Rocky Mount NC – Let Me Set The Record Straight About Keith Harris Retired Fire Chief

Let me set the record straight, I don’t know Keith Harris. I mentioned his name in my post on my blog because I was told that Chief Keith Harris Retired didn’t live in Rocky Mount when he was the fire chief and that he only had a 2 year degree. When I was told the 1st time a couple of weeks before I heard it again, I didn’t say anything. But, after hearing it again and again and especially being in a community meeting, I responded I had heard that before and now I am going to write about it. I did.

I don’t question the many accomplishments that Chief Harris mentioned on his social media site when he called me out. I wasn’t mad then and ain’t mad now because I don’t know him and he don’t know me. I didn’t say anything negative about him then and still have nothing negative to say about him.

I only mentioned Chief Harris because there had been some disgruntled folk on several social media sites and the Rocky Mount Telegram talking about black folk were not qualified and didn’t live in the city limits. I said it was okay when white folk were in the same situation and there was no outcry.

Now, actually I admire the hell out of Chief Harris because I love his tenacity of speaking out on what he believe in. Don’t get it twisted that I am agreeing with what he is saying.

I have been trying to get retired black folk to speak out however their asses are scared although their income will not be in jeopardy.

I commend Chief Harris on his stand although I think he is going about his mission the wrong way. But, if he like what he is doing, I love it.

Now there you have it. I am going to wait to see how the ignants twist this.


Rocky Mount NC: The Ignant Special C’s Say I Have An Ego

deros Feb 20, 2019 at 5:45 PM

Mr. Dancy was just stroking his ego as usual and those who responded to him did exactly as he wished, you took the bait while bottom fishing.

The Gate Keeper’s response: No ego here. Why do I need an ego? I have nothing to gain nor anything to lose. I am just speaking truth to power because I do my homework. I attend the meetings and just responding to the acts as presented. They have got to respond to me because to do otherwise would defeat their purpose of being. Of being ignant to the facts while trying to discredit folk when they have nothing to go on but disgruntled employees and disgruntled community folk. Just sad! If they would provided some facts maybe I could agree with them but until now they have provided nothing but a bunch of mess that is driven by a jackleg reporter who that need to stick with doing security. Well ya’ll don’t want to hear these trues. They always take the bait, they have no choice I am a Professional.

Letter to the Editor: Who is benefitting? – Rocky Mount Telegram

The Gate Keeper’s response: Ab so damn lute ly!

Political malfeasance, bribery and corruption, misuse of public office and sexual misconduct are the expected behavior of those in power ranging from the very top position of the presidency to the lowest city official.

When the recent spate of accusations and vitriolic attacks on members of our City Council appeared, spearheaded by the Rocky Mount Telegram, I asked myself the questions

“Why now?” and “Who Benefits?”

It is clear that color lines are now being drawn on both sides, making this a potentially dangerous situation. Racial conflicts have never benefited either party; they fan the flames of greater distrust and disunity that can simmer for many years. However, there has always been some third entity which gets away with the final prize. For me, this brings to mind the racial divisions and wars fanned by colonialists, who then swooped in to gather the rewards as the disunity weakened overall resistance. (Read more)

Council reviews budget priorities, boards and commissions

Rocky Mount, N.C.- The Rocky Mount City Council was tasked with listing their top budget priorities during its 2019 retreat. 

Budget and Evaluation Manager Kenneth Hunter asked the council for information as staff prepares for fiscal year 2020. 

Priorities include new elevators in City Hall, which are often under repair. The Beech Branch Outfall infrastructure project and implementation of the pay and classification study were also included. Other priorities listed are additional funds for neighborhood associations for signage and to host events for the purposes of beautification and community engagement. Currently, these groups receive about $500 annually.

Council would also like to see an expansion of the city’s downtown development toolbox, adding to already utilized grants such as the Downtown Business Assistance Program and Downtown Development Incentive Grant assisting with rehabilitation and redevelopment costs. A proposed Façade Grant to get vacant buildings improved quickly is something members would like implemented before the FY 2020 budget. At $5,000, the face of downtown buildings may be improved with new windows, doors, fresh painting, etc. 

A roof grant low-interest loan program will also be considered.

Council suggested strengthening the city’s government access channel by getting the resources needed to videotape council meetings.

Other ideas include enhanced security for council meetings and at City Hall, improvements to Munis – the financial management system that handles procurement, payroll and more. Councilmembers also mentioned matching the county funding level for United Community Ministries. Councilmember Tom Rogers indicated that the city’s effort won’t eradicate homelessness, but the council can work on improving it. 

City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney acknowledged that staff will strive to implement some of the priorities, but all may not be accomplished.

“We would take the list of priorities and cost them out, working what we can into the budget,” Small-Toney said. 

Assistant City Manager Chris Beschler also provided an update on the city’s One Stop Shop. The One Stop Shop, expected to be launched using a phased approach, will make it easier for the establishment of businesses in the community. 

Permits are on the rise and so are the number of inspections completed. 

“We anticipate that permits will grow even more with redevelopment of the downtown area,”  Beschler said. 

Currently, the permitting and inspections process is manual. With the One Stop Shop, technology will be a key component, making it easy for developers to send plans electronically, pay fees online and more. The experience will also require some improvements on the first floor of City Hall, where the One Stop Shop will be housed. 

On the final day of the retreat, City Clerk Pam Casey presented information on Boards and Commissions. Council spoke on establishing a Workforce Housing Advisory Commission. A previous resolution presented to council will be revised slightly and added to the Monday, Feb. 25 council agenda for approval. 

Council did discuss the structure of the commission, which will include 13 members. The membership would be comprised of a representative from each ward and the mayor, two faith based representatives, a housing developer, a representative from the business community and from the housing authority. 

Members reviewed information and names for appointment to the city’s various boards and commissions, such as the Animal Care Control and Advisory Board, Central City Revitalization Panel, Historic Preservation Commission and more. 


Rocky Mount NC: Downtown development highlighted on day two of council retreat

Rocky Mount, N.C.- On day two of the Rocky Mount City Council retreat, members received information that state funds have been secured for 60 units of housing from 218-242 Tarboro St., which are city-owned parcels. 
“This is affordable housing for your workforce,” said Sarah P. Odio, project manager for the Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government.
According to Odio, the housing would be street facing with approximately 66 total parking spaces that would require a zoning change. 
DFI was engaged by the state to assist with attracting private investment for the development of affordable housing for low and/or moderate-income households in hurricane-impacted communities. To date, the organization has identified two communities and two sites, one in each community. The NC Office of Recovery and Resistance has committed to financing the development of the proposed 60 units using Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds. 
Odio proposes that units will be for households at or below 60 percent of the area median income. That income amount ranges from $22,260 to $31,800 annually depending on the number of people within the household. Rent would cost approximately $500 per month. 
“You have households spending 50 percent of their income on their rent,” noted Odio. “They can’t save to buy a house or spend the money in the community, so this is a vehicle to give people a chance to save that money.”
The council did make a motion to vote on the project during the council meeting on Monday, Feb. 25. A vote would commit the council to convey the property via sale or ground lease, contingent
that the council will later approve a development partner and executive of a development agreement. 
If approved, the next steps would include public information sessions expected to take place in March. From there, the solicitation for a development partner would occur, with a Memorandum of Understanding negotiations following. There are some negotiation factors, such as having a blended mix of income ranges within the units or restricting a portion of the project to families and the elderly. 
The downtown conversation continued regarding expansion of the current toolbox for downtown revitalization. 
“We are wanting to hear about the toolbox that is both code enforcement and incentive based and how we create a way to communicate that to everyone central to the downtown area,” stated Councilmember Reuben Blackwell. 
Currently, the toolbox is comprised of five full-time building or multi-trade inspectors. The toolbox also includes a Downtown Business Assistance Program and Downtown Development Incentive Grant to assist with rehabilitation and redevelopment costs. The Department of Community and Business Development is also looking at a façade grant to get buildings improved quickly. The grant would be $5,000 to improve the face of the building, such as windows, doors, fresh painting, etc. A certificate of occupancy is not required, and it is non-matching. Council agreed to examine this further soon. 
As a part of downtown revitalization, Kevin Harris, business development manager, has also been assigned the duties of downtown manager with a responsibility of identifying key stakeholders and staying in frequent contact with them, feeding their issues to a team within City Hall. This team includes individuals from Community and Business Development, Development Services, Police, Fire and other departments that interact with stakeholders downtown. The team meets bi-weekly to discuss issues that may arise, communicating back to the stakeholders. 
On day two of the retreat, council also received a budget and financial update. Sales tax growth continues, and general fund revenues remain stable. Challenges include the tax base and infrastructure projects for utilities. Current debt ratios are within policy targets. Event Center bond payments began May 2017, with interest only for two years. Principal payments are to begin May 2019. 
In the general fund, the city should finish FY 2019 without using $1.25 million of appropriated fund balance included in the adopted budget for the current fiscal year. That money will return to
the fund balance at the end of the fiscal year. Council also identified budget priorities for FY 2020. However, due to the length of this article, that information will be shared tomorrow. 

Media Contact:
Tameka Kenan-Norman Chief Communications and Marketing Officer
(252) 972-1333

Press Release: Challenges and strategies for success presented at council retreat

Rocky Mount, N.C.-The Rocky Mount City Council started the first day of their annual retreat with a three-hour presentation from Dr. Jim Johnson, professor and director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC Chapel Hill. Johnson’s topic was “A roadmap for inclusive and equitable development in Rocky Mount.”

According to Johnson, this roadmap cannot be developed without first looking at the demographic reality of Rocky Mount and the Twin Counties region. Research shows that between 2010 and 2017, the area was losing population. Rocky Mount lost 29 percent of its white population, gained in the African-American population by 11.8 percent and experienced growth in the Hispanic population. Similar trends are noted in Nash and Edgecombe counties as the areas experience a “Browning of America.” 

“You’re losing everybody but the 65-plus population,” noted Johnson. “In Rocky Mount, your 4564 population is growing, but it is a booming population, and the next wave is 65+.”

Johnson also indicated the significant percentage of the working poor population in the region, reasons why strategies should be devised for both the working poor and for those doing well. 

“How do you embrace and recruit new talent and at the same time be inclusive of the existing population that is there?’ asked Johnson. 

One way is to develop key drivers for inclusive and equitable development, as well as shared prosperity. Johnson defines shared prosperity as “fostering income growth among the bottom 40 percent of a country’s population. Without sustained economic growth, poor people are unlikely to increase their living standards. But growth is not enough by itself. Improvement in the Shared Prosperity Indicator requires growth to be inclusive of the less well off.”

These key drivers include having the city lead as an engine of opportunity or serving as a model employer. Examples might be enacting policies and practices that promote equity, inclusion and shared prosperity; developing inclusive hiring practices; contracting with historically underutilized businesses and more.  

Drivers for inclusive community economic development would be making sure the city leverages its procurement dollars in an equitable and inclusive way. The city could also offer education, training and technical assistance robust enough to serve a pipeline of potential vendors. 

A final key driver is the establishment of a Development Venture Fund, or a pool of dollars to support the growth and expansion of home grown historically underutilized businesses. 

Johnson encouraged the council to create an inclusive development logic model indicating problems like economic insecurity, homelessness, gentrification and others, as well as activities to help solve these issues. Putting together a technical assistance and lending program; establishing a competition on innovative ways to create affordable housing; credit building activities; and the establishment of career academies are prime examples. 

“What do you want the city to look like in 2025?” asked Johnson. “You write the script now and work backwards to achieve it.”

Dr. Landis Faulcon, director of Community and Business Development, and Julie Brennan of Fountainworks, a management and consulting company, facilitated one of those scripts. The two led the council in a discussion on the development of a housing policy. The policy would be “a broad statement about the work that local government will do,” said Faulcon. 

The goal of the proposed housing policy will be to facilitate or promote safe, affordable and sustainable housing for its residents. 

After research, comments from various groups and previous studies, Faulcon and her staff drafted five key focus areas for a housing policy. Areas include increasing the supply of safe and decent rental housing, as well as creating affordable home ownership opportunities. Improving the quality of rental properties through housing repair and rehabilitation programs was a third area.  Faulcon also noted the creation of city and private investment opportunities to support housing development, operations and services. Finally, creating a plan for acquiring properties that need to be renovated, and preserving historic properties is a key focus area. 

After discussing focus areas with council, along with objectives and target populations, staff will later provide council with a housing policy draft for consideration. 
“You now have the bones for a good housing policy,” said Brennan. “So, you can continue moving forward with that.” 


Media Contact:
Tameka Kenan-Norman Chief Communications and Marketing Officer
(252) 972-1333

Council studies housing – Rocky Mount Telegram

CHAPEL HILL — The city of Rocky Mount is dedicated to promoting safe, affordable and sustainable housing, according to a mission statement developed Wednesday during the first day of the City Council retreat in Chapel Hill.

Whatever course the City Council takes, it must keep elderly residents in mind, said James Johnson, professor of entrepreneurship at Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The 65 and older population is growing in Rocky Mount and nothing — restaurants, hotels, parks — is age-friendly, Johnson said.

Prince George County in Virginia is the only location in the country with people migrating to Rocky Mount who have more money than the folks who live here. A lot of those people moved out of this area many years ago but might be looking to return home.

Johnson said the city should be running ads in magazines up there luring those folks down here.

“Recruit your own back home,” Johnson said.

The city should also enact local workforce agreements in which companies have to agree to hire a percentage of locals. (Read more)