Recently I sat down with Jon Dawson to discuss various issues facing the City of Kinston. Here’s the link to the audio podcast: http://www.jondawson.com/
By Junious Smith III, Halifax Media Services
Published: Friday, May 16, 2014 at 20:59 PM.
KINSTON | Thursday’s U.S. 70 Corridor Commission meeting was more focused toward updates on the highway. The next meeting may be more centralized toward economic benefits — and sooner than what is expected.
Chairman Robin Comer said the next meeting was initially scheduled for July 17 in Morehead City, but due to the economic impact study going public in several weeks, the tentative date has been moved up to June 19. N.C. Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce officials are expected to attend.
“The objective of this meeting was to stay updated,” Comer said. “I’m excited about how the progress is going and we’ll have the economic impact study coming out in four or five weeks, where the benefits the corridor provides economically can reflect in that. Highway 70 is the second best highway economically behind (Interstate) 40.”
John Rouse, the DOT Division 2 engineer for Kinston, said there will be a corridor design public hearing for the city slated for this year.
“It will happen in either late summer or early fall,” Rouse said. “We’ve also got a draft environmental impact statement which will come out in early 2015. We’re doing this so the public can study and comment, then we’ll take their information and make revisions where they’re necessary. We have a record of decision as to the route in 2016, and it is currently unfunded.”
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said one of the main reasons he attended the meeting was to learn about the progress of the Global TransPark.
“GTP is creating a tremendous opportunity, and we need to do anything we can at a local level to support its job creation efforts,” Murphy said. “For example, just (Wednesday), the Lenoir County transportation committee voted to make three of our top five priorities related to the quad-east interstate loop concept.”
Durwood Stephenson, director of the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, said another significant focus is the crash rate, which is 465 percent greater than on I-40.
“We have a lot of bad accidents due to the traffic congestion,” Stephenson said. The crash data showed 28 U.S. 70 fatalities compared six on I-40 during the charted period.
“Our objective was to make Highway 70 a freeway,” he said. “It would be great to have it as an interstate, but that’s not sufficient at this time. We just want to reduce the congestion, which will lower the crash rate.”
Rouse also provided an update on the U.S. 70 Gallent’s Channel Bridge project in Carteret County for which piling driving is scheduled to begin in June and the bridge completed by 2018; the U.S. 70 Havelock Bypass with the final Environmental Impact Study to be completed soon and right-of-way acquisition to begin in 2015; and the Slocum Road Interchange to Cherry Point air station, which is funded and work expected to begin in March 2017.
There was also a presentation in the meeting from Build N.C. Greer Beaty, one of the 501C4 lobbying organization’s founders, said the goal of Build N.C. is to be a strong advocate for transportation projects. Jim Trogdon, retired DOT chief deputy secretary, is a member of Build N.C. advisory board.
“We were just coming to let the committee know we exist, and we can be a voice in support,” Beaty said. “A project can be a long process, and there are so many factors are involved in it.”
Lenoir County Commissioner J. Mac Daughety said he liked the overall vibe and chemistry of the board.
“It was a very positive meeting,” Daughety said. “We’ve got significant issues we need to deal with as far as funding is concerned, but this group is unified.”
Junious Smith III is a reporter for the Kinston Free Press. Sue Book of the Sun Journal in New Bern contributed to this report.
Kinston Hospitality Plans $11 Million Investment to Develop a Fairfield Marriott in Kinston, NCJunious Smith III | The Free Press, Kinston, N.C. | December 23, 2013 6:28pm Dec. 21–Developers of a proposed hotel in the city say Kinston could have a Marriott by the end of 2014.
Washington-based Kinston Hospitality LLC had struck a deal with Kinston City Council in July to invest $11 million for a new hotel. Now they say construction could begin in the next two months.
Vimal Kolappa, managing member of the investment group, said he plans on having construction done in the next two months for a Fairfield Marriott.
“I’m very excited about this,” Kolappa said. “Kinston needs a good hotel and we consider them an expanding market, so this hotel would sit well with the economic development happening in Kinston.”
The hotel will be built on the northwest corner of Sheffield Drive and Berkeley Avenue.
Walter Poole, a broker with Poole Realty who sold the land to Kinston Hospitality said the hotel is sorely needed.
“With the town growing, when we have particular events here, we would welcome people coming into town who booked rooms in other communities,” Poole said. “We have a real need for a hotel, and it’s been quite a while since one has been erected in Kinston. It will impact events coming here, have people look at availability and make decisions accordingly. A vibrant, upscale facility will be a boon to the community.”
The site plan was approved on Sept. 20, but City of Kinston Permit Technician Donna Kennedy said building plans haven’t been submitted yet.
“The plans have to be reviewed, but it will take less than a couple weeks to inspect them,” Kennedy said. “The project will be up to them, considering how fast they want to work.”
Kennedy said she is sure the investment group will send the plans soon.
“We know they’re planning to send us the building plans,” she said. “We just haven’t gotten them yet.”
Kinston mayor B.J. Murphy said the hotel will be great for Kinston without costing the city much. Of the $11.5 million, the city is only responsible for $12,900, as it will pay tap fees for water, fire and sanitary sewer services for three years.
“Not only does the city benefit from property taxes, water services and sewer services, but we also benefit from job creation,” Murphy said. “We’re only contributing less than 1 percent of the cost, and we can provide 25 full-time jobs within a year.”
Murphy said Lenoir County will also be able to benefit from the Marriott.
“The county will receive property tax as well, and there will be a hotel occupancy tax, which will (be used to) market city and county events,” Murphy said.
Adrian King, executive director of Pride of Kinston, said the hotel is beneficial considering the growth of the city.
“As you grow the population, amenities and the level of enjoyment for downtown, you need quality bed space for visitors,” King said. “This is a great statement and constant for the community.”
Laura Lee Sylvester, president of the Kinston/Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce, said the Fairfield Marriott would help those interested in tours of the city, but find hotels in other communities.
“I think it will be very beneficial for Kinston and Lenoir County,” Sylvester said. “The Tourism Development Authority works with groups who want to visit and tour the region, and there are times where we don’t have availability, or competitive rates. This new hotel addresses those issues.”
John McPhaul, owner and operator of the Chick-Fil-A on Vernon Avenue, said it was hard to say specifically if the hotel would help his business, but it could assist with economic development.
“I know there are times of the year where hotel capacity can be a problem, like the barbecue festivals, but this one will help,” McPhaul said. “Peak travel times will help contribute to economic increase.”
Ray Amyette, executive director for Lions Industries for the Blind, said he doesn’t think business will improve because of the new hotel, but believes it will benefit Kinston immensely.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a hotel here, and having this one will bring economic success throughout the city,” Amyette said.
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 and Junious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.
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.
More than 250 jobs are coming to Kinston, thanks to a major expansion by a manufacturing company.
Associated Materials, Incorporated operates its Alside Window plant off Airport Road.
Governor Pat McCrory’s office says the company will invest more than $5 million over the next five years in Kinston and add 252 jobs. The parent company already employs more that 540 people in the state and is one of Kinston’s largest employers.
“Creating new manufacturing jobs across North Carolina has been a priority of my administration’s economic plan. We remain focused on expanding partnerships with existing North Carolina businesses like Associated Materials,” said the governor. “Kinston and Associated Materials will both benefit greatly from this major expansion
Alside began in 1947 and has six other U.S. plants.
A major investment agreed to by the Kinston City Council on Monday will bring revenue to residents with minimal risks.
Shortly after its city council meeting, the council had a closed session to deliberate on the economic development agreement with Kinston Hospitality, LLC. When the council came out, an $11.5 million agreement for a hotel in Kinston was reached.
“A new place would provide more revenue in the city,” Kinston Mayor Pro Tem Joe Tyson said. “It will also make the hotel prices more competitive. We have three or four hotels and there are people who come out for family reunions or meetings, only to go to Greenville because their rates are lower.”
The development is expected to provide at least 25 full-time jobs within a year’s time. Broker Walter Poole of Poole Realty is part of the team that will incur the $11.5 million cost for construction and installation.
“We’re working with an investment group in Washington and they have a contract with Northwest corner, which is about three acres of land,” Poole said. “They have a franchise agreement to build a four-story upscale hotel. They were looking for help from the city and they agreed to a plan over a three-year period of tap fees. Once the land is conveyed, we’ll begin construction.”
The city will provide connection of the property to the city’s water and sewer system through tap fees for domestic water, fire line and sanitary sewer services. The city will pay about $12,900 for those services.
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy believes the hotel will truly benefit residents.
“This project helps create jobs, increases our tax base at little risk to the taxpayers,” Murphy said.
The city council voted unanimously on everything else brought to them in the meeting, including agreeing on the extension of Smithfield Way. The project is a joint effort between the city and Lenoir County to open up a corridor, relieving congestion on Hill Farm Road and U.S. Highway 70.
“That would be a plus because of the new industries coming in,” Councilman Sammy Aiken said. “You need roadways to attract companies and need good entrance ways.”
Another endeavor of importance included the authorization to execute an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation for the Queen Street Bridge Replacement Project. As a result, South Queen Street will be closed off next year until all repairs can be made.
“Although closing all lanes of traffic is not ideal, completing the project in half the time as well as receiving permanent improvements is necessary,” Murphy said. “This is a long-term gain.”
The council also took a look at the Utility Development Ordinance and will later update some of the regulations in the ordinance.
“We’re upgrading regulations and trying to satisfy citizens who aren’t in favor of solar panels,” Aiken said. “A lot of communities don’t want solar panels in the area, so the UDO explains how many feet from neighborhoods the panels can be, so they won’t be seen.”
Overall, Tyson was pleased with the amount of progress made in the open and closed sessions.
“We did some things that we hadn’t been able to get done in a while,” Tyson said. “It was good to wrap everything up and address what we needed to.”
The next city council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 5.
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.
This week we have a special edition of NC SPIN featuring four Mayors from North Carolina. They include:
Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Raleigh
Mayor Bill Bell, Durham
Mayor Jill Swain, Huntersville
Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston
Greenville City Council 2013-03-07 QuadEast Resolution