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Taxpayers spent more than $80,000 swapping out cubicles in the state transportation department last spring, just a few weeks after Gov. Pat McCrory called on agency leaders to tighten their fiscal belts.

The $82,996.36 cubicle renovation project for 23 work stations approved last May dropped the height of  most of the cubicles by 10 inches, and created more of a “newsroom” atmosphere for communications staff to work in, according to purchase records and Mike Charbonneau,  DOT’s communications director.

“This has been a big help for us,” Charbonneu said, saying that the previous cubicles were mismatched in size, with a handful reaching to the ceiling, creating a confusing maze of hallways and workspace in the agency’s headquarters across from the State Capitol.

New cubicles at DOT cost $80,000, when state was watching budgets

New cubicles at DOT cost $80,000, when state was watching budgets

The May request for shorter cubicles was made by then-communications director Cris Mulder, who left the agency late last year for a job outside state government, and was approved by DOT Secretary Tony Tata.

“This project will renovate the existing communications space on the first floor to make more efficient use of the multiple work areas and support the strategic departmental goals for integrated, transparent and collaborative communications,” Mulder wrote in a May 22 memorandum for the project obtained through public records request.

But the plea for new communications staff cubicles came just a few weeks over McCrory issued a March memorandum instructing cabinet secretaries to forgo unnecessary spending in order to cover an expected $262 million shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program.

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