Letter to Kinston: see you later, but not goodbye

Kinston: See you later, but not goodbye

Eight years ago, the citizens of Kinston took a chance on me. For a young man wanting to make an impact on his hometown and willing to give up 16 years of his life, I am forever grateful for the eight you allowed me to serve.

In fourth grade at Bynum Elementary, I told my art teacher I would live in Kinston when I got older. While watching a laser disc – which cast the vision for the Global TransPark – in the seventh grade at Rochelle Middle School, it solidified that promise in my heart and mind.

During my lifetime, my family has experienced great trials, including the tragic loss of my mother and my sister’s courageous battle with cancer, which sparked a community rally for prayer. Through prayer, family and our community, we have persevered. So too has our beloved Kinston.

We once were the epicenter of Eastern North Carolina where the Magic Mile reigned. However, the loss of tobacco and textiles sent shockwaves throughout our economy. After years of hard work but about the time we started figuring things out, Hurricane Floyd left us with the so-called “Flood of the Century,” which changed the landscape of neighborhoods throughout our community.

Even still, in 2002 upon graduating from ECU, I came home. I enjoyed running the Broken Eagle Eatery, engaging in historic preservation and leading downtown revitalization efforts through Pride of Kinston. These experiences encouraged my love for my hometown and created personal and professional relationships that continue even today.

Over these past eight years, I have enjoyed advocating for our staff, our businesses and our people. Whether it was a crime, a business expansion, Eagle Scout Court of Honor or a flood, you have been worth fighting for.

From the onset, I challenged the status quo and made many mistakes. The incredible team of city leaders, civic organizers, teenagers and religious leaders – mixed with an environment for business success – has led to a new identity for Kinston with incredible hopes of prosperity on the horizon.

I have had the privilege of serving you during a time when our reputation has changed across the state. In the past we were greeted with “You’re from Kinston?” and now it’s “You’re from Kinston!”

Our collective success has been no accident. The City of Kinston has developed a culture of finding ways to say “yes” as a means to create an environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. Our local government has been most effective because of our willingness to be engaged, yet standing out of the way. 

Through the collective of our team and community, we have been able to see some accomplishments. Here are but a few:

  • All major indicators of violent crimes are down 11.7 percent since 2009; that number includes murder, rape, robbery, motor vehicle theft and simple assault
  • The No. 1 issue facing our town for more than two decades had been our electric rates. Electric rates are down 10 percent since 2009 and are projected to be stable for the next several years
  • Street resurfacing has gone from a budget of zero tax dollars allocated in 2009 to $500,000, which will be spent in the coming months. We’re still shy of the $600,000 needed annually to sustain a 25-year life cycle, but we accomplished this without any increase in our total property tax revenue
  • Our fund balances, which are our savings accounts for emergency use like hurricane expenses and one-time expenditures like the Queen Street rehab, across all our accounts have gone from a disturbing $13,059,467 to a healthy $35,275,632
  • In 2009, Kinston’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent; today, we’re at 5.3 percent
  • We found the right opportunity to split up the Department of Public Safety, so the two disciplines of Police and Fire could better focus on their core functions
  • We have more Community Watch programs than in 2009
  • We instituted prayer vigils as an immediate action following horrific events
  • We are hiring a community development planner to continue to find ways to work with neighborhoods in developing safe and productive communities
  • We have tripled the amount we’re spending in 2018 versus 2009 on demolishing blighted homes
  • We opened the Lions Water Adventure Park, which attracts thousands to our community each summer
  • We have installed thousands of LED street lights that save taxpayers’ money; in the process, increasing brightness and reducing maintenance costs
  • We have worked with the Pride of Kinston board to bring their staff members inside our organization. The new director will now be responsible for not only downtown, but also supporting the efforts of small business recruitment, retention, and expansion throughout our city limits
  • We saw the Kinston Indians leave us with a five-year drought in baseball only to successfully recruit the Texas Rangers. On Monday night, we will pass an agreement that solidifies the presence of the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston through 2033
  • We overhauled our Comprehensive Unified Development Ordinance to streamline policies affecting our business community and to better position ourselves for growth
  • We took our 40-year dormant power plant and found a way to allow outside investors to launch a new business. Unlike Vernon Park Mall, the City of Kinston now owns (via a gift) the Glen Raven Mills property, which allows the City of Kinston to control its impact on development along the Neuse River and Riverwalk
  • We are investing in the infrastructure and aesthetics of Queen Street to give our downtown a shot in the arm for development; otherwise, Queen Street will remain 50 percent vacant. Although the project has been frustrating to many, this is an investment like never in our history and will give us a fighting chance at recreating the Magic of the Mile
  • We successfully motivated and transferred ownership of the flood prevention issue to the State of North Carolina, who is now studying mitigation efforts for the Neuse River Basin

And here are just a few things to happen in the next few years:

  • The completion of Harvey Parkway Part C, which will connect Hwy 58 at the Global TransPark to Hwy 11 south of Dupont
  • The completion of the Carey Road Extension (which has been three decades in the making) from Rouse Road to Daly Waldrop and Hwy 258
  • The extension of Doctors Drive so citizens and emergency services personnel can travel from Herritage Street to Airport Road via Doctors Drive
  • The construction of a second point of distribution for our electric grid to reduce the likelihood of emergencies like the Outer Banks experienced this past summer
  • The implementation of Smart Grid systems to give you better control of your energy consumption and bill

Come Monday, December 4 at 5:30 p.m., I will freely step aside for our new Mayor. Our country is the greatest on earth because of moments like this. Granted, I’d rather stay, but Don Hardy is now my mayor and yours. I encourage you to join me as I pray for his success. Pray for the team of leaders that surround him that they may be able to carry this momentum to a new level.

Kinston deserves prosperity and I believe she is in the best position to capitalize on it. For now, I will do more listening on city affairs than talking. I will turn my attention to my social media marketing firm and incredible family. I encourage all of you to look for opportunities to become more involved in our community. Our kids, our neighbors and this beloved community deserve your best. I’d #ExpectNothingLess because #IHeartKinston.

Less talk. More rolled-up sleeves. Less condemnation. More prayer and encouragement.

May you and our city’s future be blessed with much success and happiness!

Forever in love,
Mayor BJ Murphy

Kathryn Tells You What to Look for Tomorrow

Precinct Location
Kinston 1 / SW / Neuse Carver Court Recreation Room
301 E. Bright Street
Kinston, NC 28501
Kinston 2 Gordon Street Christian Church
118 E. Gordon St
Kinston, NC 28501
Kinston 3 / FC Fairfield Recreation Center
850 Greenbriar Road
Kinston, NC 28501
Kinston 4 Tanglewood Church of God
2103 Rouse Road
Kinston, NC 28504
Kinston 5 Spilman Baptist Church
1900 Queens Road
Kinston, NC 28501
Kinston 6 / Contentnea Teachers’ Memorial School Gym
500 Marcella Drive
Kinston, NC 28501
Kinston 7 Grainger Place Apartments
301 Summit Avenue
Kinston, NC 28501
Kinston 8 Holloway Recreation Center
100 N. Myrtle Avenue
Kinston, NC 28501
Kinston 9 / Vance First Pentecostal Holiness Church
711 Phillips Rd.
Kinston, NC 28504

KFP: Officials discuss Neuse flooding solutions

About 100 local and county officials from several counties, emergency management, and representatives from three congressional offices met at the Woodmen Community Center to conduct a Neuse River Basin roundtable and discuss solutions from building a dam to cleaning debris from the Neuse River.

Michael A. Sprayberry, director of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management, said the ideas from the dicussion would be used to help create a Neuse River Basin Plan.

“We’re working together to try to harvest ideas, work as a group with one voice to try to implement some good strategies to deal with the flooding,” Sprayberry said. “There’s already some dredging going on in some counties but I think what we want to do it craft a plan. But I will tell you there is no one solution. There’s going to be many different courses of action that we take to craft an overarching solution, and it’s not going to happen immediately.”

Sprayberry said Hurricane Matthew provided an impetus to start focusing on a solution.

“But I would like to say the leadership of Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy – he’s so energetic and motivated and solutions oriented and so I think that his leadership has really help us focus on this,” he said.

Murphy said he was very pleased with the response and pro-activeness from state partners, emergency management, environmental quality and Lenoir County emergency services when responding to flooding caused by the Neuse River, like before and after Hurricane Matthew last year.

“What we understand is there will be another hurricane,” Murphy said. “There will be another flood and there’s a bigger challenge in reducing the next hurricane’s or flood’s impact on our region than it is to dole money out for flood relief. It’s a much bigger challenge, much bigger task.”

Thursday’s meeting was the beginning of facing those challenges, Murphy said.

“That coalition is what’s going to carry this ball and actually move it forward to have true flood prevention,” he said.

The solution could come in several forms, from building a dam, a dry retention pond, snagging and dragging the river to clean it out or even helping Raleigh with its water supply challenges, Murphy said.

“It’s going to be an all-of-the-above-approach,” he said. “Not one of them is going to be the super bullet to make this work.”

The Army Corps Engineers, which had representatives at the meeting, will be essential to any solution, Murphy said.

But it will take congressional support to fund a Neuse River Basin Study for the Army Corps of Engineers to work on a project, he said.

There has been Neuse River Basin studies done in the past, one in 1965 and a couple since then, leaning more toward an environmental focus, Murphy said.

The new study will have to focus on infrastructure, like a dam, or other ways of dealing with the tremendous volume of water and not necessarily focus on impacts to animal habits. That study has been done. The focus now should be on the flooding impacts to homes and businesses, Murphy said.

“The question is how much does it cost us to study and fund and implement the appropriate changes ahead of the next major disaster versus the cost of doling out money to say we’re sorry this happen to you,” he said.

Gifton Mayor Billy Ray Jackson said his town, which is at the confluence of the Neuse River and Contentnea Creek, has had its share of flooding and the drainage problems have got to be corrected.

“We get flooded,” he said. “We had Floyd. It was devastating. Then there was Irene and Matthew. We’ve really got to get together, everybody who is touched by those two bodies of water, and see what we can do. I don’t know if we can eliminate it, but maybe lighten up the problem a little bit would be a big help.”

Jackson said he wants to hear from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“And what I would like to hear from them is that these bodies of waters that have been neglected for so long could be dredged,” he said.

BEFORE and AFTER – Street Light Replacements

Back in 2011 the City of Kinston took advantage of a Transportation Grant from the NC State Energy Office. Through this grant we were able to replace 811 high pressure sodium lights. After the sale of our nuclear and coal power plants in 2015, we began replacing the remaining 1,240 HPS lights. This project was completed this summer.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Street lights are paid for with General Fund property tax dollars. The 2,000+ street light replacements will save approximately 880,000 kWh over the next year, which is enough to power 67 houses yearly. The LED’s also have shown to require less maintenance and they last longer. Now that they’re all installed we’ll be able to gauge the cost savings over the next Fiscal Year. As an FYI – in FY10/11 the street lighting account was $244,034 and our budget for FY16/17 was $182,000.

Update on Reliable Electric Power

Since Kinston reduced electric rates by an average of 10% in 2015, we’ve already changed all street lights to LED, saving our taxpayers money.

We also started work on a second Point of Delivery for our power supply, thus reducing our dependency on one source. The unfortunate and recent OBX power outage is a great example of relying on a single Point of Delivery.
With the electric rate reduction, we also saved enough cash to implement a smart grid system that gives customers more control. You’ll learn more on this as we move forward.

The 4th major improvement was upgrading 2 of our largest circuits with new poles and lines to handle increased customer demand.

In this year’s budget, we’re upgrading the poles and lines for one of our major business thoroughfares – Vernon Ave. Stay tuned for those upgrades.

And we’re implementing all these upgrades WITHOUT a single rate increase. Special thanks to our incredible team at Kinston Public Services.

Mayor Murphy Announces Re-election Bid for 2017

Thank you, family and friends, for your attendance today.

A little more than six months ago, our beloved community was faced with a calamity like it had never seen before. Flood waters were rising and threatening to destroy our city when I and other leaders stood on the picnic table just a few yards away and prayed in unison. Our community banded together in a way that it has never done before. Neighbors helped neighbors, and we were one people with only mission in mind: recover from this awful flood.

There is still much work to be done in the aftermath of those frightening times, and we must not forget our friends, business owners and neighbors who are still struggling. But there are many successes to celebrate following those terrible times, including the re-opening of nearly every business that was affected and the continued support of federal and state agencies in rebuilding.

Similarly, the City of Kinston has faced two devastating decades of declining population and a shrinking tax base. But through the sheer determination of forward-looking entrepreneurs, a steady manufacturing base, an engaged civic community, sound policies and teamwork at every level of city government, Kinston is in the beginning stages of an economic comeback that many didn’t think was possible a decade ago. We are doing the impossible.

Our community is experiencing a Renaissance right before our very eyes. Our downtown is bustling, professional baseball is back, crime is down and momentum is on our side. The past seven-plus years have seen a reduction in electric rates, more streets resurfaced and the removal of blight.

And although we are making incredible strides engaging our youth, business community, religious leaders and civic institutions, I promise you the BEST is YET to COME!

Serving my hometown as your mayor has been one of the greatest honors of my life. It has been my goal to make life better for every single person who resides within these city limits, and I have worked hard day and night to make that goal a reality.

As a husband and father of two girls, I have a vested interest in creating and facilitating an environment so that our community thrives. My girls, your children, and your grandkids deserve the absolute best that our community can provide.

Therefore, today I am announcing that I am seeking a third term as the Mayor of the City of Kinston.

Friends, supporters, and others can engage my campaign via our newly redesigned website at www.murphyformayor.com and connect via social media with @bjmurphy360.

Lastly, we ask for your prayers for our family, this campaign, and our beloved City of Kinston.

2017 Sand in the Streets Schedule

Had someone ask for the 2017 Sand in the Streets schedule a couple weeks ago and again tonight. Here’s what I received from Pride of Kinston:

Sand in the Streets 2017 Concerts
Pearson Park
Kinston, North Carolina

June 8 – Spare Change
June 22 – Blackwater Rhythm & Blues
July 4 – Pizazz
July 20 – Super Grit Cowboy Band
Aug 24 – Roman Sams Band
Aug 31 – Band of Oz

Moen Expands in Kinston – 35 Jobs

Today we broke ground for Moen as they expand their Kinston, NC facility. They are investing $15 million and adding 35 new jobs here! We are thankful for all the community partners who have made this happen and looking forward to another 30+ years in our community.