07privateAt stake is a $15 million grant from the state for the proposed consolidated 911 emergency dispatch center.

Local governments have not collaborated on a joint multi-milliondollar construction project in recent memory. Agreeing to the shared cost of a proposed consolidated 911 emergency dispatch center has been difficult for Fayetteville City Council and Cumberland County Commissioners.

The council spent nearly three hours behind closed doors Dec. 7 discussing the project as well as an economic development issue involving private investments near downtown baseball stadium property. Council spent 20 minutes in public session before agreeing to submit a revised 911 interlocal agreement proposal to county commissioners. This, after county commissioners withdrew from initial negotiations, effectively reverting the project back to square one.

County Commissioner Glenn Adams, who served as chairman of the board until earlier this month, advised then-Mayor Nat Robertson that the county was withdrawing from deliberations because the boards had reached an impasse on construction funding. He claimed the city had reneged on an agreement that it would pay two-thirds of the cost of building the plant.

At stake is a $15 million grant from the state that would match city and county funds for the $30 million facility. Both units of local government have generally agreed on the shared cost of operations once the center is built. The sticking point is the formula the city and county would use to divide construction costs. Details are unavailable because city council and its attorney have kept discussions private. City Attorney Karen MacDonald said closed meetings to discuss the matter are lawful under the North Carolina Open Meetings statute exceptions, which allow contract discussions to be conducted privately. Council, however, failed to follow proper procedures for publicly announcing the purposes of the closed meetings. MacDonald confronted reporters representing Up & Coming Weekly and The Fayetteville Observer who objected that they were not kept informed, as provided by law.

Once the meeting was re-opened to the public, council agreed unanimously to again have City Manager Doug Hewett make a follow up proposal to county commissioners. It outlines revised construction funding levels agreeable to the city and reiterates the city’s insistence that it be responsible for dispatch center operations. Mayor Pro Tem Ted Mohn noted “we could build it without the county,” but he did not elaborate. City Council members Larry Wright and Bill Crisp were not present for the vote but had attended most of the closed meeting.

The subject discussed privately by city council with developers of the former Prince Charles Hotel renovation project was not made public. PCH Holdings, Inc. project manager Jordan Jones and two of his associates attended the meeting, which was unusual. The firm is not only turning the old hotel into apartments, it’s investing millions in a new four-story hotel and other amenities adjacent to the minor league baseball stadium.

Jones said after the meeting that the discussion involved who would pay for a parking deck to be built on top of the new hotel. Originally, it was part of the company’s plan.

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