The last scheduled meeting of the Greensboro City Council in 2018 was fittingly raucous with City Council discussion halted at one point because some people in the audience were making too much noise for councilmembers to be heard.

It was also fitting that at this meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18 a major vote was taken on one of the two proposed downtown parking decks that have been ongoing projects for over a year.

The North Eugene Street parking deck and the February One Place-Westin Hotel parking deck have taken up a lot of council and staff time during 2018 and it appears that at least the Eugene Street parking deck is now on the road to actually getting built.

The City Council by a unanimous vote awarded the preliminary construction contract to Samet Corporation/SRS, Inc., a joint venture, and gave City Manager David Parrish the authority to enter into a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) contract with Samet/SRS for up to $22 million to construct the parking deck.

It is worth noting that despite the fact that it is awarding a construction contract, Greensboro does not own the land where the parking deck is to be built.

The land which is in the interior of the block, across the street from the First National Bank Field, bounded by North Eugene Street, Bellemeade Street, West Friendly Avenue and North Edgeworth Street is owned by Guilford County.  The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has agreed to sell the land to Greensboro and the Greensboro City Council has agreed to buy the land, but the actual purchase will not take place before January.

The CMAR method means the construction contract is not awarded to the lowest bidder, but the CMAR guarantees a maximum price, in this case no more than $22 million. Parrish said that he expected the final price to be under $22 million and for construction to begin in about six months.

The other proposed parking deck which had reportedly been held up by a lawsuit over easements across the property purchased by the city, is actually being held up because Greensboro and Elm Street Hotel, LLC, which plans to build a Westin Hotel on top of the southern portion of the parking deck, have not been able to reach an agreement on construction.

The North Eugene Street parking deck in its first iteration was also going to have a privately owned structure built on top of it.  Roy Carroll (who owns this publication) owns the land where the parking deck was to be built and planned to build a multi-story mixed use building over the parking deck, but in April Mayor Nancy Vaughan informed Carroll that the city was pulling out of negotiations because the city felt they had reached an impasse.

The result of the city deciding to stop negotiations on that project, led to the city agreeing to buy land from Guilford County and the present North Eugene Street parking deck plan which involves the city selling some excess land it plans to purchase from Guilford County to Carroll and Carroll trading some land he currently owns to the city for the parking deck.

Those involved agree that the present plan for the Eugene Street parking deck and the development of the block is superior to the original plan.

The only questions asked about the referendum to enter into an agreement with Samet/SRS for the parking deck construction came from Councilmember Sharon Hightower who questioned using a CMAR and as always asked about the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise percentages for the project.

Evidently Hightower was convinced that the MWBE participation would meet with her approval, because she voted in favor of the referendum.

The raucous part of the meeting, wasn’t about any items on the agenda.  Several speakers came forward ostensibly to talk about the library and also the contract Greensboro has with Guilford County Schools to provide School Resource Officers.  What the speakers actually talked about were homeless issues and Marcus Smith, a homeless man who died after being detained by Greensboro police officers in September.

Vaughan refused to allow the speakers to talk about Smith, or homeless issues, but did not stop their supporters in the audience from chanting and shouting at councilmembers.

It’s a problem that is clearly going to continue until Vaughan decides she is not going to allow City Council meetings to be disrupted by groups who attend meetings for that purpose.

The disruptions resulted in an unusual vote.  Councilmember Yvonne Johnson said that she abstained from voting on the SRO contract because she had wanted to speak on the topic and was not given the opportunity. Councilmembers unless they are recused by a vote of the City Council, are required by law to vote.  Johnson didn’t vote, but her vote will be officially recorded as a yes vote.