Local News

Parking garage spending part of bond issue

07HayParkingFayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin doesn’t like the way city administration decided to include $8 million of projects in a proposed limited obligation bond issue. Council members D.J. Haire and Larry Wright also opposed asking North Carolina’s Local Government Commission to approve the $8 million in bonds.

City administration proposes that the funds be used to cover $1.5 million for PCH Holdings’ additional construction costs for the new Hay Street parking garage, plus $2.5 million in cost overruns associated with the baseball stadium. The proposal also includes $2.8 million for the new Lake Rim aquatic center.

City Council informally agreed to the project April 8. The official vote on the bond is scheduled following a public hearing on May 13. Approval by the local government commission would not require the city to fund the projects. It would authorize officials to do so if approved at a later date.

The $1.5 million that PCH Holdings has asked the city for would be in addition to $14.8 million the city has already borrowed for construction of the five-story parking deck on Hay Street. The parking deck will not be for general public use but will serve the private firm’s seven-story office building and separate hotel building, which will be built atop the garage.

General contractor Barton Malow submitted $2.58 million in cost overruns resulting from rising costs of construction materials for the new Segra Stadium.

Colvin said it was premature to be approving bonds when the city has not begun negotiating with the parking deck developer about its $1.5 million request. “I don’t think it’s responsible to prepare to borrow money that you have no plans to (borrow),” he said.

“I’m a little squeamish to go that route,” Colvin said in a dinner meeting before the regular council session. Colvin added that approving the resolution to ask the local government commission to approve the bond spending “makes it tougher to explore other options or negotiate.”

Councilmen Jim Arp and Bill Crisp said during the dinner meeting that they would prefer the city find a different way to pay for the aquatic center without financing it. Crisp pointed out that the city included funds for the Westover pool in its regular budget a few years ago. Other city fathers noted the city has $1.9 million in funds that weren’t spent on other projects that could be used for the Lake Rim pools.

The city’s senior management team came up with the idea of the limited obligation bond project without the knowledge of council members who less than a week earlier agreed to negotiate the increased cost of the parking deck.

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Baseball, Fayetteville’s game

06Stadium“We expect to sell out every game.” These are the words of Fayetteville Woodpeckers President Mark Zarthar at an April 9 news conference. The April 18 opening game is a sellout. Zarthar said Segra Stadium could accommodate up to 6,000 fans. Its official capacity is 5,200. He said he isn’t the least bit worried about parking, noting that a five-minute walk to the stadium is part of the fan experience.

City officials contend there are 4,360 public and private parking spaces within five to seven minutes of the stadium.

City spokesman Kevin Arata said he doesn’t expect finding available parking will be a problem. “People will figure it out … they’re smart,” he said.

The city will charge $10 for each of the 1,100 parking spaces in the 12 controlled parking lots. They will be clearly marked with temporary roadside signs. “Paid parking will begin two hours prior to the start of the games,” Arata said.

One hundred and four handicapped parking spots for the disabled will be provided in the two parking lots behind city hall off Franklin Street. Six hundred on-street parking spaces will be free during ballgames. Arata said the city has no control over what property owners decide regarding their private lots. He noted that officials have been in touch with owners and await their decisions.

Hay Street between Winslow Street and Ray Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic on game days to create a safe pedestrian zone.

“We will monitor activity for the first month during the construction period,” said Police Chief Gina Hawkins. “We want traffic to have the least impact on the downtown area as possible.”

She and city traffic engineer Lee Jernigan noted that new marked, signalized crosswalks should make things easier for pedestrians. They added that adjustments will be made as needed in efforts to make citizens feel welcomed and encouraged to return for future downtown events.

The first Fayetteville home game will be at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 18, versus the Carolina Mudcats from Zebulon, North Carolina. The Woodpeckers are a Carolina League, Class A Advanced minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros. It is one of two expansion teams that increased league membership to 10 teams in 2017.

Former Fayetteville Deputy City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney now serves as the city manager of Rocky Mount. Before her departure in 2017, Small-Toney served as project director for Segra Stadium. As she tells it, former City Manager Ted Voorhees challenged her to come up with an economic development project for downtown Fayetteville. She suggested minor league baseball — and subsequently oversaw all phases of the stadium project, including the feasibility study, recruitment of the Houston Astros minor league team, development of the memorandum of understanding and the creation of a 30-year financial plan.

The stadium and nearby mixeduse commercial property are near completion in downtown Fayetteville.

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Downtown bridge to be replaced

05OldAnnStBridgeResidents and families of Heritage Place and parishioners of First Presbyterian Church will be happy to learn that Ann Street will soon be open to traffic. The Ann Street bridge over Cross Creek has been closed for nearly six years. Ann Street connects Bow Street with Grove Street downtown.

A fire, believed to have been set by people who are homeless, heavily damaged the structure in October 2013. The cost of building a new bridge is $1.6 million, according to city of Fayetteville spokesman Kevin Arata. This does not include design work and the acquisition of additional property.

“We had to design it so it would prevent homeless people from living under it,” Arata said. “Nearby utilities created challenges for the design process … and we were challenged with permits and the fact that the bridge has historical ties.”

Officials hope to open the new bridge this summer.

Another highway median under construction

Work has begun on converting the center turn lane on Cliffdale Road near Bunce Road into a raised median. The North Carolina Department of Transportation said median projects, which have been underway locally for several years, are designed to improve safety and reduce the risk of collisions. Motorists will encounter lane reductions in the work zone.

In neighboring Robeson County, drivers will have a faster and safer way to travel on U.S. 74, where a DOT contractor is building an interchange at Broadridge Road, south of Lumberton. Girders for the new overpass were set last month. Officials hope to have the work completed by fall.

Rural fire tax to increase

The Cumberland County Public Safety Task Force has voted to request that the fire district tax rate be increased by 3.75 cents per $100 valuation for rural residents of the county. The recommended model will be presented to the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners April 11, during their agenda work session.

Currently, residents in unincorporated areas pay 11.25 cents per $100 valuation, with 10 cents allocated to each of the 15 rural fire districts. The 01.25 cents tax is allocated to five low-wealth departments: Beaver Dam, Bethany, Godwin-Falcon, Stedman and Wade.

If approved for the next fiscal year by county commissioners, property owners will pay 15 cents per $100 valuation. Each of the volunteer fire departments would continue to receive funding calculated at 10 cents per $100, which totals approximately $7.4 million.

The new money generated by the tax increase will be used to strengthen overall fire service delivery through supplements, incentives and grants. Supplements would be allocated for departments that provide Emergency Medical Services and those few districts with more than one fire station. 

Suspicious activity leads to deportation

A man who provoked Fort Bragg officials to close the post briefly last month will be deported, but he will not be charged with a crime, a federal judge has ruled. Nouran Ahmad Shihab Sueidan arrived at a gate at Fort Bragg on March 12 and told authorities he wanted to take a tour of the Special Operations facility.

Sueidan had a valid passport, but military police found that his visa, driver’s license and car registration were expired. Authorities said he became combative as he was being questioned but did not try to force his way onto the post. The incident prompted Fort Bragg to briefly restrict access to the post.

A psychiatrist who examined Sueidan determined he has “a mental disorder that compromises his ability to stand trial,” federal prosecutors said in court filing.

Prosecutors said they plan to turn Sueidan over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. The Army did not reveal his home country. 

New county government appointee

County Manager Amy Cannon has named Delores Taylor as director of the Cumberland County Community Development Office. Taylor has worked for CCCD for 20 years and served as interim director since July 2017.

As director, Taylor will manage a staff of 11 and an annual budget of approximately $2 million. The CCCD Office administers local U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds, which include funding of Community Development Block Grants, The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Emergency Solutions Grants, and the Cumberland County Continuum of Care on Homelessness.

Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alaska in 1998 and a Master of Public Administration from Arkansas State University in 2017.

Downtown Easter fun

Cool Spring Downtown District will host horsedrawn Carriage Rides with the Easter Bunny on Friday, April 19, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The carriage will be decorated for Easter for family photos.

Tickets to ride with the rabbit are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Each ride will last about 10-15 minutes. Early-bird rides between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. are $5 for adults and children. Tickets are available on the day of the event at 222 Hay St., across from the Cameo Art House Theatre. For more information, visit www.visitdowntownfayetteville.com.

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FTCC’s Financial Aid department partners with students

10FTCC The FTCC financial aid department’s goal is to guide students through the  financial aid application and eligibility process so qualifying individuals can use financial aid as a means to pay for college and achieve educational goals. By providing information about FTCC’s current services and outreach initiatives, the department hopes to educate current and prospective students about all the financial aid office has to offer. Recently, the FTCC financial aid office launched a new campaign to reach high school seniors and to encourage them to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA.

In addition to FTCC’s FAFSA Days, which are offered at the Fayetteville campus, FTCC staff is now visiting local high schools for FAFSA Completion Nights.

The FTCC financial aid office will visit Terry Sanford High School on April 9, Seventy-First High School on April 11 and E.E. Smith High School on April 18. All FAFSA Nights are from 5:30-7 p.m.

FTCC is excited to kick off this FAFSA completion campaign and hopes other high schools will join in to provide high school seniors another opportunity for assistance in FAFSA completion.

FTCC is also a partner with Solutions at Educational Credit Management Corporation, a student loan default prevention company. Solutions at ECMC provide free student loan repayment assistance to former FTCC students.

This partnership is just one way the FTCC financial aid office demonstrates its commitment to students, even after they have left campus and are entering student loan repayment. Former FTCC students needing assistance with loan repayment can work with a counselor at Solutions at ECMC to find a payment plan that meets their individual needs. Students can reach counselors who will work with them to find a repayment solution that is unique to their situation at 1-877-331-3262.

In an effort to be more accessible to current and prospective students at all times, FTCC now offers an artificially intelligent chatbot named Penny on all of the financial aid sections of its website. Penny is available to answer questions at any time, day or night. Currently equipped with a library of more than 850 common financial aid questions and answers, Penny is constantly growing in knowledge, and FTCC staff continue to add new information to the knowledge bank.

Follow the FTCC financial aid office on Facebook for updates and informational videos that will help you keep up with the latest financial aid news, scholarship opportunities and more.

FTCC financial aid advisors are ready to assist prospective and current students in the Financial Aid Service Center, located in Room 2 of the Tony Rand Student Center at 2201 Hull Rd.

FTCC’s advisors can help you complete the 2018- 19 FAFSA for the summer 2019 semester or the 2019-20 FAFSA for the upcoming fall 2019, spring 2020 and summer 2020 semesters.

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The Friendship House: Changing lives

06Friendship HouseThe concept of The Friendship House first came to fruition in Holland, Michigan, in 2007. Now, there is one in Fayetteville. The Friendship House serves young adults with intellectual development disabilities by pairing them with roommates who are often college students or young professionals. The goal is to help these young adults, but often, it’s the roommates who gain the most. The Friendship House Fayetteville is the fifth Friendship House to use this model.

“We did change our model to focus more on health care and allied health care graduate students and students,” said Tara Hinton, director of community relations and philanthropy for ServiceSource. ServiceSource, a larger nonprofit, is the leasee in partnership with Highland Presbyterian Church of the campus. It oversees operations of Friendship House Fayetteville. 

Hinton explained that, while Friendship House Fayetteville is not a caretaking facility or group home, it developed its health care-leaning culture because of its resident director, Dr. Scott Cameron.

“Dr. Cameron’s experiences were life-changing and caused him to open up and become more passionate for those with disabilities, personally and through his practice of medicine. He is the visionary for Friendship House Fayetteville,” she said.

Cameron lived in Friendship House Durham during his seminary training. He is currently a neonatal intensive care unit physician at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. He also serves as the volunteer chaplain and resident director for Friendship House Fayetteville.

“(Fayetteville community members) took a field trip about 3 1/2 years ago to The Friendship House Durham, and a couple of community members were interested in helping see this come to fruition,” said Hinton. “We spent many hours there talking to the students, and they were all divinity students.

“We learned how living at Friendship House changed them. One student made me tear up when he told me he signed up to make a difference, but the individuals changed him and made a difference in his life more than he could ever help them.”

Hinton added that the visitors traveled back home with the idea to build a Friendship House in Fayetteville — and they made it happen.

In each apartment at Friendship House Fayetteville, there are four bedrooms and three bathrooms.

“There are three people living with one friend resident, and the friend resident is a young person who has an intellectual development disability such as Autism or Down syndrome,” said Hinton. “The goal for those parties is for the friend resident to maximize their interdependence, whether that’s cooking, budgeting, grocery shopping or transportation to a job — and ServiceSource helps with that piece of the puzzle.”

Hinton added ServiceSource has a job coach who helps the friend residents obtain gainful employment, find volunteer positions in the community and become productive. The other three roommates, usually students, are there to share life and friendship with the resident. This gives the resident the ability to live amongst their peers and feel included.

“Our focus today is recruiting students and young professionals,” said Hinton. “This is a wonderful opportunity to look at people with different abilities and spiritual gifts and to appreciate those gifts and talents — because none of us are perfect.”

All-inclusive expenses for this living arrangement are $450 per month. The apartments are located in central Haymount. For more information, call 910-826-4699 ext. 249.

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