State agrees to meeting with Belhaven

Published 9:09 am Tuesday, June 26, 2007

By Staff
No date yet set to discuss loan
Staff Writer
State officials have consented to discuss with Belhaven town representatives the decision to find the town at fault for not paying in full an urgent-needs loan.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal said if there is a meeting, he’ll be there.
The northeastern Beaufort County town received $485,000 from the state to salvage a building that cost nearly $1 million in grants to build. The loan was passed on to Wynne View, Inc., the for-profit arm jointly owned by two local economic boosters that operate the mixed residential-commercial facility.
The Wynne View building was an entrepreneurial project to provide the boosters with sustainable revenue through rent that would spur other economic-development projects the boosters were promoting.
Faulty construction threatened the project, and the building would have been condemned if not for the emergency state loan. Wynne View sued the architect and engineer, and according to town officials, intended to repay the state loan upon the success or settlement of the lawsuit.
Wynne View was awarded a $125,000 settlement, which it passed on to the state, leaving a loan balance of $360,000.
The state closed the file on the urgent-needs loan with a finding against the town that will be removed when the balance is paid in full. A finding prevents the town from obtaining grants from the state agency.
Town Manager Tim Johnson appealed that decision in a formal letter to state Division of Community Assistance director Gloria Nance-Sims.
O’Neal says the town council should have acted on that decision before an appeal was filed with the state.
Deborah Barnes, a spokesperson with the state Department of Commerce, acknowledged receipt of the appeal and a requested meeting with the N.C. Division of Community Assistance.
Johnson’s request calls for a meeting of state and local officials to include the following people: Commerce Secretary Jim Fain, Nance-Sims, O’Neal, Johnson, Belhaven Councilman Charles Boyette — who is also president and chairman of Wynne View — and Town Attorney Keith Mason.
Barnes couldn’t confirm if Fain would be able to attend the meeting.
O’Neal sent a letter to DCA officials after receiving the formal appeal letter from Town Hall.
In the mayor’s letter, O’Neal states that the town manager is “presenting positions of the town council without approval or notification.”
Monday, O’Neal said, “The reason to make a motion is to make sure the issue is going to be debated, so that the public can get informed on the issue as it is debated.”
Johnson is “talking for the town, and there’s been no public discussion. That’s the whole problem here,” O’Neal said.
In O’Neal’s letter to Nance-Sims, the mayor claims that Wynne View’s board of directors consists of one out-of-town resident, two councilmen — Boyette and Mayor Pro Tempore George Ebron Jr. — and the town manager.
Initially, Johnson said he had served on the for-profit’s board when it was first formed and, after he stepped down, had served in an advisory capacity upon request.
Johnson called back on Tuesday of last week and said he currently is on the Wynne View board, but that he wasn’t on the board when the corporation was locked in litigation with the architect and engineer of the Wynne View building.
Johnson said he was “either confused” during an earlier interview with the Daily News “or I didn’t say it right.”
O’Neal’s bone of contention with the Wynne View board of directors is that the town is now responsible for decisions the for-profit corporation made without consulting the entire town council.