02/10/08 — City Council gives preliminary OK to increase in hotel tax

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City Council gives preliminary OK to increase in hotel tax

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on February 10, 2008 2:01 AM

NEW BERN -- Members of the Goldsboro City Council gave their preliminary approval to a one-cent increase in the city's hotel tax Friday, the final day of their annual retreat.

The move from 5 to 6 percent would require approval by the state Legislature.

After two days of mostly budget discussions, the council came to agreement on a number of issues Friday, including using $100,000 of travel and tourism money to create a "brand" for Goldsboro and to add a restaurateur to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Council. The moves are designed to help boost interest and business in downtown.

Council members also approved a budget amendment that would allow updating of the city's software backup system and would provide council members with laptop computers to use at meetings. City officials said it would save time and money as well as cut paper waste. Also, wireless connections for city employees to use when they are out of the office will be included in the proposed budget for 2008-09. The estimated cost was set at $50,000.

Council members decided to move forward with renovating Dr. Sid Schrum's former office to be used as a location for a fine arts academy. They also asked city officials to find out if Community Development Block Grant funds can be used to help pay for the academy. Council members also asked city officials to determine how many children the facility could accommodate. Plans call for the academy to begin after-school programs in August.

In other business, council members decided to find more storage space for the Parks and Recreation Department. Two possibilities are at Peacock Park and on Westbrook Road across from the city compost center.

At the request of Police Chief Tim Bell, council members approved a program that will allow non-certified police officers to be employed while still undergoing the certification process. Bell had said earlier the move would help increase manpower in his department.

Sidewalks on Wayne Memorial Drive, on the side of Wayne Memorial Hospital, will be put in or repaired from New Hope Road to U.S. 70 using state Department of Transportation money, council members also decided.

Council members also asked city officials to look into possible dredging of the Neuse River to allow for more water intake. With the city in drought conditions, discussion of water issues had dominated much of the first two day's discussions.

Other action taken by the council on Friday included ordering city staff to start to market the city's home buying assistance program and to look into cemetery maintenance and possible for locations for cemetery expansion.

A day earlier, council members heard several alternatives for raising revenue, including annexation, increasing property taxes, seeking grants and reducing some services. No action was taken Friday on any of the monetary issues raised earlier.

Also on Friday, the shooting at a Missouri city council meeting that left five people dead gave council members a moment for pause, and they decided that the topic of security at council meetings should be addressed. Meetings already are guarded by one or more Goldsboro police officers and Bell himself is often in attendance. But council members decided to bring up the subject of metal detectors that had been discussed before. The idea was considered when renovations to the old City Hall were being done.

"I think we should seriously think about that again," Councilman Chuck Allen said.

"I agree. I think we need to have something," Mayor Al King said.

City Manager Joe Huffman said he believed that metal detectors weren't the best way to go. Huffman said police officers with wands to look for weapons would be a better idea.

Other council members agreed with looking into providing further security measures when they move council chambers back into the old City Hall building.