The state budget which Governor Roy Cooper signed last week will bring a total of $23,487,581 to Halifax County and $19,025,000 to Northampton County.
Of the money allocated to Halifax County, there is $3.5 million earmarked to the city of Roanoke Rapids for retiring a deed of trust to Bank of America for the Roanoke Rapids Theatre and the remainder for economic development, state Representative Micheal Wray said in an interview last week.
Paying off the deed of trust represents an annual savings to the city of $350,000, both Wray and city officials confirmed.
“Council will have to vote on that to do that,” Councilman Wayne Smith, who has pushed to sell the theater and reduce the city’s debt on the venue, said. “It’s really going to pay off the second note of about $2 million.”
City Finance Director Leigh Etheridge said the amount owed is approximately $2,475,792 and she confirmed it will save the city around $350,000 each year.
“It’s a big help,” Smith said. “It’s going to cut out about $350,000 in debt.”
What to do with leftover funds will be for the council to decide, he said. “What I would like to see is $200,000 put into planning to tear down dilapidated houses and I would like to see $200,000 put into updating the civic center.”
Smith said he also knows the police department is going to need new radios.
The savings, he said, will be “a tremendous help. When you put $350,000 back in the budget to use on infrastructure that makes a whole big difference.”
Both Smith and Mayor Emery Doughtie worked with Wray to make this happen. “Michael has worked hard,” said Smith.
Halifax County highlights
Money is included in the budget to finish the restoration of the William R. Davie House in Halifax and to renovate and restore the Historic Halifax visitors center in preparation of the 250th anniversary of the Halifax Resolves in 2026.
Money has also been earmarked for the former Andrew Jackson school site in Halifax, Wray said. That includes $50,000 for Weldon City Schools, $50,000 for the underground railroad project and $150,000 for site development. “State cultural resources is working on a program and the local historical society is working on a plan and vision of what they want to do along with Halifax County tourism,” Wray said.
There is also money set aside for the Weldon Amtrak station project, which Wray said could open up a rail corridor for eastern North Carolina. “The closest Amtrak station is Petersburg and Rocky Mount,” he said. “We could be a destination for stopovers.”
Money is also included for Main Street projects for the municipalities in Halifax County and there is $500,000 appropriated for the Lincoln Heights Community Center, which has also applied for a $750,000 grant.
Wray said there is $14 million appropriated in the state budget for a new courthouse in Northampton County.
“My understanding is they have done extensive research and confirmed there are safety issues and other issues.”
The budget also includes the conveyance of Odom prison to Northampton County. “Their vision is to have a juvenile detention facility,” Wray said.
The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald of Ahoskie reported in March that a resolution endorsed by county commissioners requested that action to occur.
There are special provisions within the budget that will benefit the entire area and region, Wray said.
One is for the state parks system from the Roanoke Rapids Dam to the Albemarle Sound which will be designated as a Blueway State Park water system “where we promote our river where people come down and paddle or ride kayaks and canoes and just float the river.”
Said Wray: “With our rich history of the rockfish it will mean the possibility of more ecotourism for our community along with our corridor in Historic Halifax, Sylvan Heights and Medoc Mountain. You can come spend the day as a destination corridor.”
The budget includes a $100 million provision where municipalities can apply for water and sewer grants and more than a billion dollars for broadband. “We know how important broadband is from where we’re at now.”
There is more than $100 million for the recreational trust fund that local municipalities can apply for and “we have a lot of infrastructure upgrades that can be applied for for failing water and sewer systems.”
Wray was one of nine Democrats on the House side to vote for the preliminary budget along with four Democratic senators who voted for the plan. “We all appointed conferees along with the leadership of the Republican party.”
Wray said the state budget is a true bipartisan financial plan. “We worked and came together and tried to make the best budget we could for all of North Carolina. There was a lot of good stuff that came in but there was a lot of bad stuff that was taken out. At the end of the day we had a bipartisan budget and we can make North Carolina proud.”
He said, “There’s a lot of capital improvements, a lot of teacher raises, state employee raises, retirement raises and looking out for our individuals who work in the school system to bring their minimum wage up. It’s really going to make a difference on the impact of North Carolina.”
He said he was pleased to be a part of its passage. “I’m proud to be part of it to help make a better budget and I’m glad my colleagues saw that it’s going to make a difference and they voted for it. I’m glad the governor signed it instead of vetoing it. If he vetoed it the group was prepared to override it.”
Wray said he believes the state surplus was used wisely. “I think we touched a lot of small communities for a lot of needs that had been put behind for too long. I think we touched a lot of people with all the money we got in the budget. It’s about relationships and seniority. It’s about working for our community and understanding the needs. I was able to brainstorm with individuals and leaders in our community to try to bring some good things and make a big impact.”