02/09/14 — Trust Fund requests made

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Trust Fund requests made

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 9, 2014 1:50 AM

Wayne County has $576,923 in its portion of the Eastern Region Trust Fund. The money can be loaned to local municipalities for economic development.

But the county's municipalities have requested a total of $1.5 million in requests and the county Board of Commissioners will have to decide how best to distribute the money.

Commissioners were presented Tuesday with funding requests ranging from airport and street improvements to sewer projects.

Commissioners held a workshop Tuesday morning to hear loan requests from Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Fremont and Pikeville -- all of whom are looking for a share of the money. The loans would have to be repaid within five years.

No action on the requests will be taken until the board meets again on Feb. 18.

The state funded the trust fund when the Eastern Region was first formed. The stipulation is that the money can be used by member counties for economic development projects only.

The loan requires a 1 percent ($5,769.23) fee, but no interest for the five-year life of the loan.

However, the county could charge its own interest. Commissioners have not said if they plan to do so.

It also is possible the county could borrow money from other counties that do not plan to borrow from their own trust fund accounts. In those cases, the counties could charge Wayne interest as well.

As off Tuesday, commissioners said they were unaware of any counties that would be doing so.

Goldsboro City Manager Scott Stevens made a pitch for two potential projects, $450,000 for the city's plans to widen Berkeley Boulevard or $475,000 for engineering services for the city's downtown Streetscape revitalization project.

Fremont also asked for two projects -- $251,880.51 to pay off existing long-term debt and another $50,000 to repair the Norwayne School sewer lift station.

A question was raised as to whether refinancing debt qualified as an economic project. Commissioner Ray Mayo, who serves on the Eastern Region board, said it does.

Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown requested $200,000 to cover its $150,000 match for $1.5 million in state funding for making improvements to the older part of the runway at the town airport.

As part of the work, the runway lighting will require improvements as well.

Mayo asked Brown if a commissioner was on the town's airport committee as a voting member. It does not, Brown said, but, neither does the town.

Fremont Interim Town Administrator Barbara Aycock said paying off the long-term debt would free up money to aid in securing loans and grants for much-needed infrastructure projects in the town.

"We are in dire need to get rid of some debt," she said.

Refinancing four-long term debts totaling $251,880.51 would save the town more than $100,000 in interest and allow the town to pursue needed sewer projects, she said.

Mayor Darron Flowers said the town is "asset rich, but money poor."

The town's sewer system has capacity and serves four schools, the Wayne County Executive Jetport and Eureka, he said. If Fremont fails to address issues like a leaking wastewater lagoon, all of those areas would be affected, he said.

Pikeville Town Administrator Blake Proctor said the town was asking for $75,000 to rehabilitate a large tank that is used to store wastewater until it can be applied to a spray field.

The Eastern Region is being dissolved and will be replaced by a privatized Eastern Regional Alliance.

March 1 is the deadline for the county to file an application to borrow the money. If the money is not obligated by June 30, it will be turned back over to the state.

Commissioners questioned whether or not they need to borrow the full $576,923 since it would require the county to seek approval from the Local Government Commission. Limiting the loan to $499,000 would eliminate that requirement.

However, commissioners decided to seek the full amount and to begin the application process with the Local Government Commission that includes a fee of more than $1,000.

Any town that is approved for a loan by the county also will need approval from the Local Government Commission.