07/13/08 — Paramount bill approved by Legislature

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Paramount bill approved by Legislature

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on July 13, 2008 2:00 AM

The N.C. General Assembly passed a bill Thursday legalizing the city of Goldsboro's actions during the rebuilding process of the Paramount Theatre.

The bill retroactively gives the city permission to not follow the guidelines for public construction projects -- making the transfer of the theater to the Weil Foundation legal.

"I'm just glad that it passed," City Manager Joe Huffman said. "This now allows the city to move forward with financing the acquisition of the theater."

City officials say they were told after the fact that they did not follow the proper procedures for the reconstruction of the theater.

After local businessman David Weil first stepped up and offered his assistance in rebuilding the Center Street theater that burned more than three years ago, and the city agreed to temporarily transfer ownership of the property to the Weil Foundation, Huffman believed all was well.

But since such a situation isn't something that cities normally face, Goldsboro officials went to the Local Government Commission (LGC) an authority that oversees local government activity, before starting construction, to ensure that everything was lawful with the public/private partnership.

Huffman said LGC officials told city officials there would be no problems and to continue with their plans.

When city officials called the commission to check on a few concerns as they neared the end of construction several months ago, however, city officials got a surprise.

LGC officials told them a certain aspect of the arrangement wasn't entirely legal because the Weil Foundation didn't put the project out for bid -- a process that the city must go through to let every interested contractor have a fair chance at working on a project.

"Normally, if the city were going to finance a project, we would have to seek competitive bids. In this case, we did not own the property at the time of construction. However, we have an agreement to take over responsibility for all of the assets and liabilities," Huffman has said. "Mr. Weil, on behalf of the foundation, selected the contractor and moved forward with the project with the same understanding we had -- that there were no concerns."

But construction was nearing completion, and neither Weil or city officials could start the process over again.

LGC officials, at that point, recommended the city ask its local legislators to introduce a bill that would forgive the city's unlawful actions.

Now, after sorting the legal issue out with the help of local bill sponsors Rep. Louis Pate Jr., R-Wayne, Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson, and Rep. Van Braxton, D-Lenoir, the city can move forward with obtaining funds to repurchase the $4.5 million performing arts facility.