Fixing the streets of Kinston
Margaret King sits on her swing behind her home Tuesday off College Street. King has seen about 150 cars pass by on a given day since the street condition has improved.
Janet S. Carter / The Free Press
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 21:44 PM.
When B.J. Murphy was elected as the mayor of Kinston in 2009, he said road maintenance would be a serious priority during his term.
“When I took over in office, we were lucky to have $50,000 to $100,000 in our street resurfacing budget,” Murphy said. “In order to be on a 25-year life cycle for the roads, we needed to be spending $450,000 to $515,000 per year. I went door to door and talked to citizens. Besides taxes, reducing crime, utility rates and jobs, one of the biggest concerns was on fixing streets.”
While Murphy hasn’t been able to acquire his initial amount, the Kinston City Council has made progress in attending to the concern of the streets, raising the budget to about $200,000. The rise in funds for street maintenance came in the 2012-13 fiscal year, City Manager Tony Sears’ first.
“He put me in a precarious situation during my first budget,” Sears said. “He was adamant about increase funding of road resurfacing from $100,000 in the 2011-12 year to $200,000 and it passed.”
As a result, Kinston residents have seen major changes with smoother roads. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and College Street are amongst streets that have been repaired. The city council just approved fixing the Briarwood area, which has had major infrastructure damage.
“We have a very scientific formula that is fair for all sides when it comes to addressing needs,” Murphy said. “The amount of traffic and damaged roads are factors in prioritizing projects. No favoritism is played and the council makes decisions on the streets that will be resurfaced due to fiscal funding.”
The formula came from a street condition survey created by Kinston Public Services, who have worked with the Kinston City Council in order to figure out which road to improve next.
“We had been doing it for several years with our staff inspecting city maintained streets categorized by use, damage, traffic, rutting, rattling and ride quality,” Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick said. “Funding has been hard to come by, but the council does their best. It’s not moving as fast as we like, but were moving in a positive direction.”
Last year, College Street was a focus for maintenance. Margaret King — who has lived on College Street since 1992 — saw increased traffic and smoother roads due to changes.
“This street was like a shortcut if you’re coming from the mall, plaza or went to see people in the nursing home,” King said. “The roads were terrible, but you would still see maybe 75 cars go through a day because of the convenience. Now, you see twice that many.”
Dennis Sherwood also saw plenty of improvements on College Street. In his three years as a technical consultant at Daughety’s Office Equipment, Sherwood has seen many positive transitions.
“A lot of problems that used to be on this road have gone away,” Sherwood said. “This intersection doesn’t flood; rain used to stay on the surface instead of down a storm drain. Then, the pitch slant was so severe that an 18-wheeler couldn’t even close its lift gate.”
Currently, Herritage Street has been in the plans for fixing but the city council is looking for cooperation with the N.C. Department of Transportation before creating a plan.
“Most citizens and some elected officials don’t know where state transportations starts and stops,” Murphy said. “Part of Herritage Street is in the city, but the other part is in the state and we can’t do anything there. It can be confusing because those roads are in city limits, but we’ve addressed them and hopefully we can have it all fixed soon.”
The primary concern for city council when it comes to maintaining the roads is making sure funding can be available without having to gouge residents of Kinston.
“All funding for repairs comes from taxpayers,” Murphy said. “In order to increase the road budget, we would have to do a 2 cent increase in taxes or a 2 cent reduction in other services like parks and recreation, human resources, police and firefighters. Of course, that was out of the question and we’ve steadily increased our amount and concerns.”
The Kinston City Council is still working diligently in trying to find ways to speed the process for road resurfacing.
“Funding for streets isn’t at optional level, but as an organization we’re committed to increase.” Sears said.
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter @JuniousSmithIII.