It took five years for the deep wounds to heal but, recently, it’s become clear that a longstanding rift between Guilford County government and the City of High Point has disappeared – and, once again, the two local governments are getting along swimmingly.
The huge disagreement that caused a fallout that lasted for years began in September of 2017 when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners – at that time led by a Republican majority – voted to table a motion to provide High Point with a special tax arrangement that would help the city fund the new downtown baseball stadium that’s now home to the High Point Rockers.
For years after that, the relationship between the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and High Point’s business, civic and government leaders was tense.
In September of 2017, the audience full of High Point stadium supporters in the commissioners' meeting room booed Commissioner Skip Alston, who made a motion to delay the decision.
It was four years later before the Board of Commissioners revisited the matter.
That 2017 motion caused Alston to be villainized by some in High Point; however, in reality, Alston was working hard to get the city the money, but he knew the votes weren’t there that night to do it so the board tabled the motion.
“Therein lies the problem with the disrespect with this project,” Alston told the booing crowd at the time, adding, “You don’t want a vote tonight, because you would get an overwhelming ‘no’ vote.”
He also said, “Don’t demand that we be on your schedule” and he told the stadium supporters to stop the “bullying tactics.”
Soon after, former High Point Mayor Bill Bencini raked former Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips over the coals at a meeting of the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance – a place where things usually never become remotely contentious.
In February of 2021, the Board of Commissioners – after Alston became chairman of a Democratic-majority board – finally approved $7 million for the project.
That was a strange move given that the stadium was already built and hosting Rockers games. In 2017, the argument from High Point officials was that the city needed the county’s financial support to proceed with the project.
In 2017, High Point officials wanted Guilford County to approve a special tax zone around the stadium that would have allowed some money from property tax increases in the zone to go toward the stadium project for years – estimated at the time to be a county contribution of about $11 million over time.
New leadership in Guilford County and in High Point’s business community and the city’s government is one factor leading to the improved relationship. Another is that the stadium did get built, even without any help from the county commissioners.
In May, the Board of Commissioners even held their board meeting in High Point to show that things were fine – and the commissioners were invited to a baseball game at the stadium after the meeting and a great time was had by all.
Alston said recently that the relationship was no longer tense.
“Well, we did give them $7 million,” Alston said.