12/20/07 — Commission to weigh AT&T incentive plan

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Commission to weigh AT&T incentive plan

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 20, 2007 1:45 PM

Now that AT&T has announced the opening of a broadband technical support call center in Goldsboro and the creation of 350 new jobs by the end of 2008, the Wayne County Board of Commis-sioners is preparing to consider $100,000 in incentives for the communications company.

It will begin the process on Jan. 15 with a 9:15 a.m. public hearing it set at its meeting Tuesday morning.

The incentive funds, which will be contingent on job creation and sustainability, will go toward the renovation of the old Winn-Dixie Supermarket on U.S. 117, south of Goldsboro.

They will likely be comprised partly of economic development funds set aside in the county's budget (about $75,000) and partly of tax payments refunded to the company over a three-year period (about $25,000).

"That was part of the negotiations (to bring the company to Goldsboro)," said Wayne County Development Alliance President Joanna Thompson.

The alliance has already voted to approve a $100,000 grant, while the Goldsboro City Council is expected to set a public hearing for its own $100,000 grant sometime early next year.

Additionally, AT&T also will be receiving $300,000 from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.

All the funds are targeted for the building's renovation.

The company plans to begin hiring employees within the next month and to begin operations by the second quarter of 2008.

Also Tuesday, the commission agreed to take ownership of the former Lighthouse of Wayne County domestic violence shelter, which has been closed since November 2006, and under the control of the state Housing Finance Authority since the organization folded in January.

The authority, which has a lien on the property as the result of a $95,000 loan made to the Lighthouse to help it acquire the property, agreed again to defer any payment -- as long as the county uses the property as a shelter.

"If at some point in the future it is not used as a shelter, it would revert to us. As long as the property is being used as a shelter, nothing would be owed," said Margaret Matrone, director of government relations and communications for the authority. "The goal is to keep the shelter a shelter."

Now the county will lease the property to Wayne Uplift Resource Association, which has agreed to operate the shelter.

That paperwork is currently being written up.

"It's likely going to be a dollar-a-year type lease," County Manager Lee Smith said. "We're going to assist them. We've got to get this open."

Additionally, the county also is providing the labor and the funds to bring the building up to city code -- improving the fire suppression system and the sump pump in the basement.

In the meantime, said Wayne Uplift Director Linda Holden-Cox, with the funding to operate the shelter already in place, they have begun interviewing applicants to fill the staff positions and are looking to make sure all the appliances and furnishings are in working order.

The goal is to have the shelter open in early 2008.

"I can't give you a date, but we're hoping to have it in full operation as soon as possible," Ms. Cox said. "It's definitely something the county needs, but we've got to go step by step."

In the meantime, the non-profit is still offering domestic violence programs and advocacy services. It can be reached via its 24-hour hotline -- 736-1313 for English and 394-1621 for Spanish -- or at its offices at 719 E. Ash. St.