WNCT9: Kinston community center opens ahead of waterpark

@WNCT9

KINSTON, N.C. – There’s a new place to hang out in Kinston.

The Woodmen of the World community center officially opened Thursday.

Parks and Rec officials delayed the opening for a few days because of some last minute improvements to the plans.

A half million dollar state grant made the waterpark possible and Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy says it’s a great thing for Kinston.

“The investment by the woodmen, the investment by the different private partners in the city and county, this will certainly help us retain companies and also recruit companies and it certainly increases our quality of life in our community,” said Murphy.

The waterpark is set to open later this summer.

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KINSTON, N.C. – If you’ve been hoping to beat the heat at a new water park in Kinston, you’ll have to wait a little longer.

The Woodman of the World Community Center in Kinston will open in a couple of weeks, but the highly anticipated water park attached to it will not.

Kinston Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ellis says that’s because of some last minute improvements to the plans.

“We just wanted to take out time and do it right because we think this is going to be a show place for the east,” said Ellis. “We’ve added a bath house. We’ve added a full concession stand, and life guard area and made the lazy river a little longer, so we’re just doing it right.”

Eliis says the community center will open July 23rd. And they are hopeful the water park will open by Labor Day.

KFP: Kinston utilities bill sent back to committee

Mayor says city could lose $1 million in revenue if water and sewer rates equalized

by David Anderson

Kinston officials breathed a brief sigh of relief this week as a bill, which city leaders feared could cause a major increase in municipal utility bills if passed, went back into committee.

Members of the N.C. House were scheduled to debate and vote on Senate Bill 472 on Monday evening, but Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland — who co-chairs the House Rules Committee with SB472 supporter Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir — made a motion at the beginning of Monday’s session for the bill to “be removed from the calendar and referred to the committee on rules.”

LaRoque could not be reached for comment Tuesday, as the House was in session, but he has said in the past he was “trying to find a way to bring equality to the customers” by creating equal access to Kinston utilities for customers living inside and outside the city limits.

That would be accomplished through SB 472, a local bill. If passed, the changes would take effect in 2013

“They’re a monopoly,” LaRoque said of the city. “These people (outside the city) cannot drill wells for their consumption.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy has taken to local airwaves and Twitter in recent days to explain why the city and its water and sewer customers would be harmed if SB 472 were to be passed.

He noted on his Twitter feed that Smithfield Foods and Sanderson Farms, which operate facilities in the U.S. 70 West Industrial Park, could see their respective annual utility bills increase by $30,000 and $90,000.

Earlier this year, as Kinston officials discussed the budget for the 2013 fiscal year, City Manager Tony Sears told City Council members the water and wastewater rates could increase by more than 10 percent to make up the difference by no longer being able to charge outside customers a higher rate.

“Eighty-four percent of rate structures from cities across the state of North Carolina charge more for outside customers,” Murphy said Tuesday. “This is not unique to Kinston.”

The higher rate is necessary because of the need to maintain infrastructure outside the city, built decades ago because no other water or sewer infrastructure existed at the time.

“The city of Kinston does not actively pursue services outside the city limits,” Murphy said. “The outside services we have are because we were asked to provide, or purchase the infrastructure, which we have improved over the last 30 years.”

The mayor said the bill should either be killed, or legislators should seek a statewide solution to the issue of outside and inside utility rates.

“One thing I keep hearing is, ‘Let’s have fair rates; let’s have equal rates,’ ” he said. “There is an added cost for outside customers.”

 

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

WITN: Kinston Mayor-State Bill To Change Water Rates “Picks On” His City

by Brittany Creamer/April Davis

Video Link

A state house vote has been postponed to decide if some City of Kinston water and sewer customers will pay more. Kinston Mayor B.J Murphy says the issue was pulled from the North Carolina House of Representatives agenda Monday night and placed back in the rules committee.

Mayor Murphy says he is not happy about the state picking on his city when it operates like 99 % of all other cities in the state. Murphy says if this bill passes, customers who live in the Kinston city limits will pay more because the bill requires equal rates for all customers instead of the usual billing practice to charge customers outside the city limits more.

Lenoir County republican representative Stephen Laroque drafted the bill. He told WITN the City of Kinston is discriminating against the consumer. Mayor Murphy says the proposed 12% increase for water and 7% increase for sewage would be a huge increase on local businesses and a deterrent for large companies. Murphy says Sanderson Farms’ yearly bill would increase by $90,000. The mayor says customers in the city should not be penalized for people outside city limits requesting to use its resources.

“The practice of extending water and sewage is not something we do unless it is requested from us and it does cost more to service from outside the city limits. It just does,” said Murphy.

Asheville is the only municipality in the state that charges equal rates for people inside and out of city limits.

WNCT: S472 Water/Sewer Bill

by Katie Banks

Tonight state legislators will discuss whether some utility customers in the East will get a cheaper water bill.

Senate Bill 472 would require Kinston city officials to equalize water costs for people living inside and outside the city limits.

It’s essentially a face-off between city officials and N.C. House Rep. Stephen LaRoque, who is promoting the bill as a way to even the playing field for all utility customers.

But Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy argues it would actually hurt residents and local businesses in the long run.

Stewart Smith lives right outside Kinston’s city limits. He takes pride in his garden, but each time he waters his flowers, he’s paying more for his utility bill.

“Now, the overall average I found out here in the neighborhood is $42 to $45 or $46 dollars per month,” he says.

More than 20 years ago, Kinston city officials bought an existing water system in Smith’s neighborhood. He says that’s when he was forced to pay a utility rate higher than what people pay within the city, causing his monthly water bill to double.

“It makes you feel like you’re being taken advantage of in a raw product that God gave us all,” Smith says. “I don’t mind paying for water, and I know water’s not free like it used to be back in the day. However, I would like to think that my gallon of water should cost just the same as anyone else’s gallon of water.”

Rep. LaRoque says people like Smith should never have been charged more in the first place.

“Look at it this way,” LaRoque said in a phone interview. “What if the city said, ‘If you live in an older part of town, we’re going to charge you more than if you live in a newer part of town’? Or if they said, ‘Because you are poor and you live in a poor area, we’re going to charge you more than if you live in a more affluent area’? Do you think people would be okay with that? I don’t think they would be. I think it’s the same discriminatory practice that they’re currently practicing.”

Mayor Murphy is against the bill. He says it would create a shortfall that would force the city to raise rates on everyone in town, including businesses like the hospital and Sanderson Farms.

And he uses the same word – discriminatory – to describe his side of the debate.

“I think the only entity being discriminated against is the city of Kinston,” he says. “And I can promise you that almost all that provide water or sewer outside their city limits have a very similar structure in that it cost more to provide those services, so they charge more.”

Smith says he would settle on a compromise if it means getting a lower water bill.

“A happy medium between us and the residents of the city, that would be fine, but, equal should be the key word,” he says.

Mayor Murphy says distance and infrastructure maintenance outside the city causes the rates to go up.

If the bill passes, equalizing water rates for all customers would begin in June 2013 and would be adjusted over a three-year-period.

The House will review the bill tonight, and if passed, Rep. LaRoque says it could go to the Senate for approval as early as Wednesday.

KFP: Senate Bill 472 could affect city utility rates

by David Anderson

The members of the N.C. House of Representatives are scheduled to review a bill today that, if passed by the General Assembly, could have a dramatic impact on Kinston utility rates, according to city officials.

“The City of Kinston is united in its opposition to this bill and we would like for it to be defeated,” Mayor B.J. Murphy wrote in a recent letter to the General Assembly, plus Senate President pro tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.

The local bill, promoted by local Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, is titled “Kinston Public Enterprises” and requires the city to give equal access to utility customers living inside and outside the city limits.

Water and sewer customers living outside Kinston are typically charged different — and higher — rates than inside customers. City officials defend this practice to cover the added cost of maintaining infrastructure outside the city, built when county residents had no other way to obtain water and sewer service.

LaRoque has said he is working to equalize utility rates for Kinston customers, but city officials have expressed concerns this could cause a dramatic rise in water and sewer rates to make up the difference.

If the NC General Assembly wants to engage in a public debate about municipalities who offer water and sewer services to outside customers, then a local bill is not the answer,” Murphy wrote in his letter. “This local bill would force the City to arbitrarily raise rates at a time of economic peril.”

The bill has been placed on the House’s calendar for its next session, which begins at 7 p.m. today.

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 ordanderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

Related Post: Video – City threatened with another water/sewer increase

Bloomberg News: Postal Jobs Leave Down Tobacco Road as Chicken Jobs Await

By Angela Greiling Keane

‘The postal processing plant is…in a building it shares with Friends of the Homeless.’

 

Kinston, North Carolina, is near just about nothing. The textile jobs went overseas years ago. Tobacco fell victim to lawsuits and health concerns. The airport has a runway two miles long and no commercial flights.

The Kinston Indians baseball team, pride of this town of 21,677 residents, left this year. Now the mail-processing plant and its 93 full-time jobs might follow the minor-league ballplayers to Raleigh — leaving more room for the landlord of part of its space, a homeless shelter.

The U.S. Postal Service plans to shut 223 of its 461 mail- processing plants as it tries to stanch losses that Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe predicts may reach $18.2 billion a year by 2015. The service’s moratorium on closing plants lifts May 15, and it said it could save $3.1 million a year by closing up in Kinston and moving its work 92 miles.

“Around here in these times we’re living in, you can’t even give a house away,” said Perry Welch, 64, who has worked at the plant since 1973, making him the longest-tenured employee. If the plant closes, he said he’ll retire or try to find a job at the adjacent post office.

Donahoe, who started with the service in a post office, said plants like Kinston’s aren’t needed with first-class mail volume 25 percent less than in 2006. The plant closings would save about $2.5 billion a year, he said in February.

The service wants to stop promising overnight service for letters. Without that self-imposed mandate, it may have fewer processing plants that are farther apart. Plants on the list to close are spread around the U.S. in rural and urban areas, including facilities in Los Angeles, Chicago and Staten Island, New York.

‘Tell Me’

The U.S. Senate passed a measure last week that would put off closing processing plants and rural post offices. Donahoe is encouraging the House to take up a bill that would make it easier for him to close facilities.

Processing plant workers across the U.S. earn an average of $53,159 a year, said Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based service. Average wages in the region including Kinston are $41,949, according to North Carolina’s Eastern Region, an economic development agency.

The Kinston workers, protected by a union agreement, may choose to commute to Raleigh or, if they’re old enough, to retire. While some plant workers live in Kinston, other employees already commute as much as an hour — through little traffic — to and from work.

Naomi Fairfax, 32, has worked at the plant for 6 1/2 years, commuting about 45 miles (72 kilometers) from Jacksonville, North Carolina. She said she’s “resigned to it closing. I wish they would tell me because I’ve got children.

‘‘People have to sell their houses if they’re going to relocate,” she said. “And what if you move and have to move again? What if you go to Raleigh and they say ‘go to Charlotte?’”

Global TransPark

Boarded-up storefronts occupy parts of Queen Street, Kinston’s main drag, while Christopher’s Cafe and a handful of other eateries bustle during breakfast and lunch. The Chamber of Commerce occupies a stone-columned building that includes vestiges of what it once was — the main post office.

Kinston’s unemployment rate in February was 10.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from a high of 13 percent two years earlier. Unemployment has stayed at more than 10 percent since January 2009.

The region, starting about 20 years ago, pinned its economic development hopes on developing a giant cargo hub on the grounds of its airport. The state-backed Global TransPark has a runway capable of landing the world’s biggest planes.

Airfield of Dreams

Local business development executives traveled last year to the Paris Air Show and to the Farnborough International Air Show the year before to try to drum up business. They courted FedEx Corp. (FDX) (FDX) before it chose to build a facility in the Greensboro area, about 150 miles away.

Spirit Aerosystems Holdings Inc. (SPR) (SPR), a supplier to Airbus SAS and Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., is the biggest tenant at TransPark with 270 employees.

Global TransPark was a “build it and they will come. And they just weren’t coming for two decades,” said Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy.

“At one time, Kinston was one of the foremost economic areas east of Raleigh,” Murphy, 31, said over breakfast at Christopher’s, where he greeted entering patrons by name or as sir or ma’am.

“But tobacco and textiles left and that really hurt us,” he said.

Homeless Neighbors

The postal processing plant is two blocks from Queen Street, in a building it shares with Friends of the Homeless. Rent paid by the service provides about a third of the $71,000 annual budget for the 40-bed shelter and soup kitchen.

“That would cut deep into us providing the services we provide,” Jasper Newborn, 67, the shelter director, said during a mid-day lull.

Sanderson Farms Inc. (SAFM) (SAFM) is hiring manual labor for a new chicken processing plant at the edge of town. Murphy is excited about the new jobs, which Newborn knows about because his clients would be happy to land them, at $8 to $9 an hour.

They’re not jobs postal workers are likely to want, said Jim Kleckley, a professor at East Carolina University in nearby Greenville who studies the region’s economy.

Spirit announced last year it would add as many as 200 jobs over five years, though they’re expected to be skilled manufacturing jobs that would require specialized training.

“Jobs change over time,” Kleckley said. “It’s going to be that everywhere. But one of the difficulties we have in eastern North Carolina is it’s more difficult to get new jobs to replace the jobs lost.”

228-Mile Commute

Inside the postal plant, 40 workers stand operating hulking machines from 10 p.m. until around 6 a.m., seven nights a week, sorting mail for zip codes starting with 285. It’s an area stretching from beach towns Morehead City and Atlantic Beach through salt marshes and collard shacks to the one-time tobacco fields closer to Kinston.

On a busy night, a million pieces of letter mail may move through the plant’s machines. On an average night, 400,000 to 500,000 pieces do. Trucks back up to 14 loading docks to bring the sorted mail to post offices for delivery that day.

Will Smith, 53, and many of the other workers have been told for the past five years that their facility might close. Should that happen, Smith faces a 228-mile round trip commute between Raleigh and his home in New Bern, North Carolina.

Big Picture

“I really, really wouldn’t want to move or commute to Raleigh,” said Smith, the American Postal Workers Union local president, shaking his head. He said he hasn’t decided for sure.

Keisiva Ward, 32, started working at the plant five years ago, about the time mail volume and postal finances started their downward spiral.

“You never thought working for the Postal Service you’d go through this,” she said in a parking lot across from her workplace. “You thought you had a foundation.”

The plant’s temporary manager said it can be hard for the employees to see the scope of the Postal Service’s distress.

“To some degree, they don’t see the big picture,” Brenda Edwards said from her office. “It’s their whole world. And this area here is so depressed.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net.

Online survey to determine demand for additional airline service

On-Line Survey to Determine Demand for Additional Airline Service in Eastern North Carolina

Survey Will Help Determine Business-Based Demand for Service to and through Washington’s Dulles Airport

KINSTON, NORTH CAROLINA (March 27, 2012) – Now is your chance to have a say in the future of air service in eastern North Carolina.  A consortium of regional counties have launched an air service survey, collecting data on local travel patterns that will be shared with prospective airlines to support new flights – targeted specifically towards service to Washington Dulles airport, with connecting flights to the northeast and Europe.

The results of the survey will reveal the number of trips local travelers take each year, which airports they’re using now, where they’re traveling to, and what local travelers would support in terms of local service at the Airport.
The survey is open to anyone, and can be reached at this website:http://conta.cc/wtzHpv.  The survey will be open through the end of April.

The survey is one step in a larger eastern North Carolina air service development effort.  The results will support the recruitment of new service at the Kinston Regional Jetport.

Contact:
Mark Pope
Executive Director
Lenoir County Economic Development Department
(252) 527-1963
mpope@lenoiredc.com
Access the survey:http://conta.cc/wtzHpv

KFP: Perdue announces will not run for second term as governor

1/27/2012
by David Anderson

Local residents, learning of Gov. Bev Perdue’s decision Thursday to not seek a second term, bemoaned the loss of a governor they considered a champion of Kinston and Eastern North Carolina.

“I just hope that the next governor of North Carolina will be as equally concerned and fair for Eastern North Carolina, because that’s extremely important for us,” said downtown businessman John Marston.

Marston and his wife Lucy, who serves as Lenoir County’s tourism director, have known Perdue for many years.

“Lucy and I both consider Bev a very good friend, and a very fair and concerned individual in all aspects of government for North Carolina,” Marston said.

Perdue announced Thursday she would not seek a second term because of what she called “highly partisan times.”

The governor said in a statement released by her office that “it is clear to me that my race for re-election will only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools. A re-election campaign in this already decisive environment will make it more difficult to find any bipartisan solutions.”

The New Bern resident has ties to Kinston and Lenoir County stretching back nearly 30 years when she ran for the N.C. House in the mid-1980s.

Former Mayor O.A. “Buddy” Ritch Jr., his late wife MaryMac and Mansfield Creech, who was on the Kinston City Council at the time, took Perdue around town when she made her first run for the House.

“We helped her with just everything we could, because we had heard so much about her caring for the people in Eastern North Carolina, so we introduced her around and our friendship started from there,” Ritch recalled.

Ritch said Perdue was always accessible to folks in the region, “and she would return your telephone calls; there was no trouble getting to her.”

While Marston and Ritch praised Perdue for focusing on Eastern North Carolina a great deal more than previous governors, the Democratic chief executive has clashed with the Republicans in the legislature on taxes, budgeting, voter ID and many other policies.

Those clashes have filtered down to the local level, as well.

“I think her announcement today is probably one of the best things that’s happened to North Carolina in the last four years,” said Kinston’s Republican mayor, B.J. Murphy. “We still need jobs, we still need roads fixed, we just plain need leadership in North Carolina, and I think she saw the writing on the wall.”

Lenoir County Commissioner J. Mac Daughety, also a Republican, praised Perdue for her attention to the eastern part of the state, though.

“Although I disagree with them on a lot of issues philosophically, her administration, particularly the transportation folks and the economic development folks, have been very helpful, very supportive of us in Eastern North Carolina and we hope that whoever is the next governor, they will be as helpful in helping us get the transportation infrastructure and the economic development support that we need,” Daughety said.

A number of names swirled about Thursday as possible Democratic candidates.

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton announced he planned to run.

“I believe that our future economy and better jobs depend on our historic commitment to education,” Dalton stated in a press release emailed to reporters late in the afternoon. “After all, education is in North Carolina’s DNA — it’s what sets us apart and it’s what will determine our future.”

 

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

 

Smithfield Packing – Incentives

On Thursday, November 10th Smithfield Packing announced an expansion in Lenoir County to create 330 jobs.  Here is the article:  http://www.kinston.com/articles/smithfield-77772-packing-company.html

  • $85.5 million dollar construction project
  • 330 new jobs
  • $27,644 average annual salary
  • $9,122,520 new wages to be earned in Kinston, Lenoir County

Here are the City of Kinston incentives:

 – Over the next 10 years this development will generate $4,237,178 in new taxes to the City of Kinston.  The City of Kinston, based on a  performance agreement that they create 330 new jobs and maintain these jobs over the next ten years, will grant back $2,700,000 to Smithfield over the ten year period.

 – The two plants together will form our largest electric customer in the City of Kinston.

 – The City of Kinston is eligible for $3 million in State grants to increase our sewer capacity to the industrial park due to the new jobs being created.  The sewer expansion, which would ultimately serve the entire Hwy 70 industrial park, is a $4.3 million dollar project with the county and city splitting the remaining $1.3 million.  Golden LEAF, EDA, NC Rural Center and NC Department of Commerce are other sources being pursued for sewer expansion grants.

Op-Editorial:The missing link in job creation

by Mayor BJ Murphy

Kinston has been victim to several cowardly crimes this year that provoked our Department of Public Safety to implement a “zero tolerance” policy. Our pro-active community policing efforts have increased and with the support of generous donors, The Free Press and confidential informants, several outlaws have been apprehended. 

A former classmate approached me earlier this year and said the city needs to “nip the problem in the bud” — to which I respectfully replied that nipping in the bud starts at home, not with the government. The government has an obligation to serve and protect, but also to develop a positive business environment in which to create jobs. Generally speaking, more jobs equal less unemployment, which can lead to a reduction in crime. And creating jobs is a top priority.

The City of Kinston supports job creation in a number of ways: through economic partnerships, access to water and sewer, and competitive industrial rates. On a macro scale, we encourage the efforts of the NC Department of Commerce, alongside the Lenoir County Economic Development Department, as it relates to their recruitment of jobs to our area. 

On a micro scale, city tax payers financially support the efforts of Pride of Kinston to decrease vacant buildings and increase economic activity in downtown. We are members of the Chamber of Commerce and celebrate every new member with them. However, there seems to be a missing link.

There is no entity or person actively responsible for recruiting and retaining small businesses who locate outside of downtown. Pride of Kinston focuses on downtown, the Chamber serves its members and Economic Development focuses on large, manufacturing-oriented businesses. 

As we welcome our new city manager and vote on new council members next month, we must be ever mindful of the need to fill this gap. If job creation is truly a top priority, then we should also identify policies that we could relax or modify to reduce burdens for construction projects and start-up businesses. We must be willing to do a gut check of any burdensome regulations so our community can help develop solutions, while our council oversees a manager who will implement them.

Next year, the City of Kinston will celebrate 250 years.  Let’s make sure job creation, not crime, remains the top headline throughout the year. Our young people deserve for our elected, civic, educational and spiritual leaders to work toward this common goal. 

Here’s to our success!

 

Mayor B.J. Murphy is on Twitter @BJMurphyKinston and has a website at www.BJMurphy.org. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.

 

Breakout box:

The Free Press guest columnist feature appears every Wednesday in this space. Would you like to be considered as a guest columnist? Contact Managing Editor Bryan Hanks at (252) 559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com.