During a Greenville City Council meeting on May 9 at 6 p.m., council members discussed and approved budgets, ordinances and contracts for the upcoming 2022 to 2023 fiscal year.
Andrew Schmidt, executive director of the Convention & Visitors Authority (CVA), presented the budget for the 2022 to 2023 fiscal year. Schmidt said the CVA’s mission is to foster an environment of tourism in the Pitt County and Greenville area. He said bringing in visitors is beneficial for the local economy.
CVA has 5 strategic goals, Schmidt said, including recapturing lost business, working with local hospitality organizations to implement safe practice policies that protect visitors’ health and safety, expanding the African American Cultural Trail, placemaking efforts to enrich cultural assets with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, and lastly creating a tourism master plan.
Schmidt said CVA proposes a $1.675 million budget with $1.2 million coming from occupancy tax and around $400,000 going to the Greenville Convention Center. He also said the CVA had $2.4 million in revenue with 59% in occupancy tax collections.
“Outdoor recreation is something we will concentrate on heavily. Outdoor recreation is one of the fastest growing tourism segments right now in our state and that was a direct result of the pandemic,” Schmidt said. “We have got some great assets here. And then also we are going to concentrate on diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Tracy Shroud, board chair for Sheppard Memorial Library, said the library has been supporting Greenville community members since 1930 by providing various enriching services such as books, computers and programming with mobile options to serve Pitt County.
Shroud said circulation has increased and matched pre-pandemic levels with an average of 5,000 books checked out a month. She said the library has been able to provide normal services as well as virtual children’s programming and curbside services.
In fall of 2020, the library provided three computer courses including basic computer skills, Microsoft Word and job assistant courses, Shroud said, and another program partnered with North Carolina Works to provide employee assistance.
“Your (the city council) support has enabled the library to provide vital services in support of literacy, computer literacy and lifelong learning to help our citizens at all ages and our community to succeed and thrive into 2022 and beyond,” Shroud said.
Director of Libraries Greg Needam presented the budget asking for $1.4 million from Greenville City Planning and an additional request of $53,333 to replace the library's Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) system.
Needam said the library has had multiple renovations including construction on the slate roof and a new courier van. Since the library also supports the Town of Bethel and Winterville, he said the library is asking for extra support and leniency with the budget.
“We are trying to pitch in on these projects and it's a lot of capital projects. We needed to replace the shelving,” Needam said. “We did that at almost every location to maximize shelving to hold a larger collection. Extra bit for the roof, extra bit for the air conditioning.”
Tony Cannon, general manager for Greenville Utilities Commission (GUC), proposed a budget of $274 million. Cannon said natural gas is at a 20 year high and accounts for 30% of the cost for energy. The annual turnover for Greenville is $7 million, Cannon said.
GUC is looking to balance debt and equity to keep costs low for customers, Cannon said. He said if funds are balanced, then the company can expand on capital investments and continue to provide for the city and participate in competitive contracts.
“We will know what the impact of those gas rates are on our power costs on July 1st,” Cannon said. “I think they are gonna be much higher than anticipated. That is why we put $5 million in the budget to cover that next year.”
Don Octigan, the director of Greenville’s Recreation and Parks Department, was awarded a contract for the design and construction of the Chris Smith Mountain Bike Trails, Bicycle Skills Park and the pump track at Wildwood Park.
Octigan said the project began its design in November 2021 with the support of Grady-White Boats and the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation. He said the contract is with Nature Trails Limited Liability Company (LLC) for $722,500 and will take 12 months to complete.
“We are looking at six miles of single-track mountain bike trails, a skills park and a pump track. So the skills park and pump track are the only park facility of its kind in Coastal (North) Carolina,” Octigan said. “So, really exciting feature of this project and the mountain bike trails are designed to be utilized as a race course.”
Joe Breece, member of Animal Protective Services (APS) for the Greenville Police Department, conducted the first reading of revised ordinances passed by the council. Breece said there are revised Trap and Release guidelines that outline new civil and criminal penalties. The first offense is $100, second offense is $250 and third offense is $300 with potential criminal class three misdemeanors.
New dangerous animal guidelines outline ownership restrictions, signage on property, insurance on the animal and potential inspections, Breece said. He also said if the animal leaves the property, it must be leashed and muzzled as well as requirements for spaying, neutering and microchipping.
“Dangerous animals are defined through state statute as either an animal deemed by the local municipality as potentially dangerous,” Breece said. “So the animal has killed or inflicted severe injury on a domesticated animal, inflicted severe injury upon a person through a bite, or is trained for dog fighting. So it’s (Trap and Release guidelines) restrictions on ownership for that.”
Michael Cowin, deputy city manager, proposed two letters of intent, both of which the council passed. One of the letters of intent is between the City of Greenville and Taft Family Ventures for the economic development of city owned property at 729 Dickinson Avenue, Cowin said. He said the second letter is between the City of Greenville, Taft Family Ventures and Stark Holding LLC for the economic development of Ficklin Street.
Cowin said the development of Dickinson Avenue is a proposed $30 million budget which includes relocation of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the development of Taft’s historic building to class A. In addition to this, Cowin said the budget includes market rate housing with a parking deck of 390 spaces to be leased for $90 with a 2% increase every year.
The Ficklin Street project involves a budget for $3.1 million for updated streetscaping with new bike racks, benches and lighting, Cowin said. He said the project would also include redoing the stormwater pipe underneath the street. Another $20 million project proposed by Cowin was the building of a Marriott Boutique Hotel with 72 rooms which will replace the E.B. Ficklen Tobacco Warehouse with a potential increase in $200,000 in tax revenue.
“The project is estimated to create a $50 million dollar investment in Uptown Greenville. The project will increase the city’s tax revenues in the form of property tax, sales tax, occupancy tax,” Cowin said. “There will also be public park revenues, as well as the proceeds from the sale of the property. And the project is very conservatively estimating a net back of $1.3 million over a fifteen year period.”
Lastly, Bryon Hayes, director of financial services, proposed a budget of intent for $253 million. The council passed and approved the budget.
Hayes said the budget includes $200,000 to increase recreational spaces, $480,000 from revenue and $556,000 allocated to the Greenville Fire Department.
“A budget of intent includes adjustments to the general fund, record parks capital projects fund, facilities improvement funds, public works, community development, engineering and fire rescue capital funds,” Hayes said.