A political battle is looming over the Wake County school board wanting to buy the land off Rolesville and Quarry roads for the new Rolesville High School.
As noted in today's article, Wake County Commissioner Stan Norwalk and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker are leading the effort to get the commissioners to reject the land purchase. They want the school board to go back to the Forest Ridge High site.
Norwalk is calling the abandonment of Forest Ridge for the Rolesville site a case of rewarding people who support the new majority's ideology. (He's talking about Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles and school board member Chris Malone and not the owner of the site being purchased, St. Lawrence Homes.)
Norwalk is making a multi-pronged attack, largely revolving around his belief that Forest Ridge is the better location to handle the students who will go there. He noted how Forest Ridge and not the Rolesville site is in the circle that had first been identified for the new school.
Norwalk said that the new site is 12 miles east of Wakefield High, forcing many of the students to travel a much further distance to go to school.
Norwalk also notes that Forest Ridge "is the only site where construction can start now." He noted the crowding issues at Wakefield High which he said are getting worse because of the delays.
Staff had said that abandoning Forest Ridge could push the opening of H6 back by two years to 2014. Asst. Supt. Joe Desormeaxu said there's a chance they can get the Rolesville site ready by 2013.
The delays getting a new school open in northern Wake will "hinder the creation" of Millbrook High's magnet program, according to Norwalk. He said there just won't be room to move base students out to free up magnet slots. He said the same concerns would delay the proposed implementation of a magnet program at Knightdale High.
Norwalk also takes aim at the estimated $15 million in additional costs that staff said would result from abandoning Forest Ridge. Desormeaux said the amount would actually be lower because some of the factors they used to come up with the $15 million have changed.
Additionally, Desormeaux said they’ll spend $4.5 million less on road improvements, site development and land costs on the Rolesville site than on Forest Ridge.
What might emerge as an issue is that the tax value of the land is $3.5 million, $800,000 less than what the school board agreed to pay.
Desormeaux said that the tax value doesn't reflect the higher market value of the site. He said that the appraisal they'll do of the site will allow them to walk away if it shows a value of less than $4.3 million.
Desormeaxu noted that St Lawrence, which is in bankruptcy, is taking a loss because it paid $4.73 million on the parcel and made improvements such as running sewer to the property.
Norwalk acknowledges that the school board got a good price on the property. But he argues the savings are offset by the fact they've already sunk money into Forest Ridge.
The land deal was originally going to come up at Monday's meeting of the board of commissioners. The hearing has been rescheduled for July 6.