01/09/12 — City manager: Good times are ahead

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City manager: Good times are ahead

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 9, 2012 1:46 PM

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Scott Stevens

Citing predictions from the economic sector that 2012 will be a better year than last, Goldsboro City Manager Scott Stevens says he thinks the year will see citizens' fortunes improve as the city around them grows even more to meet their needs better.

Stevens said the year will bring about a renewed focus on customer service and the appearance of the community for city employees

"Things are, in a lot of areas, better, but there are things to be done," he said, admitting that financial restrictions would prevent large-scale projects from moving forward, but that the city would still be diligent. "If we're not looking after it, who is?"

He said communicating with residents the importance of maintaining their properties along with code enforcement, along with Goldsboro City Council's decision to concentrate demolition and code enforcement efforts on the city's main entrance roads, will spruce up the city's appearance.

A combination of enforcement and encouragement, he said, should reap dividends for the city.

But not all of the improvements will be noticed, Stevens said.

Infrastructure improvements typically evoke images of road repairs, and while the city's streets are in need of work, he said the city's sewer and water lines are even worse off. The city is in the common position of needing improvements to its lines, and although the work can be put off, he said, there comes a time when it's time to act and Goldsboro is approaching that time.

Other facilities, Stevens said, are in good shape, save for the W.A. Foster Recreation Center, which will be discussed at tonight's council meeting. The main question with the city's buildings this year, he said, will actually be what to do with the council's most recent purchase: the former Arts Council of Wayne County building on East Ash Street.

"In 2012, the question will be what is our vision and do we move forward with it," he said of the building, which is being considered for an Air Force museum to strengthen the city's commitment to its relationship with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The Air Force Museum Committee is scheduled to meet for the first time Tuesday, but Stevens said the city's main project in the next six months will, as usual, be putting together a budget.

Thanks to redistricting and the delayed election, the city will be putting together its 2012-13 fiscal year budget during a time in which all six members of the City Council and the mayor will be chosen.

Stevens, who joined the city in August 2011, said he's looking forward to this first go-round with the budget-creating process and is pleased that these council members will be assisting him with it.

"It will be a good exercise for us," he said.

The hiring of the police chief will dominate his early spring duties, he said, and the implementation of a traffic signal system should produce some relief of congestion along Wayne Memorial Drive and Berkeley Boulevard, but the council's retreat in February will give him indications as to where his staff should spend the most time and effort.

The Center Street Streetscape project bids were opened last Wednesday at 2 p.m. and will be discussed at the council meeting tonight, but that downtown renovation isn't the only City Hall project carrying over from the previous calendar year, as the city's long battle over the annexation of the Buck Swamp and Salem Church Road areas continues.

"We have been in it since 2002," Stevens said of the city's involvement in the area known as Phase 11. "We will evaluate it through each process, but I don't think we're changing direction today. At this point, we believe there is a legal challenge. We'll see where the process takes us."

The threat of further legislation by Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) won't deter the city's legal challenge, either, Stevens asserted, citing a universal right for citizens, businesses and municipalities to question laws.

"People have a right to challenge things they don't think are right," he said.

Other projects the city will continue through 2012 include the continued spending of Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant money to revamp Stoney Creek Park, especially the installation of bathrooms there and the continued evaluation of maintenance conditions at the city's golf course.

Department heads will be expected to produce budget outlines and drafts before April, which will likely include requests for new police cars to update the city's aging fleet. Changes to the recycling and compost programs may be implemented as well, while Public Works will continue to work with its new work order software before the program is considered for use in other departments.