FAYETTEVILLE – The culmination of the Rocky Mount City Council’s annual retreat Friday was a preliminary discussion about a bond referendum proposed for spring 2014.
“We’ve got to invest money to spur activity in our community,” City Manager Charles Penny told council members. “Raleigh has a huge tax base, but they have hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to move projects along. We’ve got to reinvest in our community if we want other people to reinvest in it as well.”
Penny proposed an estimated $50 million bond to pay for resurfacing failing streets and constructing sidewalks around the city, neighborhood revitalization, additions to soccer fields at the sports complex and stadium, relocating the judicial center downtown and renovating the Booker T. Washington High School.
“We need something in the package that everyone can sink their teeth into,” Penny said.
Councilman Tom Rogers said the list of projects included in the proposal all are about “creating a more livable city.” Councilman Reuben Blackwell said the proposal coordinates with what the community needs to realize the vision of residents and officials.
“I think Rocky Mount is ready for this,” Blackwell said.
Penny and Finance Director Amy Staton proposed hiring an independent financial advisor to assess the city’s credit and debt to prepare for the credit rating needed to pass a bond referendum.
“This is an independent person to just lay it all on the table,” Staton said. “They won’t tell you to do it or not to do it. They’ll just tell you what they find.”
Staton said three financial advisors bid for the position and a recommendation will go before the City Council soon.
Public Affairs Manager Tameka Kenan-Norman also presented an update on the work she and other staff have done since she was hired nearly a year ago.
In addition to writing press releases, Kenan-Norman maintains a bi-weekly City Beat newsletter with nearly 2,500 subscribers, an employee newsletter, has produced a magazine targeting residents and another targeting employees as well as completed 49 television shows for TV 19 and two Talk of the Towns.
Kenan-Norman said her goal is to streamline the image of the city into a united front and create a comprehensive communications plan. While her marketing budget is $300, she said she has used marketing funds from other city departments to help pay to promote programs and events.
Blackwell said he is supportive of the work she has done and the idea of developing a regional marketing initiative with the support of other local governments, organizations and businesses.
“Just adding money to our budget isn’t going to do what is needed to change our image,” he said. “It is going to take all of us coming together.”