08/13/06 — Two city projects in one motion?

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Two city projects in one motion?

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 13, 2006 2:10 AM

Goldsboro Mayor Al King said the idea of reconstructing both the Paramount Theater and a community building downtown is not simply a dream to be realized five years from now -- it's a realistic possibility today.

While City Manager Joe Huffman and other "key staff" work for the next few weeks on a funding plan for the projects, King said the future of both looks bright.

"We don't know exactly how we're going to come up with the money, but it's doable and our city manager and staff are reviewing the whole thing," he said. "They are going to come back to us with a plan that shows us how we're going to pay (the cost of both projects) off. Once we get all of that information together we're going to say, 'OK, let's go guys.'"

The plan, King added, is to begin construction on the theater and community building before next summer. One project can start before the other, but the important thing is to commit to both buildings, he said -- and both groups of supporters.

"I see them as simultaneous projects," he said. "If we're going to go, we're going to go at the same time. I think the Paramount has the edge as far as when we'll be able to start construction, but that could change. Still, I want to see them as two separate projects, with us identifying the funding for the Paramount Theater in one bag and then the funding for the community building in the other bag. They might not necessarily start at the same time, but one should start while the other is under construction. Who's going to finish first? Well, I don't care who finishes first. Let's just finish them."

And funding is the only piece of the puzzle that hasn't been completely worked out yet, King added. But through grants, local fundraisers and other projects, the price tag should come down on both facilities, he said.

"I'd like to see us raise enough money so that the city doesn't have to dig in, but that's not realistic," King said. "But with a fundraising campaign, that element alone can reduce the amount of city funds to a minimum. They've got some innovative ideas on how to raise substantial money, so I feel confident that we can do both."

Another way the city will try to reduce spending is by selling seats at the Paramount, an effort that raised a large sum of money for restoration work at the theater in the early 1990s, he added.

"When the Paramount was restored years ago, they sold seats," he said. "For X number of dollars, you get your name put on your seat. It's your seat. Of course, you're not going to be there all the time, but your seat will be. I think that will be a big draw. I plan to buy a seat. I think my wife plans to buy a seat...I feel certain that people will want to do that."

Still, uncertainty about a feasible way to pay for two multi-million-dollar projects lingers -- but that "doesn't worry Al King," he said.

"The city, we're committed to doing these projects," King said. "The only question is can we afford it? I think we can. Once the dust settles, I think people are going to say, 'wow, we can do this.' We're going to be successful in raising money. I feel certain that the city will be able to afford both of these buildings with the help of our community. And we're going to get a lot of help from them."

Help might also be needed from the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, he added.

"I think we are going to approach the county for financial support," King said. "The council has talked about that and it would be really, really helpful if (the county commissioners) would agree to commit a certain amount of money to one or both of the projects."

And they should, he added. After all, Goldsboro is an important part of Wayne.

"These buildings are going to support the county, too," King said. "It's not just for Goldsboro -- especially the community building. Even if they can't see the rationale behind supporting the Paramount, I think they will see the connection between the county and community building. And they haven't said no yet. We haven't asked them, but they haven't said no. If we haven't asked them and they haven't said no, there's a possibility they will say yes."

King said he feels confident that once all funding sources have been researched in the coming weeks, Huffman and his staff will be "more than capable" of presenting a doable plan to City Council members for discussion and approval.

"If it can be done, it will be done," he said. "I have all the confidence in the world in these people. We're going to sit down and work through this thing. Then, we're going to come up with a plan that works. That's the thing about the group of people (the City Council has) surrounded ourselves with -- they're realistic and there are no nay-sayers."

King added once a plan is approved, there will likely be an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the projects.

"At some point, we're going to have to convey to the public exactly what we're doing, what we expect and solicit their support and help," he said.

And while some residents are sure to scoff at the idea of the undertaking, he said many just don't understand how important the Paramount was to so many people.

"A lot of people really don't understand how useful the Paramount was," King said. "When I hear people say, 'well, nobody uses it,' I tell them to check the records and see for yourselves how that theater was booked. When I hear those same people say, 'nobody wants it and it only caters to a select group of elite people,' those are people who don't really know what the Paramount did. I would like for them to take the time and see who used that theater because it covered the waterfront."

And for those potential "nay-sayers" out there, King said he knows the projects are supported by the masses -- "throwing stones" only gives them more drive to get the job done.

"The thing that has always bothered the heck out of me is when someone says, 'you can't do that,'" King said. "I remember when I was a kid and people would tell me I can't do something. Well, I sure can. I'm going to show you I can do that. When someone says, 'no you can't,' that's like a challenge to me. We can do it. Yeah, it's going to be tough. If it was going to be easy, anyone could do it. I take the position that the difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer."