The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is seeking as much as 1 million square feet of space in Wake County where it can consolidate the agency’s office, warehouse and parking needs.
The state Department of Administration on Wednesday issued a request for proposals for the campus, which is expected to be anywhere from 850,000 to 1.05 million square feet. DHHS is seeking to sign a 20-year lease agreement for either an existing property or a build-to-suit facility.
The request says that preference will be given to sites that are in close proximity to the Dorothea Dix campus. The Council of State voted in April that Dorothea Dix Hospital will close its doors to its last patients in August. Roughly 1,300 DHHS employees still work on the campus.
Mayor Charles Meeker’s announcement this morning that he will seek a fifth term in office doesn’t exactly qualify as a bombshell. Close observers of the City Council largely expected the mayor to run again, even if he had made hints earlier this year that he was considering stepping aside.
Meeker has said he didn’t want to walk away with the city’s economy in turmoil, and although Raleigh isn’t facing a budget crisis the City Council will have to make some tough decisions over the next year or two.
The mayor said this morning that he had come to the conclusion that changing the city’s leadership during a time of economic uncertainty would not be wise.
“The economy was a major factor,” he said. “This is the right decision at this time.”
Meeker is a man who loves the details of public financing, and he surely wants to be around when the council discusses potential budget cuts and debates what projects to go ahead with and what projects to curtail.
Just look at the council’s recent discussion about water rates. Several of Meeker’s colleagues proposed the possibility of letting the public utilities department’s credit rating slip, an option that the mayor is strongly against.
Asked whether he felt obligated to run because of the economy, Meeker said the job has become more enjoyable over time, particularly now that all but one of his fellow council members are fellow Democrats.
“I enjoy being mayor,” he said.
Meeker outlined three priorities for a fifth two-year term: Preparing the city to be in a position to act once the economy improves, adopting a regional transportation plan, and moving ahead with plans to turn the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus into a park.
Two of these items, regional transit and Dix, will require Meeker to do something that is not one of his strengths: build consensus beyond the Raleigh City Council table.
Asked this morning about what kind of leadership role he would take on these issues, Meeker said whatever is necessary.
“I will be involved with it, either up front if needed, or behind the scenes, if needed,” he said.
Meeker was also asked why he hadn’t faced much opposition in recent elections for mayor.
He mentioned the time commitment required for the part-time job, and the fact that in recent years Raleigh has been declared one of the best places to live in the country by an array of groups.
The election is Oct. 6, so there’s still plenty of time for a challenger to emerge.