12/13/17 — Looking forward, talking progress

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Looking forward, talking progress

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 13, 2017 5:50 AM

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The audience watches a video on Wayne County projects during Tuesday night's State of the Community. From left are Wayne County Chamber of Commerce President Kate Daniels, Goldsboro City Manager Scott Stevens, Mayor Chuck Allen, Wayne County Manager George Wood and Wayne Commission Chairman Bill Pate.

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Wayne County Commission Chairman Bill Pate talks about the county's ongoing projects Tuesday night during the first State of the Community sponsored by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. Nearly 100 people attended the event held at Goldsboro Event Center.

The state of the Wayne County community is one of growth spurred by collaboration, but one that is still facing challenges -- mainly planning for the future.

Those were the assessments Tuesday evening of Goldsboro Mayor Chuck Allen and Wayne County Commission Chairman Bill Pate during the first State of the Community program sponsored by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

Nearly 100 attended the event held at the Goldsboro Event Center.

To underscore their confidence in the community, the two pointed to a number of ongoing projects such as the county's Maxwell Regional Agricultural Center and the city's new multi-sports complex -- both galvanized by cooperation between the two governments.

For Pate, a major challenge is finding the money to meet the state's new mandate lowering the student/teacher ratio in first through third grade.

Pate even used his time to call on James Wade Jr., venue director and general manager of the Maxwell Center, to provide an update on the center and to encourage the audience to participate in a brick paver fundraiser.

For Allen, it is finding ways to make the city more attractive and alluring for the generation of millennials that he said is the future.

"Schools, big topic," Pate said. "As you are well aware, now we are building a new Meadow Lane School Elementary School that will bring Edgewood (Community Development) over -- two schools in one. Just last Tuesday we (commissioners) voted to add eight classrooms to the facility."

Pate said it had been a tough decision for him to support the additional classrooms because there are "big things coming ahead of it." But building now rather than at a later date is saving the county $400,000, he said.

One of those other projects is construction of a new 911 call center because the existing facility is out of space while the call volume continues to grow, he said.

The building will cost $3.5 million and the equipment another $3 million.

"We hope to have it built by next summer, I am guessing," he said.

But even with that said that is a huge challenge facing the county -- the state mandate on classroom size, he said.

The county is working with Wayne County Board of Education and local legislative delegation to go back to the General Assembly to see if some kind of compromise can be worked out.

"I want everybody to understand that is why you have been hearing us talk about not only property taxes, but sales taxes," he said. "We are trying to fund ways to pay for this stuff. The sales tax everybody pays."

Pate said he is more concerned about property taxes and how an increase could affect taxpayers, especially those in agriculture.

Allen said the cooperation between the city, county, school and community has helped pave the way for growth in the community.

"We are probably doing the best that we have done in 20 years," he said. "We have done some phenomenal work together."

He agreed with Wade and Pate that the Maxwell Center will be a showpiece.

To complement that, the city is working to attract a company to build a first-rate hotel on the lot adjoining the center property.

The county is helping the city fund the multi-sports complex and in return the city gave the land for the center, Allen said.

One of the upcoming developments downtown is a $10 million project that will renovate several buildings to generate retail and living space, he said.

Allen said he could not talk about the community without mentioning Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and its impact on the county.

It was welcomed news that the base will get a new fleet of the KC-46 tankers, he said.

"We meet very regularly with the base," he said. "The biggest challenge that we have, we are trying to work on a plan to close our lagoon at the end of the runway because of the bird strikes. But as you all know the base is a huge, huge force in this community."