09/29/06 — Funding still up in air for city projects

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Funding still up in air for city projects

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 29, 2006 1:58 PM

Officials at City Hall are still not quite sure how they will foot the bill for both a new Paramount Theater and Community Building.

But City Manager Joe Huffman said he is committed to finding a plan that works and believes construction on the two facilities will begin soon.

"When council made their decision, my mission began," he said. "That is how I'm looking at it. My job is to accomplish both of these projects, period -- to get them done, find the best way to do it and to find the most efficient way to get them done and still provide services without a tax increase."

To do so will mean less spending on other needs, Huffman added. Still, he is not prepared to sacrifice the quality of services Goldsboro departments provide or the salaries of the men and women who make providing them possible, he said.

"I think we've got some lean years ahead as a city," Huffman said. "I think that other major improvements aside from these projects will be difficult to achieve. We cut way back on capital outlay projects this year, and we'll probably have to do the same for the next few years. But I want to keep the employees paid ... to bring the best people in that we can. We have to make sure we can do that."

In preparation for the City Council's Oct. 2 meeting, Huffman said he is already looking into ways to pull the projects off -- and a few of those options look promising.

"We have been talking with folks about grants," he said. "There is a belief that we can complete these projects. We are also looking at tax increment financing. Basically, you would typically think about using this for development projects like an industrial park. It allows you to borrow money based on the property value and how much it will increase ... it will allow us to hold off on principal payments for a few years. How much of that will all come together, I don't know yet."

Huffman presented various funding plans for the two projects at council's Aug. 21 meeting. Ultimately, he recommended that the Paramount reconstruction effort begin now and work on the Community Building should wait until 2010.

When plans changed, he had to adjust and find a new plan -- one he hopes to present for council members' approval sometime this month.

"It seems like it was our recommendation to hold off on the Community Building and move ahead with the Paramount," Huffman said. "It was doable, and we can say, 'well we've already arranged funding and have a process in place and feel like we can get some contributions to the project.' The community center piece, I was thinking from a funding standpoint that delaying might be a good idea. What council felt was that it was important to move forward with both at the same time. We really need to find a way to do that and start the process."

And while specific funding sources are still unclear, for Huffman, the finished product is not up for debate.

"This is my job, it's what I was hired to do," he said. "I'm going to find a way to make this work."