ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — Roanoke Rapids' mayor says a decision to sell the troubled Roanoke Rapids Theatre is a good deal for the city, even though it's being sold for a third of what the city borrowed to pay for it.
"It's going to allow us to do what a municipality needs to be able to do, in providing services to our citizens at a higher level," Mayor Emery Doughtie said Friday, a day after the City Council unanimously approved the sale to Chicago businessman Lafayette Gatling for $7.1 million in cash.
Roanoke Rapids borrowed $21.5 million in 2005 to build the theater along Interstate 95 to attract tourists and help boost the economy.
The city signed the brother of entertainer Dolly Parton to manage and perform at the Randy Parton Theater, but that deal soured.
Local taxpayers are now paying nearly $2 million a year in borrowing and operating costs.
The city and Gatling have a history.
Several years ago, the two had a $12.5 lease-purchase agreement, but the city terminated it last year when Gatling failed to pay more than $500,000 in back rent.
Both are involved in lawsuits against the other. Still, Doughtie said, they are looking to close the deal, which requires full payment in cash up front.
The city will still have to pay about $12 million on the property, but Doughtie has said the city would be able to refinance the remaining debt to make it more manageable.
A representative for Gatling said he won't have any comment about the deal until after the sale is final.
Once he signs the agreement, the city must advertise for 10 days for an upset bid on the deal. After that, Gatling has two months to pay the city for the theater.