03/22/14 — Council allows city to apply for TIGER grant

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Council allows city to apply for TIGER grant

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on March 22, 2014 11:27 PM

The Goldsboro City Council ended its two-day retreat session Friday afternoon with a 4-3 vote in favor of applying for the next round of TIGER grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The decision was made to apply for the $12.89 million grant to fund renovations to Goldsboro Union Station, the remaining two blocks of Center Street Streetscape and an expansion to Cornerstone Commons.

Toward the end of the session, Mayor Al King broached the subject of approving the application for the grant. If the city is chosen to receive the grant, it would need to allocate $2.89 million to match the $10 million in federal funds.

At their last meeting, council members deferred the decision on the grant application to give King time to examine the question after the mayor missed the discussion on the issue at the March 10 meeting.

Councilman Chuck Allen opened discussions on whether to vote in the possible $2.89 million expense.

"I don't think anyone here can question my love for downtown," Allen said. "I think the most upsetting moment for me on the board was when the community center did not work out."

Allen said there was no question that good work had been done downtown, but added that the positives did not outweigh the negatives of pursuing the TIGER VI funding.

"Every train station redone in North Carolina has been with federal funding," he said. "If they put money in for the train, they'll do the station. You'll get it when the train comes."

Allen said that with all of the effort the city has put into downtown, he cannot see anybody saying the city is shortchanging the downtown area by not applying for the grant.

With the $18.9 million Parks and Recreation bond referendum coming up, Allen said he cannot does not see applying for the grant.

"How can we tell the people we are going to increase the taxes for the bond, but pull the money out of thin air for this?" he asked. "Why not put it on the bond issue and not have a tax increase, if we have this money? Why not put it on the bond and help the whole city?"

Allen said that with so many real needs in the city he could not see voting for something that at the end of the day was a "want."

"I can't justify it when we have so many needs," he said.

If the parks and rec bond is approved, the city property tax would increase 2.4 cents per $100 valuation.

Councilman Bill Broadaway said that as a former banker he could see the reasons against taking on the additional debt.

"A banker would get the numbers and say we should probably wait," he said. "But sometimes you have to think about your heart, too. It was planned in the original grant and the debt service can support it. It doesn't feel good, but it supports it."

King was not shy about citing the reasons for his decision to vote in favor of applying for the grant.

He said that he knows all of the people who moved into Goldsboro counting on this project, and that he was not going to let them down.

"This project is critical in so many ways," he said. "I refuse to go back on my promise to them. I will do what I said I would do. I will vote to support the submission of the TIGER grant."

Councilman Gene Aycock said he was leaning heavily one way walking into the retreat.

"Nobody would love to see it renovated more than I would, I assure you," he said. "I am not riding the fence on this. In fact, I am leaning one way definitely."

Aycock said that the short time frame to have the application in next month doesn't give council adequate time to know what they are getting into.

"With all the needs we have, and there are true needs, this is still a want," he said. "There are 36,000 residents and I have to think about all 36,000 of those people and not one group."

King asked for a motion, which Broadaway provided, to approve the city's application for the grant.

King, Broadaway and councilmen Michael Headen and Charles Williams Sr. voted "yes," while Aycock, Allen and Councilman William Goodman voted against the measure.

"The vote is done and now we need to work together to move forward," Goodman said.