10/11/11 — Council rejects bids on Streetscape plan

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Council rejects bids on Streetscape plan

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 11, 2011 1:46 PM

Supporters of the Center Street Streetscape project took a step backward to move forward Monday as the Goldsboro City Council approved the staff's recommendation for the 200 block of the project, meaning the bids already tabulated will be rejected and the project will be altered to lower estimates and put out for bid again.

The council's reconvened meeting from Oct. 3 was a round robin of topics, as the council members heard presentations on four agenda items during what was advertised as a work session.

The bulk of the discussion centered on the Streetscape project, featuring a slide presentation from Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson giving the project's history and possible avenues toward funding it.

One option was to reduce the project to the funding available for it, about $1.129 million, while the other two options were to borrow money, either for the entire project with contingency or for a reduced project following a new bidding process.

Finance Director Kaye Scott presented the debt service payments required for both a loan of $900,000 to complete the project as is and for $600,000 to complete a project estimated to cost $139,251 less.

Mrs. Scott noted that the city's debt service, even if it took on an additional loan, would still begin decreasing by fiscal year 2013-14.

Following the presentation, supporters spoke in favor of the project while dissenters questioned the debt involved.

Mrs. Scott pointed out that the first option, which would require no loan, would likely not see the bid return on investment that the other two options would, and that word continued to remain a part of the rhetoric throughout the rest of the meeting

Allison Platt, the architect of the project and creator of the city's master plan, spoke in favor of the project, citing its potential dividends.

"It's a good investment. This is the one, I will stake my reputation on, that will pay dividends," she said. "We've lost investment there in the last 10 years, and until downtown feels like a place, other downtown projects won't succeed. This is the best investment you can make."

Mayor Al King was next to speak definitively for the project, saying that from the day he became mayor and began discussing cleaning up downtown, he knew it was going to be a tough job.

"I thought we all knew at that time how important Streetscape was to getting Goldsboro moving the direction we want it," he said. "Can we afford it all now? Probably not, but we can't afford to do nothing."

District 4 Councilman Rev. Charles Williams called Streetscape a golden opportunity, and cautioned that "sometimes opportunity knocks only once."

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said he was in favor of the project, but said the city needed to take better care of its existing downtown. He passed around photos of downtown areas in disrepair.

District 6 Councilman Jackie Warrick, who had already quizzed Mrs. Scott on the debt services, asked if the debt payoff meant there wouldn't be any further Streetscape projects in the next five years while the city was paying off the first block of the project.

Besides a grant, which was also on the agenda for the meeting, City Manager Scott Stevens pointed out that future blocks could involve retaining what sidewalk is there and simply expanding it, thereby reducing the cost for demolition, bricks and installation for a portion of the project.

This led into the discussion of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant, which DGDC had already pre-applied for.

Two projects, Streetscape and the renovation of Union Station, were presented as candidates for the project, which would give the city a grant which would need to be matched at the 20 percent level.

Allen said the proposal was a waste of time.

"I don't even know why we're talking about this," he said, saying that the council was already hung up on taking on a $400,000 loan, and that the request to borrow $5 to $6 million was too much.

The projects, together, would require a $5.66 million match on a $28.3 million total, while the Streetscape alone would be a $2.2 million match of $11 million. Union Station would require a $3.46 million match, 20 percent of $17.3 million.

"Streetscape is today," Allen said, pointing out that the Union Station project was more than a decade away from fruition since there are no railroads connecting it.

The Union Station discussion bled into talks about the GATEWAY Transfer Station line item, which was added to the agenda earlier.

Council members decided to table their decision on appropriating $8,242 toward the continued design work needed for the Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority Transfer Station until after the GATEWAY board had a chance to evaluate the next step. Specifically, District 2 Councilman Bob Waller, who is on GATEWAY's Transportation Advisory Board, and District 3 Councilman Don Chatman, the chairman of the GATEWAY Governing Board, seemed uninformed about the next phase of the project, which would pay architect David Gall to design a transfer station concept which would be closer to the original budget estimate of $4 million.

Eventually, Williams moved to approve Streetscape for the TIGER grant application and to not submit the Union Station project. Allen seconded the motion and it was approved 5-2.

The meeting ended with a 5-2 vote to follow the staff recommendation on Streetscape from Oct. 3 -- rejecting the bids, altering the project and putting it back out for bid.

Council members Warrick and Waller voted against each proposal.

In other business, an item was added to the agenda Monday about the announcements of external advertisements for city staff positions, including a public information officer for the city manager's office and a police chief. Three positions in public works and one each in information technology and parks and recreation will be filled as well.