Local News

Wake County Commissioners Examine Land Purchases for Schools

Posted July 10, 2007 8:56 p.m. EDT
Updated July 10, 2007 9:43 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County Board of Commissioners postponed a vote on buying two sites for new schools after reports of questionable land sales surfaced.

The Wake County Board of Education is trying to finalize deals for 20 acres in Cary and 46 acres in Rolesville. The deadline to get those pieces of land at the current asking price is July 31.

“We’re getting caught in a squeeze,” said school board member Beverley Clark.

Wake County commissioners, who must approve land purchases, put off a vote, because they are not convinced the Board of Education is striking good deals.

Before purchase, the commissioners will require the school board to provide them with a checklist that includes the ownership history and appraisals of the land under consideration.

“One of the key pieces of information that we want is appraisals from a certified appraiser that we are getting a fair price for the money that we’re spending,” said Tony Gurley, the commissioners chairman.

“We’ve given the county commissioners all the information that they’ve asked for. I’m aware of no information that they’ve requested that they’ve not received,” said Lori Millberg, a school board member.

Recent controversy over prices paid for land prompted the commissioners’ closer examination of the current purchases.

In once incident, the Board of Education backed out of a deal to pay $8 million for land in Apex after it was discovered that the site was appraised at half that amount.

School board member Ron Margiotta said a case such as that of the Apex land deal “raises questions in my mind, not because it’s my dollars, because it’s the taxpayer’s money.”

School board members said that land owners are aware of Wake County’s need for large lots that are increasingly scarce in the county.

“Part of it is that we have announced to the world where we’re looking for schools,” said Millberg.

“So, yes, unfortunately, there are people out there who are trying to profit from the school system,” said Clark.

If county commissioners don't approve the purchases by the end of the month, the prices of the Cary and Rolesville sites will likely jump.

“If we lose this deal because the county commissioners didn’t approve it yesterday, it could cost the taxpayers a lot of money,” said Millberg.

The Board of Education is talking with the sellers of the sites about extending the deadline.