Did you go by the new Harris Teeter since it opened on Wednesday? Odds are pretty good that you did.
In a small town like New Bern, folks here can be relied on to try something new. Remember when Cook Out opened?
On opening day, I saw city officials including Jeff Odham, in whose ward the new Harris Teeter is located, and City Manager Mark Stephens proudly roaming the vast floor space of the gleaming new store.
Coke Mann, a partner with Columbia Development Group, developer of the shopping center, was quoted in the Sun Journal crediting Odham and Mayor Dana Outlaw for their bringing the super-expanded HT to New Bern.
I saw lots of regular people combing through the almost 100,000-foot feet of shopping space, which is more than just a simple supermarket. (Some say the store actually has 105,000 square feet of floor space.)
We are not wedded to a particular grocery store. We shop at Publix most often, but not exclusively, and mainly due to its modern and wide selection coupled with its less crowded aisles.
With the opening of the new Harris Teeter, that may change.
The store replaces a 55,000-square-foot store on South Glenburnie Road, which closed the day before the new store opened.
It is claimed to be the largest Harris Teeter out of the chain’s 246 stores. Some media outlets have called it the largest in the world, but since its world is pretty much contained within Southern states, that’s a somewhat pretentious claim.
Still, it’s plenty big, and within it are sections that by themselves are impressively large.
There is a Starbucks inside the Harris Teeter, just as there was at the old location, but this one has a dining area that has to make this particular Starbucks one of the largest in the world, and that’s saying something.
Then there is the food court, contained within an area that could be a nice-size grocery store all by itself.
There is a bakery, fresh produce and meats, a deli, a sushi bar, a buffet, a burger bar, a specialty bar with changing themes, and a bar-bar. Yes, a bar … where you can get beer and wine by the glass.
As for the grocery aisles, they are so long they are subdivided, with a third row intersecting at the middle. Looking from one end toward the other, the aisles extend almost as far as the eye can see.
Filling all those aisles with merchandise must be a challenge by itself. I have not looked deeply into it, but the few places I did look showed a much-expanded variety of brands and varieties.
Staffing this store must be equally challenging. I counted six people working at the Starbucks counter, four at the burger bar, three at the beer and wine bar, and so on.
I am not sure if they staffed up for opening week or if they plan to maintain that staffing level.
Sarah, Mark and I went there on opening day and had dinner. We bought a couple of items from the grocery aisles before going home.
We returned on Saturday to find the same buzz one encounters when surrounded by hundreds of happy people. The store is large enough to accommodate a thousand customers without feeling overly crowded.
Sarah got several selections from the sushi train and described the quality as good as any restaurant in New Bern. I went for simple–a burger and fries. The way I figure it, if you can’t do a burger and fries right, then what can you do right?
And boy, did they do it right. It paired nicely with the glass of Mother Earth pale ale that I got at the bar.
While waiting for my order, I ran into four people I knew, and that’s the great thing about a venue like this. It’s a magnet that draws people together, and for more than one purpose.
Before, you would go to Harris Teeter for groceries. Maybe you might grab something from the salad bar or deli or the Starbucks counter, but there was really nothing that set it apart from any other modern grocery store.
This Harris Teeter is not just a retailer, it is a community amenity. You can literally spend the day there, enjoying a fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a couple of glasses of beer or wine later in the day before actually doing any grocery shopping.
Note: the beer and wine bar opens at 10 a.m. daily except Sundays, when it opens at 11 a.m. But who’s judging?
The parking lot is large and full but sufficient and well laid out. Other stores in the shopping center, which is called New Bern Marketplace, round out the remaining two-thirds of retail floor space at the 34-acre, 325,000-square-food retail venue.
One thing it has over Downtown New Bern: parking is not limited to two hours.
So what can you expect at the Teeter?
Greeting you as you arrive at one of the entrances is the floral counter managed by Mary Gierie-Merrell, who Mayor Outlaw has described as New Bern’s unofficial mayor.
At that same entrance, off to the right, is the Starbucks counter with its spacious and open dining area. It is equipped with tables and booths and two big-screen TVs. The window-wall is lined with a long counter with tall chairs for computer users and enough USB ports and electric sockets for every two chairs.
Beyond is the amazing food court, and to its left, the expansive grocery aisles.
One glitch was WiFi. Though it is provided, I was unable to connect to the internet using it. Another quibble is that if you want to sit at a table and plug in your device or computer to a power source, there are just two tables within range of just one wall socket, and they are right underneath a big-screen TV. That may be by design. It is understandable why a store would not want its tables taken up by people using computers all day.
The impacts of the new Harris Teeter on New Bern will be interesting to see.
It will undoubtedly cut into business of other existing grocery stores. But being so large, it will draw shoppers from outside New Bern and maybe from outside Craven County.
When the N.C. 43 connector is extended from U.S. 70 to U.S. 17 in the next few years, it will make access to New Bern Marketplace easier to reach from Pitt and Lenoir residents. It’s already the easiest retail center to reach in New Bern from Jones and Onslow counties.
As I said, this Harris Teeter is not just a store, it is a community amenity.
Harris Teeter’s previous largest stores, measuring at 80,000 square feet of store space, are located in Pinehurst and Charlotte.
The New Bern store is only the second location to have a juice bar.
It is the first to have a build-your-own burger bar.
3202 Neuse Blvd., the Howling Dog Saloon. Google Street View photo
The Board of Aldermen gave City Attorney Scott Davis direction to file a lawsuit if necessary that would permanently close down a New Bern bar that has been the location of shootings and fights.
The bar, the Howling Dog Saloon at 3202 Neuse Blvd., was the location of two shooting incidents, one in June that wounded two, and one in May 2017 that left one dead and two injured. A fight in August 2016 left a woman with a severe facial laceration.
ABC recently revoked the bar’s licenses. Davis sought permission to file a lawsuit that would not only permanently close Howling Dog Saloon, but would prevent 3202 Neuse Blvd. from being used as a bar in the future and prevent the operator of the Howling Dog Saloon from operating a bar elsewhere in the city.
Davis said the city has attempted to work with the owner to keep the peace at the location, without success.
The Howling Dog Saloon is also known as Flyers 69. The owner had also owned Flyers 70 at 4310 Highway 70 East (just outside city limits) and Flyers 55 on Highway 55 East in Pamlico County. Both of those bars are no longer in business.
The 3202 Neuse Blvd. location has been a neighborhood bar since it was built in 1965, according to county tax records. Davis said the owner of the building rents it to the bar operator, who he did not identify.
Despite earlier obstacles, a storm-stricken New Bern Housing Authority appears headed toward buying acreage off of Carolina Avenue to build apartments that would replace flood-prone tenements at Trent Court.
City Manager Mark Stephens and his staff are preparing paperwork to sell 8 acres between the Pembroke community and Trent Road, and U.S. 70 and Carolina Avenue. A decision is expected at the next Board of Aldermen meeting later this month.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, New Bern resident Kathy Adolph, a retired teacher and school principal, urged the city to give the Housing Authority the parcel, saying that Trent Court is substandard and prone to frequent flooding.
The Housing Authority, which is independent of the city, wants to build an 80-unit apartment complex off Carolina Avenue that would house some Trent Court residents. That would empty out 80 units in Trent Court that would be razed and replaced.
The Housing Authority had offered $200,000 for the 8-acre parcel. Aldermen voted 6-1 in July to have the parcel appraised.
The Carolina Avenue property sought for purchase by the New Bern Housing Authority is shown boxed in yellow. The Pembroke Community is above and to the right of the lake shown in this aerial view.
The motion was made by Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham and seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Aster. What’s interesting was that it was a break from tradition. Motions are usually made by the alderman in whose ward a project is located.
But Ward 2 Alderwoman Jameesha Harris, whose ward includes the Pembroke community, has opposed the plan.
A lot has happened while the appraisal wound its way through city bureaucracy, namely Hurricane Florence.
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney gave a bleak report about Trent Court during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
Blaney said Trent Court lost 108 out of 218 apartments due to the storm. He said five or six of the most severely damaged buildings should not be reopened. The storm also destroyed the New Bern Housing Authority administration building on South Front Street.
Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Chairman Joseph Anderson, left, and Executive Director Martin Blaney update the New Bern Board of Aldermen about Trent Court flooding. Photo by Randy Foster / New Bern Post
New Bern Towers, located near Trent Court and also owned by the Housing Authority, weathered the hurricane fairly well and will not be replaced.
In order to qualify for competitive funding to help pay for the apartment complex, the Housing Authority has to beat a January deadline to have a fully fleshed-out plan in place.
The ultimate plan is to remove most or all of the old Trent Court tenements and replace them with a combination of green space and mixed-income housing that is less susceptible to flood damage. That housing would be managed by a third party, much like Craven Terrace has been operating for a couple of years.
Most residents of the flood-damaged Trent Court apartment buildings have found temporary housing or have moved to Housing Authority facilities in nearby counties, Blaney said. A couple of Trent Court families are staying at the emergency shelter at West New Bern Recreation Center, while a handful have moved back into Trent Court, despite warnings that doing so puts their health at risk.
Meanwhile, in an effort to address housing shortages in flood-stricken communities like New Bern, FEMA has announced plans to roll out temporary housing for those most in need.
Tune in to Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, when officials with the New Bern Housing Authority will give an update about the status of Trent Court.
Trent Court was hit hard by Hurricane Florence. Alderwoman Jameesha Harris and several other volunteers braved rising floodwaters to evacuate residents who had sheltered in their homes during the storm.
Several feet of water flooded the rows of apartments closest to Lawson Creek, and recovery has been a question, especially considering what has been said in the past about Trent Court’s future.
The Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI) plan calls for Trent Court to be razed and replaced with mixed-income housing and green space.
The New Bern Housing Authority has been shopping for acreage to build a new apartment building that would be used to house displaced Trent Court residents during the transition, and Housing Authority officials said the displaced residents would have the opportunity to move back once newly constructed units become available in the future development formerly known as Trent Court.
However, the Housing Authority has been having difficulty finding suitable land for an offsite apartment complex. One location off Carolina Avenue (which is between Trent Road and the Pembroke community) is attractive — located close to shopping and services and is owned by the city — but Alderwoman Harris has raised objections from Pembroke residents who don’t want Trent Court residents to move into their back yard.
Meanwhile, many Trent Court residents don’t want to leave Trent Court.
Next up, however, is Hurricane Florence. Housing Authority officials have said for several years that no more money would be spent to renovate flood-damaged buildings at Trent Court. If that’s the same story now, the race is on to find affected Trent Court residents places to live so that the storm-damaged apartments can be torn down.
Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney did not answer a request to be interviewed by the Post. Granted, he has had a lot on his plate.
Steve Strickland, a member of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, said, “The exact outcome is still to be determined. We’re working every possible option right now, alongside our efforts to get the current places as habitable as possible as soon as possible for those with no other short-term options.”
When asked if the storm was an opportunity to kickstart the CNI plan by housing South Front Street / Walt Bellamy Drive residents elsewhere so that the buildings most damaged can be razed and replaced, Strickland replied, “Possibly.”
The original plan for Craven Thirty included a large, robust area for commercial and light industrial development.
Remember back in2012, all the buzz about Craven Thirty? All that sweet, sweet new retail space, a multiplex theater, and new neighborhoods? You probably also remember how last year Craven Thirty morphed into West Craven, with less focus on business and more focus on residential.
Now, more than a year later, West Craven has emerged into the public eye again. Its developer, Weyerhaeuser NR Company, is asking for the city to enter into a development agreement. It is on the Board of Aldermen’s agenda for next Tuesday, when the board is expected to set a date for a public hearing.
And this latest version of West Craven looks a lot like the original Craven Thirty, but with even more commercial space.
The city entered into a development agreement with Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development Company in September 2010 for what was to become Craven Thirty. The city annexed the 550-acres Craven Thirty property in December 2012.
A ribbon cutting was conducted by then-Gov. Bev Perdue, and construction was announced to begin in spring 2013. Some streets were put in, along with other infrastructure, but nothing else was built during he intervening six years. Blame the economy.
The revised and renamed project would include just under 250 acres for residential development, just under 250 acres of commercial development, just over 47 acres for light industrial, and just over 27 acres of agriculture forestry district with low-density residential uses.
The plan calls for a total of 1,500 residential units phased in over 15 years, 500,000 square feet of non-residential space, a 150-room hotel sometime during the first five years, and 10 acres for a private school, also during the first five years.
The agreement establishes the development phasing sequences for the project, establishes a Master Development Plan and development review process that can accommodate the timing, phasing and flexibility of the project, coordinates the construction and design of infrastructure that will serve the project and the community at large, confirms the dedication and/or provision of public amenities by the developer, and provides assurances to the developer that it may proceed with the project in accordance with the approved original zoning and the terms of this agreement without encountering future changes in ordinances, regulations, technical standards or policies that would affect its ability to develop the relevant parcels under the approved zoning and the terms hereof.
The project will include small neighborhoods, a walkable village area, and connections to open space that will “support and reinforce the City of New Bern as an attractive place to live, work and recreate.” The size and scale of the project requires a long-term commitment of both public and private resources and requires careful integration between the programming of public capital facilities, the phasing of development and the development review and approval process.
The West Craven site is well suited for access from all parts of New Bern, or it will be. It is located at the intersection of U.S. 70 and the N.C. 43 connector. There are plans to extend the N.C. 43 connector from where it now ends just west of U.S. 70, all the way through to U.S. 17.
Cleanup, rebuilding, and housing are now the city’s focus in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, officials said during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
It was the first routine meeting of the board since before Hurricane Florence.
Jordan Hughes, city engineer, was filling in for City Manager Mark Stephens during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
Stephens and Alderman Jeffrey Odham were out of town on business, including a meeting with U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-Winterville.
Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey was not at Tuesday’s meeting.
Hughes described the city’s initial response to Hurricane Florence as outstanding.
The city started preparing for a disaster such as Florence back in the spring, when it began contracting with different companies and agencies to provide the myriad services necessary in a disaster.
Once Florence reached New Bern, it was essentially all hands on deck with city staff, Hughes said.
“We found a lot of creative roles for people to fill way outside their normal duties,” he said.
Firefighters responded to emergencies that included one full-on structure fire in Olde Towne, where a two-story house was destroyed due to a portable generator malfunction.
During the storm, there were 800 swift water rescues, city officials reported.
“Going through Irene in 2011 and getting through that with the city, … we’ve made monumental improvements in our emergency planning, how we bulk up our resources before the storm, everybody understanding what their role is during the storm, and you really can see that come together,” Hughes said. “I think we put it through a pretty good test over the last couple of weeks, and I’ll tell you it’s a darn good plan at this point.”
Now the city’s full focus is on recovery and rebuilding of the community, he said.
Every department and offices are fully open except those facilities temporarily closed.
Closed facilities include Parks and Rec admin center, which was flooded and moved to, ironically, the Aquatics Center. West New Bern Recreation Center gym and game room being used as an evacuation shelter. City boat launches, Stanley White Rec Center, Union Point Park, Lawson Creek Park, Glenburnie Park, Dog Park and Bear Plaza are all closed.
A few customers are still without power due to damage to specific services. They can call 252-636-4070 for help and information, Hughes said.
Other items related to Hurricane Florence
Trash pickup resuming normal schedule. Debris collection is underway.
The recycling plant in Jacksonville is out of power. Recycling service in New Bern is suspended as a result. The county’s Convenience Centers are open, for anyone who has recycling they need to dispose of. Absent that, anything that goes to the curb will be picked up, Matt Montanye, public works director, said.
“We spent most of last week preparing the removal sites to receive debris,” he said. The city started removing debris on Friday. As of Tuesday morning, city workers had moved 126 loads, or 3,700 cubic yards, of vegetative debris, 101 tons of construction debris, and were working on fallen and falling trees.
Removing construction debris will be the biggest problem, he said. Ten city trucks are picking up debris. Supplementing thatare truck crews from Wilson, Garner, Rocky Mount, and Greenville. They are all working on commercial debris, from Batts Hill to North Glenburnie Road.
Meanwhile, 31 teams picking up vegetative debris spread throughout the city.
“The city has 188 miles of streets. Please be patient. We will get to you,” he said.
In all, close to 100 people are picking up debris.
The city asks citizens to separate construction debris and furniture in one pile, and appliances and vegetative debris in their own separate piles.
Citizens need to put their debris piles near the street, but not on the street.
“If it is out there, we are going to pick it up,” he said.
Curfew was working really well, said Mayor Dana Outlaw, who ordered the curfew. One evening while trying to make his way downtown on city business, he was denied entrance to the downtown area because of the curfew.
There have been no announcements regarding whether public schools will resume on Monday. Workers were moving evacuation centers from several elementary schools to other locations so that school can resume. School has been out since noon Tuesday, Sept. 11. Expect something to be announced on Friday about whether school will resume on Monday. Onslow County Schools will not be open next week.
Programs are suspended
Parks and Recreation Director Foster Hughes said there was 2-feet of water in Stanley White Recreation Center. The gymnasium floor is ruined, and it will take several months before the facility can be back in shape.
Elsewhere, all city boat launches are destroyed.
“It’s going to take some time for us to get those things together,” he said.
Meanwhile, West New Bern Recreation Center is closed for recreation purposes. It is being used as a consolidated evacuation center, taking in evacuees who had been staying at Brinson Elementary School and Ben D. Quinn Elementary School.
Paying for it all
Getting reimbursed from the federal government can be a tedious, time-consuming process. Said Alderman Bobby Aster, the city has not finished with reimbursements from FEMA for Hurricanes Irene and Matthew.
The city may hire a consultant to shepherd the city’s way through the complexities of reimbursement. The good news is, the consultant fees are reimbursable.
Aster, who was New Bern’s fire chief before he retired, said damage from Hurricane Florence is quadruple that of Irene, which struck New Bern in August 2011.
Alderman Sabrina Bengel pointed out that the reason the city maintains a healthy fund balance is for situations just like Hurricane Florence. The city may get reimbursed for most of its storm-related expenses, but meanwhile, it has to pay those costs up-front.
The King’s English
Alderman Bobby Aster, who has a great deal of experience dealing with disasters, is well-versed in FEMA jargon. During Tuesday’s meeting, he asked Jerry Haney, Area 3 division supervisor for FEMA Region 4, about numerous things using a variety of acronyms. “When will the PA on site, for the PA people,” Aster asked, for example.
After a few more exchanges like that, Alderwoman Jameesha Harris asked if they could use more common terms.
“You guys are like best friends having a conversation and we’re just sitting here …” she said.
How long is this going to take?
FEMA’s Jerry Haney said he hopes to be home by Thanksgiving.
The city will fund six school resource officers, some costs of which will be covered by a state grant, although aldermen and the mayor grumbled that the county ought to be putting up some of the money to fund the positions.
The resource officers are posted at New Bern High School, H.J. McDonald Middle School, and Grover C. Fields Middle School. New this year will be resource officers posted at Oaks Road Elementary School and J.T. Barbour Elementary School.
No one argues against posting school resource officers at the schools. The sticking point is that three of the schools — New Bern High and the two middle schools — have students who don’t live inside city limits. Some aldermen think the county should chip in to cover its share of the enrollment.
The resource officers cost about $81,000 per year for salary, benefits, and equipment. They are available for regular police duties during two summer months when school is out of session, said New Bern Police Chief Toussaint Summers.
State grant money covers $39,000 per resource officer for the high school and middle schools, with the city paying the balance.
New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw said the county, the school district, and cities in Craven County need to get together to find an equitable way to cover the cost of school resource officers.
Meanwhile, he said, he’ll “old my nose and vote for this.”
“In today’s society, you can’t not have a resource officers in these schools,” Outlaw said.
Alderman Sabrina Bengel said she feels bullied into a decision. “I don’t like the political nature of this,” she said.
Alderwoman Jameesha Harris said “This is a tax burden I would like to have in order to have my children be safe.”
Chief Summers said the benefits of the city providing resource officers to the schools outweighs the costs. The officers spend the school year getting to know teenagers in the community, and during the summertime, a “very busy time” for the Police Department, the officers are available for patrol duty and to hold youth summer camps.
In addition, should an incident occur on campus, resource officers there could facilitate the arrival of other law enforcement as they arrive.
At present, the New Bern Police Department has 86 personnel, plus two trainees and one vacancy. He said on average NBPD has a 10 percent turnover rate.
To the question of whether to fund resource officers for New Bern High School and the two middle schools, aldermen voted 6-1, with Alderman Barbara Best voting against it. To the question of whether to add one resource officer each to J.T. Barbour and Oaks Road elementary schools, the vote was 5-2, with Best and Bengal voting against it.
In a memo to aldermen, Chief Summers provided information supporting the addition of resource officers to the two elementary schools. Three other elementary schools inside city limits would not have resource officers.
Craven County has budgeted $99,000 for these two positions, leaving the city of New Bern with $10,000 in costs.
“(The two) elementary schools have been identified as having students with limited positive interaction with police officers. Assigning School Resource Officers would facilitate a safe learning environment, encourage positive relationships with law enforcement and reduce the number of violent acts within our schools. If approved, the newly inducted School Resource Officers would promote anti-bullying initiatives, lead drug and crime prevention programs, provide a safe and secure campus for both the students and the teaching staff during regular school hours and at after-school activities.”
On Alderman Sabrina Bengel’s motion and Alderman Jameesha Harris’ second, the board voted 4-3 for the revised policy, which states:
Per fiscal year, deposits will not be assessed on the first payment arrangement. Payment arrangements may be billed as installments. No late penalties or fees will be assessed if the payment plan is adhered to as agreed upon.
Per fiscal year, deposits will not be assessed for the first check returned for insufficient funds.
New customers may pay deposits in installments with 50 percent due at the time service is established and the balance payable over four billing cycles. Payment arrangements are not permitted until the deposit is paid.
New residential deposits shall not exceed $500.
Bengel, Harris, and Alderman Barbara Best drafted the policy revisions and were expected to vote for it. The only question was whether there would be a forth vote necessary to pass it.
But Best had new concerns about deposit refunds. At present, security deposits are returned after 18 months of good payments. Even with the revised policy, one payment arrangement would restart the 18 month period before the deposit is refunded to the customer.
Best argued that one payment arrangement should not prevent a customer from receiving a refund after one 18-month period.
Harris went the entire opposite direction. She said by reducing the security deposit to $500, it puts the city at further financial risk. She argued that security deposits should be returned only when a customer leaves the city.
Alderman Bobby Aster, a potential swing vote, questioned whether that would be fair, saying the city would then be holding onto deposits for years or decades.
Harris made the initial motion, which did not get a second, mainly because of wording issues.
Bengel made a second motion that would have allowed customers to have their security deposit refunded after 18 months even if during that time they had made one payment arrangement, provided they completed the payment arrangement during that 18 months.
Harris said she would not support that motion, saying the city should not refund security deposits except when a customer leaves the city.
Perhaps seeing an opportunity to stall the revision of a policy that he implemented during his first term as mayor, Mayor Dana Outlaw declared the two motions dead for lack of being seconded.
He suggested that the board wait before changing the policy. The city has not fully rolled out its advanced utility metering system or a program that allows customers to prepay their bills, he said. The city also has a new utilities director who has not had a chance to weigh in on the issue.
Alderman Jeffrey Odham agreed, saying that changing the policy would be jumping the gun.
Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey, who at first said he liked the Bengel/Harris/Best plan, agreed with Outlaw and Odham.
Undeterred, with Best’s permission, Bengel made another motion, this one free of any mention of deposit refunds, guaranteeing at least the three votes from the committee that drafted the policy revisions. That motion passed, 4-1, with Astor casting the deciding vote.
The financial impact on the city is that it puts up to $72,000 at risk if customers default.
New Bern aldermen on Tuesday will consider a proposal to lessen the severity of the city’s utility deposit policy that has sometimes resulted in four-figure deposits for new customers with less than stellar credit, and soften other rules aimed at existing customers who fall behind in paying their bill.
The recommendations cap the deposit at $500 for new residents, rather than the sum of the two highest bills rung up by the previous resident. It also won’t kick in the first time when a customer who has fallen behind asks for a payment arrangement, or the first time a customer’s check bounces.
Payments could also be billed as installments.
The city’s utility deposit has been controversial from the start (it was instituted in 2014), putting low- and moderate-income individuals and small businesses struggling to make ends meet in further financial distress. However, it has helped the city reduce the rate of bad debt write-offs, and earned the city a coveted top rating from an agency that virtually no one in New Bern outside city hall cares about.
At its May 8, meeting, the Governing Board established a working group consisting of aldermen Sabrina Bengel, Jameesha Harris and Barbara Best to meet with the Director of Finance to discuss the utility deposit.
As a result of the group’s discussions, the following changes are recommended for residential customers effective July 1:
Per fiscal year, deposits will not be assessed on the first payment arrangement. Payment arrangements may be billed as installments. No late penalties or fees will be assessed if the payment plan is adhered to as agreed upon.
Per fiscal year, deposits will not be assessed for the first check returned for insufficient funds.
New customers may pay deposits in installments with 50 percent due at the time service is established and the balance payable over four billing cycles. Payment arrangements are not permitted until the deposit is paid.
New residential deposits shall not exceed $500.
These changes are not retroactive.A memo from J.R. Sabatelli, Director of Finance is attached and provides additional, pertinent information. (See Backup)
The agenda item calls for a discussion, and it takes four votes of the seven-member board to pass an item that has been moved for consideration.
Assuming that Bengel, Harris, and Best vote for the policy (since they are the ones who proposed it), it would need only one more vote to pass. It is doubtful that Alderman Jeffrey Odham or Mayor Dana Outlaw would vote for it, since they were the ones who pushed for the existing policy back in 2014. Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey was also on the board that approved the existing policy, but he has shown more willingness to vote with new board members and against the previous status quo.
It is unknown how new Alderman Bobby Aster will vote.
CITY OF NEW BERN
BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEETING
JUNE 12, 2018 – 6:00 P.M.
CITY HALL COURTROOM
300 POLLOCK STREET
1. Meeting opened by Mayor Dana E. Outlaw. Prayer Coordinated by Alderman Odham. Pledge of Allegiance.
2. Roll Call.
3. Request and Petition of Citizens.
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.
4. Approve Minutes. Minutes from the May 14, 2018 budget work session and May 22, 2018 regular meeting are provided for review and approval.
5. Recognition of Graduates of Police Academy. Graduates of the recent Citizens Police Academy will be in attendance to give an overview of their experience. The latest academy marked the 22nd session that has been held. (See Backup)
6. Discussion of Utility Deposits. At its May 8, 2018 meeting, the Governing Board established a working group consisting of Aldermen Bengel, Harris and Best to meet with the Director of Finance to discuss the utility deposit. As a result of the group’s discussions, the following changes are recommended for residential customers effective July 1st:
• Per fiscal year, deposits will not be assessed on the first payment arrangement. Payment arrangements may be billed as installments. No late penalties or fees will be assessed if the payment plan is adhered to as agreed upon.
• Per fiscal year, deposits will not be assessed for the first check returned for insufficient funds.
• New customers may pay deposits in installments with 50% due at the time service is established and the balance payable over four billing cycles. Payment arrangements are not permitted until the deposit is paid.
• New residential deposits shall not exceed $500.
• These changes are not retroactive.A memo from J.R. Sabatelli, Director of Finance is attached and provides additional, pertinent information. (See Backup)
7. Consider Adopting a Resolution Approving Financing Terms for the Enterprise Resource Planning (“ERP”) Project. The Board established the ERP Project Fund on November 21, 2017 and adopted a Declaration of Official Intent to Reimburse at that time. Requests for financing proposals were issued, and the Director of Finance recommends First Citizens Bank be utilized. While their interest rate of 3.22% is slightly higher than that offered by SunTrust (3.17%), First Citizens allows the loan to be prepaid with no penalty or other fees. A memo from Mr. Sabatelli is attached. (See Backup)
8. Consider Adopting a Resolution in Support of the Highway 43 Connector Project. (Ward 6) At the May 22, 2018 Board meeting, Alderman Odham reported on a recent meeting held by the NC Department of Transportation with respect to plans for the Highway 43 Connector. The proposed resolution relays the City’s support of the DOT plan identified as Alternate #2. It also requests DOT give consideration to the sound impact on the existing residential neighborhoods of Trent Creek, Arcadia Village and Craeberne Forest. (See Backup)
9. Consider Adopting a Resolution in Support of Changing the Alfred Cunningham Memorial Bridge Schedule. (Ward 1) Citizens and merchants have expressed concerns about the Alfred Cunningham drawbridge schedule. The current schedule allows the bridge to open at will or on demand two to three times per hour. This not only creates traffic congestion, but it is also an inconvenience to motorists, local residents and businesses in and around downtown. The resolution proposes the schedule be altered to open only on the half hour of every hour. (See Backup)
10. Consider Adopting a Budget Ordinance Amendment for the FY2017-18 Grants Fund. The Fire Department has received a $2,000 grant from Petco Foundation for the care of the department’s arson dog. The budget amendment acknowledges receipt of the grant funds, which requires no match. A brief memo from Mr. Sabatelli is attached. (See Backup)
11. Consider Adopting an Ordinance Amendment to the 2017 Roadway Improvements Project Fund. The 2017 Roadway Improvements Project Fund was established on July 11, 2017. On March 13, 2018, the Board approved an agreement with NCDOT to accept ownership and maintenance of sections of Old Airport Road between Taberna Circle and County Line Road. This budget ordinance will appropriate $1,700,000 for the Old Airport Road project and $800,000 for resurfacing Oaks Road. Funds for the Old Airport Road project will derive of $687,000 from DOT and $1,013,000 from borrowing proceeds. A memo from Mr. Sabatelli is attached. (See Backup)
12. Consider Adopting an Amendment to the Declaration of Intent to Reimburse the 2017 Roadway Improvements Project Fund. The Board adopted resolutions and Declarations of Intent to Reimburse for the 2017 Roadway Improvements Project Fund on July 11, 2017 in the amount of $250,000 and on September 26, 2017 in the amount of $1,050,000. Since that time, the Board has further increased the project by an additional $1,813,000. The total of the project is $2,863,000, and the Declaration of Intent needs to be updated to reflect this amount. A memo from Mr. Sabatelli is attached. (See Backup)
13. Consider Adopting an Ordinance to Amend Article III. City Water and Sewerage Systems of Chapter 74 “Utilities”. House Bill 436 was passed by the NC General Assembly in July 2017 to amend Chapter 162A of the General Statutes to add Article 8, System Development Fees. This amendment provides for uniform authority to implement system development fees for public water and sewer systems in the State. The City’s Code of Ordinances needs to be amended to establish the water and sewer system development fees and provide the City authority to charge such fees. A memo from Jordan Hughes, City Engineer, is attached. (See Backup)
14. Consider Adopting an Ordinance to Establish the Schedule of System Development Fees and Connection Fees for Water and Sewer Customers. This relates to the previous item. Upon its adoption, the proposed ordinance will establish the Schedule of System Development Fees and Connection Fees for water and sewer. A memo from Jordan Hughes, City Engineer, is attached. (See Backup)
15. Consider Adopting a Resolution Approving the Classification Pay Plan for Fiscal Year 2018-19. Annually, the Board adopts a Classification Pay Plan. In the past, the pay plan was adopted as part of the annual budget ordinance. After conferring with Attorney Davis, it has been determined the pay plan should be adopted in the format of a resolution and separate from the budget ordinance. A memo from Mr. Sabatelli is attached. (See Backup)
16. Consider Adopting an Ordinance Amending the Schedule of Fees and Charges. As part of the budget process, the Board annually adopts an Amended Schedule of Fees and Charges to, in part, identify in one place all of the fees charged by the City. The fees identified in the schedule are included in the revenue projections for Fiscal Year 2018-19 and will be effective July 1, 2018.Please note two schedules are presented for consideration. One schedule does not reference the utility deposit cap of $500 identified during the discussion on the utility deposit. The other scheduled does include the deposit cap. A memo from Mr. Sabatelli is attached. (See Backup 1)(See Backup 2)(See Backup 3)
17. Consider Adopting the Budget Ordinance for Fiscal Year 2018-19. After extensive review of the Manager’s recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19, several budget workshops, and an extended public hearing, the changes expressed by the Board have been incorporated into the final budget ordinance for Fiscal Year 2018-19. A memo from Mr. Sabatelli outlines the changes made to the recommended budget. (See Backup)
18. Appointment(s). (a) On May 22, 2018, Alderman Kinsey appointed John Leys to fill the seat previously held by Nancy Gray on the Historic Preservation Commission. Mr. Leys is unable to accept the appointment, and Alderman Kinsey is asked to make a new appointment. The appointee will serve a three-year term. (See Backup)
(b) The first tenure of the Community Development Advisory Committee (“CDAC”) is coming to an end, and the members’ terms will expire on June 30, 2018. Some have expressed a desire to be reappointed, while others have not. Appointments or reappointments have been made for Wards 1, 2 and 6. The following appointments are still needed, and the list provided simply reflects the current appointees:
Ward 3: Marshall Williams
Ward 4: Vernon Guion (interested in reappointment)
(c) Charles Bauschard, Director of Public Utilities, began work on May 29, 2018. The previous director was appointed as the City’s Commissioner on the NC Eastern Municipal Power Agency. The Board is asked to consider appointing Mr. Bauschard to fill this vacancy. Of note, the City Manager serves as the first alternate commissioner, and Alderwoman Harris serves as the second alternate commissioner. (See Backup)
19. Attorney’s Report.
20. City Manager’s Report.
21. New Business.
22. Closed Session.
Updated with corrected information about enterprise fund.
Headed into the June 12 meeting during which the Board of Aldermen will actually approve the city budget, as written, the spending plan is good for public safety without raising taxes, but does little to correct deficiencies that make it harder for people with disabilities to live in the city.
The plan calls for the addition of six firefighter positions at the Thurman Road fire house, which will enable the outpost station to more aggressively attack structure fires (and save lives of people trapped in burning buildings) without having to wait for backup from the city’s other stations, downtown and on Elizabeth Avenue.
The city would also hire one additional animal control officer, increasing the ranks of that service by 100 percent (in other words, it goes from one to two).
The city is already in the processing of adding parking enforcement officers downtown, where two-hour parking exists but has not been enforced.
In all, these additions make for a larger uniformed presence in the city.
The city is also planning on numerous paving projects, not the least of which are on Old Airport Road and Trent Road.
And the city would be doing this without raising taxes, instead paying for it with some of the surplus it has been enjoying during recent years.
There is one caveat. Trash pickup would be put into its own enterprise fund and the city will raise the trash fee from $11.75 to $14.75, which will cover its cost.
City trash collection has been losing money (because it could), and the city has been supplementing the service with about $280,000 a year from its general fund. So there’s that.
City Hall has no plans to install an elevator, something city leaders committed to do 20 years ago. Instead, wheelchair-bound citizens who want to attend city meetings on the second floor of city hall must be physically pulled up three flights of stairs — and call in advance just for that.
Also missing is anything that would address pedestrian safety for an increasingly busy downtown, where there are no pedestrian crossing signals — especially troublesome for people with vision impairment.
For a city that prides itself in attracting retirees, New Bern does surprisingly little to accommodate people with disabilities. And the current spending plan does nothing to address that.
Contact aldermen or the mayor if you have any comments or questions.
See if you can find the Easter egg in this $11,000 diorama of Downtown New Bern that resides at City Hall. Go here for the answer and other fun facts from Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
The Board of Aldermen got their first look at a proposed $125 million spending plan that keeps the wheels rolling at City Hall without costing constituents a penny more — but that could change by the time the budget is approved next month.
The board met Tuesday and spent just over an hour hearing an overview of the fiscal year 2019 spending plan draft, which as presented is a1.91 percent increase over this year.
Here are areas that may cost citizens more:
The board may consider moving sanitation out of general fund. It is running $193,000 in the red, subsidized by general fund. Includes leaf and limb service. Would need to increase by $3 to $17.75 to break even.
Motor vehicle tax increase—City gets $5 per licensed vehicle tag. Most cities charge $15-$25. Some as high as $30. First $5 is unrestricted; the city can spend it any way it wants. Anything over that must be used for road improvements. Each $5 generates $125,000 in revenue.
Ad valorem tax rate increase—It had been .41. The current rate, .46, is a hair shy of revenue neutral. A 1 cent increase would result in $310,000 revenue. City Hall is looking at a 1 cent rate increase due to revaluation because county and Havelock already adjusted theirs.
Electric rates remain the same for now, but may increase (we’ll find out in January starting in April or July)
Key takeaways from the draft budget proposal:
A balanced budget with no ad valorem tax increase unless the board so chooses to fund large projects
Increase in city staff size by one position
Merit-based pay increases for employees of 1-2.5 percent, and zero for those who aren’t performing as well.
Continue projects started in FY2018.
The same utility rates but electric rates may be an increase (the city will find out in January, with any rate increase starting somewhere between April and July)
Considerations city staff took into account when creating the draft include:
Maintain current level of operations and a balanced budget
Present options to recover costs for sanitation services
Look for ways to fund larger projects
Invest in staff
Ensure public safety meets requirements
Enhance parks and recreation opportunities
Maintain fiscal responsibility
Invest in city infrastructure
Promote economic development
Now, some details.
Net increase of one position, a fire inspector, due to increased demands. Also adds a substation technician in the electric department. Leaving positions vacant or realigning other positions will result in 461 positions at City Hall.
The breakdown of city positions:
General fund—97 positions (includes police and fire)
Other funded positions—2 positions
Recent staffing additions, including one proposed, are related to city growth: City Hall previously added a building inspector, and now needs an additional a fire inspector
Alderman Bobby Aster said the quartile system of awarding merit raises does not always sit well for people who get called out at night and know how to do everything but who get only the 1 percent raise. It penalizes senior employees, he said.
Merit-based pay increases for employees would be 1 to 2.5 percent, and zero for those with average or poorer performance.
City Manager Mark Stephens said the system was implemented because the city was losing people early in their careers after great expense to the city training them. Intent was to raise newer, good employees up to the midpoint range more quickly.
Raises would be effective July 30.
Other spending priorities:
10 new police vehicles.
Renewed emphasis on maintenance and improvements for parks, ballfields, playgrounds, recreation centers, etc.
Funding for special recreation activities and youth sports. The city can build four to six pickle ball courts on what was two used tennis courts
Outdoor pickle ball courts and major Kidsville renovation. Kidsville playground was shut down pending repair work. Built in late 1980s, the wooden playground has been showing its age.
Continue projects started in FY2018. They include:
Trent Road substation rebuild
Continued Township 7 improvements
Continued West New Bern improvements
Continue AMI implementation
Additional water/sewer system improvements
Move to new facility
Craven/South Front Street site development
VOLT Center (on First Street at the old Electric Utilities building)
Train Depot renovation
Guion/Dunn Street railroad crossings
$800,000 budgeted for various improvements for city streets and Lawson Creek Park
Pavement resurfacing, crack sealing, full-depth repairs, pavement striping, sidewalk and curbing improvements, etc.
Additional $85,000 for sidewalk maintenance
Street survey updated to identify needed street repairs
Oaks Road resurfacing—$800,000
Old Airport Road—$1.3 million. Another $687,000 is coming from state for Airport Road for paving sections it owns.
Trent Road widening—$2 million. No chip-in from state because tied in with the Alfred Cunningham Bridge swap. City took over responsibility of 13 miles of streets from the state in exchange for the state taking over responsibility of the bridge.
New fire station—$2.5 million to build with $958,000 operating cost
Public investment for redevelopment and economic development—TBD
Total—$11.6 million with $958,000 in annual operating costs
How to pay for all that?
Current budget frees up $200,000 toward those expenses.
An additional $280,000 would be available per year by creating a self-sustaining sanitation utility—but would result in higher sewer fees for city residents.
An additional $300,000 would be available per year by adding 1 cent per $100 of value to the ad valorem tax rate—a tax increase.
The city could also increase its vehicle registration fee. It’s $5 per registration now, which the city could spend any way it wants. It could raise it by another $5, but that money would have to got to street maintenance and improvements. It could raise it yet another $5, but that would have to go to transportation or street improvements.
May 1 and 2 workshops. Public hearing on May 8. Budget adoption on May 22. Other meetings as necessary.
See if you can find the Easter egg in this $11,000 diorama of Downtown New Bern that resides at City Hall. Scroll down for the answer.
Misc. stuff and fun facts:
First, what’s up with City Manager Mark Stephens’ lapel pin? (See picture, left)
Paint Your Heart Out is looking for volunteers, donations and sponsorships. Contact Landa Gaskins, Community Development Coordinator, Phone (252) 639-7586, or email
Community Health Fare Saturday, April 28, noon-3 p.m., Omega Center.
Water and sewer revenues are down because of conservation, but treatment costs are increasing. Maola was a major customer the city lost, affecting revenue.
Ad valorem tax rates in the area: .52 Greenville, .65 Goldsboro, .66 Kinston, .52 Washington, .59 Havelock, .485 Wilmington, .555 Wilson, .46 New Bern, the lowest in the area. Ad valorem taxes bring in $1.37 million to New Bern.
AMI—Advanced Metering Infrastructure. Meter reader is not a growth profession. Meter technician is. Most of the city now has networked electric and water meters.
The state is seeing a decline in gasoline tax revenue due to increased use of electric vehicles, Alderman Sabrina Bengel said.
In Texas, old gas stations are being repurposed as food truck rodeos, City Manager Mark Stephens said.
Johnnie Ray Kinsey was absent.
Answer to the question at the top:
The diorama includes a car wreck at the intersection of South and East Front streets.
I’ve never been a fan of how the city charges exorbitant fines, fees, and deposits on electric utilities customers who are least able to afford it.
Then I sat in on a PowerPoint presentation by JR Sabatelli, the city’s finance director, and I was nearly persuaded.
I think several aldermen planned to come out of Wednesday’s special meeting of the Board of Aldermen with the deposit policy cancelled. But that didn’t happen. Sabatelli did that good a job making his points. Rather than trashing the policy, aldermen directed city staff to find ways to be more customer friendly.
But being a CPA, Sabatelli was perhaps a little tone deaf about a few certain things.
He said that prior to changing its utilities billing policies in 2013, the city had a “culture of finding ways to say yes.”
That meant that folks who found themselves stumbling to pay their light bills could walk out of the utilities office on Neuse Boulevard with a payment plan and very little in the way of penalties.
“This is a culture we do not want to return to,” Sabatelli said.
The financial impact of whether the city goes back to its old way of doing things, or continues with its new, non-customer friendly way of doing things, is about a wash. You heard me right: It is revenue neutral (with one caveat that I’ll get into later).
But Sabatelli’s presentation started on one note and ended with another. The city received a three-star rating from an organization that grades cities on such things before it implemented the new plan. Once it implement more punitive measures on people late paying their bills, the city got a four-star rating.
I’m so glad to hear that the city got one extra star, and all it took was putting low-income families at grave financial risk.
That’s not all.
Earlier this year, during a weeks-long cold snap when the daily high temperatures were in the single digits, aldermen were being made aware of the high electric bills their constituents were seeing.
Aldermen specifically asked Sabatelli if there would be some consideration for customers given the unusual nature of this weather event. He said there would be.
Turns out, not so much.
One resident told her story to aldermen during their Wednesday workshop.
By the time the weather started warming up, she, a therapist, and her husband, a carpenter, with two kids including one in college, faced a utility bill of $1,300.
He went to the city utilities office to see if he could work out a payment plan, and was told that to do so would trigger a deposit … of around $1,300.
Instead, he withdrew money from his 401(k) (taxed and assessed a penalty for early withdrawal) to pay the bill.
The next bill he received reflected his payment, but included an extra $1,300 — the charge for a deposit.
That’s not the only customer service nugget (or shall I say, turd) that came out of Wednesday’s meeting.
We also learned that the utilities office officially closes at 5 p.m., but locks its doors at 4:45 p.m. There is a doorbell and an intercom, utility staff offered, helpfully.
At an earlier meeting, we learned that the utilities office no longer has public restrooms, and staff directs members of the public to the restroom at Fort Totten Park, about 100 yards away, across a ball field.
OK, I got that all off my chest.
Now mind you, these are all good people, Sabatelli and the folks who work at the utilities office. They’ve even won two customer service awards, one last year and one this year, and participate in parades and festivals.
The city’s policies regarding utilities payments, fees and fines has saved the city money in other ways. City staff saved hundreds of hours because they aren’t working on payment plans nearly so often, and because the number of electricity cutoffs and restarts has been dramatically reduced.
But I would put forth that there are some things it might do that would be more customer friendly and still earn the city its coveted fourth star.
Instead of demanding a deposit equal to the sum of the two highest utilities bills in the past 12 months, make it an average two months, or better yet, make it a flat fee of, say, $500, and spread that out over a couple of months.
If folks are struggling to pay unusually high light bills because of zero-degree temperatures or hundred-degree temperatures, waive the policy of implementing a deposit whenever a payment plan is required.
New Bern aldermen and the mayor will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, one day after the Board of Aldermen’s regular meeting, to discuss a proposed redevelopment agency and controversial utility deposits.
The special meeting will start at noon Wednesday in the City Hall Courtroom.
This meeting was scheduled separately from the board’s regular meeting due to the complexities of the two issues.
Aldermen and the mayor have been looking at forming a redevelopment agency to solve problems of urban decay in the Five Points area.
The utility deposit program, initiated by the previous Board of Aldermen shortly after it was seated, imposes deposits on utility customers who have struggled to keep current with their bills.
CITY OF NEW BERN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEETING APRIL 10, 2018 – 6:00 P.M. CITY HALL COURTROOM 300 POLLOCK STREET
(Note: Links expire when the next agenda is posted)
1. Meeting opened by Mayor Dana E. Outlaw. Prayer Coordinated by Alderman Kinsey. Pledge of Allegiance. 2. Roll Call.
3. Request and Petition of Citizens. 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.
Consent Agenda 4. Consider Approving a Proclamation for National Day of Prayer 2018. Tharesa Lee has requested a proclamation for National Day of Prayer, which will be observed on May 3, 2018 in Union Point Park. (See Backup) 5. Consider Approving a Proclamation for National Minority Health Month. Alderman Harris has requested a proclamation acknowledging April as National Minority Health Month. Several events are planned throughout the month of April. (See Backup) 6. Consider Approving a Proclamation for Boys & Girls Club Week 2018. Representatives from the local Boys & Girls Club organization requested a proclamation recognizing April 9-13, 2018 as Boys & Girls Club Week in New Bern. (See Backup) 7. Submission of Annual Written Report from Appearance Commission. Pursuant to City ordinance, the Appearance Commission is required to provide a report of activities to the Board of Aldermen no later than April 15th of each year as mandated by NCGS §160A-454. The attached report satisfies this requirement. This is informational only, and no action is needed from the Board. (See Backup) 8. Approve Minutes. Minutes from the March 27, 2018 regular meeting are provided for review and approval.
******************** 9. Presentation on Little Free Library Expansion Project. Judy Hills, Friends of the New Bern-Craven County Public Library Board Member, will share a PowerPoint presentation on the Little Free Library expansion project, which is a free book exchange. (See Backup)
10. Conduct a Public Hearing, Consider Adopting a Statement of Zoning Consistency, and Consider Adopting an Ordinance to Rezone 107 and 109 Beech Street from R-6S Residential and I-1 Industrial Districts to C-3 Commercial District. (Ward 5) This public hearing was called after receiving a request from Michael Stephens, the owner of 107 and 109 Beech Street, to have the property rezoned from R-6S Residential and I-1 Industrial to C-3 Commercial District. The property is located near the corner of Beech Street and Oaks Road and consists of approximately 1.14 acres. The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the request at its March 6, 2018 meeting. State statute and local ordinance require the Governing Board to hold a public hearing to receive comments on the requested rezoning. A memo from Morgan Potts, City Planner, is attached along with a map of the subject property. (See Backup)
11. Conduct a Public Hearing, Consider Adopting a Statement of Zoning Consistency, and Consider Adopting an Ordinance to Rezone 1225 S. Glenburnie Road from R-6 Residential and C-4 Neighborhood Business District to C-3 Commercial District. (Ward 4) The City of New Bern owns the property located at 1225 S. Glenburnie Road. This public hearing was called after the City’s request to have the property rezoned from R-6 Residential and C-4 Neighborhood Business Districts to C-3 Commercial District. The property is located near the corner of Neuse Boulevard and S. Glenburnie Road and consists of approximately 4.77 acres. This is the subject property for the proposed relocation of the City Garage. The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the request at its March 6, 2018 meeting. State statute and local ordinance require the Governing Board to hold a public hearing to receive comments on the requested rezoning. A memo from Mrs. Potts is attached along with a map of the subject property. (See Backup)
12. Conduct a Public Hearing and Consider Adopting an Amendment to Article XXI, Section 15-463 “Design Guidelines and Performance Standards – Trent Road Corridor” of the Land Use Ordinance. On March 6, 2018, staff presented to the Planning and Zoning (“P&Z”) Board proposed changes to the Land Use Ordinance with respect to the design guidelines and performance standards for the Trent Road corridor. At that time, P&Z voted unanimously to approve the changes. The next step is for the Board of Aldermen to conduct a public hearing and consider approval of the changes. A memo from Mrs. Potts is attached along with copies of the proposed ordinance changes and a redlined version to easily identify those changes. (See Backup)
13. Conduct a Public Hearing on the System Development Fee Analysis and Consider Adopting a Resolution Approving the Analysis. In July 2017, the NC General Assembly passed House Bill 436 amending Chapter 162A of the General Statutes by adding “Article 8, System Development Fees”. This new article intends to provide for uniform authority with respect to implementing system development fees for public water and sewer systems, as well as clarify the applicable statute of limitations. The amendment requires a written analysis be performed to calculate the system development fee based upon prescriptive criteria. In response to this requirement, the City employed Rivers & Associates, Inc. to perform a professional analysis. Prior to considering adoption of the analysis, House Bill 436 requires the local government post the analysis on its webpage for public review and comment for a minimum of 45 days. This period has been completed and no written comments were received. The City is now required to hold a public hearing prior to consideration of adopting the analysis. A memo from Jordan Hughes, City Engineer, is attached. (See Backup)
14. Consider Adopting a Resolution Approving the Conceptual Master Plan for Martin Marietta Park. (Ward 5) At the March 19, 2018 work session, McGill Associates presented a master plan for the Martin Marietta Park. Prior to considering adoption, the conceptual plan will again be reviewed in some detail. A memo from Foster Hughes, Director of Parks and Recreation, is attached along with a copy of the presentation. (See Backup 1)(See Backup 2)
15. Consider Adopting a Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Execute a Contract with Morton Trucking, Inc. for the 2018 Street Resurfacing Project and Any Changes Within the Budgeted Amount. (Wards 1-5) Certified bids have been received for the 2018 street resurfacing project. Morton Trucking, Inc. submitted the lowest bid at $976,130, and the Board is asked to consider adopting a resolution authorizing the City to enter into a contract with the bidder. The project is slated to begin within 30 days and has a contract period of 180 days. A memo from Matt Montanye, Director of Public Works, is provided and includes a list of the streets to be resurfaced. (See Backup)
16. Consider Adopting an Ordinance for the Demolition of the Dwelling Located at 1607-1609 Dillahunt Street. (Ward 5) This matter was before the Board of Aldermen at its February 27, 2018 meeting. After hearing from the owner during that meeting, the Board tabled this matter to allow the City Attorney an opportunity to contact the Bankruptcy Trustee to ascertain the Trustee’s intentions regarding the property. Mr. Davis will be available to provide a verbal report of the status, if desired.
As a reminder, the property at 1607 Dillahunt Street (also known as 1607-1609 Dillahunt Street) has been vacant since 1999 and a concern for the Police Department since 2001. Staff has worked with the owners from January 2005 to late 2016 to both secure the building and bring it into compliance. A formal letter of violation was sent to the owners on August 31, 2015, and a hearing was conducted with the Chief Building Inspector on November 19, 2015, at which time the owners were granted six months to comply with the code. On May 10, 2016, this order was extended until August 19, 2016 to provide the owners an additional three months’ time. However, to date no permits have been applied for and work has not been initiated. Attached are a memo from Mr. Ruggieri, a chronological list of events, and pictures of the property. (See Backup)
17. Consider Adopting an Ordinance Amending the 2017 Water Improvements Project Fund. The 2017 Water Improvements Project Fund was established by ordinance on January 24, 2017 with a budget of $1,570,000 for repair and replacement of water infrastructure at various locations. Additional funds in the amount of $617,737 have been deemed necessary to complete the final phase. This budget ordinance will appropriate those funds from the Water Capital Reserve Fund. Memos from Jordan Hughes, City Engineer, and J.R. Sabatelli, Director of Finance, are attached. (See Backup)
18. Consider Adopting an Ordinance Amending the 2017 Sewer Improvements Project Fund. The 2017 Sewer Improvements Project Fund was also established by ordinance on January 24, 2017 with a budget of $1,400,000 for the repair and replacement of sewer infrastructure at various locations. Additional funds in the amount of $611,059 have been deemed necessary to complete the final phase. This budget ordinance will appropriate those funds from the Sewer Capital Reserve Fund. Again, memos from Mr. Hughes and Mr. Sabatelli are attached. (See Backup)
19. Consider Adopting a Budget Ordinance Amendment for the FY2017-18 Operating Budget. This budget ordinance amendment provides for the transfers from the Water and Sewer Capital Reserve Funds to the 2017 Water and Sewer Improvements Project Funds as described in the previous two items. It also acknowledges a $14,000 grant received by the Fire Department from the NC Department of Public Safety. The grant requires no match, and the funds will be used to provide training opportunities in water rescue and urban search and rescue. Lastly, the amendment appropriates $450,000 to Stormwater Maintenance for the purchase of a new Vactor Truck. The current truck is in need of major repairs, and it is felt best to replace the truck. Delivery of a new truck will take 8-10 months, and the purchase will be paid for by transferring $200,000 from fund balance and obtaining $240,000 from 2019 debt service proceeds. A memo from Mr. Sabatelli is attached. (See Backup)
20. Appointment(s). Nancy Gray has resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission as a result of relocating to a different city. Alderman Kinsey is asked to make an appointment to fill this vacancy. 21. Attorney’s Report. 22. City Manager’s Report. 23. New Business. 24. Closed Session. 25. Adjourn.
Now that the Craven Terrace low-income housing project has been outsourced, downsized, and renovated, the New Bern Housing Authority is turning its sights on what to do about Trent Court.
In a memo to the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (members listed here), Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney said the agency is going to apply for a 9 percent low-income housing tax credit from the N.C, Housing Finance Agency, but first must “secure site control of an eligible and competitive location.”
The “competitive location” would be used to build new low-income housing to add to, and in some cases replace, housing stocks in Trent Court.
As of now, that competitive location is a 30.8-acre, city-owned property off Carolina Avenue between the Pembroke Community, Trent Road and U.S. 70 (maps, left and below left).
The parcel is more than twice the 14 acres the Housing Authority owns that includes Trent Court, New Bern Tower, and numerous other residential structures, although, according to Housing Authority Commissioner Bill Frederick, only 9.7 acres are not subject to flooding and would be usable for housing.
Google Maps close-up shows the location of the Carolina Avenue property.
Little has been discussed publicly about the Housing Authority’s plans for Trent Court over the past seven years, while at the same time it was privatizing and renovating Craven Terrace, a larger housing project located north of Broad Street.
Craven Terrace was quickly identified as an area worth preserving for public housing, mainly because of its lack of market potential. Surrounded by small parcels with low property values, Craven Terrace is much larger than Trent Court and presented a bigger problem in terms of relocating residents there.
In the end, the Housing Authority secured historic status for the buildings in Craven Terrace, which in turn allowed for tax credits that helped pay for renovations, razing several buildings subject to flooding, and adding amenities including a playground and laundry facility. The Housing Authority also outsourced management of Craven Terrace.
Trent Court is less than half the size of Craven Terrace in acreage and number of residents. But more importantly, its proximity to Tryon Palace, the Historic Downtown District, and a navigable waterway make it much more commercially attractive for would-be developers.
The 30-acre Carolina Avenue property is wooded and undeveloped. It stretches from the lower left center to the upper right corner of this picture. Google Maps photo
Enter Carolina Avenue. The largest single undeveloped parcel owned by the city at more than 30 acres, it is not included on the city’s surplus properties for sale website. Wooded without any buildings, it is unique in New Bern in that it is both a waterfront property (there’s a small lake formed when N.C. DOT quarried dirt and gravel to build the U.S. 70 bypass) and has access to Trent Road.
Still, due to the wetlands, only a third is developable.
Housing Authority officials have been quietly approaching city officials, the Board of Aldermen, and the Pembroke Community about acquiring the Carolina Avenue property for subsidized and low-income housing.
“The NBHA bid was $200,000,” Commissioner Frederick told the Post.
“Initial discussions with the city were promising,” Blaney said in his memo. “However, more recent discussions have been frustrating with aldermen indicating they would be willing to ‘swap’ the Carolina Avenue site for complete control of the Trent Court property. This was not acceptable. Also, our offer to simply purchase the land was rejected before a bid could be submitted.”
When Blaney refers to promising initial discussions, he’s mainly referring to when E.T. Mitchell, a wealthy appointee to the Board of Aldermen who is now running for county commissioner, was on the board and heard the proposal. (Mitchell was also instrumental in developing and executing plans for Craven Terrace and was a Housing Authority commission member for a time.)
When Blaney refers to more recent frustrating discussions, he’s referring to Ward 2 Alderman Jameesha Harris, who has reservations about the plan and who called it “gentrification” in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Her ward includes the Pembroke community as well as the Carolina Avenue property the Housing Authority is interested in.
The plan has a lot of moving parts but boils down to this: The Housing Authority wants the Carolina Avenue property so it can secure funding to build affordable housing there. It would then move residents of Trent Court and others living on Housing Authority land in that area to the new housing off Carolina Avenue. That would enable the Housing Authority to raze many if not all of Trent Court’s buildings and replace them with a mixed-income residential development that it would still manage, either directly or indirectly.
It would involve moving low-income residents from Trent Court, ostensibly on a temporary basis, and moving them to housing to be constructed on Carolina Avenue adjacent to the Pembroke community. Once a new and improved Trent Court emerges, former residents would be given the opportunity to move back if housing is available.
“The proposal made to Ms. Harris was that the city donate the property to NBHA, freeing up our proposed $200,000 bid to rehabilitate the Taylor Building in Trent Court as a permanent home for the Boys & Girls Club,” Commissioner Frederick told the Post.
As it appears now, what would be built where Trent Court exists now would be a mix of high-, middle- and low-end housing and subsidized housing. The Housing Authority plans to leave a waterfront green space between Walt Bellamy Drive and Lawson Creek, and according to a source, that waterfront property is what the Housing Authority is willing to trade to the city for the Carolina Avenue acreage.
Trent Court and Carolina Avenue Compared
Trent Court area
30.81 undeveloped but mostly wetland
Tax value per acre
One problem with Trent Court is that the next time it floods in that area, affected buildings will have to be vacated and razed. No more money will be spent to bring them back to habitability. That puts a gun to the Housing Authority’s head to find substitute housing quickly.
“This is a complicated matter practically and politically,” Blaney said in his his memo. “Strategies such as improving Trent Court, seeking other land, approaching aldermen, public relations, etc., need to be devised.”
He said in his memo that he has spoken with three Pembroke residents about the proposal. “Two of the three indicated that my explanation was not exactly as an earlier one given by their alderman. They still expressed misgivings, however.
“I expect to be invited to the next Pembroke Residents’ Association meeting in early April. My belief is that if we disagree, at least let us disagree based on honest fact.”
Blaney has scheduled an interview with the Post on Tuesday morning to provide further information about this issue.
Facing opposition from Alderman Harris, proponents of the plan have attempted to sweeten the pot in an effort to gain her support, including promises for a new Boys & Girls Club location and public works improvements in her ward, she told the Post.
Harris, who represents the Pembroke Community as part of her ward, released Blaney’s memo on her alderman Facebook page on Thursday evening and explained her involvement in the plan.
“I was invited to a meeting to talk about the city possibly donating a very big plot of land that is located in my ward in Pembroke,” Harris said on her alderman Facebook page. “They also wanted us to pay the cost of demolition of some Trent Court Buildings and they would in return give the city some waterfront wetlands.
“It was stated that they wanted to relocate Trent Court Residents to the property they would build in Pembroke area but also give them a right to come back to the Trent Court area after they rebuild new homes and condos.”
Harris said she didn’t agree with the plan and said it sounded like a case of gentrification (although she also said she would support the deal if the Housing Authority paid full price for the Carolina Avenue property).
“Then I was asked to a second meeting but this time they added the Boys & Girls Club into to the mix,” Harris said. “Basically what I got out of the meeting is, we would help the Boys & Girls Club if the city once again provides the big plot of land in Pembroke. At this meeting, I personally made it clear that I am not in favor of any deal.
“I have never given misleading information,” she wrote, referring to Blaney’s memo describing his version of the plan as different from hers. “I never stated that the city wants control over the property and I simply stated that I would only vote yes if full price was offered for the land.
“I am doing the job that I was voted into office to do. I refuse to be a ‘Yes Man’! If I don’t like the idea and I ask my constituents about the idea and they don’t like it as well, then leave it alone.”
Commissioner Frederick said he was not aware of any request for the city to pay for any demolition in Trent Court, or any promises to pay for public works projects in her ward.
Preliminary plans have been released for the proposed 850-acre Martin Marietta Park that depict something the size and scope of which would make it one of the most significant municipal parks in the state.
Aldermen, the mayor, staff and advisers will meet upstairs at City Hall at 1 p.m. Monday to discuss the park and a proposed city redevelopment area and commission. (Link to agenda; note that the link has a limited shelf life.)
As depicted in maps, Martin Marietta Park would include a large amphitheater, swimming area, boating area, hiking trails and numerous other features. The plan does not indicate how the city would pay for developing the park.
Fresh from her first National League of Cities conference in Washington D.C., Alderman Jameesha Harris returnedto New Bern on Tuesday eager to spread the conference’s theme, “Rebuild with Us.”
During her return trip from D.C., her head filled with all sorts of dynamic, innovative things that she was eager to see happen here, Harris excitedly texted her fellow aldermen and city staff to look into a program called Opportunity Zones.
And then she got shut down.
(Anyone who has ever attended a professional conference, only to have everything you’ve learned dismissed by the gatekeepers in the home office, raise your hand.)
According to Goman+York, a real estate and economic development firm based in East Hartford, Connecticut, “The Opportunity Zones provision aims to attract longer-term investment to certain eligible areas, focusing on Opportunity Zones — those areas that struggle most with issues such as high poverty rates and sluggish economic growth in the job sector. BisNow noted recently that the bill is structured to be particularly generous towards real estate developers, especially those willing to invest in an area for longer than 10 years.” Full story here
Time is short if the city wants to take advantage of Opportunity Zones benefits, Harris said. Applicant cities have until March 31 to apply or ask for extension from their state governors’ offices.
City Development Services Director Jeff Ruggieri said he looked into it over a couple of days. The program left him underwhelmed, and in essence he shut down Harris’ push to have the program applied in New Bern.
He said similar ideas have been around since 1980s under different names — Enterprise Zone, Freedom Zone, Promise Zone. Those programs had a lot of criteria attached, he said, mainly to create jobs, affordable housing, or both.
He said reviews have been mixed on the Opportunity Zones and that this program has no criteria that he can find. It’s a fund set up based on deferred taxes for people who have capital gains, he said.
“It’s kind an odd program at this point in time. The way I see it, there is nothing that says you need to create jobs. All these other ones say, here, you can go through this program, but you need to do something. You need to create low income housing, you need to create so many jobs. Can’t find any criteria with this program at all.
“It seems kind of counter intuitively as it is applied. Since there’s really no stated goal, … there’s no goal of creating a low income housing or anything like that. The goal really is just to create money. Which can work, we can create projects that would work for something like this, but I don’t think we’re there yet. We really need a specific project and a very specific plan. Need a lot more infrastructure in place, human capital. A lot more capacity to really make this work.
“It’s another incentive, another tool. We have a lot of tools in the tool box incentive wise, especially to apply in our Greater Duffyfield Area.
“But there’s 20 years of data out there that really address incentives and whether they work or if they don’t. Overwhelmingly they really don’t work, they don’t make much of a difference. There’s a couple of projects here and there that work, but over all they really don’t do much.”
Ruggieri said the best way to incentivize development and jobs in a community “is to do some really simple things. Create a safe place for people to live and children to play. Have great schools. Create inclusive transportation system. Sidewalks, safe public transportation. Create a great place to look at. Those things are really what works, and plenty of empirical evidence to support that.
“This (Opportunity Zones) could be another tool, I just don’t see us using it yet,” he said.
There are plenty of examples of “really simple things” that the city is rolling out around the city — just not in the Five Points area, Duffyfield or Dryborough. The only programs the city is actively pursuing in those areas is the demolition of dilapidated buildings and the foreclosing of distressed properties the city in turn has been selling at a loss of thousands of dollars per property.
In short, the city’s efforts in those parts of town are failing. A program like Opportunity Zones, which seek private investment, may succeed where the city has failed. Only problem is that, because it lacks criteria, it would be hard for City Hall to control Opportunity Zones investments.
Harris was a first-time attendee at the National League of Cities conference, learning information and interacting with peers from across the nation. She mentioned another program on Tuesday, Race Equity Leadership Initiative. She said it provides grant money for a consultant to come out and assess whether the community is diverse.
That’s a program that really does seem to serve no purpose. The answer is obvious: New Bern has an ethnically diverse population but an ethnically segregated social structure.
Check out the local country clubs and golf courses and count the number of non-white faces you see there (other than the employees). Stroll through downtown and count the number of non-white faces you encounter. Ask the Chamber of Commerce what percentage of its members are non-white. Go to church on Sundays and look at the congregations. Drive through Trent Woods and River Bend, then Duffyfield, Dryborough and James City. How many African American students attend Epiphany School or many other church-based schools in this community? How many of New Bern’s public elementary schools are ethnically diverse?
Diversity actually does exist somewhat in New Bern’s major retail stores (most notably Wal-Mart) and restaurants (RIP Golden Corral). Many workplaces in New Bern are diverse (again, Wal-Mart).
But overall, New Bern has a long way to go. Opportunity Zones may not fit the mold that City Hall is creating for its vision of New Bern, but maybe that’s exactly what it needs if it is going to fix Duffyfield, Dryborough and Greater Five Points.