The Star- Cleveland County Nov. 3, 2007

Equestrian Authority debts total $1.64 million

Michael Barrett

CHERRYVILLE — From the time the Piedmont Equestrian Park Authority formed several years ago, its finances quickly dipped into the red.

Debt mounted as the organization borrowed money. It used loans and grants to buy 312 acres of land and begin establishing the facility.

When the effort stalled, there was little to show for what had been spent. But more than $1.6 million in debt — owed to 13 different groups — remained.

Authority board members say they have always planned to repay the money. With the sale of the land last month to a local dairy farmer, that will finally be possible, officials say.

“At this point, all of the foundations and groups we owe money to will get paid back,” said authority board Chairman Sam Beam, after last month’s sale.

Rusty Eaker, 51, bought the land for about $1.7 million — which equates to about $5,500 an acre.

No checks will be written until after the sale closes, probably in January, said real estate agent Dean Carpenter.

The debts to be paid range from as little as $800, owed to an accountant, to almost $500,000 owed to Gaston County.

Gaston County has been making annual payments on a loan the authority acquired to buy the 312 acres several years ago.

Other debtors include the Community Foundation of Gaston County, which contributed $75,000 to the equestrian effort.

Spurgeon Mackie, the foundation’s executive director, said the debt has not been forgotten. But they have always believed it would be repaid in due time.

“At this point, it appears they’re going to pay everyone back,” Mackie said. “When the time is right and everything is settled, we’ll get that $75,000 back.

“I have a lot of confidence in those Equestrian Park board members who are working through the issues and doing the right thing.”

Equestrian board member Malcolm Parker said a lot of hard work went into ensuring all debts would be settled. But it will happen, he promised.

“We’re going to make a bad situation come good,” he said.

Debts owed by the Piedmont Equestrian Park Authority

The information below is listed in following order
- Debtor
- Amount owed
- Reason for debt

Gaston County
$498,872
Debt service on land acquisition

City of Cherryville
$362,297
Lump sum contribution for land acquisition, audit and legal fees and miscellaneous expenses

N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund
$250,000
Recreation grant

N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources
$145,000
Settlement for Ecosystem Enhancement Program

Gaston County Economic Development Commission
$120,000
Project contribution

BB&T
$97,675
Remaining debt on land acquisition

Community Foundation of Gaston County
$75,000
Grant

Bullock, Smith and Partners
$35,000
Design fees

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
$30,000
Grant

Town of Waco
$15,646
Contribution to project (plus interest for three years)

Cherryville Chamber of Commerce
$10,000
Contribution to project

Buckley, McMullen & Buie, PA
$1,710
Legal fees

Jill Daggerheart
$800
Accounting services