07city countyA standing committee of Fayetteville and Cumberland County lawmakers, which meets quarterly, met last week for the first time in seven months. It was the joint liaison committee’s second meeting since the fall of 2016.

The group discussed the economic impact of the downtown baseball stadium now under construction. It also spoke of considering an increase in the county’s prepared food and beverage tax and the county commission’s distribution of sales tax revenues.

The future of Shaw Heights was also on the agenda as well as recovery efforts still underway in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which devastated Fayetteville nearly two years ago. The committee met for an hour at city hall and seemed to agree that the issues, which involved both government agencies, can be amicably resolved.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Christine Michaels said a half-dozen cities that have downtown minor league ballparks have seen some economic growth nearby, especially among locally owned businesses. Deputy City Manager Kristoff Bauer told the group that construction of the stadium is on schedule and that it will be finished on time.
 
Mayor Mitch Colvin favors legislative action to increase the 1-cent food and beverage tax by a quarter of a cent tax to provide local government additional operating revenues. County Commissioner Glenn Adams said the Republican-controlled general assembly is not inclined to raise taxes at the state or local levels.

County Commission Chairman Larry Lancaster sought to persuade city officials that he does not anticipate a change in the sales tax revenue distribution formula that has been in effect for many years. The existing formula provides distribution of sales tax proceeds between municipalities and the county on a per capita basis.

An ad valorem property tax method could be considered, but it would significantly reduce revenues from county government to cities and towns. “I hope that as we approach this decision we don’t even let ad valorem enter the
vocabulary,” Lancaster said. It’s the first time that city council has been publicly reassured that commissioners will likely continue the existing distribution formula.
 
Hurricane Matthew flood damagein Cumberland County was second only to Robeson County in severity. Tens of millions of dollars are available to the community in federal grants, which are passed through state government to local agencies. Much of the funding is in what Assistant County Manager Tracey Jackson called a “stop and start” mode in state government. “There are echelons above us where the rules keep changing,” said Commissioner Jimmy Keefe.
 
The Shaw Heights community is an unincorporated donut hole off Murchison Road on Fayetteville’s southside. City and county officials have been talking about whether to have the area annexed for 12 years. They have considered other options as well. Complicating matters, the state Department of Transportation has proposed to realign Shaw Road connecting it to Shaw Mill Road. That would reshape the area. City and county leaders agreed to establish a joint committee to attempt a solution to best serve the low-income area.

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