A Chance Meeting and the Future of the Empire Hotel

Posted on November 20, 2017



Todd Paris, Salisbury Attorney

♦ I promised myself that I’d take a break from local politics till the first of the year, but when “it walks in your front door”…

Last week I was stranding outside of “the Paris Tower” at 113 East Council Street when a well dressed older gentlemen walked down the street and I thought I recognized him. I waived and he came over. It was Jim Prosser, Executive Director of the Centralina Council of Governments. (CCOG).  CCOG encompasses nine counties and 74 municipalities, representing almost two million people and headquartered in the City of Charlotte.  Salisbury and Rowan are members. The cities and counties provide direct financial support. Folks may remember Rowan County withdrew its membership a few years ago and has reinstated it under the Edd’s Commission. Prosser is respected and widely known for his honesty and integrity.

Our most recent contact with Mr. Prosser was one of the two “talking heads” at Salisbury City Council Meeting regarding the Councilman Brian Miller’s failed Empire Hotel Project which has lapped up $90K per year of tax-payer funds for the past ten years with zero benefit to the community.

The Empire Hotel at Christmas Time:

I wrote on this issue in RFP last August where we attached a link to the video-article of his appearance before council. I said, “First the phrase “public-private partnership” crops up. All the while, I had thought a closing means selling it to a private developer for enough money to pay off the loans and ending the taxpayer’s financial drain.”

https://rowanfreepress.com/2017/08/06/promised-august-2017-closing-on-the-empire-hotel-goes-south-disturbing-information-disclosed-at-council-meeting-as-to-future-plans/

A few weeks later, neighbor Clyde, who is a historic preservation supporter and all around “guy in the know”, informed me that I was incorrect and that the plan would completely sell the Empire to the developer who would cover everything and not incur further DSI or City liability. Clyde is usually right and I left pleased as I have always been in favor of the project as long as the City/DSI incurred no further liability. I don’t know where Clyde got his information, but I wonder how many folks were told this before the election.

After we exchanged business cards, I explained to Mr. Prosser that my opposition had waned since government money would no longer be involved in this project. He looked uncomfortable. He told me that I was incorrect and that city money would be required like a “bridge loan,” up-front grant or other incentive to make the project work and that this same method had been utilized in other municipalities for similar projects. While I did not press this man as to figures, another confidential source would tells me the figure would likely be between three to seven million dollars.

A new council majority was elected and it will be up to Mayor Heggins, David Post, and Tamara Sheffield to decide if they want to launch the City of Salisbury into what may become another “Fibrant-like” financial boondoggle. How exactly is this project likely to benefit anyone outside of the 8-block? I fear that one day we taxpayers may look back longingly to the time where the Empire was only lapping up 90K in tax money per year.

Perhaps the North Carolina Local Government Commission should take a look at future loan requests and bear in mind that we still owe much of the $30 million dollars borrowed for the Fibrant Debacle, that we are probably planning on borrowing money for 3 new fire stations and now want this? Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Salisbury already have enough charged on their LGC credit card?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the three new City Council Democrats actually showed themselves to be more fiscally responsible and better stewards of public money? Only time will tell.

The Empire Hotel: Queen of the South Main Badlands:

https://rowanfreepress.com/the-empire-hotel-queen-of-the-south-main-badlands/

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