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Editorial: Late or not, Salisbury needs funding for Empire Hotel

“A day late and a dollar short.”

That was how Sen. Carl Ford described a resolution on Tuesday’s Salisbury City Council agenda requesting funding to help the Empire Hotel revitalization. Specifically, the hotel’s developer hopes to secure $1 million. The money was included in the governor’s budget, but it has been absent from the House and Senate versions.

At first glance, the omission is puzzling. We’re certain our state legislators understand the value of the allocation, which developer Britt Weaver has called “the single greatest thing to take this over the hump.” The hotel’s redevelopment would add dozens of new residential units to downtown Salisbury and revitalize a historic building.  The $1 million ask shouldn’t be seen any differently than tax incentives for new or expanding business.

What’s more, Reps. Harry Warren and Julia Howard are veteran Republican legislators who certainly have enough clout in Raleigh to secure a $1 million allocation. Ford is new to the Senate, but with the allocation’s inclusion in the House budget and a formal resolution from the Salisbury City Council, we think he could get the job done, too.

A problem, Ford said, is that he hasn’t received a formal request from the city of Salisbury. And despite any anti-Salisbury sentiments in Ford’s past, he’s right to not so subtly imply that there’s been a major breakdown in communication.

The city, if it approves the resolution Tuesday, might very well be too late. The Senate approved its version of the budget last week, and now it will begin negotiations with the House on a final plan to pass and present to Gov. Roy Cooper. Will one or more of Rowan’s legislators be named to the group that fashions a compromise and be able to squeeze in the $1 million in funding for the Empire?

It won’t be easy. And the City Council will share a portion of the blame if late lobbying doesn’t bear fruit.

Still, our legislators must take the resolution and diligently work to secure funding before the session ends. If it’s not the state budget, there are other mechanisms  that can be used to secure funding for local projects.

Between the Bell Tower Green Park and the Empire Hotel, Salisbury has the chance to transform its downtown for the better. The $1 million for the Empire Hotel is a critical part of that revitalization.

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