Council notes: Garner officials want to hear from school board

kjahner@newsobserver.comDecember 6, 2013 

— At the end of Monday night’s monthly meeting, Town Council members kicked around the possibility of withholding permits on planned new schools to get the Wake County School Board’s attention if responsiveness doesn’t improved by a February public hearing.

Councilman Gra Singleton said the Wake County Public Schools System had essentially ignored the town. He said requests for meetings with town officials have been put off since summer, and that little communication has been offered regarding plans for building two new schools and dramatically renovating two others in the town.

“They haven’t told us anything,” Singleton said.

In addition, the town council also wants consideration for a new middle school to be built instead of the planned, bond-funded elementary school. Both remain long-term objectives, but only the elementary school – which costs about $20 million less – made it into this bond measure.

The town remains suspicious of the school board since it removed projects the town believed were long overdue – renovating both an aging, over-crowded high school and asbestos-contaminated Vandora Springs Elementary – from the bond. Pushback from town council and school board member John Tedesco of Garner put the high priority projects back onto the list.

Councilwoman Kathy Behringer, the day after the meeting, tempered the criticism of WCPSS staff, and suggested in retrospect that the town may have been better served going directly to school board members, who direct staff and set policy.

The town has used similar permit-denying tactics in the past to block schools it didn’t want built in 2007 and 2008, blocking a new high school in northeast Garner and later an elementary school to the south.

Police design

Also at Monday’s meeting, council members narrowed down possibilities for the outside appearance of the police station.

The design theme likely will compliment the future new Town Hall and therefore set the tone for the face of the town’s public buildings for decades.

ADW Architects presented five exterior concepts with several variations of each to the council. They showed renditions of a police station which appears to include a new lobby area built onto the front of the to-be-renovated building at 912 Seventh Ave. A deep red-brick theme and a dark gray cast stone exterior were popular; the council didn’t like a lighter-colored, almost white stone concept.

In addition, architects also told the council that, after more site work, cost estimates have been reduced slightly to about $4.4 million, slightly under the previous estimate of $4.5 million. The town can go over $4.5 million, but that money would have to come out of the budget for the planned Town Hall’s $7.5 million budget, the only other item funded by the $12 million public facilities bond.

Final decisions on overall design and core building materials have yet to be made.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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