Greenville City Council directed staff to approach Pitt County government about jointly using American Rescue Plan Act funding to develop a multisport complex.
Council also wants staff to explore how increasing employee premium pay and assistance to small business, along with providing funds to nonprofits, would change the recovery plan proposed last month.
Congress earlier this year awarded state and local governments $350 billion to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City of Greenville is receiving $27.34 million. However, spending discussions have focused on a $24.7 million plan to address the pandemic’s economic effects.
Staff recommended the bulk of the money, $22.6 million, go toward improving Guy Smith Stadium, the Town Common, Thomas Foreman Park and building a trail connection from the Town Common to Wildwood Park.
Greenville residents have been commenting on the recommendations through a virtual input session and online survey.
From the 205 responses received, 80 percent support using the money for street improvements, 79 percent support small business grants and 69 percent support spending it on the city’s proposal. The proposal to expand Guy Smith Stadium received 60 percent support while the other three recommendations reach received 69 percent to 70 percent support.
Two more public input sessions will be held Oct. 18 and Oct. 20.
Mayor P.J. Connelly initially raised the possibility of funding a multisport complex.
“I received a bunch of feedback on the concept of some type of sports complex,” he said.
The businesses that were hit the hardest in the early days of the pandemic were in the hospitality and tourism industries, he said.
“I think as a council we need to be mindful that these funds are intended for a specific purpose and we need to be sure that we make a decision that is most impactful for our community,” Connelly said. A complex catering to soccer, lacrosse, softball and baseball, maybe football, would bring people to the community, he said.
Councilman Will Bell said members of the Pitt County Board of Commissioners told him they were kicking around the idea of a sports complex.
A week prior to the council’s discussion, the Pitt County Board of Commissioners voted to pause its previously approved plan for spending $17.5 million in rescue plan funding to get more community feedback.
Pitt County Commissioner Christopher Nunnally, who recommended the pause, said his request wasn’t connected to discussions about funding a multisport complex.
“There has been no formal conversation about partnerships involving ARPA funds that I’m aware of,” Nunnally said Monday. “I’m sure there is a lot of spitballing though, and that is a good thing at this point. … Collaboration and combination of resources could allow for more transformative impacts.”
Greenville Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Michael Cowin said directing dollars to a multisport complex means taking dollars from the original proposals.
Connelly said he is being told spending $10 million to upgrade Guy Smith Stadium is too much, even if the improvements could bring a summer baseball league to Greenville.
Councilwoman Monica Daniels said the council should discuss increased funding for affordable housing, small business support and aiding nonprofits that suffered donation losses during the pandemic.
The city already has money to address affordable housing and small business support, staff said.
The city has appropriated $1.98 million of rescue plan funding for affordable housing efforts on top of $4 million it received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Affordable Housing program, Cowin said. He said that not all the money allocated for small business assistance from the CARES Act has been spent.
Director of Financial Services Bryon Hayes said the city also would have to set up a vetting and monitoring process if it aids nonprofits.
Daniels also pushed to raise a one-time payment to essential city employees from $500 to at least $1,000.
Councilman Rick Smiley questioned the necessity of one-time employee payments, saying no city worker was laid off or missed a paycheck.
Daniels proposed awarding the premium pay while the discussions about spending the remaining dollars continue. Cowin said the spending plans needs to be approved as a whole because putting additional dollars towards premium pay take it away from another project.
Wall said staff will evaluate increasing pay for city employees and assistance for nonprofits, updating a disparity study that will examine the appropriateness for its programs to address racial and gender discrimination and begin talking with county officials about participating in a multisport complex.
“I don’t think you are suggesting to us a funding level or whether or not for sure you want to fund them. What you asked us to do is explore what it might look like,” Wall said. Council members concurred.
Connelly also asked staff to bring back information on how including additional proposals would affect spending on the existing plan.