The City Council raised concerns about the Pathways for Prosperity initiative and funding of a civil war center at its first work session of the year Tuesday night. Also, the council unanimously approved to have city staff work on a memorandum of understanding with Fayetteville State University to work together to develop two facilities on Murchison Road.
The meeting began with a presentation by City Councilman Larry Wright and former City Councilman Kirk deViere about Pathways for Prosperity.
The initiative was created by the two men last year as a way to address poverty and a lack of economic mobility in the city.
More than 200 people attended the Pathways for Prosperity Summit in a meeting hall at the Cumberland County Department of Social Services in November. At the summit, the attendees came up with five areas of focus to improve the quality of life in Cumberland County. They are workforce/industry alignment, K-12 education, early childhood education, parent education and affordable housing.
Adam Svolto of the North Carolina Justice Center also attended the meeting. The North Carolina Justice Center, a Raleigh-based organization that advocates for policies to reduce poverty, has received a three-year grant of $1.27 million to study poverty and support economic development in Fayetteville and eight other North Carolina communities.
He said a comprehensive action plan would be created in March, neighborhood revitalization teams will be created in the summer and an accountability session will be held in December.
“There are so many areas of poverty that touch us all,” Wright said. “It will be the big elephant in the room that will attack us later.”
DeViere and Wright asked for the City Council to continue to support the initiative.
“The city’s piece is just logistical,” deViere said. He said some of the logistics could include finding areas where volunteers could meet and research.
City Councilmen D.J. Haire, Bill Crisp and Tyrone Williams expressed concerns about the fact that the project had no end date.
“I don’t see the end of the road,” Williams said.
City Councilman Jim Arp expressed concerns about the fact that no measurements had been put in place to assess how much Pathways for Prosperity will cost the city.
“We should be doing cost-allocation for everything we do,” Arp said. “That’s imperative for planning.”
Svolto said that the project is currently anchored by the city, but only in the short term.
“It’s going to need to be anchored by the community in the long term,” he said.
Hewett said the community’s engagement in Pathways for Prosperity is an indicator that the program is needed. He asked the council to think of other city policy issue events that drew the crowd that the Pathways for Prosperity drew at its summit.
“I don’t know how we can afford not to do this,” Hewett said.
Later in the meeting, Mac Healy announced that the North Carolina Civil War History Center had been renamed the North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center. Healy is the chairman of the foundation promoting what would become the state’s premier Civil War center.
Reconstruction refers to not only the formal time period recognized by historians as between 1865 to 1877, but to the years after that. Healy said people were still feeling the affects of the war after that period.
“North Carolina was defined by the Civil War, but you have to keep in mind that there were relatively few battles fought here, so that’s why our center is searching for stories of how families dealt with the hardships that came as a result of the Civil War,” Healy said.
He also asked for $7.5 million from the city to help fund the creation of the center and some city property. After the center is built, the state will pay for the operational costs of running it.
In December of 2016, the City Council unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution Monday night to contribute $7.5 million toward the center.
The pledge was contingent upon Cumberland County contributing an equal amount and the state’s General Assembly allocating about $30 million.
Crisp raised the concern that the county has not pledged any money toward the center.
“Where is the county?” Crisp said. “To my knowledge, I’ve seen nothing from the county.”
Crisp, Haire and Wright brought up concerns about how those in the black community will perceive the center.
Toward the end of the meeting, the council approved the city staff going forward with making a memorandum of understanding with Fayetteville State University in a draft regarding the creation of wellness centers at the corner of Murchison Road and Filter Plant Drive.
The city is considering building a Senior Center East next to the university’s planned health and wellness center. That center is to be created with $5.5 million the university received through appropriations in the state budget last summer.
The Senior Center East facility is one of two senior centers authorized by voters in 2016 when they approved $35 million in general obligation bonds for parks and recreation.
Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson previously told the Observer that he hopes to transform the southern portion of Murchison Road into an athletic corridor.
Councilwoman Tisha Waddell said she approved with the caveat that the university allow all Fayetteville residents the use of the the health and wellness center the university is planning.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the funding source for Fayetteville State University's planned health and wellness center. The $5.5 million for the center was appropriated in the state budget this past summer.
Staff writer Monica Vendituoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3596.