06/27/12 — Committee to take look at Golden LEAF requests

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Committee to take look at Golden LEAF requests

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 27, 2012 1:46 PM

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Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, reviews one of the project proposals seeking funding through the foundation's $2 million Community Assistance Initiative.

A project review team of Wayne County residents is facing the daunting task of whittling down $11.1 million in requests to meet the $2 million in Golden LEAF Foundation money available to the county.

The nine-member panel will be required to submit a priority list of the projects seeking a share of the foundation's Community Assistance Initiative -- a grants-making process targeting the state's economically distressed counties.

The process, which started six months ago, has generated 24 project proposals representing a total cost of $22.6 million and $11.1 million in requests for Golden LEAF funding. It will be December before a decision is made on which projects will be funded.

Grant requests ranged from just $2,500 for the Reach Out and Read program to $1 million to help fund a Civil War and Heritage Center at the Historic Waynesborough Village to $2 million for an employment initiative program.

The city of Goldsboro is seeking $250,000 for the GATEWAY transfer station, $605,935 for a City Market at the Commons and $361,200 for a "green skills" program to hire youths to build a greenway at Stoney Creek Park.

Golden LEAF money comes from the tobacco buyout and settlement reached several years ago between the federal government and the tobacco companies. A portion of the money paid out by the companies was set aside to boost economic development and quality of life in the state. The foundation was created to distribute the money.

Foundation President Dan Gerlach reviewed the projects during a meeting Tuesday night at Wayne Community College. He provided foundation staff feedback, asked questioned and offered suggestions about each one.

No time was allotted for questions from the audience. However, Gerlach said questions or comments could still be submitted to the foundation.

Afterward, the group of people representing civic, government and education broke up into three smaller groups representing the areas they had identified for projects.

Each group submitted three people for the Review Team. The team is made up of:

* Education and workforce development: Dr. Phillip Kerstetter, Mount Olive College president; Mike Haney, existing industry specialist with the Wayne County Economic Development Alliance; Susie Acree of the Partnership for Children of Wayne County; and Dorothy Moore of Wayne Community College, alternate.

* Economic development and infrastructure: Robyn Wade of An Open Door Community Development Corp.; Chuck Allen, Goldsboro City Council; Sherry Archibald, Paramount Theatre; and Kari Sander, Mount Olive College, alternate.

* Youth services: Mary Ann Dudley, Boys and Girls Club; Darren Goroski, Goldsboro Family Y; and Linda Dean, principal of Riverbend School at Cherry Hospital; and Mural Lanier, Wayne Community College, alternate.

Committee members will have to sign a conflict of interest form and are not allowed to vote for any projects they are involved with or stand to profit from.

The committee makeup was not without some controversy.

Bridgette Cowan, representing the First Congregational Church at Dudley, pointed out that only two people on the team were black. She asked if it might be possible to have at least three.

That prompted Allen to say that the process is not about skin color, but about doing the most good for the county.

However, Brenda Best of 21st Century Constants called it "racist."

Calvin Allen, foundation program officer, asked members to hold up their hands using their fingers to indicate how comfortable they were with the team. Holding up a fist meant a person didn't like it, while showing five fingers indicated no changes were needed.

After the show of hands, Calvin Allen said it appeared the vast majority accepted the team including Ms. Cowan, who said it was time to move on.

Pat Cabe, foundation of programs/community assistance and outreach, said copies of the proposal summaries and the foundation's questions and concerns would be mailed out to team members by Friday.

People have until noon on July 13 to submit any comments or responses to last night's meeting to the foundation.

The team will meet in August and possibly September and have its work completed by the middle of September, she said.

Once the projects are selected, formal proposals will have to be submitted by Oct. 12. That will provide the foundation time to study the proposals, she said.

The final decision will be made by the foundation board when it meets Dec. 6.