Local News

Meeker, Commissioners Hash Out Differences

Posted October 1, 2007 9:38 a.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2007 6:54 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker on Monday called it unacceptable for Wake County to use hundreds of mobile classrooms and called for better communication between the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education to deal with booming growth in area schools.

"It's time we all get back on the same page," Meeker said. "We need to get everybody working in partnership to get these schools built."

Noting about 25,000 area students attend classes in trailers, he said, "That is not an acceptable situation, and we all need to pull together to get these schools built."

The comments came during a rare appearance by the Raleigh mayor before the county Board of Commissioners.

Meeker and Tony Gurley, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, have been engaged in a verbal spat during the past week over statements Meeker made during a recent taping of "WRAListens."

In the community affairs show, the mayor criticized the commissioners' handling of a recent effort to purchase land for a new middle school in Rolesville.

The school board had  agreed to buy the site for $3.5 million, but the Board of Commissioners cited lower appraisals for the land and approved spending only $2.6 million for the site. The deal fell through when the owner refused the lower offer.

"To sit around and quibble over a few thousand dollars per acre on land purchases when you've got a $15 million or $20 million school (and) the construction costs are going up 10 to 20 percent a year makes no sense at all," Meeker said.

Gurley called the comments misleading last week, and on Monday, he detailed a list of what he called facts and misinformation surrounding the Rolesville school issue.

For example, county commissioners had placed the Rolesville school on an accelerated building schedule, so any delay in locating a new site for the school would only return it to the original schedule for opening in 2011, Gurley said.

"Criticisms that this delay is going to force students to attend class in non-teaching rooms, that it's going to cause schools in the Rolesville area to be more crowded ... (are) not true at all," he said.

Gurley said county commissioners and school board members have had a good working relationship in recent years, including working together to get a $1 billion school construction bond passed last year. But he said the school board in recent months has stepped back from a collaborative approach to solving school growth problems.

"For those wishing for a better relationship, it won't happen as long as the role of county commissioners is minimized," he said, adding that he would prefer the commissioners be given authority to purchase school sites so the school board could focus on educational programs.

Meeker also urged commissioners to acquire more land around Wake County for future schools and to encourage area towns to expedite permitting so schools can be built as quickly as possible.

Meeker's wife, Anne McLaurin, is running unopposed for the District 5 seat on the school board.