It is imperative that the City of New Bern lead in setting an example of social distancing and doing our part in reducing the risk to our citizenry and minimizing the impact on our local health care providers. With cases growing in number throughout the state, the City is taking proactive measures to assist with “flattening the curve” to help protect the health and well-being of our citizens. All staff will report Monday morning for duties and work will be performed as required to continue providing our citizens with expected high levels of service. However, changes to our normal way of providing such services must be modified to ensure the protection of both our citizenry and staff.
With this said, the following restrictions and changes to normal operations will be made and placed into effect beginning March 16, 2020. Understanding that this may be initially cumbersome and outside typical business operations, we respectfully request the public’s patience with City staff. Ultimately, this modification in operations is intended to protect both the public and our staff’s health. Loss or quarantine of staff during this time could be devastating to the City’s ability to respond to public requests when needed.
Information, instructions and contact numbers will be posted at each closed facility to assist citizens and visitors with making this temporary transition simpler.
The following are modifications to operations and will stay in effect until notified otherwise:
City Hall will be closed to the public and all business will be conducted via electronic methods such as email, fax, phone or any other virtual means to the greatest extent possible. Additionally, any necessary in-person meetings will be restricted to those initiated by City staff or Board of Aldermen only. It is requested that attendance at approved on-site meetings be limited to city staff and limited number of participants only unless otherwise arranged. Specific requests for such shall be made electronically along with the reason for
the requested meeting and a list of participants for review by staff before the meeting will be confirmed.
Meetings of Boards & Commissions
Below is a status report for most City advisory boards, commissions, and committees:
• Board of Aldermen: 3/24/20 meeting still scheduled at this point
• Board of Adjustment: 3/30/20 Meeting cancelled and business items will be
conducted at next regularly scheduled meeting on 4/27/20
• Planning and Zoning: 4/7/20 Meeting cancelled and business items will be
conducted at next Planning and Zoning meeting on 5/5/20
• Planning and Zoning: 3/26/20 Board Procedures Workshop with City legal, status
• New Bern Redevelopment Commission: 3/25 meeting cancelled, next meeting 4/8
• Community Development Block Grant (CDBG): 3/17 Public Hearing cancelled,
rescheduled date TBD
• Historic Preservation Commission: 3/18 meeting, status TBD at this point.
• Historic Preservation Commission: 4/1 meeting, status TBD at this point.
Public Safety Facilities (Fire & Police)
All public safety facilities will be closed to the public and all business considered non- emergent in nature will be conducted by electronic means beginning March 16, 2020.
If you are in need of assistance from the Police Department and it is an emergency, please call 911. If you do not have an emergency and need assistance or need to speak with someone from the Police Department regarding another matter, please call 252-633-2020.
If you are in need of the Fire Department and it is an emergency, please call 911. If you do not have an emergency and need to speak with someone from the Fire Department related to some other matter, please call 252-639-2931.
Public Utilities & Utility Business Office
The City of New Bern, Public Utilities has been closely following the COVID -19 outbreak and takes this matter very seriously. The utility will continue to provide electric, water and wastewater services throughout its duration. We do not expect any interruption with the delivery of electricity, water and/or the collection of wastewater services. However, the Utility will be implementing precautionary measures to ensure service to our customers remains reliable and of good quality standards. As a result, the Utility will be focused only on essential operations. Additionally, the utility will be closing walk-in service at the FT. Totten customer service office located at 606 Ft. Totten Drive. Customers may contact the Utility thru internet or telephone services. Payment of bills can made using direct mailings, online services, drive-thru services or the drop box at the exterior of the building. Requests for new service and other ancillary services can be arranged thru our telephone service.
In order to minimize the spread of the virus and other diseases, The City of New Bern Utilities is taking the following steps for our customers:
• Effective immediately, the Utility is discontinuing all disconnects due to non- payment for the next 30 days. Customers will still be obligated to pay for their consumption during this period of time.
• Customers may pay their bill using U.S. Mail services; City of New Bern- Payment, PO Box 63005, Charlotte, NC 28263; Online services or by using the drive-thru lanes or drop box outside of the building at 606 Ft. Totten Drive.
• We are suspending all services requiring employees to go inside a customer’s home or business to minimize risk for our customers and our employees.
• All energy audits have been postponed will be evaluated further at that time.
• Online service can be located at newbernnc.gov.
• Telephone services are available at 252-639-2750.
The Utility has plans in place to ensure employees will be able to continue to provide reliable, life-sustaining utility solutions throughout this situation. We will continue to work with our customers on a case-by-case matter to resolve any problems that they may experience regarding our services. Further updates will continue to be disseminated to our customers as the situation develops.
Parks & Recreation
The following Parks and Recreation facilities will be closed to the public until further notice beginning March 16, 2020:
o Parks and Recreation Administration o West New Bern Recreation Center
All City Parks will remain open during normal hours; however, citizens are encouraged to maintain social distancing and refrain from large group gatherings. Additionally, all organized Parks and Recreation activities, programs, special events, youth and adult sports (games and practices) held at City of New Bern Parks are suspended until further notice.
The City of New Bern Cemetery Services will continue to process requests; however, all services will be provided electronically until in-person services are required. For any questions or service requests, please call 252-639-2904
Registration for upcoming athletic seasons and programs will continue, however, schedule modifications may be necessary should impacts from COVID-19 continue.
For any other Parks and Recreation related questions, please call 252-639-2901.
Development Services & Building Inspections
City offices at 303 First Street will be closed to the general public beginning March 16, 2020. A table will be placed in the front foyer area behind the entrance doors where all permits, plans, and application packets can be dropped off along with payment (check only, no cash). City staff will routinely collect all permits, plans and applications from the desk and contact each applicant via telephone or email once collected.
All permit applications are available at the City’s website at the following address,
Paper copies of each permit will be available in the front foyer also.
All inspections processes will be conducted normally; however, in-person meetings will be restricted to those initiated by City staff only. The Chief Building Inspector requests that attendance at on-site inspections be limited to the inspector only unless otherwise arranged. All building and permitting questions can be directed to 252-639-2942 or 252- 639-2945. All building and inspection related paperwork can be emailed to email@example.com and submitters are requested to use project address and permit type in subject line.
All planning and zoning questions can be directed to 252-639-7581 or 252-639-7587. Additionally, all planning and zoning processes will be conducted normally; however, in- person meetings will be restricted to those initiated by City staff only. It is requested that attendance at any on-site inspections be limited to the city staff only unless otherwise arranged.
Human Resources office at 303 First Street will be closed to the public; however, they will continue to process employment applications. All in-person interviews will be suspended temporarily; however, other technological means of communication may still be utilized to perform interviews. Employees will still be able to access Human Resources for their needs. For any questions regarding Human Resources related matters, please contact 252- 639-7571.
These closures and procedures will be in place until rescinded and notified otherwise. For any other matters of concern or questions regarding these modifications of normal operations, please contact City Hall at 252-636-4000.
I wanted to give each of you an update as to preparations that are taking place internally and externally for the City of New Bern. As you know, the City does not play the lead role in this type of pandemic outbreak. This responsibility is with the Federal, State, and County governments. Locally, much of the decisions and lead are provided at the County level with the Craven County Health Department. However, the City will play a vital role in maintaining its operations and continuing to provide services to our citizens, as well as, support the County as requested when asked. To that end, the City must take measures to ensure its continuity of operations to ensure that we can respond when called on and that some of our basic services of fire, police, and public utilities are uninterrupted during this event. In order to do so, the City must take some actions to ensure that we can continue to provide these services and avoid unnecessary exposure of our staff to the virus should a local outbreak occur. I reiterate from yesterday’s email that there are still NO confirmed cases in Craven County or New Bern, but that could change at any moment. Just yesterday, there was a confirmed case at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville and one the day before in Johnston County.
Therefore, the following are some of the actions that staff are currently implementing to ensure our continuity of services. City staff are in the process of postponing all unnecessary meetings and functions throughout all of our departments (i.e., Athletic activities, Citizen Police Academy, Car Seat Safety Checks, Coffee with a Cop, etc. to name a few). Most of these activities are within the Parks & Recreation Department and our public safety departments of Fire and Police. However, some of these activities and programs occur in other departments that will need to be cancelled as well. While we understand that this may be an inconvenience for some, we feel that these proactive measures will protect our citizenry and ultimately our staff that will still be called upon to provide a high level of service when our community needs us. Staff are in the process of contacting all of these activity coordinators to answer any questions they may have and coordinate any future sharing of information for the foreseeable future until these events can be rescheduled or reconvened. Further announcements and closures may be necessary in the future as the evolution of the emergency heightens.
Additionally, staff are taking measures to ensure continuity of operations throughout whatever events may transpire during this outbreak. Public Utilities are investigating and implementing strategies to ensure a continuity of services and separate key staff from one another to limit exposure to one another so that the limited number of operators we have can continue to operate critical facilities as necessary over the next several weeks. Our IT staff have inventoried all employee workstations should the need arise that staff will be required to telework from their homes. Human Resources is also investigating various temporary policy measures that may need to be implemented if necessary regarding administrative leave and workers compensation matters. Also, I have ordered that all business related travel for the City be postponed for a minimum of 30 days unless necessary and approved through the City Manager’s office. This will take effect immediately.
Below are some of the informational items that will be released regarding programming. Further updates will be forthcoming as necessary and as always please feel free to contact me if you need anything further.
OPERATIONAL CHANGES DUE TO CONCERN FOR THE CORONAVIRUS
Effective Monday, April 16, 2020 and until further notice, the City of New Bern has implemented the following schedule changes to city facilities:
· The Afterschool Program will remain in operation while Craven County Schools are still in session.
· All other organized Parks & Recreation activities, programs, special events and youth and adult sports activities held at City of New Bern parks are SUSPENDED until further notice.
· All City parks will remain open during normal hours.
For questions, please call City of New Bern Parks & Recreation at (252)639-2901.
The City will continue to evaluate the Coronavirus situation and communicate further schedule and operational changes as necessary. We encourage everyone to heed the guidance and advice of health professionals at the CDC and the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS). To prevent the spread of illness, wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough/sneeze into your elbow. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home if you are not feeling well. And clean and disinfect objects and surfaces frequently.
The City has set up a Coronavirus resource repository, with links to information from the CDC, NCDHHS, World Health Organization (WHO) an the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on our website atwww.newbernnc.gov/coronavirus.
CITY OF NEW BERN CANCELLATIONS DUE TO CONCERN FOR THE CORONAVIRUS
Effective immediately and until further notice, the City of New Bern has implemented the following changes certain programming in our Police Department:
· All police/community meetings scheduled for the month of March are cancelled to include Citizen Police Academy, Neighborhood Watch Meetings, Coffee with a COP, and Faith Based Partnerships.
Sgt. Sneeden, will contact individual Citizen Police Academy participants and advise that it is our hope that the classes will resume at some future date. Sgt. Brice will contact individuals committed to the March 23rd Faith Base Meeting and advise that we hope to reschedule the meeting around the end of April or 1st of May. These individuals will remain the points of contact should any questions or concerns arise regarding these activities.
Subject: New Bern Fire Rescue – COVID-19 Preparations
In response to the challenges we currently face with the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), New Bern Fire Rescue has implemented the following precautions to minimize physical interaction between staff and the public:
– Front of all stations have been secured to detour walk-in or foot traffic (Headquarters is utilizing the intercom for public questions and assistance)
– Inventoried supplies potentially needed for isolation precautions while conducting patient care
– Evaluated Fire Inspection requirements (Reduced to essential inspections only, annual or scheduled inspections have been postponed)
– Postponed all Child Safety Seat inspections and Smoke detector installations (Only emergency needs will be considered, and will require the Duty Officer to approve with additional safety precautions)
– Educated staff on Social Distancing, home and work precautions and good practices, and disinfecting procedures
– Postponed all upcoming non-essential events and gatherings such as:
· Open house
· Retirement parties
· Any prescheduled station tours
– Began working on staffing and operational plans should staffing levels become temporarily reduced due to impacts of COVID-19
· If reduced by 25%
· If reduced by 40%
· If an exposure occurs at work
· If an employee is exposed at home
· If lifestyle challenges affect work schedules (school closings, sick family member, etc.)
Other gatherings that have already been postponed or canceled, and/or local actions taken:
· Fire Prevention School in Wilmington (Canceled)
· Vietnam Wall Tour (Canceled)
· Craven Job Fair (Canceled)
· Restricted visitation at all local hospitals
As our challenges change or increase, we will make the necessary modifications to staffing and operations to ensure to the continued service we deliver to the citizens of New Bern.
I know many of you are getting questions regarding the coronavirus and possibly heard of rumors circulating around town regarding several topics. This email will hopefully clear up some of that and provide some information you may need to assist your constituents with accurate up-to-date information.
First, let me address some of the rumor mill information that is going around in our area so we can get that out of the way. Then I will discuss some of the operations and staff actions that we are taking to ensure our preparedness for Covid-19.
1. City facilities closing
This is untrue at this time and no call has been made to close any facilities or cease any operations at this point. However, there have been discussions internally about ensuring our public’s safety by reducing the risk of exposure through unnecessary meetings, recreational events, and other large public gatherings. It is imperative that we lead by example and not create situations that could potentially put our citizens at risk by creating such interactions. With all of this in mind, there may come a time where cancellations and closings may be necessary. Any and all of those decisions will be made through consultation with the Mayor and Board and ultimately will be made to protect our citizens from further exposure.
2. Current Cases in New Bern and Craven County
Based on a conversation with the County Manager this afternoon, there are NO confirmed cases of the virus in New Bern or Craven County at this time. This does not mean that there may be some currently that are undiagnosed or in the stages of development. There have been some investigations and testing done within the County, however, all have been negative at this point in time. In fact, Johnston County is the closest reported confirmed case to New Bern and Craven County at this time and there are only 14 confirmed cases in the State of North Carolina. It is imperative that we continue to share information and guidance regarding the best management practices for keeping the exposures to the virus minimized as mentioned above and through our attachments contained herein.
At this time, all operations are still running normally and will continue to do so until other measures are necessary to protect both our citizens and our staff. Our staff are discussing and preparing for whatever conditions we are presented with regarding the outbreak of Covid-19. Please keep in mind that the City does not have resources that the Federal, State, and County governments do for pandemic outbreaks, however, we stand ready to act at the direction of the State of NC and Craven County to assist in whatever way necessary. Until those assistance requests are made, practices and operations that we do have resources for are duly preparing for continuity of services and continued business as normal to every extent that is possible should an outbreak occur. We have had multiple meetings over the past few weeks of administrative and department head staff to discuss these topics and begin planning for actions necessary should they be needed to continue to serve our citizens with the level of services that they expect daily.
Information regarding Coronavirus (Covid – 19)
Please share with your constituents the information below to assist them in best management practices to help with reducing the spread of the virus in our community. Below is the new guidance Governor Cooper and DHHS are recommending that was released today.
As the number of cases of COVID-19 rise in North Carolina and the United States, and with the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the state is responding with a whole government response.
COVID-19 is a new infection that is particularly severe in older persons and those with medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and weakened immune systems.
At this time there are no approved treatments and no vaccine to prevent it.
However, there are known methods to reduce and slow the spread of infection.
Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes.
Community-based interventions can also help slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes measures collectively known as “social distancing.” Social distancing measures aim to reduce the frequency of contact and increase physical distance between persons, thereby reducing the risks of person-to-person transmission.
These measures are most effective when implemented early in an epidemic. We are at a critical inflection point where we may have the opportunity to slow the spread of this epidemic by taking proactive steps now.
NC DHHS is making the following recommendations to reduce the spread of infection while we are still in an early stage in order to protect lives and avoid strain on our health care system. NC DHHS is making these recommendations for the next 30 days and will re-assess at that point.
The following recommendations pertain to persons statewide.
NC DHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home to the extent possible to decrease the chance of infection. People at high risk include people:
If you need medical care and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you might have COVID-19, call ahead and tell your health care provider you have or may have COVID-19. This will allow them to take steps to keep other people from getting exposed. NC DHHS recommends that persons experiencing fever and cough should stay at home and not go out until their symptoms have completely resolved.
HIGH RISK PERSONS WITHOUT SYMPTOMS
Over 65 years of age, or with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, or with weakened immune systems.
CONGREGATE LIVING FACILITIES
NC DHHS recommends that all facilities that serve as residential establishments for high risk persons described above should restrict visitors. Exceptions should include end of life care or other emergent situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit. If visitation is allowed, the visitor should be screened and restricted if they have a respiratory illness or potential exposure to COVID-19. Facilities are encouraged to implement social distancing measures and perform temperature and respiratory symptom screening of residents and staff. These establishments include settings such as nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correction facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.
We do not recommend pre-emptive school closure at this time but do recommend that schools and childcare centers cancel or reduce large events and gatherings (e.g., assemblies) and field trips, limit inter-school interactions, and consider distance or e-learning in some settings. Students at high risk should implement individual plans for distance or e-learning. School dismissals may be necessary when staff or student absenteeism impacts the ability to remain open. Short-term closures may also be necessary to facilitate public health investigation and/or cleaning if a case is diagnosed in a student or staff member.
NC DHHS recommends that employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible, stagger work schedules, and consider canceling non-essential travel. Workplaces should hold larger meetings virtually, to the extent possible. Additionally, employers should arrange the workspace to optimize distance between employees, ideally at least six feet apart. Employers should urge high risk employees to stay home and urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.
MASS GATHERINGS, COMMUNITY, AND SOCIAL EVENTS
NC DHHS recommends that organizers of events that draw more than 100 people should cancel, postpone, modify these events or offer online streaming services. These events include large gatherings where people are in close contact (less than 6 feet), for example concerts, conferences, sporting events, faith- based events and other large gatherings.
Mass transit operators should maximize opportunities for cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. People should avoid using use mass transit (e.g. buses, trains) while sick.
We have posted information on our social media outlets and have dedicated a specific page to Covid-19 to assist our citizens with resources that are available for more information regarding the virus and its outbreak. Below is the link to this address.
Further updates will be given as they are necessary …
Residents in the Ghent neighborhood are begging for help from City Hall to do something about cars using residential streets as cut-throughs, raising the question, why wouldn’t City Hall help?
Could it be that City Hall doesn’t want to be seen as responsive when residents ask for help? That’s actually been an argument (“We don’t want to help you because then we’d have to help everyone”).
Could it be that City Hall thinks that throttling back on Ghent cut-through traffic will only push the problem elsewhere? (That actually happened recently when through-traffic was blocked and cars — temporarily — used nearby streets as a detour until they found that First Street is faster).
The real reason is something else, a mile away and an apparently unrelated issue — Farmers Market.
Farmers Market sits on a piece of prime real estate valued at $471,880, according to the county tax office. But that tax value figure belies its true value.
Located on railroad frontage and fixed between the N.C. History Center and Downtown Proper, this 1.2 acre parcel has been occupied by New Bern Farmers Market since 1984 (note: typo corrected from 1994).
The property was acquired by the Redevelopment Commission and then sold to the city for $10 in 1978. The enclosure on the property was purpose-built for the Farmers Market.
Farmers Market was originally seen by City Hall as an asset that attracted people downtown during a time when Downtown New Bern was getting back on its feet following years of decline.
The waterfront along the Trent River, once teeming with industry, had become derelict, nothing like what it is now today, and Farmers Market was one of the first improvements that helped downtown revitalization.
The city charged Farmers Market $1 a year to use the property, but when Dana Outlaw became mayor, something changed.
Outlaw, the son of a former New Bern city manager, started ridding City Hall of what he perceived as surplus properties.
He also ended city contributions to non-profits that had been helping the city in numerous ways, such as Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation, which was primarily responsible for downtown’s turnaround, and New Bern Firemen’s Museum, which was in a city-owned building and also charged $1 rent.
The city sold the Dunn Building kitty-corner from City Hall and moved offices around to other city-owned buildings, including a former elementary school on First Street between Spencer Avenue and Trent Boulevard.
City Hall owns other properties — numerous houses that it foreclosed on when cash-strapped owners were unable to afford repairs and then the demolition costs when the city bulldozed the houses, and a large parcel of wetlands between the Pembroke Community, U.S Highway 70, Carolina Avenue, and Trent Road that it is selling part of to the New Bern Housing Authority to build low-income apartments.
City success in the real estate business is hit and miss. The houses in its inventory earn nickels on the dollar when sold compared to the cost the city incurs in legal fees, demolition, and marketing.
It has been having trouble selling the old Firemen’s Museum on Hancock Street, and when a group of artists offered to rent it from the city, the city stole the idea but then failed at starting its own artist studio.
That wasn’t the first time City Hall tried to muscle in on the success of local non-profits.
Which brings us to the old Power Plant between First Street, Rhem Street, and Park Avenue.
After years of industrial use, the 3.8 acre parcel is an environmental nightmare beneath a thin layer of asphalt. No one in their right mind would ever buy such a property, given the high clean-up costs, although the county tax office values it at $339,720.
Stuck with surplus property that it could never sell, leaders at City Hall came up with an idea that they thought would kill two birds with one stone.
They would move, voluntarily or otherwise, Farmers Market from its attractive property downtown to the Power Plant property, once the city completed various improvements to accommodate Farmers Market needs.
The First Street property is a turd, but they would make it a shiny turd.
Unsurprisingly, members of the New Bern Farmers Market and downtown businesses and visitors resisted the idea. The timing wasall in the Farmers Market’s favor.
Even if City Hall evicted the Farmers Market at the end of its lease, the Farmers Market had a one-year extension option that, if it exercised the option, would have them being evicted the month before municipal elections in 2017.
The city backed down and granted another 5-year lease, but this time increased the rent to $500 a year (ed. note: corrected from per month).
Meanwhile, City Hall hunkered down. It claimed that instead of there being a farmers market-style City Market, it would partner with Craven Community College to hold courses at the newly branded VOLT Center.
But secretly, some city leaders held on to the idea of a farmers market, seeking grants and other funding using a technique called fraud. At least one grant application withheld key information, not the least of which was the implication that New Bern didn’t have a farmers market and City Market would fill that void.
Chemical contaminants and misleading grant applications aside, City Hall faced other obstacles in creating a new farmers market to put the existing one out of business.
The old electric generation plant, located between Country Club Road/First Street, Park Avenue, and Rhem Street, has access issues.
First, Country Club Road/First Street was butt ugly.
In fixing that problem (you may have guessed already, the city got someone else to foot the cost, namely N.C. Department of Transportation, aka state taxpayers), street engineers employed a concept called “Road Diet,” which is the latest thing at street engineer cocktail parties.
They took the street, a four-lane monstrosity with occasional sidewalks and plenty of eyesores, and spiffed it up, turning it into a two-lane street (with center turn lane), bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides.
That led to another problem. N.C. DOT said it would do the work, but resisted the idea of there being an entrance to City Market off First Street. It would be too close to freeway onramps and offramps, they said.
That forced City Hall to figure out a different way for hundreds of visitors to get to their future farmers market, which left one choice: Rhem Street.
Rhem Street is one block long and located within a commercially zoned district, although there are just as many houses on Rhem Street as there are businesses.
The two main ways to get to Rhem Street are from Country Club Road, and from (drum roll) Second Street.
See what they did there?
To put New Bern Farmers Market out of business, City Hall has to keep Second Street open to commercial traffic, even though Second Street, just two and one-half blocks long, is located entirely in a residential district.
Connecting the dots, it leads directly back to the property on which New Bern Farmers Market is now located.
For some reason, forces inside City Hall want New Bern Farmers Market off the property on South Front Street really, really badly, either by moving it to another location, or by putting it out of business.
The question is, who wants that downtown Farmers Market property so badly that they have City Hall in their back pocket, fighting fiercely to get it done?
The answer is reached the old fashioned way: Follow the money.
Ever since Jeffrey Odham, then a candidate for Ward 6 alderman, ran on a campaign of running city hall like a business, I was apprehensive.
Once he took office, I started to see exactly what he meant.
He wasn’t talking about a business that puts customer satisfaction first. He was talking about the American concept of business efficiency — low cost, high profit, declining customer service, cut-throat competitiveness, and poor responsiveness to customer needs and wants.
There are numerous examples that bear this out.
There’s the example of City Hall pushing the Firemen’s Museum out of its old location on Middle Street into the old fire station on Broad Street. This was part of a push by the Board of Aldermen to get rid of surplus properties, even if the property is being used for the betterment of the community.
Once the Firemen’s Museum finished moving, the old building sat vacant. Despite some initial interest from buyers, the city was simply unable to sell the building.
Then a group of artists who had been forced out of their previous studio approached the city about renting the old museum property.
That brings us to another example, one of cut-throat competitiveness.
The artists wanted to rent the building for the non-profit rate (usually $1 a month or a year) or if not that, as low as possible, and in turn would provide numerous services and amenities to the community.
Something similar is happening with New Bern Farmers Market. The city tried to force it from its city-owned location on South Front Street to the old electric generation plant off First Street. City strong-arm tactics to get its way failed but only due to the proximity of municipal elections, which would occur at precisely the same time City Hall would be evicting the Farmers Market. Rather than face the wrath of angry voters, city leaders extended the Farmers Market lease for five years but increased the rent from $1 a month to $500 (the only example of the city charging a non-profit anything other than token rent).
City Hall plays the long game, however. If it can’t get New Bern Farmers Market to move, it plans to start its own, fraudulently going after government grants to help pave the way, with the ultimate goal of putting New Bern Farmers Market out of business so it can sell the property on which it operates.
Let’s also not forget the draconian utility deposits the city imposes on people having a hard enough time as it is keeping up with high utility costs.
Let’s not forget the place where you pay your electric bill. Until complaints came to light, they locked their doors 15 minutes before closing time and even closed their public restrooms.
The pettiness just keeps on coming.
These are not the only examples of City Hall being “run like a business,” they are just some examples.
Except where the law requires public participation, City Hall treats city residents (those without wealth, at least) as annoyances. City officials treat citizens disdainfully and ignore their requests whenever the law allows it.
Paradoxically, city workers continue to provide high levels of customer service despite what their management forces on them. Utility workers, police patrolmen, firefighters, desk clerks, street workers and more, they all get the job done.
My belief is that a city should not be run like a business, but should be run like a cooperative.
Citizens are stakeholders, not customers. The money they pay for their rents and mortgages, along with taxes they pay for goods and services, fund an organization that provides for the safety and well-being of these stakeholders.
They are represented by a board of directors, which in this case is the Board of Aldermen. It is each board member’s responsibility to interpret and represent the needs and wants of their constituency to the city executives that carry out those tasks.
But that’s not how it has been working.
Instead, ambitious city officials have been launching a series of vanity projects that will look good on their resumes and that they can point to with pride when it comes time for asking for raises.
Meanwhile, New Bern becomes less and less affordable, with some of the worst housing affordability rates in the state. That should worry everyone.
If entry-level workers can’t afford to live here, New Bern won’t have the entry-level workforce that is the foundation of New Bern’s commerce and tourism.
It takes a community to be a community, but go ahead, Alderman Odham and the rest who stand behind him, keep running the city like a business, searching for profits, and discouraging “undesirables” from living here.
City Hall may play the long game, but it doesn’t play the sustainable game.
New Bern aldermen will start discussion on Tuesday over whether to change the method used to elect aldermen and the mayor from the nonpartisan election and runoff method it has been using, to the nonpartisan plurality method.
Under the present system, a candidate avoids a runoff if he/she wins 50 percent of the vote plus one extra vote.
The proposed system proclaims whomever wins the most votes as the winner.
If the city used this proposed method in the 2009 municipal election, then-Mayor Tom Bayliss would have won reelection, since he was the top vote getter in a three-way election.
Lee Bettis came in second, and the two faced each other in a run-off that Bettis won.
Under the proposed method, the chances of a fringe candidate winning an election go from unlikely, to much more likely, particularly if there are several candidates running.
On the other hand, a nonpartisan plurality method could increase the chances of African American candidate being elected mayor of New Bern, in cases where there is one African American candidate running against two or more white candidates.
The stated reason for the change is to save money. New Bern municipal elections are expensive enough already, being held in election years between any other elections.
Compounding that expense are runoff elections, which happen in New Bern more often than not.
Together, they cost New Bern taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Still, a run-off gives voters the chance to have a say in who represents them on the Board of Aldermen from among the top two candidates should there be a run-off.
Is that worth the added expense? Some may say yes. But judging from actual voter turnouts for municipal run-off elections, practically speaking, the answer may be no.
Here’s the city attorney’s memo to the board with details:
TO: Mayor and Members of the Board City Manager
FROM: Michael Scott Davis, City Attorney
RE: Amendments to City Charter to Change Election Method
DATE: April 17, 2019
The Board recently directed me to draft a resolution to change the municipal election method from the nonpartisan election and runoff method to the nonpartisan plurality method. Since North Carolina has a state statute that authorizes municipalities to amend their charters to change the election method from one of the four basic options (all on odd years), the Board has the ability to proceed with the charter amendment by following the statute, or by seeking a local bill from the General Assembly. The Board also has the option to call for a special election for the purpose of submitting the ordinance to a vote. Presuming that the Board wants to proceed to amend the charter consistent with the statutory authority, here are the required steps:
Adopt a resolution of intent to consider an ordinance amending the charter which also includes a call for a public hearing on the proposed charter
A notice of the public hearing shall be published at least once not less than 10 days prior to the date fixed for the public hearing, and shall contain a summary of the proposed amendments.
Following the public hearing, but not earlier than the next regular meeting and not more than 60 days from the public hearing, the Board may adopt an ordinance amending the charter to implement the amendments proposed in the resolution of
Within 10 days after an ordinance is adopted, the Board shall publish a notice stating that an ordinance amending the charter has been adopted and the notice must summarize the contents and effect of the
City clerk shall file a certified true copy of the charter amendment with the Secretary of State and the Legislative
In order for the ordinance to be effective at the next election, the amendment must be finally adopted and approved at least 90 days prior to election day.
RESOLUTION OF INTENT TO CONSIDER AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE CHARTER OF THE CITY OF NEW BERN TO CHANGE THE METHOD OF ELECTION FROM THE NONPARTISAN ELECTION AND RUNOFF METHOD TO THE NONPARTISAN PLURALITY METHOD AND SETTING THE DATE FOR A PUBLIC HEARING THEREON
THAT WHEREAS, pursuant to G.S. §160A-101 and §160A-102, the Board of Aldermen of the City of New Bern may adopt an ordinance to amend the Charter of the City of New Bern to implement any of the optional forms set out in G.S. §160A-101; and
WHEREAS, G.S. §160A-102 requires that proposed Charter amendments first be submitted to a public hearing and that due notice thereof be published not less than ten (10) days prior to the date fixed for the public hearing.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN OF THE CITY OF NEW BERN THAT:
Section 1. The Board of Aldermen of the City of New Bern hereby intends to consider an ordinance amending the Charter of the City of New Bern, as set forth in Session Law 2016-41 of the General Assembly of North Carolina, to change the method of election from the nonpartisan election and runoff method to the nonpartisan plurality method as authorized by G.S.
160A-101(7)b. It is proposed that at the regular municipal election to be held in 2021, the mayor and members of the Board of Aldermen shall be elected according to the nonpartisan plurality method.
Section 2. A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is hereby called in the City Hall courtroom at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
Section 3. Following the public hearing called hereby, the Board of Aldermen shall consider passage of the ordinance at its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall courtroom.
Section 4. The City Clerk is hereby directed to cause to be published in the Sun Journal a proper notice of the public hearing called, which notice shall contain a summary of the proposed Charter amendments.
Meeting opened by Mayor Dana Outlaw. Prayer Coordinated by Alderwoman Harris. Pledge of Allegiance.
Consider Adopting a Resolution Calling for a Public Hearing on the Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20.
At this meeting, the City Manager will present the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020. Budget workshops are scheduled for April 30th and May 1st beginning at 1 p.m. each day. Following those workshops, a public hearing will be held as required by state statute. The proposed date of the hearing is May 14, 2019.
4. Consider Approving a Proclamation for MumFest 2019.
(Ward 1) Charlene Harvell, Promotions Coordinator with Swiss Bear, has requested a proclamation in honor of MumFest 2019. This represents the festival’s 39th year.
5. Consider Approving a Proclamation for the 2019 National Day of Prayer.
In conjunction with the 68th Annual National Day of Prayer, Tharesa Lee has requested a proclamation observing May 2, 2019 as a day of prayer in New Bern.
6. Approve Minutes.
Minutes from the May 4, 2019 special meeting and May 9, 2019 regular meeting are provided for review and approval.
7. City Manager’s Presentation of Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget.
Mark Stephens, City Manager, will distribute copies of the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 and will share a PowerPoint presentation to spotlight significant areas within the budget.
8. Conduct a Public Hearing and Consider Adopting an Ordinance to Annex Property at 846 Highway 55 West.
Othella Clarence Best and Shelia Best petitioned for their property at 846 NC Highway 55 West to be annexed into the city limits, and the Board accepted the petition at its May 9, 2019 meeting. The property is further identified as Tax Parcel ID 8-222-169. After conducting a public hearing on the request, the Board is asked to consider adopting an ordinance to annex the property. A memo from Morgan Potts, City Planner, is attached.
9. Discussion of Duffest 2019.
Duffest, a city-sponsored event, is held annually in May. This year, the Duffyfield Residents Council would like to have the event in June. This will allow the event to coincide with activities planned for a Juneteenth celebration. The Board is asked to consider allowing this change in schedule. Carol Williams, on behalf of the Duffyfield Residents Council, will be in attendance to share information and answer questions the Board may have.
10. Consider Adopting a Resolution Approving a Substantial Amendment to the 2018 CDBG Program.
At its March 26, 2019 meeting, the Board adopted a resolution approving a substantial amendment to the FY2018 CDBG program. After that, staff realized the adoption of the amendment was sought too early and should have been delayed until a public hearing was held at the Office of Development Services. That public hearing was conducted on April 9, 2019, and no questions or comments were received. The Board is now asked to again consider adopting the resolution approving the substantial amendment. As a reminder, the amendment authorizes reallocation of funds that will be used to construct up to four units of affordable housing that will be available for rent.
11. Consider Adopting a Resolution Indicating Intent to Consider an Ordinance Amending the Election Method from Nonpartisan with Runoff to a Nonpartisan Plurality Method and Calling for a Public Hearing on the Proposed Change.
As recently directed by the Board, the City Attorney drafted a resolution to change the municipal election method from a nonpartisan election with a runoff to a nonpartisan plurality method. Since North Carolina has a state statute that authorizes municipalities to amend their charters to change the election method from one of the four basic options (all of which are in odd years), the Board can proceed with a charter amendment by following the statute, or by seeking a local bill from the General Assembly. The Board also has the option to call for a special election for the purpose of submitting the ordinance to a vote. Mr. Davis can further explain these options, if desired.
Presuming the Board wants to amend the charter consistent with the statutory authority, a resolution has been prepared to indicate the Board’s intent to consider an ordinance that will amend the charter. The resolution also calls for a public hearing to be held on May 14, 2019. Following that hearing, the Board can consider adopting the amended ordinance at its May 28, 2019 meeting.
12. Consider Adopting a Budget Ordinance Amendment for the FY2018-19 Operating Budget.
This budget ordinance amendment recognizes $17,500 from the Governors Highway Safety Grant to purchase a police patrol vehicle. It also amends the FY2019 budget to advance repayment of the installment purchase debt for the ERP Phase I project.
13. Discussion of Water Resources Capital Item.
The FY2018-19 budget included $60,000 in Water Resources to convert the ammonia system at the water treatment plant from a gas to a liquid system. This figure included $20,000 for materials and $40,000 for installation and transition. Staff has determined they can complete the conversion without utilizing outside assistance, which will save $40,000. It is requested that the Board authorize staff to implement a budget revision to allow for the $40,000 to be spent on the installation of a much-needed generator at the Industrial Park tank. The cost of installing the generator is estimated at $53,000. The additional $13,000 in funds need for the generator can be taken from the amount budgeted for the installation of a generator at the Cove City standpipe.
Carol Williams’ second term on the Planning and Zoning Board has expired, and she is ineligible for reappointment. Alderwoman Harris is requested to make a new appointment to fill this vacancy. The new appointee shall serve a three year
Rose Williams’ appointment on the New Bern Appearance Commission expired February 8, 2019. She is eligible for reappointment, or a new appointment can be made to allow others an opportunity to serve. Mayor Outlaw is asked to make an appointment to serve a three-year term. The ordinance provides appointees shall be residents of the City’s planning and zoning jurisdiction and shall, when possible, have had special training or experience in a design field such as architecture, landscape design, horticulture, city planning, or a closely related
Mattie Tatum’s appointment on the New Bern Appearance Commission will expire February 22, 2019. She is eligible for reappointment, or a new appointment can be made to allow others an opportunity to serve. Alderman Bengel is asked to make an appointment to serve a three-year term. The ordinance provides appointees shall be residents of the City’s planning and zoning jurisdiction and shall, when possible, have had special training or experience in a design field such as architecture, landscape design, horticulture, city planning, or a closely-related
Anne Schout resigned from her seat as an alternate on the Board of Adjustment effective March 1, 2019. Alderman Kinsey is asked to make an appointment to fill the remainder of Schout’s term, which will expire on November 12, 2021.
Mike Markham’s seat on the Friends of the Firemen’s Museum Board will expire on April 22, 2019. Mr. Markham has expressed interest in being reappointed. Alderwoman Harris is requested to reappoint him or to make a new appointment to serve a three-year
Meeting opened by Mayor DanaE. Outlaw. Prayer Coordinated by Alderwoman Harris. Pledge ofAllegiance.
Request and Petition ofCitizens.
This section of the Agenda is titled Requests and Petitions of Citizens. This is an opportunity for public comment, and we thank you for coming to the Board of Aldermen meeting tonight to share your views. We value all citizen input.
Speaker comments are limited to a maximum of 4 minutes during the public comment period. At the conclusion of 4 minutes, each speaker shall leave the podium. Comments will be directed to the full board, not to an individual board member or staff member. Although the board is interested in hearing your comments, speakers should not expect any comments, action or deliberation from the board on any issue raised during the public comment period.
In the board’s discretion, it may refer issues to the appropriate city officials or staff for further investigation. If an organized group is present to speak on a common issue, please designate one person to present the group’s comment, which shall be limited to a maximum of 4 minutes.
Consider Adopting a Resolution to Close the 200 Block of Change Street for the Historic District Resident’s Association’s SpringSocial.
(Ward 1) Kelly Sorenson, Social Committee Chair for the Historic District Resident’s Association (“HORA”), has requested the 200 block of Change Street be closed to vehicular traffic on April 27, 2019 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. for HDRA’s spring social. A memo from Foster Hughes, Director of Parks and Recreation, is attached.
ConsiderAdoptingaResolutiontoClosethe600BlockofSouthFrontStreet for Tryon PalaceEvent.
(Ward 1) Rebekah Hornek, Cultural Arts Coordinator for Tryon Palace, has requested the 600 block of South Front Street be closed to vehicular traffic on April 26, 2019 from 12 noon until 11 p.m. and on April 27, 2019 from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. This is to facilitate the Palace’s social event “An Evening with Diana Gabaldon”. A memo from Foster Hughes is attached.
Consider Approving a Proclamation for Boys & Girls ClubWeek.
Taylor Shannon, Special Events & Marketing Coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club, has requested a proclamation observing April 8-12, 2019 as Boys & Girls Club Week.
Consider Approving a Proclamation for EarthDay.
Foster Hughes has requested a proclamation observing Earth Day on April 22, 2019. New Bern Parks and Recreation is collaborating with New Bern Now and other organizations to offer an Earth Day Celebration on April 20, 2019 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the “Talbot Lot” on the corner of Craven and South Front Streets. A memo from Foster Hughes is attached.
Minutes from the March 26, 2019 regular meeting are attached for review and approval.
Presentation of Reliable Public PowerAward.
Charles Bauschard, Director of Public Utilities, will make a brief presentation on the Electric Department’s Diamond designation as a Reliable Public Power Provider (“RP3”) and will present the award.
Presentation on DowntownParking.
Bill Faulkenbury, on behalf of the Downtown Parking Committee formed by Swiss Bear, and Danny Batten, on behalf of the Downtown Business Council, will provide an update on downtown parking.
Presentation on a Possible Year-Round Calendar at J.T. Barber Elementary School.
(Ward 5) Erica Phillips, Principal of J.T. Barber School, will share information about a possible year-round school calendar for J.T. Barber.
Conduct a Public Hearing and Consider Adopting an Ordinance to Rezone 1203 Simmons Street from R-10 Residential District to C-5 Office & InstitutionalDistrict.
(Ward 2) Tarheel Building Systems, on behalf of owner Michael Rice, requested to rezone an approximate 0.22-acre tract of land from R-10 Residential District to C-5 Office & Institutional District. The property is located at 1203 Simmons Street and is further identified as Tax Parcel #8-034-059. The Planning & Zoning Board unanimously recommended approval of the request at its March 5, 2019 meeting. This public hearing was duly noticed as required. After conducting the public hearing, the Board is asked to consider adopting the ordinance to rezone the property. A memo from Morgan Potts, City Planner, is attached.
Conduct a Public Hearing and Consider Adopting an Ordinance to Rezone 703 Carolina Avenue from R-8/R-10 Residential District to C-3 Commercial District.
(Ward 2) Mosaic Development Group requested to rezone approximately 30.81 acres located at 703 Carolina Avenue from R-8/R-10 Residential District to C-3 Commercial District. The property is further described as Tax Parcel 8-044-011. The Planning & Zoning Board approved the request by a vote of 5-2 at its March 19, 2019 meeting. This public hearing was duly noticed as required. After conducting the public hearing, the Board is asked to consider adopting the ordinance to rezone the property. A memo from Mrs. Potts is attached.
ConductaPublicHearingandConsiderAdoptinganOrdinancetoAnnexTax Parcel IDs 8-209-24000, 8-209-24001 and a Portion of 8-209-13001 Owned by Weyerhaeuser NRCompany.
By request dated March 13, 2019, Weyerhaeuser NR Company sought annexation of approximately 8.13 acres, which includes Lot 4 of Craven 30 West, West New Bern Parkway and Downey Drive, and a portion of Tax Parcel ID #8-209-13001 lying between West New Bern Parkway/Downey Drive and NC Highway 43. The Board of Aldermen accepted the petition at its March 26, 2019. Subsequently, this
public hearing was duly noticed as required. After conducting the public hearing, the Board is asked to consider adopting the ordinance to rezone the property. A memo from Mrs. Potts is attached.
Consider Adopting a Resolution Approving the Execution of a General Warranty Deed for 814 West Street Between Habitat for Humanity of Craven County and Shenatta LavernePowell.
(Ward 1) At its March 8, 2016 meeting, the Board of Aldermen approved a Deed and a Transfer and Reversion Agreement with Habitat for Humanity for the property located at 814 West Street. A home has since been constructed on the property, and Habitat is now ready to convey the property to Shenatta Laverne Powell. To facilitate this conveyance, the City’s signature is needed on a general warranty deed to evidence that Habitat has complied with the terms and conditions of the Transfer and Reversion Agreement and that the reversion provisions of the Agreement are no longer applicable. A memo from Scott Davis, City Attorney, is attached.
Consider Adopting a Resolution Approving a Water and Sewer Use Agreement for Property on Highway 55West.
The owners of 846 NC Highway 55 West are proposing to develop a single-family residence. The property is outside of the New Bern municipal limits. The proposed development will have a calculated average daily water and sewer demand of 360 gallons per day. To facilitate the proposed development, a standard water and sewer service connection can be provided to the property without the need for a main extension. Section 74-74 of the ordinance provides that a written water and sewer use agreement be entered into to outline the roles and responsibilities of both parties in establishing service for the proposed project. A memo from Jordan Hughes, City Engineer, is attached.
ConsiderAcceptingaPetitiontoAnnexPropertyat846Highway55Westand Adopt a Resolution to Call for a Public Hearing on theAnnexation.
Othella Clarence Best and Shelia Best have petitioned for their property at 846 NC Highway 55 West to be annexed into the city limits. The property is further identified as Tax Parcel ID 8-222-169. The Board is asked to consider accepting the petition and calling for a public hearing to be held on April 23, 2019 regarding the annexation. A memo from Morgan Potts, City Planner, is attached.
Carol Williams’ second term on the Planning and Zoning Board has expired, and she is ineligible for reappointment. Alderwoman Harris is requested to make a new appointment to fill this vacancy. The new appointee shall serve a three year term.
Rose Williams’ appointment on the New Bern Appearance Commission expired February 8, 2019. She is eligible for reappointment, or a new appointment can be made to allow others an opportunity to serve. Mayor Outlaw is asked to make an appointment to serve a three-year term. The ordinance provides appointees shall be residents of the City’s planning and zoning jurisdiction and shall, when possible, have had special training or experience in a design field such as architecture, landscape design, horticulture, city planning, or a closely related field.
Mattie Tatum’s appointment on the New Bern Appearance Commission will expire February 22, 2019. She is eligible for reappointment, or a new appointment can be made to allow others an opportunity to serve. Alderman Bengel is asked to make an appointment to serve a three-year term. The ordinance provides appointees shall be residents of the City’s planning and zoning jurisdiction and shall, when possible, have had special training or experience in a design field such as architecture, landscape design, horticulture, city planning, or a closely-related field.
Anne Schout resigned from her seat as an alternate on the Board of Adjustment effective March 1, 2019. Alderman Kinsey is asked to make an appointment to fill the remainder of Mrs. Schout’s term, which will expire on November 12, 2021.
Nancy Mansfield has resigned from the Friends of the Firemen’s Museum Board. Her term would have expired on April 22, 2019. It is requested Alderman Bengel make an appointment to be effective on or after April 22nd to fill Mrs. Mansfield’s seat.
Mike Markham’s seat on the Friends of the Firemen’s Museum Board will expire on April 22, 2019. Mr. Markham has expressed interest in being reappointed. Alderwoman Harris is requested to reappoint him or to make a new appointment to serve a three-year term.
Dave Finn’s seat on the Friends of the Firemen’s Museum Board will expire on April 22, 2019. Mr. Finn has expressed interest in being reappointed. Alderman Aster is requested to reappoint him or to make a new appointment to serve a three-year term.
Dawn Zimmer, former mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, is giving a presentation on resiliency in New Bern on April 4.
A special meeting of the New Bern Board of Aldermen was called for 1 p.m. Thursday, April 4 in the City Hall Courtroom located on the second d floor, at 300 Pollock St., for the presentation.
According to Wikipedia, in 2012 Zimmer was widely acclaimed for leadership during the aftermath Hurricane Sandy. On Sept. 9, 2013, she was recognized as “Hero of the Harbor” by the Waterfront Alliance for her work “to make her city a national model for preparedness, meeting with FEMA and state officials, surban planners, scientists and many others to create an ‘integrated solution.'”
For her leadership during Hurricane Sandy, Zimmer was appointed to the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.