05/05/14 — Board to talk vacant seat, jail

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Board to talk vacant seat, jail

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 5, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners could vote Tuesday to set aside $5 million for construction and renovation of additional jail space and to hire an architectural firm to design the project.

The money would come from the unassigned fund balance in the county budget's general fund. The county has asked the state to convey a former prison near Cherry Hospital for use as a jail.

In other business Tuesday, County Attorney Borden Parker will brief commissioners on the procedure for filling the District 4 seat left vacant when Commissioner Steve Keen resigned to take a position in Gov. Pat McCrory's administration.

The meeting will start with an agenda briefing at 8 a.m., followed by the formal session at 9 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

The Wayne County GOP Executive Board is scheduled to meet tonight at 8 p.m. to make its recommendation for Keen's replacement. It is expected to be announced at Tuesday's board session.

To be eligible for appointment, the person must be a resident of District 4 and a member of the same political party as Keen, in this case a Republican.

Any discussion by commissioners about filling the vacancy, and the vote to make the appointment, must be done in open session.

Since the vacancy occurred within the first two years of a four-year term, the appointment will run only until the Nov. 4 general election. At that time, an election will be held to fill the office for the remainder of Keen's term.

Wayne County Board of Elections officials said that the Republican, Democratic and, possibly, Libertarian parties would each nominate a candidate to run for the seat in November.

As for the jail project, commissioners spent four hours of their April 14 meeting listening to and quizzing three companies vying for the job of renovating the former Wayne Correctional Center for use as a county jail.

The selection of a company also would authorize Interim County Manager George Wood, Commissioner John Bell, Detention Center Advisory Board chairman, and Commissioner Ray Mayo, the facilities committee chairman, to negotiate the contract.

The architect that is selected will look at the funding of renovation versus new construction.

However, county residents shouldn't expect to see any work being done just yet. That won't happen until the state decides whether or not it will give the closed prison to the county.

Selecting the architect and negotiating the contract will save time, but the county cannot sign a contract for any architectural services until it owns the prison property.

Along with asking the state for the property, commissioners have asked as well that the county be exempted from having to bring the old prison up to state jail standards.

However, Bell, who works in probation and parole, disagrees with the exemption. Jails and prison are not the same and the county cannot move into the prison as it is, he said.

The board's consent agenda includes two budget items.

The first is to schedule a special board meeting for May 27 for Wood to present the proposed 2014-15 county budget.

The second is to schedule a public hearing for June 3 at 9:15 a.m. for the public to comments on the proposed budget.

Funding for the 2014-15 Wayne County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council Program funding is the third item on the consent agenda.

Also on the regular agenda, commissioners will consider approval of a resolution, agreement and lease agreement with the Board of Education.

Commissioners earlier this year approved $12 million in renovation and school construction projects.

The school system, unlike the county, is not eligible for reimbursements on sales taxes associated with the projects. As a way for the sales taxes to be recouped, the school board will temporary deed the properties to the county.

Once the projects are complete, and the sales taxes reimbursed, the county will deed the property back to the school board.

The tactic has been used by the two boards several times in the past.

Commissioners also will consider approval of a P4 Charter agreement with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The Air Force implemented the program that encourages public, private partnerships to promote mutually beneficial projects with the communities bases are located in. The Wayne-Goldsboro community and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have already been working collaboratively on several areas, such as a recreational complex to be built by Goldsboro on base property.

The charter more formally organizes the effort as to how the group will operate. However, it does not commit to any specific project.

Other agenda items include:

* An update by the Eastern Carolina Council V Area Agency on Aging on GATEWAY's rate increase and its effect on the county's Services on Aging.

* Consideration of awarding a $421,592 bid to Curtis Construction Co. for a roofing project at the County Office Building.

* Consider adopting a resolution to amend the county's financial policy guidelines.

* Presentation of the county's financial report as of March 31.

* A presentation of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners legislative video.

* Proclaiming May as Mental Health Month and as Relay for Life Month in the county, May 11-17 as National Police Week, and May 17 as Peace Officer Memorial Day.

Public comments will be taken at 10 a.m., when people will have four minutes to speak on their topic of choice.