N&R front-pager on the history of Project Haystack, the effort to transform the Guilford County prison farm into taxpayer-funded data center park.
Interesting the N&R —surely someone down there remembers— (the Rhino’s John Hammer sure did) — didn’t mention that consultant Mike Solomon was also a front on the effort to bring Major League Baseball (the Twins supposedly would bail out of Minneapolis) to Greensboro, an effort that “went down in flames when the tax to pay for the stadium went before voters,” a factoid that might call into question the N&R’s description of Solomon as a “hard-nosed realist.”
One of the numbers – $88.1 million for infrastructure, jumped out – but there was also a total estimated cost of about $103 million when the $15 million land acquisition costs were figured in.
Donadio was the one who broke the news to the board that they would need to give the land away and pay all the money on top of that.
The commissioners, who were hearing the idea for the first time, literally had to fight back laughter, and most of them lost that fight and just started laughing out loud.
And still seven commissioners voted for the $30,000 feasibility study, including Jeff Phillips, who as Hammer also notes, “sold himself to voters as a Tea Party Republican.”
The Winston-Salem City Council unanimously approved a business improvement district (BID) tax on property owners in the core of downtown.
The council did not approve a a tax rate, but proponents suggest 9 cents out of every $100 of taxable property. The tax will be administered by the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.
Greensboro has had a downtown BID tax in place for years, but earlier this year there were questions regarding Downtown Greensboro Inc.’s effectiveness.
N&O front pager on Raleigh Housing Authority’s phat Christmas party:
The Raleigh Housing Authority holds an annual Christmas dinner for board members, their spouses and nine agency department heads at Second Empire Restaurant on Hillsborough Street, which carries a four-diamond rating from AAA.
…Last year, the public housing leaders had a four-course meal with a variety of wines, beer and bourbon. The bill came to $77 per person for food – 25 people attended – and the alcohol cost a total of $254. The agency, which gets three-quarters of its budget from federal housing dollars, footed the entire bill, which came to $3,082 including tax and tip.
…The housing authority’s executive director, Steve Beam, says no federal funds are used to pay for the dinners. “I don’t think it is unreasonable at the conclusion of a successful year at RHA to offer a single token of thanks which wouldn’t even replace the board’s personal expenses, much less compensate them for the time they invest,” Beam wrote in an email.
…Despite the criticism, Beam said this year’s Christmas dinner is still on. He says the invitations to Second Empire will be going out soon.
Doesn’t say exactly who bankrolls the party if it’s not federal funds, but it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to assume it’s Capitol Area Development, the housing authority’s nonprofit that holds its board meetings at Second Empire.
Regarding “public servants” making really big money, during and after their careers, taxpayers struggling with their own finances might be forgiven if they feel exploited.
Especially when the people who care so much —so much more than the average taxpayer— are partying on.
Antiplanner analyzes what we lost and what we gained 50 years ago today. His conclusion might surprise you:
No one knows what America would be like today if Kennedy had not been assassinated, but I strongly suspect that the federal laws banning segregation and guaranteeing voting rights would not have passed for at least another decade. That certainly doesn’t mean the assassination was a good thing, but maybe it was a good thing we lost the innocence that kept us from seeing the injustice that pervaded our society.
Also interesting is Antiplanner’s recollection of school segregation in the the hipster hangout we know as Portland.
Guilford County Commissioners vote 7-2 to move forward with plans to develop the county’s prison farm, aka Project Haystack.
The vote –which commits $30,000 toward establishing a nonprofit to oversee the project— came after proponents made their pitch:
But the commissioners balked at some of the project’s terms:
• Guilford County likely would have to donate 600 acres of its 800-acre prison farm, valued at about $3.7 million, to private corporations for development.
• The county would need to spend about $15 million to buy at least 600 acres surrounding the land it already owns.
• The county would need to join with the state, Alamance County and the cities of Greensboro, Burlington and possibly Gibsonville, to fund infrastructure improvements, including water and sewer lines and road upgrades. The work would take about two years and cost $81.1 million.
After hearing those conditions, Commissioner Hank Henning summed up the general feeling of the board.
“What’s the punchline?” Henning said.
Looks like the county –plus Greensboro and Burlington —will be asked to take a lot of risk up front. With those conditions, it’s pretty incredible that seven commissioners still voted to move forward, with Henning and Alan Branson casting the only ‘no’ votes.
In a surprise that should come as no surprise, Greensboro Housing Authority pays director Tina Akers Brown $242,000—-far site better than City Manager Denise Turner Roth, even with her $5k salary hike:
Mayor-elect Nancy Vaughan, who’s slated to make three board appointments during her coming two-year term, said Brown’s salary surprised her, but she isn’t in a position to say whether it’s too high.
“That the head of the Greensboro Housing Authority makes more than the city manager … I was somewhat taken aback,” Vaughan said.
But it’s still less than Greensboro Coliseum director Matt Brown, and probably always will be, whether you’re housing authority director, the city manager, the police chief…
Indeed Tina Brown never showed up on Greensboro’s salary list. It’s not really an apples to apples comparison if the federal government is paying her salary. Brown’s just playing by the rules as they’re written—-therefore the problem.
Bonus question: Charlotte Observer reports:
After reports of high pay for public housing directors in other cities, Congress voted in 2012 to limit the federal government’s share for a director’s salary to no more than $155,500.
..The cap did not result in pay reductions for Beam and Akers Brown. With little evidence of a public discussion in their board minutes, the boards pulled money out of funds not controlled by HUD to keep the pay up.
Help me out here but the cap wouldn’t kick in the same year it was passed, right? But if it kicked in, it’s not hard to believe the housing authority would magically find the money to keep its director in place. But I you have to wonder where the funds “not controlled by HUD” come from.
Speaking of downtown hotels, the N&R reports the Greensboro City Council has delayed a decision on an incentive request:
The council set a special meeting for Dec. 2 to consider a $750,000 economic incentive to bring a luxury hotel to South Elm Street downtown. The council will consider building a parking deck on the site to be owned by the city and used, in part, by the hotel.
The new City Council — with three newly elected members — will be sworn into office Dec. 3.
The incentive deal was changed from the original $8.45 million incentive package the council was scheduled to consider Tuesday night.
Spoke with a city official yesterday who criticized the N&R’s math when reporting on the incentive request. The paper calculated that the parking deck lease ” could cost up to $30,500 per month….. (a)t current monthly parking rates, the city would earn less than $14,000 a month from a 244-parking space deck — making the venture a loss for Greensboro.”
Meanwhile city documents calculates property tax revenue into the entire incentive request, and those revenues in turn will exceed the cost of the incentive package.
But going $8.1 million to $750k —quite the drastic change—- is math I can’t figure out. Hopefully we’ll get some clarity the coming days.
Three years from now, the Downtown University Campus might be a four-story building with a high-tech medical lab where nearly 400 nursing students and doctors from the region come to learn.
….The vision is of a shared college campus that will bring together the city’s five four-year colleges, GTCC and the Elon University law school. These seven institutions have about 47,000 college students. A not-yet-formed nonprofit will run it.
The first phase will have one building with a focus on health care. Organizers hope to start construction on a four-story building in early 2015 and open it in fall 2016. This first building will have 105,000 square feet and enough parking for at least 200 vehicles.
Anyone who’s lived in Greensboro for a while knows the city has been targeting this site for development for years. It was the original site for a downtown baseball stadium before land contamination put the brakes on that (the city has since cleaned up the property with help from a $3 million federal brownfields grant). Then there was talk of moving the Guilford County Schools administration building to the site —that idea went away quickly, as officials anticipated the reaction from taxpayers. Next up was a luxury hotel before former county commissioner and current legislature candidate Skip Alston got into the act and decided it needed to be across the street from his civil rights museum.
Lot has to happen before this project becomes reality, least of which is raising money. Needless to say it will be interesting to see how it all comes together.
Amidst much speculation, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. will announce Wednesday that he will run for Rep. Howard Coble’s 6th District Congressional seat.
Late last week the N&R reported Greensboro City Council member Zack Matheny is seriously considering a run for Coble’s seat.
Meanwhile, the tributes to Coble continue. State Rep. Jon Hardister wrote in Sunday’s N&R that Coble “is perhaps the most genuine individual you will ever meet. There is absolutely no pretense about him. He treats everyone with dignity and respect.”
Meanwhile the Rhino’s John Hammer writes “Everybody, it seems, has a favorite Coble story.”
Count me among them. Many years ago I was doing freelance work for the wife of Coble’s best friend, former UNCG dean of academic affairs Bert Goldman. I was at Goldman’s house working when I heard Goldman and Coble return from their tennis game. At first it sounded like they were engaged in an argument- and in a sense it was —Coble was insisting that he pitch in for the post-match libation —a six pack of Milwaukee’s Best Light.
Mrs. Goldman kindly offered to introduce me to Coble, and he and Goldman kindly offered me a beer. We sat drinking, and indeed congressman showed absolutely no pretense.
Howard Coble, true sportsman —- he played tennis for the same reason I ride a mountain bike —so we can drink beer afterward.
High Point Enterprise reports:
High Point Mayor Bernita Sims was indicted by a Guilford County Grand Jury Monday for allegedly writing a worthless $7,000 check to a family member as part of an estate settlement.
The true bill of indictment returned against Sims states that she “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously did draw, make, utter or issue and deliver to (Annie Ponce)” a check from a First Bank account in High Point that Sims “knew at the time … did not have sufficient funds on deposit with the bank with which to pay the check.”
Sims has steadfastly maintained she will not resign, and the City Council won;t push her again, at least if you believed what they said following the 6-3 vote calling for her resignation.