EDC supports city position

Jun. 11, 2014 @ 03:31 PM

Directors for the Henderson-Vance Economic Development Commission board are on record supporting keeping a position in the City of Henderson’s budget.

The city’s proposed budget plans to cut the Downtown Development Commission’s full-time position. A public hearing Monday evening, three EDC members spoke against the move.

Wednesday morning at the EDC meeting, the full board voiced support.

“I think it is important if there is any way to maintain that position that we do that,” said board chairman Tom Church. “Some things accomplish more than you see on the surface and I think it’s probably a position that’s like that.”

Chuck Teeter said the downtown manager position is needed, especially with construction of McGregor Hall.

“We are getting ready to make a huge investment downtown with the performing arts center,” he said. “You really want to make sure you have the downtown businesses to thrive off of that.

“It would be a shame not to have anyone focusing on that area and you build that new performing arts center, then all of a sudden that downtown starts dying. That would just not be a good situation.”

Beginning in fiscal year 2012, the general fund budget included $63,200 to cover the cost of one full-time position and basic expenses for the DDC. The proposal to cut the position is similar to a year ago, when brothers Sam and George Watkins went to a public hearing and voiced support. The council eventually put the position back in the budget.

City Manager Ray Griffin said $10,000 would remain in the budget to fund the DDC if the full-time position is eliminated.

Teeter presented the motion to recommend keeping the position.

“We would like the city to entertain that position because we think it’s vital to economic development in downtown Henderson,” he said.

But the board didn’t offer any potential funding sources that would allow the position to remain in the budget.

“I don’t mean to be argumentative because I think the effort downtown is good,” said Griffin. “It’s a matter of living within our means. Does the EDC board support raising taxes and or fees in part or whole to help support restoring the position to the budget?”

Board members did not go on record to support an increase in property taxes or fees, but Church said he would be in favor of a small raise in taxes.

“I feel strongly enough that the small tax increase it would take to do that would be worth it, but I know that I am in the minority of supporting any sort of tax increase,” he said. “Sometimes you just have got to bite the bullet and do that to keep going forward.”

In other business:

• Board members received an update from John Foster on the “Registered with the EDC” signs for its site identification committee. One sign has been placed at the former Toyota facility on Raleigh Road after the owner registered with the EDC and posted the site on a statewide database.

• Board member Andrea Harris moved a motion, passed by the board, to engage with the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill in order to research the demographics and skill sets available in the area.

• Harris also moved a motion, passed by the board, to inquire with the N.C. Department of Transportation about removing trees along Interstate 85 to increase the visibility of Triangle North from the highway.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.