KFP: Kinston mayoral candidates take center stage


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 Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

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

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Mayor Murphy appears on the Reece Gardner Hour

Reece Gardner Hour Featuring Mayor BJ Murphy

August 12 2013




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Reece Gardner – LIVE TV Interview

This week I sat down with local talk show host Reece Gardner.  I’m the third guest, which starts at 32:04.  Reece and I discuss the Mayoral Veto Referendum, City Manager search, nonpartisan elections, water rates, electric utility merger of Progress and Duke, Hurricane Irene, Code RED, FEMA assistance, and my future political plans.

Reece September 13, 2011




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KFP: Kinston officials estimate 20,000 tons of debris left by Irene in city

Janet S. Carter/The Free Press

by David Anderson
Kinston Free Press

Kinston officials expect it will take about four weeks to clean up the amount of debris left by Hurricane Irene in the city.

At an estimated 100,000 cubic yards, or 20,000 tons, of vegetative and construction waste, it is twice the amount of debris left by Hurricane Floyd 12 years ago.

“It is going to be a slow, long process,” Interim City Manager Bill Ellis said. “We know it’s going to be aggravating because there’s more debris than we’ve ever had in our streets and we’re looking at ways to make it faster and better. We have started now and cleared several blocks but we have a long way to go.”

Ellis said the city has been divided into 12 equal sections, or “quadrants,” with six crews from local contractors and the Unified Recovery Group of Alabama working in those sections.

The manager said there is enough waste for 3,334 trips to the county landfill, and it could take 4,168 man-hours to complete all of the trips.

“As we enter into our recovery period we realize people are hurting and they need our help, and we’re pledging to continue to be there and do what it takes to help our citizens,” Ellis stated during a City Council meeting Tuesday.

The storm will cost the city nearly $4 million to cover damage to the electrical system, debris removal, landfill fees, overtime for police, fire and other employees and repairs to city buildings and infrastructure.

The debris removal alone could cost $1 million, Ellis said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of the city’s costs, which still leaves Kinston officials with $1 million in expenses to cover.

Mayor B.J. Murphy has sent letters to Gov. Bev Perdue and area legislators asking for state assistance to cover the remaining 25 percent.

Ellis said the state has traditionally “made the cities whole,” but the funds are not in the state budget this year, so Murphy’s letter asks the governor to put the money for local governments back in the budget.

Catherine Gwynn, the city’s acting finance officer, told council members the money would have to come from the general fund balance, which is currently at $3.6 million, or 21 percent.

She said if the city had to make a $1 million withdrawal from fund balance, it could be “disastrous.”

“I applaud you, B.J., for writing that letter,” Gwynn said. “We’re not living in extravagance here.”


David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or


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City Council Meeting 09-06-2011

Be sure to start at 41:45 to hear the elected officials discuss Hurricane Irene, Hull Road closure and Highway 70 Bypass public meetings.

Visit to view several of the past year’s Kinston City Council meetings.

City Council Sept 6 2011




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Letter to Governor Perdue: Hurricane Irene Recovery

Letter to Governor Perdue

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WRAL: Kinston Resident: ‘It looks pretty devastated’

KINSTON, N.C. — Less than a week after Hurricane Irene’s winds blew through Kinston, the mayor says his city has been tackling some of the worst storm damage it has seen since Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

“It’s really disheartening to see what the community is having to go through, but I’ll tell you that there has been a lot of positive things happening within our community,” Mayor B.J. Murphy said.

At the height of the storm, 12,000 customers – the city’s entire customer base – were without power. Electricity was restored to about 4,000 customers by Monday afternoon, but debris-scattered streets and yards slowed workers.

Ryan Kelley was sleeping when he heard a “big crash” about 10 feet from his bedroom, at 1210 Stockon Road. An hour later, a second tree came crashing down – this time into his guest house.

“Oh, I’m very lucky,” he said. “It could be worse, obviously.”

The storm’s strong winds uprooted trees, causing them to fall, punching a hole in Kelley’s roof and totaling his 1989 Bronco.

“I’ve driven around Kinston, and it looks pretty devastated,” he said.

Bruce Parson witnessed the devastation as well, although he prefers to call what happened to him “an inconvenience and an eyesore.”

Winds knocked down at least four trees at Parson’s home, at 2103 St. George Place. One tree fell on his house, wrapped around the chimney and punctured the roof. Another fell on his storage building, crushing it.

“We noticed trees swaying, and then first one tree fell and then four more in rapid succession, these huge oaks,” he said. “It sounded like thunder.”

The storm shook Parson’s house with so much might that it broke some of the china in his china cabinet.

“Well, it’s scary at first,” he said. “(But) we were very fortunate.”
Those both fortunate and unfortunate have reached beyond their tattered yards to help each other, Murphy said.

“We’ve had a lot of people helping neighbors, chipping in with the cost of the trees, trying to help everyone reduce their own cost,” he said.

The mayor says those traveling through the storm-ravaged city can expect heavy traffic. U.S. Highway 70 is open and full of drivers trying to get to the Crystal Coast to check on their property, Murphy said.

Web Editor: Kelly Hinchcliffe

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KFP: More police take to the streets with indefinite curfew in place

by Wesley Brown
Kinston Free Press

Mayor asked public, except those commuting to work, to stay inside from dusk to dawn

The Kinston Department of Public Safety increased the number of patrol officers on neighborhood streets Monday with Mayor B.J. Murphy declaring a dusk-to-dawn curfew until the city fully regains power.

In order to the public safe and their property secure, Murphy ordered all residents, except those making their way to and from work, to stay inside their homes between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. as long as servicemen and women work to get Kinston’s electricity back to 100 percent.

Bill Johnson, director of the city’s public safety department, said officers have hung posters in convenience stores to inform the public of the curfew and the prohibition of alcohol sales during curfew hours.

With dozens of stoplights remaining inoperable throughout the city, Johnson strongly urged all residents to treat all traffic lights not illuminated as a four-way stop, as required by state law.

The chief said no major accidents have occurred because of blinking or unlit lights, and that the state of limbo incurred at most intersections in the past few days should ease up with the city getting lights on King, Herritage and Queen Streets and Vernon Avenue working again.

“The community has responded well. We have not had a lot of unusual activity,” Johnson said. “We know this is a stressful situation for everyone and appreciate their patience.”

Rhonda Barwick, director of Kinston Department of Public Services, said garbage crews will continue their regular pickup as the city agency activated its debris contract with Lenoir County. She asked residents to separate storm debris from household trash and to leave any items discarded away from the curb to prevent blocked storm drains from flooding.

Officials urged everyone to report an outage as it happens, stay away from all downed power lines because they may be energized and to call Lenoir County’s Emergency Operation Center at 252-526-6666 if they have any medical issues that require special attention.


Wesley Brown can be reached at 252-559-1075 or

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KFP: City’s electrical grid suffers worst blow in systems’ history from Hurricane Irene

by Wesley Brown
Kinston Free Press

Roughly 8,000 residents within Kinston remain without power after Hurricane Irene dealt a knockout blow to the city’s electrical grid Mayor B.J. Murphy Monday called the “worst ever” experienced in the power supply system’s history.

Crews with the City of Kinston’s Public Services Department, along with 40 additional electrical engineers brought in from around the region, restored power Monday to 4,000 customers. The department was making progress towards its Friday goal of erasing a power loss total that capped at all 12,000 businesses and households in its region Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers from 10 private contractors around the region and the ElectriCities members of Gastonia, High Point and Kings Mountain have joined city personnel in sacrificing their own cleanup responsible to work 16 hour-shifts — the maximum allowed under state labor laws, Murphy said Monday afternoon at a news conference at City Hall.

“We are working as hard and as diligently as possible to have business and homes fully restored,” Murphy said.

Murphy said city executives have adopted a three-phase plan to tackle the historic power loss. The mayor said officials have crossed steps one and two off the list.

In order to get the city’s main power source back online, engineers first fixed the three substations in the city hammered by Irene and then worked on restoring power to municipal buildings and Kinston’s primary business district in and around King, Queen and Herritage streets and Vernon Avenue to provide for residents public safety needs.

Today, electricians will focus on repairing downed circuits, replacing broken utility poles and damaged transmission lines in areas most affected by the outage. Murphy said the city’s water supply and sewer system were not in danger.

“It’s a coordinated effort with a lot of hands-on work,” said Kinston Department of Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick. “Broken poles and power lines are tangled in limbs and it’s slowing the process, but I am pleased with the progress we have made. We ask for residents to have patience.”

Power loss has become the Irene’s legacy. Besides customers with the city of Kinston, more than 11,000 business and household with four commercial power providers did not have power. As of press time Monday:

n Progress Energy reported 7,720 of its 11,500 customers in Lenoir County, 2,000 of its 2,500 customers in Greene County and 1,280 of 2,000 customers in Jones County did not have power, company spokeswoman Jessica Lambert said.

Lambert said 85 percent of the 280,000 customers who experienced power outages with Progress Energy should have had their electricity restored by Monday night as crews worked around the clock to repair 17 snapped transmission lines and 28 inoperable substations in the region. Progress Energy hopes to have 99 percent of its affected customer base with power by Wednesday, with the remaining 1 percent — which make up the area’s hardest hit areas — to come Thursday.

n Tri-County Electric reported it expected to get the remaining 100 customers it served in northern Lenoir County up and running by Monday night, said General Manager Mike Davis, who added as many 4,000 of the company’s local clientele endured an outage because of the storm.

n Crews with Jones-Onslow Electric Membership Corporation worked as “quickly as possible” to get the 104 customers in Jones County and seven in Lenoir County without power back online, said the company’s Vice President of Energy Services, Steve Goodson. Goodson did not give an exact timeframe on power restoration.

n Officials with Pitt-Greene Electric did not return phone calls to The Free Press.

Wesley Brown can be reached at 252-559-1075 or

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WNCT9: Kinston Residents Could Be Without Power Through Friday

Thank you to Sanderson Farms, Lenoir Community College and American Red Cross.  There are many more to thank such as Salvation Army and others.  We can’t thank all our volunteers enough.

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