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Mayor sees rosy future for city

SOTC Mayor 6.jpg

Mayor David Combs delivers his State of the City address on Monday inside the Council Chambers at City Hall.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rocky Mount is in good financial shape with a bright future on its horizon, Mayor David Combs said during his State of the City address Monday night.

"Overall the state of the city is very good," Combs said at the beginning of his hour-long speech in front of a packed Council Chambers.

Rocky Mount is a full-service city offering public power, gas and water. The city has 900 employees and a budget of $200 million. Last year, the city witnessed increased development, clean audits and healthy fund balances, Combs said.

As evidence of Rocky Mount's resonance and forward motion, Combs cited the $12 million Homewood Suites by Hilton Hotel that opened in early January, the extensive investment in downtown of more than $4.25 million, the construction of new housing and apartments throughout the area and the upcoming opening of the Downtown Event Center.

Positive economic developments include the turnaround of the Edgecombe Shopping Center, which was half vacant a few years ago and now is almost 100 percent occupied with a Roses, Pizza Hut and other stores.

A Starbucks and Kay Jewelers are opening soon in front of the Sam's Club on Wesleyan Boulevard. Lidl, the world's fourth-largest grocery chain, opened in Rocky Mount, the first of many in Eastern North Carolina.

Rocky Mount Mills rolled along in 2017, adding more houses, restaurants and signed its first corporate tenent.

Growth at Pfizer and expansions at Nash UNC Health Care help to keep folks in the Twin Counties, Combs said.

Beal Street Square and Ravenswood Crossing made a $20 million investment in affordable housing.

Combs, a real estate agent, said there are fewer available houses for sale now than before the recession. It's a good thing housing is going up, he said, it means investment in Rocky Mount is paying off.

Combs thanked the N.C. Department of Transportation for all the road projects underway in the city, including work on Sunset Avenue and Hunter Hill Road.

"NCDOT has spent a lot of money in Rocky Mount," Combs said.

Everything adds up to more jobs and opportunities in Rocky Mount, Combs said to applause.

The city completed repairs to the Tar River Dam, which was damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

A new litter crew picked up more than 2,000 bags of trash, 149 illegal road signs and 15 tires.

Challenges ahead for the city include combating gentrification and assuring affordable housing, Combs said.

Changes in 2017 included the departure of employees in four key positions. A new city manager has been hired while interims are being used for police chief, assistant city manager and planner.

To wrap up his address, Combs unveiled the city's new logo, "The Center of It All," explaining Rocky Mount was in the heart of the Twin Counties, the halfway point between New York City and Miami and ahead of the curve when it comes to amateur sports with the Rocky Mount Sports Complex and the Downtown Event Center.

This article was updated to correct the actual city budget amount.

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