Local trees make the grade.
Library patrons won't have to travel out of town.
Taking his cue from an insurance company commercial, Wake Commissioner Tony Gurley on Monday engaged in a little political theater to accentuate his opposition to the county granting $25,932 in seed money for a new African-American Cultural Festival.
Shortly before cast the lone no vote against the proposal, Gurley placed a bound stack of cash on the ledge in front of his commissioners' desk and then added a pair of eyes and quizzical brows. The prop borrows from television ads for Geico, where the stack of bills follows around potential customers to represent the "Money you could be saving with Geico."
With the county facing deep budget cuts triggered by the recession, Gurley said it was the wrong time to be giving money for a new street festival that would be highly likely to require additional government support in the future.
"I think we're wasting taxpayer money to plan a party," said Gurley, a Republican. "Our responsibility is to meet the needs of our community first, not a party."
The proposed festival has been backed by board Chairman Harold Webb and Vice Chairman Lindy Brown following the departure of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference basketball tournament from the RBC Center to an arena in Winston-Salem two years ago.
The tournament, which drew thousands of graduates of the conference's historically black universities to Raleigh, was supported with $500,000 in county funds. Webb and Brown have suggested the proposed African-American Cultural Festival would also require taxpayer support for a few years, until it could become established enough to become financially self-sustaining.
The pair won the support of a majority of commissioners for the festival by getting Artsplosure, the non-profit organizer of the city's annual arts festival, to sign on as the new festival's professional organizer. The Raleigh City Council will match the county's expenditure to provide an initial $51,864 to plan a framework for the cultural festival.
What WakeWatch finds interesting is that Gurley, who makes a lucrative living as a pharmacist and lawyer, appeared to use a $500 bundle of real $20 bills to make his point.
If the listings of Wake County’s property tax liens printed Friday’s editions of The News & Observer seemed thicker than usual, you’re correct.
In March 2008, the county’s annual list of unpaid tax bills included listings for 12,100 past due parcels.
This year’s list was up to 16,071 parcels — an increase of nearly 33 percent.
Wake revenue director Marcus Kinrade said the actual amount of tax dollars outstanding is actually not that much more, however. As of March 6, the county had collected 96.12 percent of all outstanding taxes, compared to 96.25 percent collected through the same date last year.
Kinrade said the increased linage in the newspaper is largely due to the number of developers with unpaid taxes on multiple parcels, often undeveloped lots. That led to more parcels on the list, though the actual taxes owed on each lot are often relatively modest.
And while the uptick in parcels with unpaid taxes is a symptom of the region’s economic troubles, it would be disingenuous for WakeWatch to ignore that there was at least one beneficiary.
State law requires counties to advertise the liens in a local newspaper of “general circulation.”
Therefore, Wake County paid the The News & Observer $44,800 to print 30 pages of tiny type.
“I tried to talk them down, but they wouldn’t budge,” Kinrade said of the newspaper’s advertising department.
Sorry folks. We need the money.
The nation’s three largest bond-rating agencies have reaffirmed Wake County’s AAA credit rating.
The AAA rating, the highest possible, allows the county to borrow money at lower interest rates for the construction of new schools, a planned courthouse and other public projects.
The New York firms — Moody’s, Standard and Poor's, and Fitch — issued the ratings as the county pursues plans to issue $502 million in fixed-rate general obligation bonds on March 17.
As part of its report on Wake, Fitch issued a “stable outlook” for the county’s finance, despite the turmoil in the national economy. The rating agency said it’s positive assessment was the result of the county’s “excellent financial performance and management, and strong and diverse economic base.”
The Wake County Public School System will get $100 million from the planned bond sale, while Wake Technical Community College projects will receive $35 million. Another $300 million will be used to pay off a short-term loan the county took out last fall to continue construction projects in the face of a collapse in the municipal bond market. The county will also refinance $67.4 million in existing bonds to take advantage of more favorable terms.
Now the agency has launched a Google map website at http://incidents.rwecc.com that enables the public to track current crashes and who's investigating them. ... [MORE]
Drivers one day might be asked to pay tolls on the northern 540 Outer Loop after all — but not, as some folks in southern Wake County propose, to help build the loop’s southern arc.
A new $13.4 billion long-range transportation plan for the Wake area, approved Wednesday evening, says toll collections are the most likely funding source for extra lanes that will be needed on 540 to reduce congestion levels expected a decade from now. (See story with comments.) ... [MORE]
Holly Hill Hospital held a ribbon cutting Wednesday to officially open 44 new beds at the private psychiatric facility. The first patients were admitted to the new wing January 19.
The addition, built in conjunction with Wake County Human Services, expands the capacity of Holly Hill to help pick up the slack expected when the state Department of Health and Human Services eventually closes Dorothea Dix Hospital.
The closure of Dix had been relayed repeatedly due to regulatory and construction problems with the new state hospital intended to replace it.
Wake County’s mental health crisis and assessment unit will now divert patients to Holly Hill that would previously have been sent to Dix. The county is contracted to cover the treatment costs of those without health insurance or Medicaid.
In the week since The N&O printed a front page story about Wake's EMS department buying five Dodge Chargers powered by 368 horse-power V8 engines as part of a program to get paramedics with advanced training to the scene of serious medical emergencies, there have been numerous sightings of the eye-catching muscle cars on local roads.
This one sped past N&O reporter Michael Biesecker, who wrote the story, on Capital Boulevard.
As a testament to the Charger's raw testosterone appeal, the reporter's 3-year-old son was given the option last week of chosing one Matchbox car as a reward for good behavior during a doctor's visit that required a shot. Of the hundreds of tiny toy cars on display at a Target store, what caught the little boy's eye?
A police package Charger, of course — the very same model picked by county officials.
Use this interactive graphic to explore how 2008 tax-rate changes have affected property vales in Wake County.