Councilman Andre Knight suggested that council should have a future conversation with Acting City Manager Peter Varney and give him specific direction on how US federal bailout funding will be used to help redevelop downtown.
During the March 14 council business session, which Knight participated by teleconference, Deputy City Manager Kenneth Hunter provided an update on the status of funding for the Rocky Mount bailout.
Knight also asked as part of the future conversation to include Councilman Reuben Blackwell’s thoughts on bailout funding spending to help with downtown redevelopment given that downtown is in the neighborhood. by Blackwell.
The municipality is scheduled to receive just over $11.5 million in bailout funding, of which nearly $1.27 million has been approved by council for bonuses for essential municipal employees. Generally, premium pay is additional compensation paid to employees for working certain types of hours or under certain types of conditions.
Rochelle Small-Toney, when she was city manager, also made it clear that she wanted $3 million in bailout funding set aside to help launch an affordable housing plan that she and her team proposed at the 2021 Rocky Mount Town Annual Retreat in Ashville. Small-Toney also clarified that the plan was to use $1 million of that $3 million for a future community land trust as part of affordable housing.
After Hunter made a presentation at the city council’s March 14 business session and the floor was opened to questions from council members, Knight asked how much bailout funding was earmarked for downtown redevelopment. town.
Hunter said: “At this point – and I have to say based on conversations I’ve had with the former director – I’m not aware of any specific funding that has been designated by the plan lot. American bailout for downtown redevelopment. .
“It certainly can be,” he said.
Hunter said while the municipality should work on the bylaw, there are ways to make it more widely accepted.
The topic of pumping more funds into the heart of Rocky Mount is not new as stakeholders, including those with an interest in downtown, came to a June 2021 City Council meeting to make such a demand.
One of the speakers, activist and businessman Charles Roberson, told the council that he and others wanted a minimum of $3 million allocated for downtown redevelopment over the course of the year. fiscal year 2021-22 and that he believes a thriving downtown would generate funds that can be distributed to all seven Rocky Mount City Council wards.
Small-Toney then told the public and viewers online in response to the call for more funding for downtown redevelopment that “we certainly feel your pain” and that she took a number of notes on other things the municipality can and will do.
As for adding additional funds for the 2021-22 fiscal year for downtown redevelopment, Small-Toney said at the time, “If I have to include that, it means something else is going to be cut because I can’t stretch the income too much. more than what we have so far.
She made it clear to those more advocating downtown redevelopment that they had her full support.
During the March 14 city council business session, Knight clarified that he and others were aware that Rocky Mount was expanding west toward Interstate 95 and Nashville and northwest toward towards Red Oak.
Knight also spoke of companies leaving one area to move closer to a new area.
“So if we’re not careful, we’re going to end up like our neighboring cities when you go down (US) 301,” Knight said. “It’s pretty much dried up, but when you go to I-95, it’s booming.
“And, so, I just want us to be aware, as members of council, if we’re going to develop our city internally, that we’re keeping the city center as one of the top priorities for redevelopment when you’re looking at it. ‘examine,’ Knight said. .
He also pointed out that most of Rocky Mount’s historic neighborhoods are on the outskirts of downtown.
Blackwell made it clear that he supported what Knight said.
Councilwoman Chris Miller, who has served since 2002, referred to a special business session convened by the previous council held in 2018 at the Tar River water treatment plant.
During this special working session, the city’s Director of Public Works and Water Resources, Jonathan Boone, gave a presentation that included approved major upgrades and unmet capital needs of municipal sewer and of water.
“And I wonder, among those projects, what has actually been done and what’s still lying around there,” Miller asked Hunter during the March 14 work session.
Hunter said what he and his team can do is go back to that presentation and match it to what has been done through the long-term municipal capital improvement plan and provide the status of those projects. .
“And if there are still things to do, can this money be used for that?” Miller asked.
Hunter said, “We can look at the eligibility of those projects and see if there are any (that are) eligible, yes.”
Miller also asked if bailout funds could be used to pay for street resurfacing.
Hunter, answering in the affirmative, said: “This was a matter that was discussed with the original ARPA guidelines in that there was some confusion about it. And one thing he said with ARPA – and there are different ways to do it – that you can use ARPA money to resurface.
“Fantastic,” Miller said.
“And I assume that would also include the process of grinding and rebuilding?” Miller asked, a reference to the process of milling the existing pavement and following it up with new pavement.
The American Rescue Plan Act has been successfully advocated by the Biden White House to provide approximately $1.9 trillion in additional aid to deal with the ongoing effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.
Asked by Councilman Richard Joyner during the March 14 city council business session, Hunter said the $1 million bailout fund for a future community land trust remains earmarked for that purpose, unless the council decides otherwise.
Generally, a community land trust is a non-profit organization that owns and manages land on which houses are built, with a person authorized to buy a house on one of these properties. Further structural improvements to the house would belong to that respective owner.
Hunter told council during a business session in August 2021 that the municipality was to receive just over half of the bailout funding of just over $11.5 million.
During the March 14 business session, Hunter said the remaining funding would be received in the current fiscal year.
“And, so far, we’ve been very judicious with those funds,” Hunter said.
Hunter said that overall the remaining funds available to the Town of Rocky Mount are reserved for future projects or revenue replacement if the municipality chooses to go in that direction.
“So we still look pretty good,” Hunter said.
He stressed that the municipality must commit all funds by New Year’s Eve 2024 and all funds must be spent by New Year’s Eve 2026.
“We still have time to reflect and plan, but we also need to start moving in the direction of allocating those funds and moving forward with them,” he said.