Council delays old City Hall issue

Published 5:18 pm Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Washington’s City Council is waiting 60 days before it will consider whether the city should once again become the owner of old City Hall.

The council, during its meeting Monday, had been scheduled to talk about old City Hall, built in 1884, reverting to ownership by the city. But recent developments regarding the property resulted in that discussion being tabled for two months.

“Apparently, there’s another buyer coming in that might take the project over without us getting in the middle of it,” Mayor Mac Hodges said.

Cedar Grove Plantation LLC had plans for the building at 126 N. Market St., which Laura Darre and Kathryn Pisciotta bought the building from the city for $25,000 in late 2011. They planned to convert the building into a “destination restaurant,” according to city officials.

To help the owners renovate the building, the city agreed to serve as a conduit for $150,000 in grant funding from the N.C. Main Streets Solution Fund. The two women were to provide $300,000 for renovations, according to a city document.

At its Dec. 12, 2011, meeting, the council adopted a resolution in support of seeking grant funding for the project. The Main Street Solutions Fund provides up to $200,000 to local governments for such projects.

The Main Street Solutions Fund goals are to provide direct financial benefit to small businesses, retain and create jobs associated with small businesses and spur private investment associated with small businesses.

That grant opportunity, for all intents and purposes, is no longer available, according to city officials.

City Manager Brian Alligood said the city has talked with investors who are interested in “acquiring the LLC and, essentially, stepping into the shoes of that LLC.”

“What they’ve asked for is 60 days due diligence for them to look at it. If that were the case, they would, essentially, step into the shoes of the LLC and move forward with the project on a different scope, similar scope, but a little different, without the grant, which we’re not able to fulfill that grant anyway now because of the time frame … If in 60 days they come back and say, ‘That doesn’t work,’ then we’re right where we were. We haven’t stopped anything that we’re doing; we’ve just postponed it for 60 days,” Alligood said.

When the city took sole possession of old City Hall from Beaufort County several years ago, there were some provisions in that takeover agreement concerning any future sale of the building. One of those provisions was that if an offer to buy the building was less than $60,000, the county must give its permission before it could be sold for less than $60,000.



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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