Edgecombe County commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to table a resolution in support of the parking facility component of the much-discussed hotel and parking garage project proposed to be located on the Edgecombe County side of downtown Rocky Mount and adjacent to the Rocky Mount Event Center.
County Manager Eric Evans told commissioners that Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney had advised him she had placed a hold on the project, which calls for having a hotel, parking garage, retail space and housing in a public-private partnership with developer David Hunt of Jackson, Tenn.
Small-Toney’s decision came after Hunt notified her Saturday evening that he had been indicted in Mississippi.
Hunt was one of four people indicted Feb. 25 in connection with an alleged bribery and bid-rigging scheme said to have been orchestrated by former Mississippi Department of Education official Carissa Neal. The indictment, which was unsealed Aug. 25, charged Hunt on two counts: conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and wire fraud.
Hunt is the developer behind the project — which has drawn unanimous opposition from the Nash County Travel and Tourism Board — and remains under review by the Local Government Commission.
In an earlier story in the Telegram, Smith-Toney noted that Hunt’s indictment had nothing to do with the Rocky Mount project.
The proposed resolution was the first action item on Tuesday’s agenda and cited data included in the hotel proposal, which was approved 13 months ago by the previous Rocky Mount City Council in a 5-2 vote.
The resolution included the following: “Analysis has determined that once all project components are completed and are fully operational and achieving 100 percent of projected revenues (in 2024), it is expected that an estimated 322 direct, indirect and induced jobs will be sustained, resulting in a financial impact of $34.988 million (annually).”
It also referred to the same analysis claiming that “during 2024, the anticipated (first) full year of operation, the development is expected to generate a direct, indirect and induced tax impact of $556,469 to the City of Rocky Mount, and $915,269 to Edgecombe County.”
The resolution also noted the support of the project by the board of commissioners and “strongly” encouraged the LGC to approve the city’s capital lease application for the parking facility component.
The proposed resolution came on the heels of a letter to the editor in the Sunday edition of the Telegram from county board Chairman Leonard Wiggins, a Rocky Mount resident, in which he encouraged the LGC to approve the project and asked why it had been subjected to such scrutiny, intimating that the opposition was racially motivated.
“I am perplexed that no other similar development in other parts of the city have (sic) received such scrutiny and opposition,” Wiggins wrote. “City officials have clearly shown that this project is financially feasible, and it does not impose any additional burden on the tax-paying citizens of Rocky Mount. It certainly makes sense to me to support this development, considering it would be complementary to other development in the downtown area and in our region.
“Conversely, it makes no sense at all that organizations such as the Nash County Tourism Development Authority would take board action to oppose it when tourism would be boosted by this project,” he wrote. “It’s past time to provide a real economic infusion — new jobs, commerce and housing — to Rocky Mount’s predominantly African-American communities on the city’s Edgecombe County side, which has the greatest need and has always been last in line for economic development.”