Council balks at Streetscape grant
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 15, 2012 1:46 PM
City Manager Scott Stevens, far right, and Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan listen along with City Council members to Neil Bartlett as he talks about changing the city recycling collection program during the Goldsboro City Council Retreat at the Paramount Theatre Tuesday. The two-day retreat brings council members and department heads together to discuss ideas on how to build a better future for the city.
There was only one binding vote held during Tuesday's session of the City Council Retreat at the Paramount Theatre, but that single decision might have signified a dramatic turn in the council's pursuit of the city's signature downtown revitalization project.
Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson gave a detailed presentation late in the afternoon session concerning small projects to improve the look of downtown. Aesthetical additions, including hanging flower baskets and new trashcans, were discussed, leading into the announcement of DGDC's intent to apply for another round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant funding.
The city had previously submitted both Goldsboro Union Station and the Center Street Streetscape project for a TIGER grant separately to no avail, but Ms. Thompson this time provided a submission that seeks to perform the rest of the Streetscape project, connect Center Street to Union Station by way of Walnut Street and provide extensive renovations to Union Station.
The proposed cost for the project would be $13 million, meaning the city would be on the hook for $2.6 million, or a 20 percent match.
Ms. Thompson and Mayor Pro Tempore Chuck Allen both spoke of the grant submission as a "no-brainer," since the city could, perhaps, get four blocks of Center Street and its Union Station renovation done for just $700,000 more than the cost for performing Streetscape renovations on only the 200 north block of Center Street.
But the rest of the council wasn't so sure.
District 6 Councilman Jackie Warrick asked what type of tax increase would be required to pay the city's match, which would likely come from a loan.
"I wouldn't be looking for a tax increase," City Manager Scott Stevens said. "Debt service would cover it."
Still, Warrick and District 2 Councilman Bob Waller, who have opposed the Streetscape project because it would result in a loan, expressed concern at the prospect of the preapplication for the TIGER grant, which is due this month. Full applications are due in April.
Allen made a motion to submit a preapplication, which was seconded by District 4 Councilman Rev. Charles Williams, although it was ignored for some time before Mayor Al King asked for further action.
The vote revealed that King, Williams and Allen were the only members for the grant application and the motion was defeated 4-3.
Immediately following the vote, Williams was noticeably perturbed at the prospect that Waller, Warrick and District 3 Councilman Don Chatman would oppose the Streetscape on their way out of public office. All three have announced they don't intend to run for re-election.
"It's like saying, 'I'm getting out of the car,' and then making it so nobody else can drive it," he said.
Asked if the vote on the TIGER grant was a referendum on whether the council would support the single block of Streetscape renovation the council has delayed voting on for months, King said he wasn't sure.
"I don't know," he said. "I really don't know."
A decision on the project, which seeks to widen sidewalks and the while replacing the holly trees and creating a small park in the median, was expected at the council's Feb. 6 meeting. King delayed the vote instead, aiming to provide more information about the project for the dozens who turned out to oppose it.
This isn't the first time the council has delayed voting on the Center Street Streetscape project. When the initial bids were opened Sept. 19, the council decided to alter the project in an effort to reduce the amount of money the city will need to borrow. Initial estimates showed the city could put up about $1.129 million from street bond money and the utility fund to cover the project, which the lowest, initial bid revealed would cost $1.7 million, not counting utility work. To decrease the amount the city would need to borrow, those bids were rejected and an altered project was put out for bid, garnering the all-inclusive $1.9 million estimate the council is now considering. That bid's validity will expire the first week of March unless the city is granted an extension by the bidding agency.