Fate of hotel revitalization grant uncertain
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Saturday, February 9, 2019
The Rocky Mount City Council is set to discuss downtown parking and grant funding for a hotel project among other topics Monday evening.
The council will hear from staff about state money available for the remodeling of the former Carleton House on Church Street. The item was added to the agenda Thursday after city staff was drilled earlier in the day by members of the Central City Revitalization Panel.
The advisory board is largely comprised of current and former investors from all walks of life who are demanding action reports instead of a repeated diet of policy statements.
Specifically, the panel wanted to know why a $55,000 grant for the Carleton House redevelopment project had been sitting on someone's desk at City Hall since October.
Panel member Dennis Barnes, a retired banker, told city staff during the meeting that it was past time to do something about hamstrung development.
Mayoral candidate Sandy Roberson said it's abundantly clear the revitalization panel is frustrated with stalled revitalization efforts.
"Rocky Mount belongs to its residents and her owners are demanding progress from her stewards," Roberson said.
Although scrutiny appears to have spurred action, it may be too late. The grant offer appears to have expired in early December, according to paperwork to the city from Nicholle Gross, a data and compliance specialist with the state Commerce Department.
City officials said part of the holdup was confusion over who is supposed to sign the documents. The grant letter is addressed to Mayor David Combs and states the highest elected official in the receiving government entity should sign the required paperwork.
The city apparently owes the state $192,000 related to a former project at the same site, according to documentation obtained by the Telegram.
An October 2013 letter from N.C. Rural Development, formerly known as the Rural Center, addressed to Combs requests the city repay the funds as a result of not fulfilling the agreed upon obligations of a grant.
The council will also consider an agreement with Edgecombe Community College to share downtown parking spaces. The city owns four parcels and ECC owns three parcels within the block bounded by Rose and Tarboro streets and Albemarle Atlantic avenues. The college and the Jeffreys family own adjoining parcels of land within the block bounded by Arlington, Marigold, South Washington and Hill streets.
The city wants to use the land for parking in connection to special events at the Rocky Mount Event Center.
Key terms of the agreement include stipulations that the city won't allow large commercial vehicle parking on the college or Jeffreys owned parcels at any time. The city also has to share any revenue for parking fees.
The council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. in the George W. Dudley City Council Chamber of the Frederick E. Turnage Municipal Building. The council will hold a workshop at 4 p.m. prior to first regular monthly meeting.