The latest part of a recent City Council budget working session turned into an intense back-and-forth between Councilmen Andre Knight and Lige Daughtridge over whether the Rocky Mount Event Center would have become a reality without the local opportunity industrialization center.
And the session ended with a brief verbal exchange between Councilor WB Bullock and Knight.
Bullock, who will be retiring after serving since 2002, is generally quiet and quiet at board meetings, while Knight, who has been in the role since 2003, can get outspoken or fiery at times in tone.
Bullock criticized Knight for doing what he believes Knight has been doing for the past seven or eight years by not sticking to the budget issue at all.
“That’s what the meeting was called for,” Bullock said.
“Well, well,” Knight said. “That’s why you’re going home.”
“I am, thank goodness,” Bullock said.
“And enjoy your time there,” Knight said.
The session took place on May 25 and lasted just over two hours, with council expected to hold a series of additional sessions before having public comment on what is currently a proposed municipal operating budget of $238.75 million. of dollars. A meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. today.
During the May 25 session, Assistant City Manager for Budget and Evaluation Kenneth Hunter spoke about the large-scale renovation of the former Booker T. Washington High School campus.
And Hunter is proposing three separate projects on the old campus: one for the old education wing, which includes the OCI headquarters; one for the gymnasium, which is part of the municipality; and one for the municipal community center.
OCI seeks to help provide residents with vocational training and health care.
And Hunter said he proposed to spend $300,000 on the old campus in fiscal year 2023, including $50,000 to pay for an improved security system at the community center.
Hunter said he and his team needed to find a way to balance the work being done to meet some immediate needs and start the planning process.
Hunter said from there, he and his team will determine the way forward to get the job done, which will likely be in fiscal year 2024.
During the May 25 discussion, Daughtridge offered to sell part of what was the educational wing of the old campus to OCI for $1 and let OCI do what they want with that. part of what had been the campus.
Later in the discussion, Daughtridge made it clear that the municipality supported the OCI.
The contention began when Daughtridge also said the municipality had supported the OCI through the event centre.
Knight rebutted saying, “Wait a minute now. If it hadn’t been for the OCI, we wouldn’t even have the center of events.”
Daughtridge replied, “We would have the event center.”
“Yeah, we would,” Daughtridge said. “Let’s go look at the (city council) minutes that I read that we approved and it would have been approved anyway.”
Daughtridge also asked Knight: “Do you want to go get the minutes from the closed session and look at them?”
“You just need to get out of it,” Knight said. “That’s what you have to do.”
Daughtridge, her voice rising, said, “No, no, you lifted it.”
Councilor TJ Walker, who is chairing council business sessions as interim mayor for 2022, said he thought the session went beyond what was being talked about.
Knight said, “That’s a lie.”
Daughtridge denied this and told Knight, “Let’s shoot the minutes.”
Knight said, “No, ask the man here,” a reference to acting city manager Peter Varney.
Walker sought to move the session forward, but Knight said, “No, whenever he talks about it at this meeting and we won’t dispel what he’s saying, I’ll say it.”
“I’m going to tell him too -” Daughtridge said.
Knight stepped in and told Daughterridge that, “Well, say it. Well, you’re lying.”
After Walker moved to wrap up the session, Knight turned to Varney and asked if this was “a beat budget session on OIC.”
“Is this a beating against OIC? No, it’s not supposed to be that,” Varney said.
“Good – and I don’t want it to be that,” Knight said.
The event center was opened in 2018 on the northeast side of downtown after being built at a cost of $48 million and includes an OIC specialty care center. Daughtridge has been in the role since 2019.
The campus of the former Booker T. Washington High School is in an area northeast of downtown and encompassed by Pennsylvania Avenue, East Virginia Street and Carolina Avenue and the southern boundary of Stith-Talbert Park.
After Hunter moved on to the part of the May 25 session on the old campus of Booker T. Washington High School, Daughtridge told his fellow board members to offer to sell the part of what was the educational wing to OCI for the amount of $1.
And Daughtridge said that under his proposal, the town of Rocky Mount would in turn take the proposed money for the entire old campus and spend the money to develop both the gymnasium and the municipal community center.
And Daughtridge said the only specification regarding the OCI would be that if the OCI wanted to sell what would be its part of the old campus in the future, then the municipality would have the right of first refusal because of the importance from the old campus for Rocky. To go up.
Knight chairs OCI’s Board of Directors and Advisor Reuben Blackwell is OCI’s President and CEO.
Knight said he believed that until the OCI began to grow under Blackwell’s leadership, the OCI was like any other organization until it diversified into the services sector. Health care.
“But before that, we probably couldn’t even buy anything,” Knight said.
Knight also noted part of what was the educational wing currently occupied by the Educational Talent Search, which seeks to identify and help people from disadvantaged backgrounds with the potential to succeed in higher education.
Knight pointed out that the windows of the former educational wing of Booker T. Washington High School occupied by the search for educational talent are outdated and look bad when driving by.
Knight has made it clear that his priorities will be to renovate the gymnasium and community center first and also look at the Educational Talent Search portion of the old educational wing.
Knight also spoke in a broader sense of a belief that the City of Rocky Mount has a maintenance obligation similar to the way it does now to maintain the historic Helen P. Gay Rocky Mount Station on the south side of downtown. town.
Varney noted the presence of an auditorium as part of the old education wing.
And Varney said: ‘He could also use a shot in the arm’ as he believes the seats are still the same as they were in the 1960s.
And Varney noted the difficulty of separating the auditorium from the old instructional wing.
Councilor Richard Joyner said: “I know we talk a lot about the economy and when we look at these projects sometimes we don’t talk about the impact of the social economy. And if we miss the social economy and step on it, it’s like stepping on a landmine.”
Daughtridge said he was unaware of the auditorium part, but continued to point out that the town of Rocky Mount was focused on the gymnasium and community center.
“I don’t disagree with you, Counselor Joyner, but what I’m talking about is improving what the OCI is doing and allowing the OCI to do even more, and then the OCI would have a asset on top of that,” Daughtridge said of his proposal.
Blackwell and Mayor Sandy Roberson were not present for the May 25 session.