08/10/11 — Who's on first? City Council's surprise at Arts Council building caveats is just scary

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Who's on first? City Council's surprise at Arts Council building caveats is just scary

Remember how the Goldsboro City Council was warned just a few weeks ago that it should slow down and think through the $500,000 purchase of the Arts Council of Wayne County's building?

Remember how it was suggested that perhaps someone had a special interest in getting the deal resolved quickly because acting so hastily just did not make sense -- that crossing the t's and dotting the i's was critical?

Remember how many community members talked about how unexpected expenses could pop up and that the city should tread carefully?

Well, surprise!

It seems the City Council is now a little worried about the companion deal that was contingent upon the $500,000 purchase of the Arts Council building on Ash Street.

It seems someone either did not explain the contingencies that went along with the $100,000 grant that would go to the Arts Council and the $100,000 grant that would go to the building's owners or that no one was really listening.

And now, the city is worried it will be on the hook for penalties that would go along with not enough jobs being created by the move -- a requirement of the money, which is meant to be used for downtown development.

And when you break covenants in an agreement like this one, it costs you money. Well, in this case, it is likely to cost city taxpayers money.

Somebody, and right now it is not really clear who, did not do his or her job.

There is no question that more than a few people think that the downtown deal and the Arts Council building purchase were, at the very least, ill-advised.

But to hear that the council is surprised by the requirements is downright scary. And it should spark more than a little interest in every other deal that has been made with the council's approval.

How many other loose ends are still waving in the wind and costing the city money? How many other chances have been taken?

At a time when many people are wondering about their futures and businesses all over town are struggling, it seems unfathomable that this would be the year to tackle a project that has little hope of attracting more people downtown and to speculate on a piece of land for a museum that might or might not make it.

And let's face it -- there have been more than a few problems with businesses downtown being able to make a go of it. What about them?

Interestingly enough, this would not be the first artists' enclave located downtown that did not quite make it.

But this time, there is government -- read taxpayer -- backing, to the tune of $200,000.

Several council members -- including the one who stepped out to be the spokesperson and champion for this "we can't pass this up" deal -- expressed concern about what they might have gotten themselves into downtown.

The problem is, it might be too late to get out of this dilemma.

But what it is not too late to do is to change the leadership before it manages to rope Goldsboro into another "sure thing."

At the very least, it's more than time for a little scrutiny of just where the money is going, who is benefiting and what return taxpayers can expect on their money.

Just call it "accountability."

Published in Editorials on August 10, 2011 11:25 AM