RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Leaders from the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management and the North Carolina Department of Transportation provided more details on the proposed move of the DMV headquarters building from downtown Raleigh Rocky Mount, roughly an hour east, in a private call with members of the Council of State Monday morning.
The Council of State is chaired by Governor Roy Cooper and is comprised of all ten state-wide elected officials.
As a group, the body is responsible for approving real estate transactions, among other things.
Approval of the proposed DMV headquarters move was originally on the agenda for February’s Council of State meeting before it was removed amidst last-minute pressure from the Wake County legislative delegation and the State Employees Association of North Carolina.
Monday’s call, to which all members of the Council of State were invited, was not advertised publicly.
The Council of State qualifies as a public body under the state’s open meetings law.
The telephone briefing also appears to qualify as an official meeting under the law, which covers any meeting “for purposes of conducting hearings, participating in deliberations, or voting upon or otherwise transacting the public business.”
At the start of the briefing, OSBM Director Charles Perusse appeared to try and distinguish the telephone briefing from an otherwise open meeting.
“There will be no votes. This is just an informational session," he said. Perusse did not return a voicemail seeking comment on the phone briefing Monday afternoon and the Governor’s press office did not acknowledge multiple emails seeking an explanation for the apparent violation of the law.
The majority of the call was taken up by NCDOT Secretary Jim Trogdon, who made a presentation and answered questions from Council of State members and their staff who dialed in.
Trogdon said a selection committee comprised of DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup; Sterling Baker, NCDOT’s head of facilities; and Ron Hancock, NCDOT’s Chief Deputy Engineer evaluated a total of ten proposals to relocate the DMV headquarters.
In addition to the ten proposals submitted, Trogdon said, an additional 22 facilities were solicited for proposals for the project but did not respond.
Trogdon said the three-person evaluation committee narrowed the ten submission down to two: the office space in Rocky Mount currently being proposed and an office in Durham.
Trogdon said other proposals that were not considered included to locations in Garner, and three in various parts of Raleigh. The proposals not considered had annual lease prices at least $1 million above the prices quoted by the Rocky Mount and Durham office space.
But, in an email responding to a request for comment from WBTV sent Monday afternoon, NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said the Rocky Mount location was the clear favorite early on. Specifically, Abbott said he wasn’t sure any of the three evaluation committee members made any notes regarding the evaluation process.
“Still checking on the notes, and not sure there are any as it was a verbal discussion by the committee as once it saw the proposals sent over by the DOA it was obvious the Rocky Mount site had the lowest proposed office cost,” Abbott said.
In that same email, Abbott could not provide an estimated cost of relocating employees from Raleigh to Rocky Mount.
On the call Monday, Trogdon said there were roughly 100 employees at the current DMV headquarters that would qualify for relocation expenses. He did not elaborate on what those relocation expenses would entail.
Trogdon did note that the central commuting location for its current universe of employees would be in Garner.
Under the proposal, Trogdon said, the bulk of DMV’s headquarters staff would move to Rocky Mount but the Commissioner’s Office and his 12-person staff would remain in Raleigh.
Trogdon said Jessup and future commissioners would likely have an office in both Raleigh and Rocky Mount.
Any move approved by the Council of State would also have to be funded by the General Assembly in this year’s budget, Trogdon said.
If the move is approved and funded, employees would have roughly a year, starting in April, to decide whether they would remain with DMV or leave the agency.