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Council to hold hearing on event center

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By Philip Sayblack
Staff Writer

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Rocky Mount City Council will let locals voice their opinion on the Downtown Community Facility on Tuesday in a special public meeting.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on the third floor of the Frederick E. Turnage Administrative Building. The facility has been a point of contention for residents for many years. The most recent series of city council meetings have seen the facility taking one step forward after another but not without some resistance.

Councilman W.B. Bullock has been the only member of the city council to vote against measures related to the center. Bullock has said outright that he is not against the center, but the timing of the move to build the center. That is a sentiment that has been shared by local businessman Lige Daughtridge.

Daughtridge stressed in a recent interview that he supports the idea of a facility, but not the timing or the potential negative effect the center would have on residents in terms of tax rates.

“I’m not against the idea of a center. I am against the timing of the center due to the prolonged soft economy,” he said. “The city has some positive momentum but city leaders should focus on basic infrastructure and creating an environment for positive economic growth. Our city leaders should govern and leave business activities to the private sector.”

He added he supports growth such as the new CSX terminal, Rocky Mount Mills and similar projects which should be the focus for the city’s economic growth, not the downtown community facility.

City Manager Charles Penny has been the city’s most vocal proponent for the center. He said one of the most prominent concerns of the center’s opponents has centered on who owns the land where the center is proposed to be built.

“The land where the center is proposed to be built is partially owned by the city. Another portion of the land was offered for sale by businesses in the area,” he said.

Penny said he does not have specific expectations about what people will say at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I am not certain about the reaction by either side,” he said. He added he felt strongly that the matter of the center’s financing would be discussed and that he looked forward to the discussion.

Penny said the timing of the meeting was intentional. He said the aim was to encourage people just getting off work to come right to the meeting. He said that was to encourage everyone to come out and share their feelings on the center.

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