Economy causing county project delays

October 7, 2008 5:15:02 PM PDT
Due to the financial crisis, projects needed for public safety and education are on hold in Wake County. The freeze in the credit market has county leaders stopping the progress of several high-profile projects. And among the projects that are being displaced --a new courthouse needed to provide relief for overburdened staff and overcrowded courtrooms in the current, aging facility.

Construction was set to begin next year, but it will not happen.

"It's out of necessity," Wake County Manager David Cooke said. "We have the inability to go to the markets to get money right now. So we need to look at slowing down projects."

Cooke says those projects go beyond the courthouse and well beyond downtown.

"It could be libraries that were part of a previous bond referendum," he said. "It could be schools that are planned to be built in the next year or two."

An expansion to the county jail, to be built off Hammond Road, could be delayed too.

Wake County, even with an AAA bond rating, just can't borrow money at reasonable rates right now. Raleigh has a similar, AAA rating, but fewer, large-scale publicly-funded projects.

The new $226 million public safety center is still in the design phase, so it's not delayed yet.

"These are large expenditures, if we have to delay the construction, then we'll just have to do that," Raleigh City Manger Russell Allen said.

"We don't know if this is going to be a short-term issue or a long-term issue, so I think it's better right now simply to step back, take a time-out and assess how we want to move forward with these projects, particularly considering today's markets," Cooke said.

Cooke says if there is one silver lining in this, it is that schools are being delayed at a time that student growth is slowing as well. If construction has begun on a new school, he says that school will be finished.


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