10/25/12 — Council looks at next step for block

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Council looks at next step for block

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 25, 2012 1:46 PM

Goldsboro City Council members voiced their opinions at their meeting Oct. 15 on the future of the Center Street Streetscape project as the first phase of the city's signature downtown revitalization effort nears its Nov. 5 completion date.

Finance Director Kaye Scott had just finished briefing the council members on the financial status of the city after the first quarter of the fiscal year along with a look at the capital improvement plan and 10-year plan when Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen voiced his concern that the city could lose its momentum downtown if the council doesn't move quickly into the next phase of the Streetscape project.

The first phase involves the installation of a walkway down the median, replacement of trees and widening of sidewalks of the 200 north block of Center Street.

Allen, who owns several properties downtown, has been an avid supporter of the project even as he has insisted in the past that no General Fund money should be used for it.

"I don't see the point in stopping," Allen said of the project, asking if the city could begin preparing for the next two blocks of the project, originally planned for the 2013-14 budget year.

Waiting until then would limit increases in the city's annual debt service payments, but District 3 Councilman William Goodman said Allen was putting Streetscape ahead of other city projects.

"Let me get this straight," Goodman said. "We don't have any other projects in the city that need to be done. We're going to borrow money to focus on this one particular project downtown?"

City Manager Scott Stevens said there were certainly other needs in the city and Goodman seized on that notion, noting there were many properties that needed to be demolished throughout the city, calling the dilapidated structures "eyesores."

Stevens said the appeal of investing in downtown was the possibility to grow the tax base, which he said hasn't grown significantly since the 1980s.

Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra shared statistics presented to the previous group of council members saying there were nearly 400 homes that need to be demolished in the city. Given three years, Cianfarra said bringing them all down would require annual allocations of $1 million, $750,000 and $500,000.

Goodman, who often says his district is the poorest in the city, asked what districts those homes were in.

Cianfarra said he would have a list of the homes and their districts for Goodman the next day.

That list shows the city's 337 minimum housing cases. The most cases, 128, are in District 1, while 119 lie in Goodman's district. There are 36 cases in District 5, 30 in District 4, 16 in District 2 and eight in District 6.

District 6 Councilman Gene Aycock returned the conversation to Street-scape, however, saying the council should take a wait-and-see approach. He said he feels about 75 percent of the public is opposed to it although there are claims that views will change after the first phase is completed.

"Everyone is saying wait until you see it," he said, noting that the council should wait until the first phase is complete before proceeding.

Allen said he could be on board with that, but District 1 Councilman Michael Headen cited urgency due to downtown's crumbling infrastructure.

"We have an infrastructure problem here," he said, adding that the city's poor water and sewage lines beneath Center Street were part of why he is in favor of the renovations.

Mayor Al King asked that there be an item placed on a future agenda to allow the new council, which has three members who were not a part of the Streetscape vote, to be briefed on the project, including infrastructure needs. He also asked that properties to be demolished be included in the presentation.

The council then met in closed session to discuss property acquisition and economic development matters.

The next meeting of the City Council is scheduled for Nov. 5 and the newly renovated block of Center Street is expected to be fully turned over to the city Nov. 9.