01/04/09 — A slice of the pie: Goldsboro finds $16 million in projects for request

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A slice of the pie: Goldsboro finds $16 million in projects for request

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 4, 2009 2:00 AM

Goldsboro officials say they have three projects worth $17.45 million that could be ready to go should the federal government decide to progress with a much-talked about economic stimulus package.

City Manager Joe Huffman said the North Carolina League of Municipalities contacted him a few months ago and asked him to put together a list of "shovel-ready projects," or projects that could be ready to go in 120 days.

"They wanted us to get a list together so that we could show the federal government that there is a need," he said.

So, Huffman sent the league information on three projects, asking for $12 million for the Community Recreation Center, $2 million for Union Station and $3.45 million for utility repairs.

"We picked these because they are the ones that are ready," he said. "We have many more items that we could use federal money for, but I don't want to say, 'We have $100 million in projects,' and then the federal government says, 'OK, can you have them done in six months?' And we say, 'No, we are going to need a year's worth of design work before we can do that.'"

The city's largest financial request is for help with the construction of the new recreation facility, which they expect to cost $12 million.

"These are all estimates," Huffman said. "The bids for the recreation center are coming in this month, and they may be for $11 million or they may be for $15 million. We don't know."

The $2 million request for Union Station, a project that has been under way for more than a year, will likely be used for finishing exterior renovations and construction costs associated with the interior of the building, and the money also will help supplement the $1 million recently received from Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds.

Huffman said he has confidence that the federal government will see the environmentally friendly possibilities in the multi-modal station.

"Before the election, everyone was talking about ways to be green and conserve fuel. If Union Station doesn't fit that, I don't know what does," he said.

The city also is looking for money for is utility upgrades that would include repairs and improvements to the city's more than 50-year-old water plant.

"Water and sewer are tied to everything. If you don't have enough water capacity to accomodate everyone or provide sufficient water quality, then you can't have economic development," Huffman said.

The city manager said he wanted to get the three projects on the list first, but added that there are still projects left that could use the financial help if this is only the first of several stimulus packages.

And if there is a possibility of two or three rounds of government handouts, the city will be ready.

"We expect we will need to spend tens of millions of dollars on utility improvements in the next few years. Of course, we will know more when the utilities master plan is completed this month," Huffman said. "But then we would look at a civic center. That would be a major initiative."

If the federal money continues to flow down to Goldsboro, Huffman said the city could use money to even build and establish a reservoir and then progress with items in the downtown master plan to improve the area.

"If we could put the utilities underground, widen the streets and remove diagonal parking, that would take us decades into the future instantly," Huffman said.

Any money would impact the city, he added, but if even one project was entirely funded, it would be "huge."

Still, the city's wish list is far smaller than Wayne County's -- $17.45 million compared to $148 million -- and that's how it should be, Huffman said.

"Counties do what is necessary. Cities do the extra. Wayne County has a lot on its plate right now," he said.

But he isn't sure what is going to happen with the stimulus package for either government entity.

"We are all just speculating. No one really knows what is going to happen, but we are trying to stay ahead of the curve," he said. "And the numbers may change and what they want might change. As the inauguration approaches, we may learn more and might have to make modifications."

And city officials are doing more than sitting and waiting.

They are trying to be pro-active, Huffman said.

"Right now, we are just preparing, preparing, preparing and then refining -- getting ready for what could come next," he said.