Council seeks project info

Published 12:36 am Thursday, December 1, 2011

Washington’s City Council wants more details, especially about financing, on a proposed project to convert two downtown buildings into senior-living facilities for senior citizens on fixed incomes before deciding whether to support it.

Councilman Gil Davis said the city officials should “explore our options” in regard to the project. He and other council members said additional information about the project is needed to determine its viability.

The proposed project calls for converting the downtown buildings into 35 one-bedroom apartments and 24 two-bedroom apartments. If built, the project would provide housing for people at least 62 years old who have a fixed income of around $25,000 or less annually, according to information presented to the council

Judy Siegel, an official with Landex Companies, explained the proposed project to the council during its meeting Monday. Under questioning by council members, Siegel said for the nearly $10 million (estimated) project to proceed so her development company could receive tax credits, the city would have to initiate it.

“Yes, we are looking for the city to participate,” Siegel replied to a question posed by Mayor Archie Jennings.

Siegel said Landex is prepared to provide about $8.5 million toward the project’s financing. The city’s participation would include help finding funding sources for the remaining $l.5 million (approximate) needed to build the project, with that funding possibly coming from sources such as grants and/or city dollars, Siegel said.

Siegel compared coming up with the $1.5 million to putting a puzzle together.

“Here’s the thing. The very first step is to find out whether the elected officials are comfortable with this going forward. We would work with your staff to see whether we can put those pieces of the puzzle together,” Siegel said. “I don’t know if we can. I really want to. I think it would be a fabulous project and a real boon for the city.”

“Regardless of whether it’s $1.3 million, $1.4 million, $1.5 million, you need a commitment from the city that we’re either going to apply for a (Community Development Block Grant) or something to get you that amount of money,” Councilman Doug Mercer said to Siegel.

“Yes. I would like that,” Siegel replied.

“So, you need a commitment from the city for approximately a million and a half dollars,” Mercer said.

Jennings joined the exchange between Mercer and Siegel, saying the council was “almost cross-examining her.”

“We don’t need to get into an ‘Isn’t it true?’ standpoint,” the mayor said. “I think what’s she’s saying is there’s middle ground between what you’re asserting and possible other outcomes,” Jennings said to Mercer.

“Is that fair?” Jennings asked Siegel.

“Absolutely,” Siegel replied.

Mercer also expressed concerns about the city having enough time to review details of the proposed project before a Jan. 13, 2012, deadline for submitting an application regarding the project to state officials. If that deadline is missed, Landex would have to wait until January 2014 to submit an application, Siegel said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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