Durham County Commissioners spent a good part of their five-hour work session Monday morning debating the details of an agreement with Durham Public Schools that would allow school system to recoup sales taxes it pays on construction projects.
The interlocal agreement had many facets and took some time for county staff and commissioners to dissect. But Lavonia Allison, the controversial and newly re-elected chairwoman of the Durham Committee of the Affairs of Black People, wanted some more time to study the fine points. She asked board Chairman Michael Page to delay the board's vote a month.
The contract was a serious consideration, Allison said, in part because of the points it raises about requirements of the school system to hire minority- and women-owned businesses for its projects.
"We're talking about African-American employment opportunities," Allison said, leaning on the commissioners' dais.
County Manager Mike Ruffin weighed in from his seat, saying that a one-month delay in voting on the contract wouldn't really hold anything up at the county level. So instead of putting the item on the agenda for Monday, Jan. 11, Page agreed to push the vote to Feb. 8.
"Dr. Allison," Page said, "I'm bending the rules today to do this. It's still going to come back to a regular scheduled meeting and you'll only have two to three minutes to comment."
Allison wanted an opportunity for three sub-committees of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People to analyze the contract and put together comments.
"We need more time," she had said. She also alluded to the impact the commissioners' decision could have on this year's elections.
Commissioner Becky Heron piped up: "Ohh," she said dryly, waving a hand at Allison. "We don't discuss politics in county commissioners' meetings."