Local officials: Leave schools alone

Published 11:12 pm Saturday, May 25, 2013

A bill that would allow the Board of Commissioners to take possession of all school property is facing opposition from local officials.
If Bill 236 passes, county commissioners will determine when and where schools will be constructed. They will also take responsibility for the maintenance of existing buildings.
Every 10 years, commissioners would be given the option to either maintain control or return it to the school board.
Beaufort County School Board Chairman Cindy Winstead has been lobbying against the bill.
“I believe that in Beaufort County, this bill would do more harm than it would do good,” Winstead said during a recent school board meeting. “The lines of accountability and authority will become cloudy. For instance the maintenance staff, would they become local employees or state employees?”
Winstead said the school board was a better representation of the county’s wishes than county commissioners because districts elected them. All of the county’s current commissioners live in Washington.
When asked if he supported the bill, County Commissioner Al Klemm said, “Heck no.”
“Why would I want to take on that? I see no advantage to switching from one to the other,” Klemm continued. “As a former maintenance professional, I totally believe in the concept of area ownership. If it’s yours, you take better care of it.”
He said the county had never asked to be a part of the bill.
The bill started out as a statewide bill. By the time the senate voted on it, only nine counties were still on it and Beaufort County was one of them.
Sen. Bill Cook joined the majority of Republican senators in passing the bill. It is now headed to the House.

Representative Michael Speciale said the bill does not have is support.
“My intent is to amend that bill and, if we can’t, get Beaufort County off of it,” he said Saturday. “It’s not a bill I support because the school board should be in control of school property.”
Speciale said the bill stemmed from a disagreement between Wake County’s school board and county commissioners.
“We don’t need to bring their mess over here,” Speciale said.