03/30/11 — Goldsboro Council still eyeing possibility of buying Arts Council building

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Goldsboro Council still eyeing possibility of buying Arts Council building

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 30, 2011 1:46 PM

A final decision need not be reached until Aug. 1, but the city of Goldsboro has signed a contract that represents a tentative agreement to purchase the Arts Council of Wayne County's headquarters for $600,000.

The document was signed Feb. 8.

But the transaction is far from a done deal.

A clause in the contract allows the city a 90-day examination period -- during that time, the "buyer can cancel this contract for any reason, or for no reason," it reads.

Interim City Manager Tasha Logan unwrapped an option for potential use of the building during the City Council's March 21 meeting.

But the board was not quite ready to commit to renovating the former bank and turning it into an Air Force museum.

Councilmen had reservations about questions about the project that remain unanswered -- how much it would cost and whether other entities, including the Wayne County Commission, would help foot the bill.

"This doesn't need to be a city project. This doesn't need to be a Travel and Tourism project," Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said at that meeting. "Our relationship with (the Air Force) is key to everybody in this county, so I don't think we need to be selling this as a city project. We need to be selling this as a community project."

If the city were to go through with the purchase -- the closing date, the contract stipulates, must occur by Aug. 1 -- and move forward with the Air Force museum concept, early estimates indicate it would cost at least $679,000 to bring the facility into code compliance and that there are several "unknowns" that could "greatly change" that figure.

Those unknown costs include a full structural analysis of the building's footings and foundation, resealing the parking lot, landscaping, refurbishing the elevator and installation of an HVAC system.

Ms. Logan also reported that it would cost some $139,000 a year to operate the facility, however, staffing and the cost associated with acquiring, setting up and maintaining exhibits is not included in that figure.

County Manager Lee Smith said the notion of the county government coming up with funding to contribute to a museum "would be tough in this economy."

Whether or not the City Council will back out of the deal within their 90-day window remains to be seen.

But if they were to do so, the decision would have implications that stretch far beyond the prospect of what many, including Mayor Al King, believe would be a popular tourist attraction that celebrates the relationship between Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the communities outside the installation's gates.

The Arts Council recently announced it would be moving into new quarters on the first- and second-level spaces of the building at the corner of Walnut and John streets.

But the organization's move, council president Al Gristte noted, is likewise contingent on the city's agreeing to purchase the Ash Street location.