Wayne County commissioners held their collective noses Tuesday morning, approving a $10,667 budget amendment for the county's share of a $32,000 hotel study.
They did not hold back on their displeasure with the city of Goldsboro's failed efforts so far to secure a hotel for the lot adjoining the Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center on North Wayne Memorial.
"I have an issue," Commissioner Wayne Aycock said. "We had an agreement with the city. We would be responsible for building the convention center. We helped them with their event center. We helped them with the sports complex, and we are putting a $20 million (school) building there on the corner.
"It was their obligation to get the hotel. I have heard that if we do this, we will have some skin in the fight. I think we have about as much skin in that as we need."
Aycock made his comments as the board discussed its consent agenda that included a $10,667 budget amendment to help pay for the study.
The $32,000 contract is with consultants with New York-based HVS.
County Manager Craig Honeycutt said the decision to find a consultant was the outgrowth of regular meetings between county and city officials.
If the board wants to help fund the study, it is fine -- a hotel is needed, Aycock said.
But the city needs to realize that the county has only so much money in its budget, he said.
The cost will be split among the county, city and Goldsboro Wayne County Travel and Tourism.
Goldsboro City Council approved its share of the contract in its consent agenda Monday night, but unlike commissioners, it was not discussed.
"I think the city will acknowledge that they have dropped the ball," Commissioner Joe Daughtery said. "I got in some hot water about making a statement, if you can imagine that, that the Maxwell Center needed that hotel and was vital to the success of the Maxwell Center.
"Maybe we overestimated that. The hotel is important to our economically viable convention center. We met with the city and basically said you need to get off your duff. You need to go ahead and move forward."
Daughtery said it was discovered that the city was using its internal data to try to market the site. That is not sufficient, he said.
"This report should have been done a year or two ago," Daughtery said. "But it wasn't and here we are faced with a situation that this is expensive. It is some $30,000. We have to have it."
The county does not have to participate and can go back to the drawing board, he said.
"I agree with you, this is the responsibility of the city, but is it do we wait and get that entire funding from the city, or do we want a way to go ahead and get it going now?" Daughtery said.
The real purpose of the study is to do data diving, Honeycutt said.
Most hotel developers need the study before they can make a business decision on whether it will be feasible or not to build on a site, he said.
The study will give developers the basic information that they need, he said.
"We are paying for just the study to say, 'here, hotelier, this will work for you,' or 'here, hotelier, this will not work for you,'" Honeycutt said.
"So we are really trying to dive into the data, dive into hotel rates, dive into occupancy rates to see what is feasible and what is not feasible."
There are a lot of styles of hotels that might not be a good fit for that corner, Honeycutt said.
The study is an effort to remove the guesswork for the investor and/or hoteliers, he said.
"I get all of that," Aycock said. "Why (wasn't) this done when the first shovel of dirt was turned out there at the Maxwell Center? Why (wasn't) this process started back then? I buy what it is about, but my question is why wasn't it done then?"
Aycock said his comments should not be taken to mean that he would vote against the budget amendment. The agenda, with the budget amendment, was approved 6-0. Commissioner John Bell was not at the meeting.
"I just want an explanation. There have been some feet draggers somewhere," he said.
Honeycutt said he understands Aycock's concerns.
The biggest part is that no one really knew it was needed, he said.
It is pretty obvious the city didn't know, Aycock said.
"I think we originally thought that you build the Maxwell Center, and they will come," Honeycutt said. "And we figured out they are not going to come unless we provide them some assurances, especially with a reputable company, that can say you can make money at this site."
Aycock said he disagrees.
The Maxwell Center is there, and the city is saying that the county has to have it now and that "we can choke them all that we want to," he said.