02/02/09 — Lottery, housing project on agenda

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Lottery, housing project on agenda

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 2, 2009 1:46 PM

County commissioners Tuesday will be asked to add their blessings to the county schools' efforts to draw down slightly more than $5 million in state lottery funds to be used for local projects

The board meeting will get under way with a briefing session at 8 a.m. followed by the regular session at 9 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the courthouse annex.

The school board earlier this month, at the urging of commissioners, voted to request the monies.

Commissioners had been prompting the school board to act out of fear that lottery proceeds could be gobbled up by the state desperate to close a $2 billion to $3 billion budget gap.

Obligating the money also was seen as a way to speed progress on a $23 million building campaign. As originally proposed, the county would borrow about $16 million with the remainder coming from local sources. The debt would be repaid through sales tax and lottery revenues.

Commissioners said they preferred to spend the state's money first before having to use local dollars and loans. Securing the lottery funds will mean the county will not have to borrow as much money.

Also, it eliminates the county from having to seek approval from the Local Government Commission before proceeding. That approval will be mandatory once the county begins the bulk of the project that will require a loan or bonds.

The schools are seeking a total of $5,513,522 in lottery funds. The initial request will be for $5,031,605 -- the amount currently available for drawdown.

An additional $481,917 will be allotted at a later date and will be requested at that time.

The money will pay for renovation work at Mount Olive Middle School in Mount Olive, Brogden Primary School at Dudley and Greenwood Middle School.

Other portions of the project, Eastern Wayne Middle School and Norwayne Middle School at Fremont, will continue as planned.

Under the proposal, the county would own the school buildings and lease them back to the school system. Currently the schools are insured through the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The county will be able to continue that coverage even though the buildings will belong to the county.

In other business on Tuesday, local developer John T. Bell is expected to ask county commissioners to sponsor an application to the N.C. Division of Community Assistance for a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant.

The grant would help finance 44 units of subsidized family rental housing on vacant land off U.S. 70 West behind the Second Fling Consignment Shop in the Rosewood community.

Commissioners are being asked to submit a letter of interest to the DCA. The letter does not obligate the county to any funding.

According to a letter to the county from Workforce Home-stead Inc. in Chapel Hill, which is representing Bell, the letter "opens the door" to the application process.

The county would be the applicant for and recipient of the federal funding.

Bell is asking the county to use the $225,000 to provide a 20-year loan at 2 percent interest. He would agree to forgo up to 10 percent of the grant to the county for administrative expenses. If the county lacks administrative capacity to handle those duties, the grant may be used to hire a consultant.

Also on the agenda:

Tara Humphries, chairperson of Wayne County Reads and public information officer at Wayne Community College, will brief the board on the group's projects. The sixth annual Wayne County Reads will begin Feb. 9 and this year's book is "Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate" by Angus Konstam.

Sarah Merritt, executive director of the Arts Council of Wayne County, will speak about the council's role in the county.

Commissioners are expect-ed to act on a resolution proclaiming February as Black History Month in the county.

The board also will be asked to make April 25 and Oct. 17 "amnesty days" at the county landfill. The days are used to encourage residents to clean up yards and roadways. The amnesty applies only to residential waste.