The Carrboro Town Council signaled support for a new ArtsCenter and a $90.5 million town budget Tuesday night, after one member issued a sharp rebuke to her colleague.
Both the budget and The ArtsCenter plan will return in June for board votes.
The clash happened early in the meeting, after Carrboro Poet Laureate Fred Joiner read poems reflecting on the Texas school shooting. Council member Sammy Slade took the opportunity to highlight the role of money and power in blocking gun control action.
In the recent Congress District 4 race, he noted, “over $3 million was spent by a PAC and a crypto-billionaire to buy that seat.” The winner of the Democratic primary was state Sen. Valerie Foushee, who will face Republican Courtney Geels in November.
“Not only does every politician that takes NRA money have blood on their hands, so does every politician that partakes in and upholds a system that allows these big money interests to exist,” Slade said. “I think it is upon us to recognize our power at the local level to hold each other accountable to a higher standard, so that we may have a better world, whether it be climate change, gun violence or war elsewhere.”
Council member Barbara Foushee said she could no longer be silent about Slade’s allegations against Foushee, a family member. Slade also tried and failed May 11 to get the board’s support for a resolution opposing Super PAC election spending on Valerie Foushee’s behalf.
“I stood back and watched person after person, even my colleague, who tries to separate what he was saying and others about dark money from my family member. You can’t separate it. All that goes together,” council member Foushee said.
Valerie Foushee “is a woman of integrity, honesty, 25 years of exemplary leadership in this county, and how dare you come in here on your soapbox and try to bring this Black woman down,” Foushee said. “How dare you! You’ve been doing it the entire time, and I am sick of hearing it.”
With that, Foushee told Slade she didn’t want him to respond and briefly left the meeting.
The issue did not come up again, although there was a testy exchange at the end of the five-hour meeting when Slade corrected Foushee’s statement about former Mayor Robert Drakeford. Foushee has asked the council to name the new library and civic building at 203 S. Greensboro St. in his honor.
ArtsCenter moving to Roberson Street
Tuesday’s meeting also gave the council and the public an opportunity to weigh in on The ArtsCenter’s newly proposed home at 400 Roberson St. — a five-minute walk from the nonprofit agency’s longtime home at 300 E. Main St.
There were few comments, but the council was supportive of the project, which would redevelop a former UNC finance and IT building. Council members Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Slade praised the move, before the council voted unanimously to bring the plan back to its June 7 meeting for a final vote.
“I have watched the ArtsCenter (work) for 40-some odd years, and this is the most inspired fix I’ve seen,” Haven-O’Donnell said.
Mayor Damon Seils, who was absent Tuesday, and newly elected council member Eliazar Posada are expected to be present June 7 for the vote.
The Yaggy Building is in walking distance from downtown restaurants and shops, public transportation, and the 203 South Greensboro project, where construction could begin this year.
The roughly 17,500-square-foot building sits on two acres adjoining a public parking lot at the corner of Main and Roberson streets and the Libba Cotten Bikeway. It would replace the current ArtsCenter, which has operated out of a strip mall at 300 E. Main St. since the 1980s.
The new ArtsCenter would be slightly smaller than the current building but include a 118-seat performance theater, a larger ceramics studio, gallery and walled outdoor space, a painting center, performance space and writer’s studio, and adult and youth maker spaces.
It would have 86 dedicated parking spaces, and get a sprinkler system and an exterior facelift.
The redevelopment cost has been estimated at between $6 million and $7 million, supported by an ongoing capital campaign.
The project is getting an expedited town review, because The ArtsCenter already had received council approval of a new building at 315 Jones Ferry Road. That building would have been even smaller to fit a physically difficult site with steep slopes and a stream buffer.
The ArtsCenter still has the Jones Ferry Road site under contract. Project officials declined to comment about that Tuesday.
Carrboro budget, property tax rate
The council also reviewed Town Manager Richard White’s first town budget, which White said is focused on meeting strategic goals, addressing employee salaries and recruiting, and balancing costs and services.
The council will hold a public hearing on the $90.5 million budget June 7 and could adopt the final document June 21.
The budget includes $27.5 million for operating expenses and $50.8 million for construction projects and big-ticket purchases — an 8.4% increase over the current budget, White said.
It would maintain a property tax rate of 58.94 cents per $100 in value, generating a $2,357.60 tax bill for the owner of a house valued at $400,000. Carrboro residents also pay county property tax, which is expected to increase next year, and a special Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district tax, which also could remain the same.
Meanwhile, the Orange Water and Sewer Authority is raising rates 16% next year.
Carrboro’s budget includes a $3,000 salary increase for employees, which might help fill vacant positions, White said. It also includes new positions, such as a chief equity officer, equity manager, assistant town manager, and grants manager.
The rising cost of employee salaries and benefits, fuel and transit are pushing expenses higher, White noted, along with $19.1 million in town spending slated for the $41.3 million project at 203 S. Greensboro St. Orange County will pay the rest.
Cary McNallan, the town’s deputy finance director, noted that the town already has $47.8 million in projects underway. Town staff anticipates that by 2027, the town would pay roughly $3.3 million a year in principal and interest on its debt, he said.
Other proposed spending highlights:
▪ $50,000 to add community mental health services in the police department, and $15,000 for a new police dog
▪ $25,000 to pay Carrboro Music Festival performers
▪ $28,400 for a downtown redevelopment study; $105,000 for a comprehensive stormwater infrastructure study; and $100,000 for a disparity study looking at BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) business needs and other issues
▪ $7.3 million to renovate Carrboro Town Hall in the next few years
This story was originally published May 25, 2022 11:08 AM.
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