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Roanoke Rapids Parton Deal Allows Bonds Without Taxpayer OK

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ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — The $130 million entertainment district in Roanoke Rapids is a done deal, but some are wondering at what cost to taxpayers.

The project's big backer, Randy Parton, only contributed his family name.

So, the risk of the project lies in the hands of the city of Roanoke Rapids and its taxpayers.

The Randy Parton Theatre will be the anchor project in a $130 million music and entertainment district that's expected to create more than 3,000 jobs.

The hard numbers show the city of Roanoke Rapids will be putting millions of dollars on the line in building the theatre.

At least four extensive cost studies show the project is worth the city's risk.

"All the development that will occur within the district will support itself with no leaning on the taxbase," said Rick Benton, the city manager.

The financial arrangement calls for the City of Roanoke Rapids to foot the entire $12 million project.

"He's putting his reputation, he's putting the Parton name. We are looking at that as a great contribution," said Mayor Drewery Beale.

The city will own the theatre. Parton will lease it to the tune of more than half a million dollars.

"The lease payments for the theatre will pay for the debt service," Benton said. "If for some reason things don't work out, then incremental tax revenues will be sufficient to pay the debt."

Voters recently approved a statewide referendum that allows municipalities to float bonds for major projects without first getting approval of the voters.

Roanoke Rapids will be the first municipality to take advantage of the new financing method. It's a gamble worth millions.

Beale said it's all about jobs and business development and changing with the times.

The state is expected to approve the financing arrangement in March.

Construction will be under way by April.

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