Greensboro kicked off its two-day Fun Fourth celebration with a performance by country singer Stephanie Quayle and a fireworks display ahead of today’s downtown festival with more music, games, food and crafts.
Check out today’s schedule of events and where to see fireworks in the area on Page A3.
Find more photos from Wednesday’s Fun Fourth kickoff at greensboro.com.
Ed Hardin: Sylvia Hatchell left the North Carolina women’s basketball program under a cloud, but she didn’t leave town. Page C1
Catch some Movie classics at the Carolina Theatre ââ Go Triad
GREENSBORO — The Greensboro Science Center’s expansion is kicking into an even higher gear, as officials seek more immersive attractions, eye-catching artwork and additional opportunities to explore science and history.
Dubbed “The Gateway Project” — the latest plans would build on the already extensive expansion underway, which includes a new Malayan tiger exhibit, a carousel featuring hand-carved animals and a butterfly house, among other things.
Much of that work is being paid for using a $20 million bond issued by the city of Greensboro and the Science Center hopes city officials will consider an even bigger bond for the latest proposal.
“Given our high responsibility with the $20 million … we will ask for an increase,” CEO Glenn Dobrogosz said, noting that the Science Center matched those 2009 bond dollars 100%. He’s anticipating asking for $25 million to $30 million this time, with hopes that a new bond will be approved in 2020 or 2021.
“It’s totally up to (the City Council and) the voters, but we will state our case,” Dobrogosz said.
The Science Center began that process a few weeks ago when it unveiled its 2020-30 strategic plan to city officials, Science Center board members and the media.
A study released at the event puts the current economic impact of the Science Center at $77 million annually and shows that the number of visitors increased from 250,000 to 435,000 in the past decade.
The latest expansion is tied into the Battleground Parks District. That project interweaves the Science Center, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, County and Jaycee parks, the Spencer Love Tennis Center, the Lewis Recreation Center, Forest Lawn Cemetery and parts of the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway. Its aim is to boost the district as a premier tourist destination.
With the additional draw of the parks district, the Science Center could potentially attract between 750,000 to 1 million annual visitors, according to the study conducted by Sage Policy Group Inc. of Baltimore, Md.
To understand what the Science Center will be asking the city to fund in the potential bond request, it helps to understand what’s already being funded. In December, the new breeding facility for the Malayan tigers is slated to open. The zoo already has permission to get its first tiger, a male, from the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida.
The new bond money would enhance that exhibit to provide giant, enclosed bridges for the tigers to traverse above visitors.
“By adding these tubes, it basically gives them the ability to extend their exhibit in these long wonderful passages,” Dobrogosz said.
Kiosk areas would provide visitors with a sense of the art and culture of Malaysia, as well as an understanding of the animals and their habitat. This would include reflective mirror tigers, “so you can see yourself and these shapes of tigers that are huge — you see yourself in there as a predator/prey relationship,” Dobrogosz said. “It’s a cool way of artistically interpreting the species.”
But it’s expensive.
“To do all that, that’s probably a good million dollars,” Dobrogosz said.
The 2020-30 plan proposes a new exhibit called “Wunderworld” that would allow guests to explore the architecture of the underground world and highlight its creatures. It also looks at the science of the subterranean world, including gems, minerals and geological formations.
In the rotunda, suspended multimedia displays would tell interactive stories from the cosmos to the center of the earth.
The “It’s a Slow World” exhibit would feature animals such as sloths and tortoises. And guests also would get an up-close look at bugs in an “Insectarium” exhibit, which explores the role insects play in our world and the engineering feats they perform.
A much larger meerkat exhibit would feature bridges allowing these small members of the mongoose family to move about above the heads of visitors. And the gibbon exhibit would gain more portals and tunnels and a new water exhibit with Asian small-clawed otters.
In another area, the Science Center’s Shark Reef would be upgraded to a new Indo-Pacific habitat, featuring interactive underwater cameras and storytellers to explain aquatic science.
And, through the use of geodesic projection domes, visitors would be able to choose to travel around the world and place themselves in the habitats of animals while learning about those living spaces.
Art also is a large part of the plan, which includes a science-inspired sculpture at the Science Center’s entrance on Lawndale Drive. With the new access provided by the Greensboro Urban Loop, officials hope it will help capture the attention of even more visitors.
Other art examples provided in The Gateway Project brochure include a modernistic sculpture of an octopus appearing to climb out of the top of the Wiseman Aquarium and a frog and butterflies atop other areas of the Science Center.
“We don’t look modern; we need to look modern,” Dobrogosz said of the new artwork.
An after-hours venue also is included in the proposal, providing opportunities for education and entertainment to a more diverse crowd. That also could include expanding the hours of the center’s treetop adventure park into the evening.
“We’re looking at maybe a nighttime Skywild, with certain lights out there,” Dobrogosz said. “We’ve heard loud and clear people want a cool place to go at night.”
WENTWORTH — Over at the past 10 years, Rockingham County Community College received $39 million in federal aid — erroneously using a financial code belonging to its affiliated non-profit RCC Foundation.
A recent audit investigation showed the college had used the wrong number since at least 1995.
The five-year review by the Office of the State Auditor cleared RCC of financial wrongdoing in its placement of $17 million of education-related funds since 2014. Still, the RCC Foundation has more questions about the unexamined balance of $22 million the college dispersed in prior years.
For those answers, the foundation seeks an independent look at 10 years of books.
“Imagine if you found out that a neighbor of yours had been using your Social Security Number,” wrote RCC Foundation President Jeff Parris in a May letter to supporters. “Even if he’d been using it purely by mistake, you’d want to know exactly what he was using it for, even if you weren’t missing a dime from your banking account. That’s where the foundation is.”
State Auditor Beth Wood presented the findings of its March investigative review to college and RCC Foundation officials on June 19, after the office determined the college had used the foundation’s identifying information “including, at minimum, the Foundation’s entity name and D-U-N-S number.”
A D-U-N-S number is a nine-digit code issued by financial registry Dun & Bradstreet used to create a business credit file.
A complaint to the state by an unnamed source, alleging RCC had improperly used the foundation’s identifying information to secure grants and direct payments, triggered the investigation, documents show.
While funds were listed as being delivered through the foundation’s D-U-N-S number, the investigation found all money was deposited directly into the college’s bank account, reported in its general ledger and properly allocated to enrolled students, between the 2014 and 2018 fiscal years.
The $22 million in unaudited financial aid that RCC received between the 2008 and 2014 fiscal periods remains listed under the foundation’s D-U-N-S number on USA Spending — a governmental source for federal awards. The audited $17 million is still on record there, too.
The foundation questioned the depth of the five-year audit report instead of a 10-year review, Parris said. The college and foundation have made progress on the situation, but still have matters to resolve, he said.
During interviews, RCC President Mark Kinlaw and Vice President for Administrative Services Steve Woodruff told auditors they did not know about the discrepancy until 2017 and “believed that the situation was not improper, due to the relationship between the college and the foundation and the foundation’s purpose to support the mission of the college,” the report stated.
The issue came to light in fall 2017, after the college submitted a $20,000 grant application for a federal initiative to prepare low-income students for college.
“The application had been kicked back because it was written under the foundation’s name (in large font) — but it was signed by the president of the college, not the foundation,” Parris wrote in his May 23 letter to foundation supporters. “The foundation did not apply for that grant money and, in fact, is not allowed to receive such federal grants.”
RCC’s Kinlaw said there are no allegations or evidence that the college embezzled federal funds.
And student aid was never in jeopardy, he said.
Wood recommended the college review and update its memorandum of understanding, which hasn’t been revised since September 2009. She also advised RCC to implement and monitor a “strong internal control in regards to grant-funding identification” and suggested the foundation contact funding sources directly for audits of funding affected by the mislabel.
RCC and the foundation will take the steps suggested by Wood and the auditor’s office over the next few weeks, Kinlaw and Parris said.