WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington City Council will take up a slew of items related to the city’s next major public project, as North Waterfront Park gets closer to the starting line.
The park has been in the planning stages since the city purchased the property in 2013, with public input sessions in 2016 and 2017, culminating in the existing plan.
Last November, developer Hargreaves Jones presented the final design options to the council, along with the financial reality that the design based on all of the desires and needs of the city would be $25.37 million.
A compromise, or “signature” park costing $19.8 million was proposed, with the option for the council to select “add ons.” The city then began a fundraising initiative, offering sponsorships for certain amenities to attempt to make up the $4-5 million difference.
As of November 2019, the city has reportedly raised around $1 million in that effort but has yet to secure the title sponsor for the naming rights to the park.
One of the items up for the council’s vote Tuesday is whether or not to amend the city’s contract with Live Nation — the firm the city has selected to run the concert venue aspect of the park.
In order to develop a more robust facility to support Live Nation events, including permanent restrooms and other facilities, the company has offered an additional $2 million contribution to the project, to be paid when the park is completed.
Live Nation was already obligated to $2 million, plus $200,000 per year in rent for at least 10 years, and a royalty of $2 from every ticket sold.
Mayor Bill Saffo said the company’s offer of additional cash shows its commitment to the city and the venue.
“For Live Nation to make this significant investment in our park for over $2 million, the largest concert promoter in the country, to want to invest in Wilmington, to be part of this, you know, it’s a testament to what this area means to Live Nation and to concert-goers,” he said.
Council will also consider contracts for the beginning phases of construction on he park, including a $29.17 million deal with Clancy and Theys Construction Company for the main construction, a $751,913 interlocal agreement with Cape Fear Public Utility Authority for the relocation of sewer lines, and a $157,248 contract with MBP Carolinas, Inc. for construction management.
The council also heard an update from the Wilmington Fire Department on the effort to cut back on superfluous emergency responses.
WFD Chief Buddy Martinette explained that in June, the department began a pilot program to cut back on the number of calls it automatically responds to.
These calls, he said, are typically minor car crashes or medical calls, and in many cases, WFD would respond only to have the calls canceled en-route or when they arrived on the scene.
Those unnecessary calls come at a cost, Martinette said, so the goal was to cut those responses by at least 30 percent.
WFD has an agreement with New Hanover County EMS, which are the ones who would respond to these calls instead.
So far, he said, the department has cut those responses by more than 40 percent, and EMS has not reported any issues with patient care or response load.
Council Member Kevin O’Grady pushed the chief on this point, asking if WFD crews would respond if needed.
Martinette explained that crews still can respond if they are called for, they simply don’t automatically respond to lower-level emergencies.
Saffo applauded the department for walking that fine line.
“The bottom line here is we want to save lives and help people and get them to emergency services as quickly as possible, but we were also concerned about the amount of time and the maintenance on our vehicles. So, I would give a lot of credit to the fire department, chief Martinette and his staff," he said. "They sat down with EMT, they worked out this issue.”