03/17/12 — Close watch: Look, we mean it. One project at a time.

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Close watch: Look, we mean it. One project at a time.

There is nothing wrong with exploring possibilities -- as long as those possibilities have a realistic chance of becoming reality.

If you move forward on a project that the community has no use for or one that citizens think is ill-advised at this time, and you spend a ton of money exploring the option, you are doing nothing but wasting time and precious funds.

Let's be honest. The Air Force Museum is about to be one of those projects. And if it becomes the boondoggle it appears to be becoming, we can add it to the Island of Misfit Projects along with the doomed downtown recreation center. That time more than a million dollars went down the tubes in plans that never came to fruition.

And now we are waiting for a firm out of Boston to tell us what would work for a plan for a new Air Force museum in the former Arts Council of Wayne County building.

It sure looks like the city is headed for yet another costly mistake.

It gets tiresome writing these editorials. Mostly because it seems like this one is a no-brainer.

As nice as it would be to have an Air Force museum, it just is not the right time, and the property in question is just not the right place.

Perhaps the intentions were good. Maybe a rush decision was made to meet a deadline. Maybe, for a moment, city leaders' priorities were confused.

But now, in this economy and with so much at stake for those who are trying to keep their families' finances in the black, to consider something so unnecessary and so speculative is just not responsible. It just isn't.

The city has been given the go-ahead to move forward on the Center Street renovation project -- and encouraged to work on its downtown area. And not everyone is for the project. In fact, some people are not sure that it's not just

another first step in another big waste of money that is going to cost taxpayers later. And some of them feel that way because of past experience.

Many of those who know best have suggested that the city slow down, pick a fight and get a major project done that will really make a statement about the future of this city.

Downtown is one of those efforts. An Air Force museum is not.

The men and women who are giving their time to come up with an Air Force museum plan should be commended. They are trying to improve their community and to honor the great history of the 4th Fighter Wing in Goldsboro and Wayne County.

But city leaders should know better.

The building purchase was a bad idea -- and it is still a bad idea. The location is not ideal, and neither is the property itself. If we are going to do an Air Force museum, we should do it right and create a facility that can sustain itself.

So now we have a firm hired that is going to ask community members what they think -- a select group.

City leaders need to make sure they ask a representative sample of real people -- not hand-picked supporters -- what they think of the museum idea, as well as perhaps what they might like to see the money used for instead.

They can bet that if they do not ask regular people what they think -- and enough of them to gauge the real feelings on the project -- we will.

Truth is, the tourism money being spent on this project could be used to improve amenities elsewhere -- by freeing up the money that we will need to take from the general fund to pay other bills. And there are other options that are as of yet unexplored for what could be added to this city to make it more attractive to visitors.

Bottom line is simple. It is time to sell the building and to focus on capitalizing on a big step forward before the city's lack of focus and priorities ends in more money lost.

And we will say it as many times as it takes to get the message across.

Published in Editorials on March 17, 2012 10:32 PM