With the inmate labor program being cut throughout North Carolina, the Kinston City Council found a way to provide assistance to the city’s parks and recreation department at Monday’s weekly meeting.
The council passed a motion to hire three full-time and four part-time employees to offset losing prisoners who worked in different areas of the city.
“The most disappointing news in the session we had to overcome was the loss of the inmate labor population,” Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said. “The financial woes of the state cut back some prison labor, which is having ripple effects in local government operations across the state; Kinston being no exception.
“Between having a regular supply of inmate labor from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help to clear with ditches, mowing grass and weed-eating, we are now faced with having to overcome that with full and part-time employees.”
Bill Ellis, the recreation department director, said he was thankful for the city council’s actions.
“We worked as many as 25 inmates a day since 1988,” Ellis said. “It saved the city a lot of money throughout the years. But with the closing of Duplin County Prison, we had no inmates. We’re very fortunate the council saw that need and funded those positions.”
City Councilwoman Kelly Jarman was pleased with the decision the board made, along with Ellis’ work when the inmate program was in operation.
“Bill utilized the program to its fullest extent and did very well with it,” Jarman said. “The inmate program was very effective and I hate to see it taken away, but I felt like we made a good decision to allow him to be able to hire additional people in parks and recreation.”
Kinston City Manager Tony Sears felt the council acted in a logical and responsible way to return the service to the city, and believed it was a good move.
“Only time will tell, but from a staffing standpoint, we’re on the right path,” he said.
The City Council also approved a public hearing on Sept. 16 for Unified Development Ordinance-related items.
“The UDO process has been going on for several months,” Planning Director Adam Short said. “We’ve got a draft ordinance where we want it and have to hold a public meeting to formally adopt it. We’ve established the arts and cultural district, which is a zoning overlay district and a new zoning category that has to be advertised.
“We’ve also eliminated zoning districts that are hardly used. There are very few parcels in the city that are being rezoned and we’re just looking for a new place to classify them. They will be changed to a different zoning category to clean things up.”
In other action, the council approved a street closing on Saturday for the God’s Way Youth & Community Fun Day. The event will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will close off parts of King Street and Sunshine Street.
The next city council meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 5:30 p.m.
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.