W-S bond issue funds to generate police department improvements

W-S bond issue funds to generate police department improvements
February 19
00:00 2015
(Above: Photo by Todd Luck– On Feb. 1, Winston-Salem City Council voted 5-3 to grant Southeast Plaza’s owner $825,500 to make improvements it says will help attract higher quality businesses.)

District office, funds for homes and businesses are scheduled for East Winston

The impact of the recently approved bond issue on East Winston was the topic of a town hall meeting held by City Council Member Derwin Montgomery last week at Parkview Church of God.

He told his constituents that money will be coming to the ward to help fix up homes and businesses. Numerous other projects, such as expansion at Winston Lake Park, renovations at Happy Hill Park, a new gym at Sedge Garden Recreation Center, and  a new police district office are in the planning stages. Montgomery said some projects may see construction begin in as little as six to eight months.

Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe said that a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee will soon be appointed and a website should launch in late March that will let citizens track bond projects.

“You’ll actually see a map of the city with all eight wards,” said Rowe. “You can click on any ward and it’ll bring up all the projects that have been authorized for that particular ward and then the individual can actually click on a specific project to see how much money has been authorized for the project and the status of the project: whether it’s still in the design phase, whether it’s under construction or, eventually, if it’s been concluded.

In November, voters approved five bond issues totaling $139.2 million for economic development, housing/neighborhood development, public safety, recreation and streets/sidewalks. One big change coming out of the bond issues is the creation of three district offices for the Winston-Salem Police Department. The department is currently housed in the Public Safety Center, which is getting a $10 million renovation with bond money.

Built in 1984 when the department had 263 officers, Police Chief Barry Rountree said the center is now “busting at the seams” with the current 559 officers.

Just a couple miles from the church on Waughtown Street is where the first $2.5 million district office will be located. He said it could  be finished as soon as next year.

“By having district offices, it will allow the police officers to be in the community more,” said Rountree. “It’ll also improve public safety by having officers in the community, so that is a big plus for us.”

Also discussed was Revitalizing Urban Community Areas, or RUCA, which lends money as low interest or forgivable loans to businesses for the rehabilitation and improvements in selected distressed areas in the city.

The City Council is still deciding which areas will receive the $2 million in bond funds for new RUCA loans.

Some unfinished business of the last round of the program came up recently when Southeast Plaza Shopping Center recently asked the City Council for more financial assistance. Initial RUCA improvements to the plaza included repaving the parking lot, improvements to the facade and rehabilitating areas in the back of the plaza now occupied by businesses.

On Feb. 1, the council voted 5-3 to grant the plaza owner $825,500 to make improvements it says will help attract higher quality businesses.

The money is a combination of loan forgiveness and funds from sweepstakes business license fees.

Montgomery said it was a good investment, since he considers Southeast Plaza one of the most successful RUCA sites, because of its transformation and the amount of private investment that’s occurred.

“For me, sometimes when you’re looking at distressed areas, areas that are in need of assistance, it takes a little bit more than you have available to push that area where it can be truly sustainable,” he said.

Montgomery said in the new round of RUCA there will be more oversight and more attention to the long-term needs for each site.

Also in the bond issues is $4 million for Transforming Urban Residential Neighborhoods, or TURN, which will provide financial assistance to rehabilitate single-family, owner-occupied or investor-owned properties in heavily blighted areas.

TURN will be investing as much $800,000 in selected residential areas.

“The TURN program is not intended to defeat every issue that’s in a neighborhood,” said Montgomery. “Investing money in housing alone does not deal with a lot of systemic issues in neighbors, but this is part of a larger puzzle that works together to help begin to mend some of those issues we see in meetings and we see housing as a big part of that process.”

In addition to the voter-approved bond issues, upcoming renovations to Benton Convention Center and Union Station were funded with limited obligation bond money, which only required council approval and not a public vote.

Union Station, located in the East Ward beside Winston-Salem State University, is a former train station that was used for years as a garage before the city purchased it.

It is slated to become a local and regional bus hub, augmenting the nearby Clark Campbell Transportation Center downtown, and is eventually envisioned to be used for regional and long distance rail service.

The project is now in the engineer and architecture stage, which should last six to eight months, said Montgomery.

“It’s a very exciting project and one that’s been many, many years in the works,” Montgomery said.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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