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

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.

NCEMPA reaches agreement with Duke Energy to sell generation assets

Press Release
Media Contact: Rebecca Agner, 919.760.6334 or ragner@electricities.org
For more information about ElectriCities visit www.electricities.com

NCEMPA reaches agreement with Duke Energy to sell generation assets

RALEIGH (July 28, 2014) –North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) and Duke Energy Progress (DEP) announced today that both companies’ boards of directors have approved an agreement for DEP to purchase the Power Agency’s generating assets. The $1.2 billion transaction would lower wholesale electric rates for NCEMPA’s 32 member communities across eastern North Carolina if it is completed. The agreement is subject to the execution of an Asset Purchase Agreement and a Full Requirements Power Purchase Agreement between the parties.

“The ElectriCities Board of Directors is very pleased we were able to reach an agreement with Duke Energy Progress,” said Richard Hicks, ElectriCities Board Chairman. “The Board’s overarching goal is to strengthen public power’s future in North Carolina. Reducing NCEMPA’s debt and therefore reducing our overall costs will provide the opportunity for more competitive rates in the 32 member communities.

Although we have a long road ahead of us with regulatory approvals, today is a good day for NC Public Power and eastern North Carolina.”

Negotiations between the two parties have been underway for several months.

“This is a complicated transaction that would require federal and state approvals. It won’t happen overnight,” ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards said. “Several agencies must agree to the purchase agreement before it becomes official. We remain optimistic that we can work through that process and finalize the agreement.”

“Our primary goal is to secure a long-term, reliable power supply for NCEMPA members at the lowest possible cost,” said John Craft, Chairman of the NCEMPA Board of Commissioners and La Grange Town Manager. “We are committed to work together toward that end. The announcement today is a positive step toward our goal.”

Sale Could Reduce NCEMPA Debt by More Than 70 Percent
The current debt owed by NCEMPA members is approximately $1.9 billion. After selling the assets for $1.2 billion and liquidating certain bond reserve funds, the Power Agency members would share responsibility for outstanding debt of approximately $480 million.

“When we entered these negotiations, we knew it wasn’t feasible to expect to completely eliminate the debt by selling our assets. But this agreement has the potential to reduce our current debt by more than 70 percent,” Edwards said. “That’s a significant decrease in our costs and the savings would be directly passed along to NCEMPA members.”

The exact impact on rates for each community will be different and will depend on a number of factors, such as each community’s share of the outstanding debt, the specific load characteristics and customer mix of the community.

As a part of the transaction, DEP and NCEMPA will enter into a wholesale power contract.

The sale of NCEMPA’s electric generation assets would not affect distribution assets. Public power communities would continue to own the power lines, substations and transformers that carry electricity directly to the consumers. In addition, they would continue to employ their own utility staff and be responsible for issues such as maintenance, customer service and billing.

DEP will notify the NC Utilities Commission that it intends to make a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission next month. NCEMPA and DEP entered into exclusive negotiations in January 2014 involving NCEMPA’s ownership in four power plants in North Carolina: Brunswick Nuclear Plant Units 1 and 2 (Brunswick County), Mayo Plant Unit 1 (Person County), Roxboro Plant Unit 4 (Person County) and the Harris Nuclear Plant (Wake County).

# # #

Mayor Murphy’s Statement on the City of Kinston FY 2015 Budget

Tonight the City Council of the City of Kinston voted 2-2 and I broke the tie in favor of the recommended budget as presented by the Kinston City Manager. Here is the statement I gave at the end of the meeting.

Public debate, openness and transparency are essential in our democracy. The State of NC requires that our City Manager present a balanced budget to this body. This Council has the authority to accept, reject or amend his recommendations.

Each and every one of us lives here, works here and plays here. Everyone on this bench and in our presence tonight are financially impacted by these decisions.

We have seen increases because of our wholesale suppliers. We have seen increases because of the Affordable Care Act. We have seen increases because of the needs of our aging infrastructure.

Our electric partners have made it clear that increases are coming and should’ve already come based on wholesale and infrastructure pressures. However, a potential deal with Duke Energy caused there to be a pause in hopes of a record deal for our communities.

Last year we pulled from our General Fund to loan and support the electric fund. We decided then to pay that back this fiscal year. I think we all can agree that this practice is not a long-term solution. Just as continuing the practice of transferring from the electric fund to subsidize our General Fund will one day be obsolete.

Also, this fall we will be making serious, long-term financial decisions regarding our infrastructure to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Ultimately we may need to ask voters for their opinions on how best to finance the replacement of 100-year-old pipes and 30-year-old electrical equipment.

In light of the potential Duke deal and our future discussion of infrastructure, I would encourage some compromise tonight. We can either stomach a small increase in electric or we can take street resurfacing to $0, stop demolishing dilapidated buildings and more.

Unfortunately, we have three options and neither one will make sleeping tonight easier. We can raise a utility rate with the hope of a future decrease, we can raise property tax rates by 5.71 cents, which will never decrease, or we can drastically and negatively affect the momentum we’re gaining in service quality, street resurfacing, planning and quality of life.

I want to thank our City Manager and staff for doing more than this body requested of you. Without your diligent efforts in frugality our choices tonight would be much more difficult.

In closing, we all should concede that this budget only affects the next 12 months and the fall infrastructure discussions, potential vote of the people, and Duke Energy deal will have a greater impact on our community for decades.

This decision is not taken lightly and this body has had ample time to review it, ask questions, seek input, hold a public hearing and now even receive more public comments. I want to thank all of our citizens who came tonight to speak their opinions on the budget. We truly value your opinion and the time you gave to be here.

WITN7: Kinston Passes Resolution About Possible Power Deal

 

The Kinston City Council passed a resolution Monday in support of ongoing negotiations between the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy, and the mayor hopes other towns will do the same.

Mayor BJ Murphy says he’s excited about the resolution because it shows other communities that Kinston is serious about the possible deal and how it could impact local power bills.

“This (resolution) was not a necessary step, but considering there are 32 cities involved, it helps send a clear signal to other communities that Kinston is serious and would love to see other municipalities support the effort,” Murphy said.

Duke Energy announced earlier this month that it is negotiating to buy ownership in power plants that have saddled more than 30 eastern North Carolina municipalities with high electric bills to pay off construction costs.

Among those cities in the east are Greenville, New Bern, Kinston, Washington, Ayden, Farmville, Belhaven, Robersonville, La Grange, Hookerton and Hamilton.

In 2011, WITN’s Dave Jordan reported the 268,000 customers who get their power from one of the 32 municipalities that make up ElectriCities, have bills 20 to 35 percent higher than other utility customers.

Mayor Murphy acknowledges the negotiations could take as long as two years but says, “selling our ownership in power plants could make electric rates more competitive, and that’s why we’re taking this step.”

http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/Kinston-Passes-Resolution-About-Possible-Power-Deal-245982051.html

KFP: Kinston mayoral candidates take center stage

KFP1016_mayoralforum_1

Mayoral candidate Ralph Clark, left, makes his opening statements, while John Marks, center, and B.J. Murphy listen at the mayoral forum Tuesday at community television station TACC-9 on Queen Street.

Sara Pezzoni / The Free Press

Kinston’s three candidates for mayor each had their lone opportunity to address viewers on the issues of the city on Tuesday evening.

Ralph Clark, John Marks and B.J. Murphy spoke at the TACC-9 community television station for a mayoral forum, as the three are looking to be appointed into office by the people after the Nov. 5 election.

Clark, who has spent 32 years in public office, including eight as the former city manager of Kinston, believes his extensive experience and knowledge would be vital in helping the community he has called home since 1999.

“Kinston has been great to me as a city manager and a citizen,” Clark said. “I have a lot to give, and hope (the city) allow(s) me to be the mayor.”

Clark also talked about education in his opening statement, acknowledging that the city council would not be able to intervene in the decision-making process.

“I would be remiss not to mention something about education,” Clark said. “Even though the city has nothing to do with the education in the community, it has to be supported.”

Marks, the pastor and founder of Increasing the Faith Ministries, believes Kinston needs to move in an alternate direction in fixing some of the issues in the community.

“We do need change,” Marks said. “Everybody that I ask or come in contact with, they are always saying that the city needs to be changed. I’m just grateful that our city and the leadership that is present are still doing things, but we still need solutions to a lot of problems. I just want to be an improvement on assets to the city of Kinston.”

Murphy, the incumbent seeking his second term in office, used his opening statement to speak on some of the positives he has seen in Kinston since he became the mayor in 2009.

“I have never been more excited about the opportunities before our community than I am right now,” Murphy said. “Our community is growing, and there are a lot of positive things happening. Just over the past four years, we have had a major focus on redeveloping our community, on making sure we have better streets, and we’ve had a more accountable government than ever before.”

Early voting starts on Thursday, and will run until Nov. 2, with Election Day on Nov. 5.

 

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

For more information on reruns of the city council and mayor forums, visit tacc9.com.

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/kinston-mayoral-candidates-take-center-stage-1.219056?tc=cr

KFP: Kinston administrators attend ElectriCities conference in Asheville

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

A conference several city administrators went to recently in Asheville could be beneficial to Kinston residents in the future.

Members of the Kinston City Council and Public Services attended the ElectriCities of N.C. Annual Conference from Aug. 1-3, learning about alternative methods of energy, economic and municipal updates and ways to attract new tourists.

“I thought it was a positive conference,” Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said. “We have to look at some of our options and do our best to implement the right ones.”

One of the issues discussed was tourism; North Carolina experienced a banner year in 2012, with tourism rising in all 100 counties. According to visitnc.com, North Carolina is the sixth-most visited state for domestic visitors.

“We have to continue telling people about what we have in Kinston and get them excited about coming here,” Sears said. “We need to do that not just for those outside of the state, but inside as well.”

With electric rates being a major factor in Kinston, Mayor B.J. Murphy looked at possible alternatives.

“The biggest takeaway for me was the discussion on solar power,” Murphy said. “The city has been faced with two different proposals on solar farms, and with the cost of solar power coming down, it’s almost breakeven.”

Murphy also said finding a way to harness solar power would be very beneficial toward the city.

“One challenge is battery storage,” Murphy said. “When the sun hits solar panel, power goes directly into the line. The challenge is utilizing power when needed. How do you store solar energy, and then distribute the power at a peak time?

“The technology isn’t here yet. We could be looking at the next 10, 20, or 30 years until we’re able to make cost-efficient way of distributing when needed. We’re still prohibited to do so on a massive scale.”

Kinston Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick was impressed with the amount of municipalities across the state coming to the conference.

“It’s always good when you have the information from staff, but it was an added benefit of having mayors and councilmen with good ideas,” Barwick said.

One of the biggest points Barwick drew out of the conference was a push for a Smartgrid system, which would help those paying power bills in the city.

“We’re looking at Smartgrid and seeing if we can afford it and bring it here,” Barwick said. “The system would allow us to query the meter, but there are plenty of other pieces. Customers can come to City Hall with questions about their kilowatt hours and the system would let them know which devices are using the most energy.

“The system would also allow us to give customers the option to select how many kilowatt hours they’ll need per month and let them know how many they’ve used, which helps customers manage their hours better. We could also cut meters on or off remotely, which limits the number of trips we have to take, which is more convenient for us.”

For the administration, the current focus is on finding ways to improve efficiency in the city and looking to help other regions as well in coming to a solution.

“The city of Kinston needs to develop a strategy on ways to upgrade aging infrastructure,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, since so many other municipalities are facing the same issue, we can learn from each other in a collaboration of ideas and policies.”

 

Junious Smith III can be reached 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

Breakout box:

Last year, there were record numbers across the board in visitor spending, including an increase in all 100 counties. Here is the amount of money the state brought in:

n $19.4 billion in visitor spending

n $4.39 billion in direct tourism payroll

n $970 million in state tax revenues

n $579 million in local tax revenues

Source: visitnc.com

Published: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 20:30 PM.

KFP: Kinston administrators attend ElectriCities conference in Asheville

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer

Published: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 20:30 PM.

A conference several city administrators went to recently in Asheville could be beneficial to Kinston residents in the future.

Members of the Kinston City Council and Public Services attended the ElectriCities of N.C. Annual Conference from Aug. 1-3, learning about alternative methods of energy, economic and municipal updates and ways to attract new tourists.

“I thought it was a positive conference,” Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said. “We have to look at some of our options and do our best to implement the right ones.”

One of the issues discussed was tourism; North Carolina experienced a banner year in 2012, with tourism rising in all 100 counties. According to visitnc.com, North Carolina is the sixth-most visited state for domestic visitors.

“We have to continue telling people about what we have in Kinston and get them excited about coming here,” Sears said. “We need to do that not just for those outside of the state, but inside as well.”

With electric rates being a major factor in Kinston, Mayor B.J. Murphy looked at possible alternatives.

“The biggest takeaway for me was the discussion on solar power,” Murphy said. “The city has been faced with two different proposals on solar farms, and with the cost of solar power coming down, it’s almost breakeven.”

Murphy also said finding a way to harness solar power would be very beneficial toward the city.

“One challenge is battery storage,” Murphy said. “When the sun hits solar panel, power goes directly into the line. The challenge is utilizing power when needed. How do you store solar energy, and then distribute the power at a peak time?

“The technology isn’t here yet. We could be looking at the next 10, 20, or 30 years until we’re able to make cost-efficient way of distributing when needed. We’re still prohibited to do so on a massive scale.”

Kinston Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick was impressed with the amount of municipalities across the state coming to the conference.

“It’s always good when you have the information from staff, but it was an added benefit of having mayors and councilmen with good ideas,” Barwick said.

One of the biggest points Barwick drew out of the conference was a push for a Smartgrid system, which would help those paying power bills in the city.

“We’re looking at Smartgrid and seeing if we can afford it and bring it here,” Barwick said. “The system would allow us to query the meter, but there are plenty of other pieces. Customers can come to City Hall with questions about their kilowatt hours and the system would let them know which devices are using the most energy.

“The system would also allow us to give customers the option to select how many kilowatt hours they’ll need per month and let them know how many they’ve used, which helps customers manage their hours better. We could also cut meters on or off remotely, which limits the number of trips we have to take, which is more convenient for us.”

For the administration, the current focus is on finding ways to improve efficiency in the city and looking to help other regions as well in coming to a solution.

“The city of Kinston needs to develop a strategy on ways to upgrade aging infrastructure,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, since so many other municipalities are facing the same issue, we can learn from each other in a collaboration of ideas and policies.”

 

Junious Smith III can be reached 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

Breakout box:

Last year, there were record numbers across the board in visitor spending, including an increase in all 100 counties. Here is the amount of money the state brought in:

n $19.4 billion in visitor spending

n $4.39 billion in direct tourism payroll

n $970 million in state tax revenues

n $579 million in local tax revenues

Source: visitnc.com

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/kinston-administrators-attend-electricities-conference-in-asheville-1.185917