02/12/12 — City Council will focus on 10-year plan at retreat

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City Council will focus on 10-year plan at retreat

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 12, 2012 1:50 AM

Scott Stevens will attend his first Goldsboro City Council retreat beginning Tuesday and continuing Wednesday at the Paramount Theatre where he will solicit ideas from the council members as they plan out the city's vision for the future.

The venue change from the City Hall Annex was a move, Stevens said, to try to differentiate the meeting, which is open to the public, from the regular council work sessions and meetings that take place bi-monthly, even though many of the concepts that will be discussed could have found their way on work session agendas.

"A lot of the topics here could be work session topics," he said, noting the specific projects to be considered would largely be minor briefings, while his overall goal for the session is to solicit the council members' priorities, especially going into the budget-planning season.

He also said he wanted to challenge the council to expand the city's vision further into the future than the next fiscal year.

"We get caught up in day-to-day thinking. I want to know what do we and the council see Goldsboro being in 10 years," he said.

Stevens said he doesn't anticipate to vote on any motions, but that the retreat would mainly serve to let him know what projects the council wants to pursue. That could also include shifting directions on projects discussed at last year's retreat. The lead agenda item will be an evaluation of last February's meeting.

Besides the 10-year plan, Stevens will lead talks about the city's streets, including a plan to evaluate them and determine where repaving is needed the most in the next year.

He'll also present a graphic showing where the city has performed recent repairs and where it still aims to, he said, in an effort to dispel talk of the city not paving streets recently. He said the graphic shows that the city has been prudent, though there are still needs.

"We've done a lot, but there's still a lot to do," he said.

A presentation comparing Goldsboro's Municipal Golf Course to other similar courses also is scheduled to help inform the city's decisions concerning its revenue.

Citizens could also likely see a change in recycling in the next year, Stevens said, noting that most municipalities operate on a single stream system in which city employees collect commingled recyclable materials, take them to a sorting facility where a private firm handles the sorting.

Another scheduled discussion will be concern demolition and a new building code due to premiere March 1 that the state has yet to release. The city will explore its options concerning the code in an effort to reduce its liability.

Downtown's revitalization will also be a topic, as the council will discuss both the Center Street Streetscape project and other auxiliary projects, including planters, banners and trash cans to spruce up downtown's main street. Stevens said that the minor changes would likely be implemented regardless of the Streetscape vote.

He does not anticipate that vote, on the awarding of the bid to a construction company to begin the project, will be held during the retreat.

"I don't anticipate any action on Streetscape as far as awarding it," he said

The council will also hear projections from Finance Director Kaye Scott on revenue and expenditures for the near future. Discussions of revenue will highlight the discussion as Stevens said predictions show the city should find ways to grow its revenue by 3 percent annually to keep pace with costs.

That doesn't necessarily mean tax increases, he said, but perhaps increases in fees, such as utility fees.

Stevens said he will lead the council in brainstorming other ways to increase revenue, especially through bringing it in from outside the city. Stevens said the option of imposing a city sales tax is not possible, and that he simply wants to open up the discussion to see if there were any innovative ideas presented.

The Phase 11 deannexation won't be a topic, Stevens said, because the city's position in the ongoing lawsuit hasn't changed in recent months. The city, along with others, is suing the state for the ratification of a law changing the statewide annexation policy which also allows for the deannexation of a significant portion of Goldsboro. He said the city was holding off on implementing some utility connections there, but was still working toward easements to connect the city's utilities to the area.

One long-term project that will receive some attention, however, is the city's building at 2406 E. Ash Street where council members has said they want to open up an Air Force museum.

Still, he said, the museum is a year away at best and is still not a definite.

"I think it's still somewhat of an 'if,'" he said.

The city's attrition will also be a discussion, Stevens said, as it may be time for some permanent decisions on the city's number of employees. The city hasn't operated with its full 475-member staff for quite some time, he said.

City employee benefits will also be discussed, he said, as the city will consider changes to its health insurance plan.

The city's retreat will span two days at the Paramount, with both sessions scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at about 4:30 p.m. each day. Members of the public are encouraged to attend although there is no formal public comment period scheduled.