The Rocky Mount Event Center came back up briefly at Monday evening’s City Council meeting.
During the public input phase of the meeting, retired banker Tom Harris expressed appreciation to City Finance Officer Amy Staton and her team for being able to see a copy of the municipal government’s 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
The report is 191 pages long and contains numerous sets of financial statements about the operations of the municipal government, but Harris on Monday had follow-up remarks.
Specifically, Harris said page 15 of the report mentions the Rocky Mount Public Finance Corp., which is a legally separate component unit essential for the tax credit part of the funding for the event center.
Harris noted the financial results for the Rocky Mount Public Finance Corp. are shown in a “blended” presentation within the full report.
Harris said he believes when one uses the word “blended,” one can go any way.
“But for transparency and for us to continue to know how successful we want this event center to be, I think the financial results of the Rocky Mount Public Finance Corp., the event center, be segregated and not blended in future audit reports,” Harris said.
While the event center, which opened in October 2018, did have an operating deficit, Harris also emphasized the municipal government has a nearly $2.7 million dollar debt service payment this year on the facility.
Harris noted more than $1.45 million being the principal and nearly $1.22 million being the interest.
“And that is just the beginning of a long principal and interest debt amortization,” Harris said.
“So I just want the people to know that, yes, we have a million-dollar deficit in operations,” Harris said. “But on top of that, through the general fund, we do have $2.7 million in debt service.”
Additionally, Harris noted the report specifies the event center expenses were $2.13 million, of which $1.39 million was paid out in operating expenses.
“I think it would be good if there could be a breakdown of what encompasses those operating expenses,” Harris said.
The report is for the period beginning from the end of June 2018 to the end of June 2019.
The newspaper for a story published on Wednesday reported the event center took in slightly more than $1.3 million the first 12 months of operation, while the expenses totaled slightly more than $2.5 million for the same period.
The figures are based on an email received from the municipal Communications and Marketing Department and Florida-based Sports Facilities Management, which oversees the operations of the event center.
The email response was in part an answer to weeks-long requests by the Telegram seeking financial information and statistical data about the event center.
The facility, which opened after being built at a cost of $48 million, is not anticipated to turn a profit for the first few years of operation.
During the public input phase of the Dec. 9 council meeting, Harris called for the panel to provide him and fellow taxpayers information about the financial performance of the event center.
That was after a Dec. 3 report by the Telegram stating the newspaper had at the time been unsuccessful in trying to obtain information about the event center’s finances via the state Public Records Act.
In other business at Monday’s council meeting, the audience heard the municipal government is going to begin working to make city broadcasts of council meetings a reality.
City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney announced she has assembled a committee, led by interim city chief spokeswoman Dorothy Brown Smith, to study and recommend to her the staffing and the capital costs needs associated with televising the council meetings.
Small-Toney said she expects to have follow-up information to share with Mayor Sandy Roberson and the council beginning in the February to March timeframe.
Both Roberson, who was elected on Nov. 5, and Ward 5 Councilman Lige Daughtridge, who was elected on Oct. 8, have told the Telegram they want the council meetings, as well city boards and commission meetings, to be televised live.
Unsuccessful candidate for mayor Bronson Williams on the campaign trail also stated he believes the council meetings should be broadcast.
Local television station WHIG and activist and videographer Curmilus Dancy II broadcast delayed video of the council meetings. Resident Theresa Alston Stokes uses a cellphone while seated in the audience to show the meetings in real time on her Facebook page.