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Wake County Refuses Governor's Request To Open Shelters

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety is using words like surprised and disappointed. He said he has never known of a county to refuse a request from the governor, but the state said that happened Wednesday.

The state believes commuters stranded by the winter weather should have had somewhere to go. When Wake County did not offer any up, state emergency officials called the county and asked leaders to open shelters. Bryan Beatty, secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, said the county refused, so Gov. Mike Easley had to get involved.

"He actually made calls himself to get Wake County to open shelters and they were not responsive," Beatty said.

WRAL also learned that Easley was put on hold. Joe Bryan, chairman of Wake County commissioners, said he will make sure the governor is not treated like that again.

"I would like to apologize to the governor," Bryan said.

Still, as a stranded commuter himself, Bryan questions whether shelters were even needed.

"It was not a matter of people being cold or not having food. It was a matter of mobility," he said.

Easley stepped in and opened two shelters in downtown buildings around 10 p.m. Wednesday. More than 100 drivers stayed the night. The state believes if the county acted early, hundreds more would have gotten off the roads.

John Rukavina, Wake County's director of public safety, denies brushing off Easley's request. He said they thought about reversing traffic to get people to shelters, but they wanted more information from the state first.

"So our question was, is law enforcement ready to support helping, getting the people to our shelters safely, and we didn't get an answer to that question," he said.

Beatty thinks the county should have found a way to provide shelter.

"I think the county made the wrong decision in denying the governor's request to open up shelter," he said.

Wake County leaders promise a sweeping review of how the situation was handled. They said they will develop a protocol on how to respond to requests from the governor. They will also consider whether opening a shelter should be automatic during a storm and whether schools should be pre-equipped to become instant shelters.


Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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