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Council OKs housing, audit boards

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Saturday, February 23, 2019

CHAPEL HILL — The Rocky Mount City Council is creating two important boards, one to help with housing and the other to provide internal audit oversight.

The Workforce Housing Commission and the Internal Audit Committee are set to be approved at Monday's City Council meeting after long discussion Friday during the third day of the council's annual retreat in Chapel Hill.

The Workforce Housing Commission, the brainchild of Susan Perry Cole, first came up in December 2017 and was presented for approval in July 2018. The council ironed out details Friday including 13 members: Eight chosen by the council and mayor, two faith-based members, a member representing the Housing Authority, a developer and a business owner. The commission, which will meet once a month, will advise the council on affordable housing issues.

It wasn't immediately clear when the appointments will be made.

Mayor David Combs said it is important to appoint members who can bring something to the table.

Councilman Tom Rogers said the commission should be made up of people that support the council but who will express themselves when they disagree.

The council also established a committee to receive reports from the city's internal auditor. As it is right now, the auditor answers to the city manager.

The change was suggested a month ago by mayoral candidate Bronson Williams during public comment at a council meeting.

Williams, who attended the retreat, said the change is a welcome one.

"It was a breath of fresh air to see the council establish an internal audit committee and shift the reporting to that committee and not to the city manager," Williams said.

The audit committee will be made up of the mayor, mayor pro tem and two council members.

Williams said he'd like to see a member of the public added to the committee.

The committee's meetings will be open to the public.

In other appointments, Combs recommended Sandy Roberson to the Business Development Authority.

Councilwoman Chris Miller asked whether that was the same person also running for mayor and why he'd want to serve on that board now.

City Clerk Pam Casey said the applications were submitted months ago.

Casey said Lige Daughtridge has expressed interest in continuing to serve on the planning board.

"He wants to serve on the City Council," Councilman Andre Knight said, receiving a knowing chuckle from fellow council members, staff and the Telegram.

The council reappointed Garland Jones to the Central City Revitalization Panel. He currently serves as chairman.

The council also appointed Jesse Gerstl and Charles Roberson to the CCRP. Gerstl is the managing partner of developer LarGerKo. Roberson represents Gottawin, also a real estate development company.

LarGerKo's project at the former Carleton House was discussed by the council.

Assistant City Manager Natasha Hampton-Clayton said the city never received a grant award letter from the state in relation to the Carelton House.

Blackwell said in his experience the state often drops the ball when it comes to correspondence.

"What was read in the newspaper is not reflective of the facts from the city," Blackwell said of Telegram articles reporting on the city's delay in awarding the grant.

The state sent two letters, one in October and one in November, and state Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland announced the grant in an October press release.

The $55,000 grant is meant to help fund a multi-million dollar project to transform the 46,400-square-foot Carleton House into a 64-room boutique hotel on Church Street, which is set to include a restaurant.

City staff presented information on permitting at the Carleton House to show the city has been responsive to developers. Submitted plans needed to be updated related to the pool and electrical systems. The process began in November and has been moving along, according to information from Assistant City Manager Chris Beschler.

Combs said the City Council supports the project.

"We all support it, let's get it done," Combs said.

Hampton-Clayton said an issue with wording in the grant has been fixed by the state and it will be presented to the council Monday.

Contacted after the retreat wrapped up Friday afternoon, Gerstl said LarGerKo continues to be optimistic about the project.

"We’re excited to bring the hotel back to life and be a part of the downtown community," Gerstl said. "Over the past 12 months we have worked hard and invested significantly in Downtown Rocky Mount. We hope the city will support this hotel project, along with all investments downtown, so that residents, businesses and the Rocky Mount Event Center can all succeed."

Gerstl said his request to join the CCRP shows LarGerKo has a continuing desire to work with city staff and the City Council to help put in place improved systems and assistance so that future investors and business owners in the community can have a better experience.

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