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Bowman Gray sale delayed until late 2018

Bowman Gray sale delayed until late 2018
September 14
05:00 2017

The city’s sale of Bowman Gray Stadium to Winston-Salem State University won’t be finalized until the end of next year, at the earliest.

That was an update given to the City Council Finance Committee, during its Monday meeting. The City Council initially voted in May 2013 on its intent to sell the stadium for $7.1 million to WSSU, which plays football games there. Earlier this year, staff form both the city and WSSU were confident that the sale could be finalized this year.

After further talks with the state, they discovered the brownfields agreement, denoting contamination on the property, would not be finalized until 2018. There is methane gas underneath a parking lot there, which is being remediated.  The gas isn’t flammable or harmful to those on the stadium property.

The length of the brownfields review will push the 30-day public comment period to June 2018 and final approval of the deal by the UNC Board of Governors, the Joint Committee on Government Operations, the Council of State and the City Council to late next year, meaning the earliest the sale could be finalized now is November 2018.

The sale of Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum to Wake Forest University happened at the same time and was closed relatively quickly because it was a private institution. WSSU is a public university that needs state approval for such a transaction.

But even with state agencies reviewing the sale, several members of the City Council felt it shouldn’t be taking nearly this long. City Council member Derwin Montgomery, who is one of The Chronicle’s owners, said he felt that perhaps “those behind the scenes pulling strings and levers” at the state may be slowing the process down.

“Something is not like it ought to be,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke.

The city has contracted with WSSU since 2014 to operate and maintain the stadium. WSSU plans to maintain its current operations, including racing, when it finally owns the stadium.

Also during the meeting, Winston-Salem Fire Department Chief Trey Mayo appealed to the committee for matching funds for a grant to hire 15 new firefighters. The WSFD has been awarded a $1.3 million Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. The city would be required to do a local match of $813,000, which could be spread over three years, and spend approximately $90,000 for training and equipment this fiscal year.

The new firefighters would be placed in companies stationed on Liberty Street, MLK, Jr. Boulevard, Waughtown Street, Peace Haven Road, and Arbor Road. These five companies respond to two-thirds of all building fires. The grant is designed to help fire departments have enough personnel to get an initial 15 firefighters to moderate risk residential fires in no more than eight minutes 90 percent of the time. Currently, WSFD does this 56 percent of the time.

By city policy, matching funds should be requested before grants are applied for but, due to a mishap, Mayo said he only found out about the needed match afterward.  The committee pushed the matter back to next month after its members had concerns on being able to afford the match and the firefighter’s salaries after the grant ended, and about protocol not being followed with the request.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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