While an official decision on the proposed event center has not been scheduled, Rocky Mount City Council could vote Monday to move forward with plans for funding the more than $42 million project.
“I made a motion that was seconded in the past that we empower city staff to pursue funding for the event center with the latest New Market Tax Credits and EB-5 funding, so I expect that action along with discussion will take place at the meeting,” Councilman Reuben Blackwell said. “I certainly hope that the majority of the council feels this project is sound enough and fiscally feasible to begin to look seriously at our funding options for it.”
After Blackwell read a prepared statement at the April 28 council meeting, a motion was made for staff to do some research and schedule a workshop for Monday to discuss the project in further detail before making a decision to pursue funding. The workshop will start at 5 p.m. in the committee room with presentations on how the proposed center would affect the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, a five-year projection for the General Fund Operations and what the next steps are for funding the center.
“I want to provide the information the council needs to make a good decision,” City Manager Charles Penny said. “That includes what the overall financial picture looks like.”
Penny said several consultants and analysts will be at the meeting to answer any questions the council members might have. The workshop is open to the public, but public comments or questions are not permitted during the meeting.
Two of the funding options for the project are EB-5 Funding — a federal program that provides a visa to foreign investors in exchange for an investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States – and New Market Tax Credits – another federal program designed to spur new or increased investment in low-income communities.
“These federal programs are designed to help census tracts that are distressed and need a shot in the arm,” Penny said. “But to get a shot at these funds, we have to make sure we are included in allocations when they are submitted in September.”
If the council pursues the center funding, an econometrics study has to be completed as well as a good deal of work on the part of consultants to advocate for the project among community development entities who submit the allocations. Both will take time, which Blackwell said is why the council needs to decide soon on whether to pursue those options.
“This project is significant and interesting enough that when we shop on the tax credit market, I believe it will attract a great amount of private investment opportunities for our community,” Blackwell said. “I firmly believe that this is a transformative, catalytic project that will benefit our entire region, but especially our downtown area.”
Several projects such as the Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences and the Douglas Block renovation have been funded through the use of tax credits, which allows for a percentage of the financing to be forgiven later on down the road.
“In order to get $12 million forgiven in the future, we have to make sure we raise $40 million in New Market Tax Credits, which is a hefty task,” Penny said. “It isn’t reasonable to think one will fund the whole project, so we need to get three or four community development entities to include us. I think we’ve got a good shot at that and we are going to give it our best.”
In addition to considering authorizing city staff to move forward with pursuing funding for the project, council members will consider an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation for 100 percent reimbursement of more than 7,000 linear feet of sidewalks at the 7 p.m. council meeting. According to Director of Engineering Brad Kerr, the city was approved for a Safe Routes to School grant for sidewalk construction around Baskerville and Williford elementary schools, which covers all of the $500,000 project to be started next summer.
Other items up for a vote on the 7 p.m. agenda include:
- Receipt of nearly $7,000 in sponsorship from Coca-Cola for supplies at the Sports Complex.
- Dedication of the South Rocky Mount Community Center’s multipurpose room in honor of longtime resident and advocate Mary Dew Barnes.
- Proclamation of May as Historic Preservation Month and the week of May 18-24 as Public Works Week.