Reckhow likely to keep transit board seat

Jan. 15, 2013 @ 06:31 PM

County officials worked out a deal Monday that will allow County Commissioners Fred Foster and Ellen Reckhow to both serve on the Triangle Transit board.

The arrangement supplants a proposal that called for Foster to replace Reckhow on the panel, which oversees the agency that operates regional bus service and the Durham Area Transit Authority.

Reckhow is in line to keep her seat, until November at least, because Commissioner Michael Page agreed to swap with her an appointment to another board.

The City Council has to approve Reckhow’s replacement of Page on the transit board because Page occupies a seat that state law says is controlled by both the city and county governments.

But Mayor Bill Bell on Tuesday said the city’s OK could come next week.

“Ellen called me [to explain the idea] and I don’t have a problem with it,” Bell said, adding that he’d asked City Clerk Ann Gray’s staff to add the matter as “a priority item” to the council’s Jan. 22 agenda.

Commissioners approved the swap Monday night, voting 5-0 to give a county controlled seat on the Triangle Transit board to Foster and 5-0 to support Page’s move to swap his Triangle Transit seat with Reckhow for one on the board of Operation Breakthrough.

Page is already on the Operation Breakthrough board and wanted to stay on it for at least a short time. But Foster, the commissioners’ chairman, had proposed replacing him on the Operation Breakthrough board with Reckhow.

The assignments are a housekeeping chore the commissioners have to go through after every election, as they figure out who will represent the county on an assortment of civic groups.

Like Page, Reckhow wasn’t eager to give up her previous assignment.

She has served on the Triangle Transit board since 2005 and is in line to play a key role in the search for a successor to the agency’s general counsel, former Durham Mayor Wib Gulley.

The agency also has to plan the first round of bus-system improvements financed by a new half-percent sales-tax surcharge that goes into effect in Durham and Orange counties on April 1. The levy will generate about $25 million a year to start.

“When Michael broached the concept of a switch, it was perfect,” Reckhow told her fellow commissioners on Monday.

The overall package of appointments gave Foster a portfolio that will make him the commissioners’ liaison to business groups like the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Durham Inc. and the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Reckhow got an arts-heavy portfolio that includes seats on the Carolina Theatre and Durham Arts Council boards. Page got a heavy dose of human-services work, his assignments including seats on the county mental health, homeless services and child protection boards.

Commissioner Brenda Howerton’s portfolio has a criminal-justice and workforce development emphasis. New Commissioner Wendy Jacobs inherited many of the assignments of mentor and former Commissioner Becky Heron, including postings on the county animal control board and stadium authority.

Reckhow and Howerton will represent the county on the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee, the group that oversees road and transit planning for the western Triangle.

Howerton, Page and Jacobs likewise will serve on the Joint City/County Planning Committee, the group of city and county officials that does the preliminary work on any changes to Durham’s land-use regulations.

In other action Monday night, commissioners approved a plan by Durham Regional Hospital officials to change the facility’s name to Duke Regional Hospital.

Administrators have said the move is marketing-driven, to capitalize on and emphasize the hospital’s tie to the Duke University Health System. The system operates Durham Regional for the county.