Public Services


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

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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.

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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

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KFP: City council, Kinston Hospitality agree to major deal

By Junious Smith III, Staff Writer 

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.

 

Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 23:16 PM.

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KFP: Fixing the Streets of Kinston

Fixing the streets of Kinston

KFP0626 Fixing The Streets

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.

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/fixing-the-streets-of-kinston-1.163956?tc=cr

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Mayor Murphy appears on NCSPIN

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

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KFP: Kinston field could become state’s latest solar farm

By Wes Wolfe / Staff Writer

Published: Friday, April 5, 2013 at 21:13 PM.

It’s clean and green vs. dirty and cheap.

And then there’s the scenic beauty thing.

The battle over renewable energy and the resources committed to it stretches from the General Assembly in Raleigh to a farmer’s field on Rouse Road.

Conservatives in the legislature are pushing a bill that would eliminate the state’s renewable energy law, which passed a House committee on an 11-10 vote Wednesday. The purpose of the law was to make energy providers generate at least 12.5 percent of their output through biomass, solar or wind energy by 2021.

Millions of dollars in tax credits are given to further that end. Tax credits could go to a proposed 20-megawatt solar farm on the east side of Rouse Road, north of Carey Road.

The $64 million project comes from the Sustainable Energy Community Development Company, which seeks to energize the economies of economically depressed, rural areas through green energy.

Documents supplied to state regulators by the company suggest the local economic impact should exceed $21 million, and SECDC Chief Operating Officer Shawn LeMond said it could go as high as $40 million.

According to SECDC numbers, there would be a $7.8 million tax base added, with the site generating $117,000 in annual property, service district and fire district taxes.

Jobs would be created, and local businesses would be used.

“So many unemployed, that have been unemployed the longest, are out of the construction industry,” LeMond said. “The construction of a solar farm is simply a big construction project. I don’t want to pull anybody’s leg — there’s not long-term employment there, or anything like that. But, there is a good six months for 75-100 people, ultimately.”

He added, “Typically 75-100 businesses will be involved, providing fuel oil, rental outhouses, food — that’s where the $3 million or so gets left in the community.”

But the prospect of 72 acres of twinkling photovoltaic arrays doesn’t leave some in the area with the warm-and-fuzzies.

Ned Stroud lives in the neighborhood across Rouse Road from the field, and said he and some of his neighbors aren’t happy with the project.

“You don’t want to look out from your front door and see an industrial facility,” Stroud said.

He likened it to a recent defeated proposal to place apartments near Lenoir Memorial Hospital, when people in opposition claimed the project was simply out of place in the area.

“There, they were trying to put housing in a medical park area, and here they’re trying to put industrial in a residential area,” Stroud said.

The land, however, is zoned in such a way as to allow a light industrial operation like a solar farm to locate there. SECDC would need approval from the City of Kinston, though, and that process has yet to occur.

“What exactly is the city’s role in this process, and how does it benefit, or not benefit, the City of Kinston residents and the City of Kinston customers?” Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy asked. “I’m just not clear enough on that just yet.”

Murphy said he’s OK with solar power, but noted it comes at a higher cost than other methods. He’s also unsure of how the solar farm will integrate into the city’s power system, and what it means for city electricity customers.

If the plan comes to fruition, power would be sold to the ElectriCities group, of which Kinston is a member. By plugging in to the grid at the city, LeMond said, there would be a cost savings because of energy savings.

When electricity moves from the source to the outlet, energy is lost along the length of the transmission. The closer the source is to the outlet, less power is lost. LeMond said there would be economic benefits to City of Kinston rate-payers, but conceded the amount is hard to quantify.

Currently, SECDC plans to have the solar farm operational by Dec. 31. It’s meant to provide power for at least 20 years.

There will be a public hearing on the project on April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Kinston City Council chambers. LeMond also asked those with questions or concerns to contact him at 704-340-2544.

 

Wes Wolfecan be reached at 252-559-1075 orwes.wolfe@kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter @WolfeReports.

 

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/kinston-field-could-become-state-s-latest-solar-farm-1.122945?tc=cr

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KFP: City, county look toward 2013

Local leaders outline their priorities for New Year

With new faces in county government and the possibility of new faces in city government, local leaders are looking toward a busy 2013.

“I would say, in 2013 some of our priorities will be customer service, street resurfacing and continuing our redevelopment efforts,” Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said Monday, in the waning hours of 2012.

The 2012 elections left the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners with a new chairman and vice chairwoman in Commissioners Reuben Davis and Jackie Brown, respectively.

They also have a new face in freshman Commissioner Craig Hill and the still-to-be-determined replacement for long-serving Commissioners’ Chairman George Graham — the local Democratic Party has nominated Roland Best for the seat, but the commissioners will have the final say.

“I know both of those folks are committed to serving the citizens, and I think they’ll fit in very nicely and I think we’ll work together very well,” Commissioner Linda Rouse Sutton said of Best and Hill.

She said the commissioners would “miss George (Graham)’s leadership,” but bringing in new people can bring in new ideas and new perspectives.

Sutton expected the commissioners’ main priorities in 2013 would be balancing the budget and not raising taxes.

“We’re determined to come out with a good balanced budget and not raise taxes, and hang on to as many services as possible, as closely as we can,” she said.

 

City goals

On the city of Kinston’s side, the mayor’s and two City Council seats will be up for election this year.

In 2013, city elections will be nonpartisan, meaning candidates will run without a political party label.

“I am looking forward to the wishes of the people being carried out in the form of nonpartisan elections,” said Murphy, who was a strong supporter of nonpartisan voting.

The mayor said he hoped the council would continue to work toward building up $500,000 in the budget for street repairs and resurfacing.

Murphy acknowledged it was a challenging goal to meet in times of lean budgets, “but continuing to make that progress toward that goal is important.”

The mayor also expected the city’s policy of “proactive policing” would continue due to the success of removing major criminals from the streets in 2012.

He also saw as a priority continuing to follow the relationship between Duke Energy, which completed its merger with Progress Energy in 2012, and public power communities in North Carolina.

Kinston is among the 32 member communities of the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, which owns power plants along with Duke Energy. The “generation assets” owned by the cities provide power to the member communities, which took on billions in debt 30 years ago to buy into those assets.

“Selling the generation assets, I think, should be part of our discussion in coordination with how to handle our debt load,” Murphy said.

 

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

 

BREAKOUT BOX:

 

County priorities in 2013:

- Balance the budget

- No tax increase

- Maintain services

Source: Commissioner Linda Rouse Sutton

 

City priorities in 2013:

- Improved customer service

- Street resurfacing

- Continued redevelopment

- ‘Proactive policing’

- Monitor relationship between Duke Energy and NCEMPA/ElectriCities

Source: Mayor B.J. Murphy

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KFP: City of Kinston commissions study to find ways to improve water service

By David Anderson / The Free Press

Kinston Public Services staffers have fielded calls for two years from residents of Kinston’s western outskirts, frustrated with low water pressure.

A solution — or array of solutions — could be presented in the coming months, though, as the city conducts an intensive study to determine the best methods of improving water service to residents in the Castle Oaks, Whitfield Acres and Falling Creek communities which have grown significantly during the past 20 years.

The improved water pressure would also ensure there are no hiccups in water service as more tenants come to the nearby U.S. 70 West Industrial Park.

“It will give us a better idea of what things we can do to improve pressures,” Assistant Public Services Director Steve Miller said Tuesday of the study.

The members of the Kinston City Council voted 4-0 Monday to spend $30,000 from the city’s water fund balance for the study.

It would be conducted by the Wooten Company, a Raleigh engineering firm which is also working with the city on ways to improve sewer capacity at the industrial park.

Mayor B.J. Murphy called the water pressure issue “a good problem to have,” as an indicator of residential and industrial growth around the city.

Public Services officials are looking at several factors in that issue, including water supply, water pipe capacity and water pipe design on systems built to support much smaller communities.

“Ideally, as a system, we keep enough water in our pipes to meet the daily needs of the customers, as well as in case there was a fire,” Miller explained.

Kinston obtained all of its water from wells until 2008, when the Neuse Regional Water and Sewer Authority (NRWASA) plant went online, delivering purified water drawn from the Neuse River to Kinston and its sister water providers in Lenoir and Pitt counties.

Miller said Kinston pays for a “daily allotment” of water from NRWASA, and augments it with water from select wells and its 750,000-gallon water tower in the U.S. 70 West Industrial Park.

The city gets NRWASA water from several connection points at different areas of Kinston, and the agency and city have agreed to keep one connection point near the Falling Creek area open 24 hours a day.

Miller said flows at other connection points have been reduced to ensure the city does not exceed its allotment.

“We’re not purchasing any additional water,” he said. “We’re just rebalancing and applying more water to that one spot.”

The adjustment from NRWASA is considered a temporary solution, though, and Public Services officials suggested opening two more wells earlier this year — No. 18 off Kelly Road in the Castle Oaks area, and No. 14 in the industrial park — at a cost of $100,000 for upgrades.

The City Council nixed the proposal, but it is still one solution to the water pressure issue, Miller said.

Joey Pittman, water production superintendent, said Well No. 14 — which sits in the shadow of the massive 750,000-gallon industrial park water tower — needs significant upgrades to be able to provide water treated with chloramines, which NRWASA uses to treat the river water.

He noted Castle Oaks and the surrounding communities are fed by a water system that dead-ends at Kelly Road. He said it would help if they were on a “loop” system.

“It’s not able to come from anywhere else,” he said of the water.

Miller said it would take several months to complete the study, which would include a computer model of Kinston’s entire water system to show supply and demand, what improvements can be made in the present, and what changes can be made to support future growth.

 

David Andersoncan be reached at 252-559-1077 orDavid.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

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KFP: City weighs sharing financial risk for Smithfield jobs

by David Anderson

Kinston city officials have been asked to assume part of the cost of expanding Smithfield Packing Co.’s local workforce by reimbursing the company for any of the 330 positions it does not fill at its expanded Kinston plant.

The liability for unfilled jobs comes as part of the city’s efforts to obtain grants to fund an expansion of sewer capacity at the U.S. 70 West Industrial Park — the sewer capacity expansion would support Smithfield and future tenants.

Those grants come with requirements for job creation, and Smithfield would have to pay back grant funds for any jobs not created. Smithfield has asked the city to reimburse the company for any back payments it must make.

“Smithfield realizes the grant doesn’t solely benefit them,” City Manager Tony Sears said Wednesday. “There’s also a city of Kinston benefit and they’re asking the city of Kinston to share in the risk.”

Smithfield has operated its K2 plant in the industrial park since 2006. The company announced last November it would expand that facility and create an additional 330 jobs, as well as investing $85.5 million in its Kinston facilities.

The industrial park is currently near its capacity for sewer, with about 50,000 gallons per day available through the nearby Oliver Glass Lift Station.

Kinston officials estimate it would cost $4.3 million to create an additional 1.5 million gallons per day of capacity — the city has found potential grants from the N.C. Rural Center, the N.C. Department of Commerce Industrial Development Fund and the Golden LEAF Foundation worth a combined $2.75 million.

“It’s a great project for the city — in addition to providing sewer to Smithfield — and its something we’ve been talking about for a while,” Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick said Tuesday.

Barwick said the city and county would be responsible for funding the remaining $1.5 million, but Lenoir County Economic Development Director Mark Pope is working to find additional grants — the city had enlisted his support to find grants late last year.

Sears, along with Barwick and Pope, presented Smithfield’s request to the members of the city council during a work session Monday.

Pope expected Smithfield would honor its commitment to hire the full contingent of 330 new employees — the company is currently working with the JobLink center at Lenoir Community College to interview prospective workers.

“Their goal is to have that 330 on board by the first quarter of next year,” he told the council.

Council members were asked to vote on the agreement between the city and Smithfield Monday — the city would have to fund the full $4.3 million by itself if it could not get the grants, and all documentation must be submitted to the granting agencies by Aug. 30.

The city would have to pay up to $13,000 per job if all $4.3 million were covered by grants.

Mayor B.J. Murphy and several council members were reluctant to commit to the agreement Monday, especially without seeing a formal document.

“When government rushes decision making, it tends to lead to poor decision making,” Murphy said.

The council agreed to recess Monday’s meeting to 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 27, when they will hold a vote.

Sears said the city entered into a similar agreement with West Pharmaceuticals in 2008 when it was expanding its Kinston facility.

“This isn’t necessarily ground-breaking for the city,” he said Wednesday. “This the type of risk sharing the city has done with other big-name employers.”

David Harris, president of RSM Harris Associates in Goldsboro, is working with Pope to write grant applications.

He said it is typical for grant agreements with companies to stipulate a return of grant funds if job commitments are not fully met, but granting agencies often work with those companies.

“We’ve had extensions granted when market conditions change, that were totally unpredictable at the time of the award,” Harris said.

 

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

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