Local News

'What's the Big Deal?': Durham Leaders Respond to Trip Criticism

Posted Updated

DURHAM — Durham city leaders are back from a trip to Asheville to see how that city revitalized its downtown. So, what have they learned, if anything?

When Durham leaders went to Roanoke, Va., two years ago, they learned it had a downtown master plan. The group came back and created a plan for Durham.

They say the Roanoke trip had concrete results, and they are looking for similar results from their trip last week to Asheville.

The trip cost about $4,500. Taxpayers will pick up about $1,000 of that, the rest being covered with private donations.

"What's the big deal?" asks Ted Abernathy, Durham's director of economic development. He says the public money was well spent, compared to public time that is not.

"I've spent at least two hours today talking to reporters. How does that pay off to my taxpayers whatsoever?" he asks. "Especially considering that every reporter is trying to find that angle that is not helpful at all to what I do for a living."

Bill Kalkhof ofDowntown Durham, Inc.says the trip was well worth the money.

"If we were allowed to, I would gladly spend the money out of my budget on a trip like this," he says. "I think it's worth that much. As it turns out, we're lucky to have private-sector individuals step up to the plate to pay most of the cost."

Thirty people went on the trip, most of whom were private-sector individuals.

Business leaders say the trip's reality was far different from what may have been the perception.