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Strong words mark Senate vote on Dix lease

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

A bill to void the state's deal with the city of Raleigh that would turn the former Dorothea Dix campus into a destination park passed a key Senate committee Thursday and included some strong words between a top senator and the president of Capitol Broadcasting Co. Inc.

Former Gov. Bev Perdue agreed to give the city a 99-year lease in December. But Republican lawmakers have raised questions about the deal and believe the state didn't get fair market value for the property.

On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Dan Blue said he was reluctant to go back and renegotiate, saying, "It is a sad day when one government unit cannot rely on another government unit to abide by the terms it makes." 

Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Republican from Union County, concurred with some brief statements made by Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Hendersonville who called into question the legitimacy of signing the park over. Tucker called the lease negotiations a "lame duck deal done by a lame duck government."

He said the property was designed for mental health use, and therefore the Department of Health and Human Services should have a new office complex in there. He also said that open space already exists in Raleigh.

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a leading Democrat, said that "people in the state deserve continuity in government," and that the government cannot simply void contracts because it doesn't like them.

But Tucker, speaking in favor of SB 334, responded that the lease represented a power grab by the city of Raleigh.

Goodmon then stood up to speak from the crowd and said he works at Capitol Broadcasting (the parent company for WRAL-TV). He said the existing lease was negotiated fairly, and questioned the precedent this would set if the state breaks the lease. He said that as a business person, no one will trust doing business with the state if they break leases.

Goodmon is also a member of the Dix Visionaries group that is promoting having a park at Dix. The property is close to Capitol Broadcasting's studios on Western Boulevard in Raleigh.

Goodmon said the park would be a "huge economic tool" for Raleigh, and most of the members of the audience applauded when he finished speaking.

However, Apodaca said, "I will not be threatened."

The two men were about to have a heated exchange before the speaker asked Goodmon to sit down and Apodaca to move on.

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