08/18/04 — Commissioner criticizes EDC for vacant shell building

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Commissioner criticizes EDC for vacant shell building

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on August 18, 2004 1:58 PM

Wayne County Commissioner Arnold Flowers harshly criticized the Economic Development Commission on Tuesday for not finding industries to buy the shell buildings and other county properties.

Those investments have already cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, with $1.3 million due next year, Flowers said during Tuesday's board meeting.

Should the buildings and property continue to be vacant, the county will have to raise the property tax rate by 2.5 cents to make that payment, he said. "That would cause a taxpayer uprising."

Flowers' comments came as the commissioners were considering pay raises for two EDC members and the salary range for a third, vacant position. The board unanimously agreed to postpone the discussion to give Flowers and Commissioner Jack Best a chance to talk to EDC officials about Flowers' concerns.

But EDC President Joanna Thompson did not think the two issues are related.

"This is not about expenses that the county may incur due to making ourselves competitive. Those costs are a given and we'll recoup them tenfold," she said today. "This is about retaining exceptional personnel and that expense is minimal."

The requested salaries are within the EDC budget the commissioners approved in June, she said.

At the meeting, Flowers said that he opposed any pay changes at EDC until some of the county's investments pay off.

He pointed out that the county is financially responsible for the purchase of a 38-acre tract at ParkEast industrial park and the construction of the Goldsboro and Mount Olive shell buildings.

The county hopes to attract industries to develop those properties, but loan repayments are already starting to come due, Flowers said. They totaled more than $250,000 this year and will be at least $1.3 million in 2005, he said.

He also noted that the county is losing tax revenues on these properties as long as it owns them. That costs the county almost $31,000 a year, he said.

The other commissioners did not respond to Flowers' comments, except to agree to table the salary issue until EDC officials had a chance to meet with the two commissioners appointed to their board.

EDC had asked for Michelle Blackwell, now marketing coordinator, to be promoted to vice president and her salary increased from $33,600 to $37,632. It had also recommended administrative assistant Carla Tino be given a raise from $23,460 to $25,337.

The salary range for the business and industry coordinator was recommended for $33,000-$52,000.

EDC doesn't have a schedule to hire someone for that position.