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Rhino Times - 2017-12-14
Magazines / Newspapers | Government 2017-12-14 00:00:00
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    Vol. V No. 50 Greensboro, North Carolina www.rhinotimes.com Thursday, December 14, 2017 Parking Deck Open House Rear Ended Scott D. Yost New Chairman’s Vote Shocks Board of Commissioners plus Under The Hammer, Uncle Orson Reviews Everything AND MORE

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    2 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com The Weekly Hammer THE WEEKLY Hammer by John Hammer Yankees – or perhaps to be politically correct I should say people who have moved here from northern states – make fun of the way we deal with snow in the South. And perhaps rightly so. At the first mention that there might be snow, people around here run to the grocery store and buy as much bread and milk as they can carry. Then if there are more than Presented by Snow Shoveling Could Boost NC Economy two fl akes the schools close and a lot of people stay home from work because they don’t drive on white roads. I don’t understand the bread and milk myself, but – since we get more ice than snow – staying off the roads does make sense. But there are some things I don’t understand about men who have moved south from the frozen North. It appears they love to shovel Come home for the holidays December 5 - 24 Buy today! Tickets start at $10! greensboro 232 S. ELM ST. | TRIADSTAGE.ORG | 336.272.0160 snow, and I don’t see the appeal. Golf is not my favorite game but I understand the attraction and even admit being hooked on the game for a while. But shoveling snow – where is the fun in that? When those first flakes are falling, kids get their sleds out, hoping that enough snow will stick to give them a few runs down the hill before it turns to slush, and men from up north get out their trusty snow shovels, no doubt handed down to them by their fathers and grandfathers, and they stand by the front window hoping that enough snow will accumulate so they can at least go out and scrape the sidewalk clear, before all they have is a wet sidewalk. If by chance we get an inch or more, they are in heaven and go out in the midst of the snow and shovel their walk and driveway. They put cardboard on their car’s windshield and pour down a ton of salt. Then they hurry back inside and wait to see if another inch will accumulate and they can do it all over again. Most have learned after one winter that if they want to get out and shovel snow they have to be quick about it. It’s not one of those jobs on the “honey do” list that you can put off until tomorrow because, in the South, by the time tomorrow comes, nine times out of 10 the snow has magically disappeared, and sometimes you can go out and inspect the remains in a T-shirt and shorts because the temperature has suddenly risen to the 70s. Ski resorts in the North Carolina mountains have done pretty well over the years, even though they have to make their own snow. And I wonder why they don’t put snow machines that will build up snow on sidewalks and driveways and charge men from the North a fee per hour to shovel. Those snow machines can put out some snow and men from the North could shovel to their hearts’ content and never have to worry about all the snow melting before they could get the sidewalk clear. The resorts could build a little movie set village with fronts that looked like houses and garages. The Northern men could go out and clear what looks like a driveway up to a nice house, or a McMansion if that was their choice. They could choose to shovel the driveway in front of a one-car, two-car or three-car garage – whatever made them happy. They could even have a black diamond shoveling course for the experts, where they had 100 yards of front sidewalk and a four-car garage that had to be cleared, all the while the snow machine could be pouring more snow on to what had just been shoveled. Judging from what I see around town, this would be immensely popular. Men from the North who stand at their front windows praying that we get maybe 5 inches of snow and ice, something that will be a challenge, and are disappointed because by the time they get on their snow jackets, ski masks, gloves and snow boots all the snow has melted and the best they can do is scrape some slush off the sidewalk, could head up to the North Carolina mountains for a full weekend of snow shoveling. After that they could stack their shovels at the door of a bar and sit around for the rest of the day drinking beer and talking about that shovel full that almost got away, or scraping the concrete for the fi rst time or whatever people who love to shovel snow talk about. Perhaps, after a couple of years, the snow shoveling resorts could have teams and contests pitting the best Beech Mountain snow shoveler against the best from Sugar Mountain. Maybe they could even import some snow shoveling experts from Chicago or Buffalo to see how well they adjust to shoveling artifi cial snow. I think it’s an opportunity for North Carolina to increase its take of tourism dollars because there seems to be a real need for these men from the North, formerly called Yankees, to shovel snow, and they don’t get the chance very often here in North Carolina. Imagine the snow shoveling withdrawal men from the North are going through when they move to Atlanta or Orlando. No doubt they would fl ock to the North Carolina mountains for the chance to shovel snow for a couple of days. It’s something the North Carolina Tourism Board should really consider. Even here in Greensboro, the city could invest in some snow making machines, build a few sidewalks to nowhere (which the city is pretty good at) and, when we have a couple of cold nights, the city could make snow and let people shovel snow for a fee. It’s hard to believe that here, at the very end of 2017, no one has jumped at this opportunity yet.

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 3 table of CONTENTS 2 WEEKLY HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 5 NEW CHAIRMAN’S E-NOTICE VOTE SHOCKS GUILFORD COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS BY SCOTT D. YOST 6 PARKING DECK OPEN HOUSE CROWD DEMANDS ON THE SPOT PUBLIC HEARING – GETS IT BY JOHN HAMMER 10 STATE GIVES HIGH POINT GO AHEAD ON STADIUM FUNDING, DESPITE LACK OF COUNTY SUPPORT BY SCOTT D. YOST 23 YOST COLUMN BY SCOTT D. YOST 35 UNDER THE HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 4 RHINO SHORTS 9, 24 PUZZLE ANSWERS 17 REAL ESTATE 18 NYT CROSSWORD 19 CHILDREN’S SCHEDULE 21 SOUND OF THE BEEP 25 SUDOKU 26 NEWS OF THE WEIRD 28 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 12 NEW GUILFORD COUNTY CHAIRMAN’S PRIORITIES ARE JOBS, SCHOOLS, WATER, CATS, DOGS BY SCOTT D. YOST 15 UNCLE ORSON BY ORSON SCOTT CARD 8 Cover: A rendering of what the corner of Davie and East Market streets may look like with the addition of the proposed parking deck and hotel PUBLISHER Roy Carroll EDITOR-IN-CHIEF John Hammer managing editor ELAINE HAMMER county editor SCOTT D. YOST contributing editor ORSON SCOTT CARD GENERAL MANAGER Joann Zollo creative director ANTHONY COUNCIL advertising consultant DONNA GOODWIN 216 West Market Street, Greensboro NC 27401 P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro NC 27429 | (336) 763-4170 (336) 763-2585 fax | sales@rhinotimes.com | www.rhinotimes.com

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    4 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com RHINO SHORTS by John Hammer Depending on how much you like snow, last week we either dodged a bullet or missed a great opportunity. Saturday the snow was beautiful but the temperature stayed just high enough to keep much from sticking. A couple of degrees colder and we would have had a real snowman, sledding snow, but all we got was the view. I’ll have to check with the woolly worms again because a day of snow in early December, even if it doesn’t stick, seems to indicate a cold winter. At least the Senate election in Alabama is finally over. I can’t imagine how overwhelmed the people of Alabama must be, because even here, where nobody could vote, the coverage appeared to be nonstop. I hope Doug Jones does a good job for his constituents. When he signed up to run, it seemed it was only a question of what Republican would beat him in the general election, but anything can happen in politics, and often it does. The City Council has been pretty quiet for the last few months, which is not unusual in an election year. The councilmembers were understandably distracted by the election. But the first regular meeting of the new council on Tuesday, Dec. 19 is gearing up to be a humdinger. The approval of funding for the two new downtown parking decks is on the agenda. If the open house held this week is any indication, it will attract a crowd. But it’s extremely unlikely that the council, having come this far down the path, with the design of both decks in process, would not approve the funding. The construction contract for the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts is also on the agenda. The contract came in at $56 million and that also seems very likely to pass. But it looks like the first regular meeting for the two new members is going to be a long one. By the end of it the new councilmembers may feel like veterans. I have a bird feeder outside the office window at my house, which I find incredibly interesting and distracting. When you’re supposed to be doing something else, bird watching can be mesmerizing. But in the wee hours of Wednesday morning this week, the Muse and I spent more time than we had to spare staring out the window deer watching. I know that to our country cousins deer have become a nuisance, but we live right off Cornwallis Drive. We have occasionally had deer in the yard, but they have never been grazing right under our backyard light before. Of course, the only reason we were able to watch them for so long was because my constant companion was dead asleep in a different part of the house. Eventually, she woke up and the deer evidently didn’t like being barked at any more than most people do and decided it was a good time to graze in somebody else’s yard, but I hope they come back. Affordable quality you can trust...for over 35 years Synthetic Oil Change...$99 95 Includes up to 7 quarts Castrol Syntec 5w30, fi lter and labor Annual Brake Fluid Change..$99 95 Coolant Change...........$99 95 Looking at Buying a Pre-Owned Car? Ask about our pre-purchase inspections! 2629 Randleman Road | www.kormanautoworks.com 336.275.1494 Gail Dunham, the new mayor of Summerfield, in front of Big Ben in London. Send your Rhinos Around the World to letters@ rhinotimes.com or 216 W. Market St., Greensboro 27401.

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 5 New Chairman’s E-Notice Vote Shocks Guilford County Board of Commissioners by Scott D. Yost When brand new Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson cast his vote at a Thursday, Dec. 7 meeting to delay implementation of a new electronic public notice system, his fellow Republican commissioners were so stunned that they stopped the meeting in its tracks and asked Branson repeatedly if he was sure he’d understood the motion correctly. Once it was clear that Branson knew exactly what his vote meant, some fellow Republicans were visibly irritated with the man they had elected chairman just moments earlier. For months, Guilford County staff – in the clerk’s office, the attorneys office and the Information Services Department – had been working on the project, and, the day after the vote, Commissioner Jeff Phillips – the chairman before Branson took over the job that night – called the vote to put off the project “ridiculous and inconsiderate.” Phillips had quite a bit more to say as well about the way Branson’s vote caused the high-profile project to come to a screeching halt. The commotion came when Branson’s vote, along with those of four Democratic commissioners, delayed the implementation of a pilot program the North Carolina General Assembly approved earlier this year. That legislation gave Guilford County the ability to change the way the public is notified when that notification is required by law. The new legislation will – if the Guilford County Board of Commissioners eventually chooses to do so – allow the county to advertise legally required announcements electronically on the county’s website at no out-of-pocket cost – rather than continue to pay the sky-high ad rates now charged by paid circulation newspapers in Guilford County. The proposed change is, of course, being vehemently opposed by the paid circulation general interest newspapers that have benefited for almost a century from their longstanding monopoly on government notices. In addition to saving the county in advertising costs, the change is expected to generate a great deal of revenue for Guilford County government from municipalities, private attorneys and others who must give public notice for things like foreclosures, deaths, public hearings and divorces. Guilford County is the only county in North Carolina that has an opportunity to be part of the state’s new “e-notice” pilot program. However, the move requires approval by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and Branson’s vote to delay – which broke ranks with his four fellow Republicans on the board – put off a vote on the program’s implementation until the Board of Commissioners’ first meeting of 2018 on Thursday, Jan. 19. At the Dec. 7 meeting, Democratic Commissioner Carolyn Coleman made the motion to delay a decision on the matter after Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne informed the board it was likely the affected newspaper publishers would file a lawsuit if the program went into effect. Coleman said a delay would give the two parties time to sit down and perhaps work out a compromise, thus avoiding a lawsuit. When the 5-to-4 vote total was revealed on the big screen in the board’s second floor meeting room of the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro, it left some Republicans aghast and some Democrats surprised. A delighted Coleman suddenly (continued on page 13) I live alone Saving a life from a potential catastrophe EVERY 10 MINUTES! but I’m never alone. I have Life Alert. ® One press of a button sends help fast, 24/7, even when you can’t reach a phone. AS SEEN ON TV For a FREE brochure call: 1-855-406-6256

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    6 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Parking Deck Open House Crowd Demands On the Spot Public Hearing – And Gets It by John Hammer Nelson Johnson of the Beloved Community Center, with the help of newly elected Councilmember Michelle Kennedy, briefly took over the open house held by the City of Greensboro on the two proposed downtown parking decks Tuesday, Dec. 12, but Mayor Nancy Vaughan wrested back control. The open house on the parking decks was held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. It was not a public hearing and never purported to be a public hearing, but Johnson and his followers wanted it to be a public hearing. The way these city-sponsored open houses work is that the city places renderings, maps and text on tripods around the room and a large number of city staff members are available to answer questions from the public about the projects. It is designed to keep the opposition of any citysponsored plan from being able to coalesce into a group, and it usually works. Johnson and company didn’t like the format because they wanted to be able to confront the city officials as a group, not as individuals. At first Johnson and his contingent confronted City Attorney Tom Carruthers, demanding that the city hold a public hearing so they could question City Manager Jim Westmoreland, who had not yet arrived. Carruthers explained the format, but agreed to call Westmoreland. The group then took their complaint to a more sympathetic audience and talked to Kennedy, who then called Vaughan aside for a private word. Councilmember Goldie Wells also participated in this discussion. Seven of nine city councilmembers were present for the open house. Vaughan said that she and Kennedy agreed that Vaughan would welcome everyone to the event and explain the format. At this point, Johnson shouted to the crowd of about 50 that was milling around the lobby of the civil rights museum, explaining that they demanded a public hearing. Vaughan moved to the center of the crowd and began explaining to Johnson that that was not the format of this particular meeting – that the format was to allow people to get information about the project and have their questions answered by staff. Vaughan said, “We’ve had three public meetings on this already.” In response to a shouted remark from the crowd, she said, “We are not hiding. We encourage you to ask questions of the proper staffers.” People continued to complain about not being able to confront city officials as a group, and at this point Kennedy said, “Clearly a lot of people have a lot of questions,” and suggested that everyone go in the museum auditorium for a public meeting. Vaughan turned to Kennedy and said, “We just had a conversation and that is not what you and I discussed.” Vaughan said later, “Evidently Michelle must have gotten intimidated by the crowd.” Wells agreed with Kennedy that a public meeting should be held in the auditorium to answer questions. The situation at that point was controlled bedlam. Mayor Vaughan PHOTO BY JOHN HAMMER Mayor Nancy Vaughan (center) discussing how the open house would proceed with Councilmember Sharon Hightower, while Councilmember Michelle Kennedy (left) and Councilmember Tammi Thurm listen in. Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland and Mayor Nancy Vaughan sitting on the stage at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum on Tuesday at an impromptu public hearing to answer questions about the two proposed downtown parking decks. and Councilmembers Kennedy, Wells, Marikay Abuzuaiter and Tammi Thurm were all standing together surrounded by the crowd, which included Johnson’s followers, as well as a number of people who had come for the open house and weren’t shouting at the City Council. Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann arrived later. At one point, Carruthers and City Clerk Betsey Richardson were explaining to councilmembers that they could not have a full blown public hearing in the auditorium because of a lack of notification and lack of any means to keep minutes of the meeting, which are both required by law. Carruthers suggested that no more than four councilmembers attend the meeting in the auditorium so that a quorum would not be present and it would not be a meeting, and that’s what they did. Vaughan and Westmoreland, who arrived shortly after the decision was made to hold the meeting, sat on the edge of the stage at the front of the auditorium and answered questions PHOTO BY JOHN HAMMER for over an hour. Vaughan did a good job of controlling the meeting and, for the most part, kept people from making long speeches about “crony capitalism” and putting every penny the city has into affordable housing. Vaughan explained that the parking decks would be funded with bonds, but it had nothing to do with the bonds passed in 2016. She said that the city would borrow the money and the debt would be paid back mainly with the fees received from renting parking spaces, not just in the two new decks but from all the parking facilities owned by the city, as well as from the increased revenue the city would receive from the hotels built on top of the decks, the new office building that is planned to be built next to the baseball stadium and other development that would result from the increased availability of parking downtown. Vaughan also explained that three of the city’s parking decks were at capacity and one was nearing capacity. Several people complained about (continued on next page)

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 7 parking (continued from previous page) the plan to rent a large number of spaces in the new deck to Lincoln Financial. Vaughan said that Lincoln Financial was a good employer that paid good salaries and it was a benefit to the city to have Lincoln hire more people to work in Greensboro. It’s hard to understand how renting parking spaces to employees who work downtown is a bad thing, but several speakers said the spaces should not be rented on a monthly basis. Carruthers came forward to explain that while February One Place would be technically closed, it would only be closed to traffic during construction and would then reopen to traffic. Many of the “questions” were by people who were simply opposed to the city building parking decks downtown, period. Vaughan said, “I had someone talk to me earlier today who said if we don’t move forward with the parking decks and the performing arts center we are going to be the fifth largest city in North Carolina, and that is not a good thing. We can’t guarantee every single penny. At some point you have to make a decision and lead. We need to put people to work. I am not going to be mayor of the fifth largest city in North Carolina.” There are major questions about the parking deck planned for East Market and South Davie streets, but they have to do with easements owned by Rocky Scarfone across the current parking lot to the back of Cone Denim Entertainment Center. Scarfone and his attorney Amiel Rossabi have been in discussions with the city since July about making accommodations so that Cone Denim will have access to the back of its building, which fronts on South Elm Street. Carruthers says that in his opinion the city has made reasonable accommodations for Cone Denim during the construction when they will have access to an 18-foot alley that will run between the parking deck and the buildings that face Elm. According to Rossabi, most of the acts arrive in PHOTO BY JOHN HAMMER Nelson Johnson (far right) and some of the people demanding a public hearing at the open house held at the civil rights museum on Tuesday. buses with trailers behind them and they would have to back into the 18-foot alley from East Market Street. Although in a letter to City Council, Rossabi agreed it was possible, he said it was extremely difficult, and that, while possible, they didn’t believe that all the bus drivers would have the skill necessary to complete the maneuver. Even backing into the alley would only bring the buses within about 90 feet of the back door. Also, Rossabi raises the question of the fire exit at (continued on page 8)

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    8 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Running of the Balls in Sunset Hills PHOTOS BY SANDY GROOVER parking (continued from page 7) the back of the building, which would be impeded by having a bus taking up most of the space in the alley. Once the deck is built, the city’s plan is to allow Scarfone access to parking spaces designed for buses on the first floor of the deck. But once again that would place the buses about 90 feet from the back door. Rossabi’s letter to the City Council indicates that the proposal by the city does not provide the access that is necessary for Cone Denim to continue to have its relationship with Live Nation to book the big name acts that it currently has, and if the city moves forward under the current plan his client plans to sue. Carruthers said that if an agreement with Scarfone wasn’t reached that the city planned to condemn the alley to Davie Street. He said the value of that alley had been estimated at $55,000. Carruthers also said that the city knew about the easements owned by Scarfone when it bought the land. The city staff may have known but the City Council was not aware of the easements and the potential problem the parking deck would cause for a business on Elm Street. Carruthers said that easements are not uncommon in the Central Business District and that the city deals with easement issues all the time, so the fact that this property had two easements was not something that he thought would affect the purchase of the property. If the staff did know, it raises a number of questions. One is, why wasn’t the City Council informed before it voted to purchase the property? And perhaps, even more importantly, why weren’t the businesses on South Elm that would be affected by having a parking deck built behind their buildings notified? And why weren’t attempts made to accommodate Scarfone before the design of the deck was underway? When this all started, one of the city’s complaints was that the parking deck would have to be redesigned to make accommodations for Scarfone. The 18-foot alley was not part of the original plan, and back in August it was going to be a 14-foot alley. One plan that was considered was to have the alley continue all the way across the block to February One Place so the buses could pull in from Market and exit on February One. But the proposed alley narrows to under five feet wide on the February One side, making it only useful to pedestrians. Back in August, when former City Councilmember Mike Barber became involved in the discussions, he said that it appeared the city was ready to condemn the easement and Scarfone was ready to sue. He said his job was to calm everyone down and keep them at the negotiating table. Now that Barber is no longer involved, it appears that the city will condemn the easement and Scarfone will sue. Vaughan and several councilmembers said they planned to vote to go ahead with the project next week whether an agreement with Scarfone was reached or not. Vaughan said she thought the city had made reasonable accommodations for Scarfone, even if it wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Someone familiar with the situation said that if the council votes to approve the project on Dec. 19, then Scarfone will file suit on Dec. 20, and also that it seemed likely Scarfone would be able to get an injunction to hold up construction because once the parking deck is constructed it would be impractical for the city to tear down a portion of the deck to give Scarfone access to the back of his building. The city has also discussed buying the Cone Denim building. In Rossabi’s letter to the City Council, he places the value of the building at $5 million, but that the price would be $5 million plus consideration for lost income. There do not appear to be any issues with the parking deck planned for the corner of Bellemeade and North Eugene streets that will be built by the Carroll Companies, which also owns this newspaper. The current estimated cost of building that deck is $35 million.

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    City Council Likely to Approve Tanger Construction Contract www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 9 by John Hammer If things go according to plan, on Jan. 8, the final stage of a project that began as an idea thrown out by then Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins at a City Council retreat in January 2011 could begin. The City Council is supposed to vote on the contract for construction of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts next Tuesday, Dec. 19. The low bid on the contract was made by T.A. Loving for $56 million, which is considerably lower than some councilmembers were expecting. If the City Council accepts the bid, the schedule calls for construction to begin Jan. 8 and take 25 to 27 months, so it would be complete in the spring of 2020. It appears the City Council will approve the contract despite the fact that the Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) goals reportedly were not met. The goals are goals and not quotas. As long as the company makes a “good faith effort” to meet the goals of hiring subcontracting companies that are owned by women or blacks, then it has met the terms of the contract. One problem that contractors are currently having in meeting the MWBE goals is caused by the increase in construction; many MWBE firms already have all the work they can handle – which is a good thing unless you are desperately trying to hire minority contractors. It appears that T.A. Loving did make a good faith effort. Councilmember Sharon Hightower has said that she is definitely voting no because the goals were not reached, but Hightower sometimes votes no when the MWBE goals are reached because she says she thinks the goals, which are set by the city, are too low. Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that she wasn’t sure what the vote would be, but added, “I believe it will pass.” Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter, who has consistently voted against all the many motions having to do with The Tanger, said that she hadn’t made her mind up but that there was a good chance she would vote for the construction contract. Vaughan said that the Community Foundation had raised $40 million and the city would spend a total of $43 million on the project. In 2011, when the discussion was about demolishing the old War Memorial Auditorium and building a new one, Perkins said he thought $10 million could be raised privately to pay the additional cost of building a performing arts center downtown. As things stand now, Perkins was off by about $30 million on the amount of money that could be raised privately. The first downtown location that was chosen for The Tanger was the site of the old YWCA, where LeBauer Park is now. After preliminary designs – which were not well received – were made public, the decision was made that there wasn’t enough land to construct what the city wanted to build. The result of that decision is LeBauer Park, which has been a great addition to the downtown. Coliseum Manager Matt Brown was put in charge of construction and held things up when he decided the bid for grading and infrastructure was too high and rebid it. That decision saved the city $1 million on the first phase of construction. It won’t be a done deal until the City Council votes next Tuesday, but it certainly appears that Jan. 8, the final phase of The Tanger will get underway. Crossword Solution From last week’s issue A P I E C E D I E M F L A P G P S G R A V L A X O D A Y A O N E R O T R O Y A L T A S T E R S C A N T L O S E O M E N M E T A T H E F A R E A S T K A R P O V T E M P A P P I N N E S A B E T D A B T E A L D E C O D R I V E T R A I N S H E N I E R U N R A L L Y C A R S A L B L A S T S O S L O H U T I C K Y Y I N S H I V A M O O N R O O F A S A D A S A N B R A I N S U R G E O N S E P A D I P S O S E E S T A R S A G A P E I O U G A T S V C S O R E O A D D E R S B A M I A M W O M A N R U E B E R E T M I N D R E A D E R S S L E D D E S I C H O S A K S E C R U S M T V S E T H R E P O T S N I X O N T A P E S A C E D O N I T A N I S E O I L T H R O W I N G R I C E L E N E D N A Y O Y O B R I T C O M S A G R O S Y E T A L S A S S E S

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    10 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, December 14, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com State Gives High Point Go Ahead on Stadium Funding, Despite Lack of County Support by Scott D. Yost In this age when people are very much supposed to understand that no means no, the City of High Point absolutely refuses to take no for an answer. High Point just got state approval to issue $35 million in limited obligation bonds to fund a new baseball stadium – a centerpiece of that city’s downtown rejuvenation project – but that approval came despite the fact that Guilford County didn’t respond to High Point’s calls to help fund it by contributing roughly $11 million in anticipated future tax revenue. High Point wanted that money to come from expected property tax revenue generated by development near the stadium. Despite the fact that High Point now has a funding plan firmly in place, city leaders are still putting the moves on Guilford County commissioners in hopes that they can be wooed into cooperation. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners held its last scheduled meeting of 2017 on Thursday, Dec. 7, however, there wasn’t a peep out of the commissioners about the High Point stadium project until the very end of that meeting when Commissioner Carlvena Foster, who represents much of High Point, did finally bring it up. “I remain hopeful that my colleagues on this board will become a part of this project,” she said, after pointing out that the loan had been approved by the Local Government Commission – a state oversight committee that by law must sign off on local government loans of this type before bond debt can be issued. Like Foster, High Point city leaders still aren’t willing to take no for an answer. To be fair, that’s in part because the county has never given the city an official no – or even an official reply of any sort. On Sept. 21, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to delay a decision on the proposal for the county to help repay the stadium loan. The motion that night, made by Commissioner Skip Alston and seconded by Commissioner Kay Cashion, both Democrats, called for the board “to postpone a vote on the Interlocal agreement for a period of 60 to 90 days.” That 90-day “deadline” falls on Dec. 20, and the commissioners have no plans to meet again in 2017. So, officially, High Point still hasn’t heard back from Guilford County about its request, and it won’t hear anything else this year. However, if a man asks a woman out repeatedly for four months straight and never gets a reply – well, that in itself is a reply, and not exactly a promising one. Some commissioners don’t even want to discuss the matter anymore, and one, when asked about the possibility of the board taking an official vote on the matter, stated, “What’s the point in that?” There currently aren’t enough votes to pass anything, the commissioner said, and the situation would have to change drastically before the Board of Commissioners would approve a request for support. Also, the county commissioners feel even less of a need to jump in with funding now that High Point has already been approved for the loan and begun the demolition of buildings on the stadium site. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the Local Government Commission approved the city’s request to issue $35 million in limited obligation bonds backed by the stadium as collateral. Though the City of High Point has a AAA rating on its debt, the bonds, which aren’t backed by the full faith and credit of the city, are expected to have a AA+ rating from Standard & Poor’s and an AA– from Fitch Ratings Inc. One Local Government Commission staff member characterized the discussion at the meeting as a “very long” one. In the end, all but one Local Government Commission member voted to approve High Point’s request. North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell, the chairman of the Local Government Commission, abstained from the vote. Folwell explained why he did. “My job as chair is to set the agenda and facilitate the discussion,” he said. “There were people who voiced concerns and I felt like it was an acknowledgement of those concerns.” Folwell added that he wants to see the stadium and the associated downtown revitalization project turn out to be a big success and a real economic driver for the High Point area. “There is no one who wants this to be a homerun for the taxpayers more than me,” Folwell said. He said he thought the Local Government Commission meeting went well and that everyone expressed their viewpoints cordially. Commission members, he added, asked good questions and High Point representatives answered those questions. “It was very thorough,” Folwell said of the discussion of the project at the meeting in Raleigh. “I thought it was a very healthy exchange.” Former High Point Mayor Bill Bencini, who was replaced by new High Point Mayor Jay Wagner just one day before the Local Government Commission hearing, said he thought the city officials did a great job presenting the project to the commission. He said one opponent, a High Point resident who contacted some commissioners to offer the members his objections, spoke against the project. However, after the discussion, the Local Government Commission voted to approve the plan, the only exception being Folwell’s abstention. At the hearing, Wagner and High Point City Manager Greg Demko presented the financing plan. They had 20 minutes to make their case. Opponents were also allowed 20 minutes but the lone opponent didn’t take up all that time. Bencini said the Local Government Commission asked why the Guilford County Board of Commissioners wasn’t participating in the loan payback. High Point officials stressed to the Local Government Commission that the financing could be done without the county’s help and added that the commissioners had voted in September to delay their decision for up to 90 days. When asked, “What’s your biggest fear?” High Point officials said their biggest fear was doing nothing and seeing a continued decline in the value of downtown High Point property values. Bencini said he was surprised by the number of questions the Local Government Commission asked about baseball team ownership. He also said he was very happy to see the city get done with this major step. He pointed out that the city began tearing down a building on the site the Friday before the meeting as part of a big demolition party to celebrate the stadium. The former mayor said a large number of citizens came out for the event but said, interestingly, Foster was the only Guilford County commissioner who attended. Bencini said Foster had been trying to get the commissioners to fund the project, and Alston had tried to help put a deal together as well. However, neither of them had gotten much traction with the rest of the board. Bencini said Foster’s efforts where greatly appreciated even if the effort hadn’t been successful yet. “She is now the hero of High Point,” the former mayor said. Bencini said the next step was selling the bonds and breaking ground. He also said he and others in High Point would still like to see the Guilford County Board of Commissioners vote to approve some county financing. He said the city is entitled to an up or down vote and said it’s possible Foster would make the motion and Alston would second it. “It wouldn’t be right just to let it sit there forever,” Bencini said of the city’s stadium financing request to the county. Alston said that, with High Point (continued on next page)

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