This is the fourth year in a row Wake County received this designation.
Lastly, the board nominated and approved persons to fill vacancies on four commissions and advisory committees.
Grant proposal heard
The first item of business on the board’s regular agenda was the required public hearing for the Rural Operating Assistance Program (ROAP) grant application. The grant is funded through the N.C. Department of Transportation and “was created to provide operating assistance for trips serving the elderly, disabled, employment, and rural public purposes.”
Don Willis, transportation manager for Wake County, led the presentation to the board. In addition to speaking on the ROAP grant, Willis provided an overview of the Wake Coordinated Transportation Program and the rural-public program TRACS.
TRACS stands for Transportation and Rural Access and is operated by the Wake Coordinated Transportation Service (WCTS). According to WCTS literature, TRACS “provides service to the non-urbanized areas of [Wake] County.”
WCTS enables the disabled, elderly and poor populations to access health care and other essential services. While WCTS provides services to 10 different agencies, according to Willis, Medicaid comprises two-thirds of all WCTS trips assigned.
Annually, WCTS averages 2.4 million miles and over 92,000 service hours. This is done through a fleet of 42 conversion vans, 35 of which are equipped with wheelchair lifts.
The TRACS program is funded through the ROAP grant. Willis stated that last year, WCTS provided “about 22,000 trips and 26,000 hours” through the grant.
This year, the available funding through the ROAP grant totals $808,033.
Willis told the board that the “TRACS portion of the grant requires a minimum match of 10 percent of funds.” This match is covered by “riders who pay a small fare of $2 to $4, depending on the distance.” Additionally, several towns have designated funding to the service.
After some discussion, the board unanimously approved the request to hold a required public hearing and the application for the ROAP grant.
Utility assistance pursued
Bob Searles, deputy manager for Wake County Human Services, requested that the board accept and appropriate $1.65 million from the North Carolina Community Foundation.
This money was provided by Duke Energy Progress pursuant to orders by the North Carolina Utilities Commission and is to provide assistance “exclusively…to Duke Energy Progress’ low-income customers.” Priority will go to “delinquent bills, deposits and initiation of new service” for low-income customers.
Residents of “Raleigh, Wake Forest, Zebulon and Fuquay-Varina” are eligible to apply for assistance.
According to Searles, these funds “have very few restrictions” (as opposed to other assistance programs provided by the federal government and other grant funding partnerships). Searles views this program to be a “safety net” for the entire area.
The board unanimously voted to accept the one time funds.
Marbles contract awarded
Following up to the board’s July 1 approval of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Marbles Kids Museum for the “funding of a loan from Wake County for construction of a shell expansion space which will house the Museum’s new ‘Kid Grid’ exhibit,” Mark Forestieri, facilities design and construction director for Wake County, requested that the board award the construction contract to Clancy & Theys Construction, of Raleigh, in the amount of $616,461.
The loan by Wake County is based on a good-faith pledge by ABB, Inc. to grant Marbles $1 million to “plan, design and construct” a Kid Grid exhibit. According county literature, ABB has already provided an initial payment to Marbles “in the amount of $200,000.”
The county’s funding agreement would allow Marbles to repay the loan to the county over a period of four years, beginning in January, 2015.
According to Forestieri, the funding agreement stipulates a “down payment of $50,000 [would] be provided by Marbles upon execution of the funding agreement.”
During discussion, Commissioner Gurley asked the county attorney if the taxpayer’s were protected should ABB default on its gift to Marbles. Scott Warren, county attorney, stated that he and his staff have had several discussions with Marbles, and while no agreement is without risk, he is comfortable with the agreement.
The board then unanimously voted to award Forestieri’s requests.