Category: Craven County Board of Commissioners

February 17th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Out (for now): Hotel and parking structure at Craven and Pollock

 

Policy wonks from the UNC School of Government are urging the City of New Bern to turn its attention from a possible parking structure and hotel across from City Hall, and return its attention to a vacant lot at the corner of Craven and South Front streets.

UNC SoG special projects managers Marcia Perritt and Omar Kashef appeared before the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday to advise on behalf of the pivot.

The Pollock and Craven parking structure/hotel SoG had been advocating has been put on hold while Craven County officials decide whether they want to participate. Participation for the county is no small matter. It includes moving the county tax office, donating the property on which the tax office resides to the project, and pooling its tax revenues from the ensuing project until the city pays off the seven-figure costs to build the parking deck.

Editor note: My notes are incomplete, and the PDF the city originally posted online for the project is offline at the moment. Link

The vacant lot at the corner of Craven and South Front streets was acquired by the city as two separate purchases totaling $209,000 in 2000 and 2001. Tax value of the property is now listed at $567,630.

In the mid-2000s, Talbots looked at the property to build a department store, but opposition to the plan put a stop to that. Since then, the lot has been home to grass and one stately tree, with occasional events being held there.

SoG envisions a hotel being built on the property, assuming that some agreement could be made with the city to lease nearby public parking spaces for hotel guests.

SoG apparently is unaware that nearby municipal parking lots are part of a proposed parking master plan tied in with enforced two-hour parking streetside and a push to get visitors and downtown workers to use the municipal parking lots.

Kashef said the goal of SoG’s efforts is to keep people downtown after 5 p.m. by finding projects that serve the public interest and that are financially feasible.

Other areas needing attention, he said, are undeveloped and under-developed parcels and buildings, insufficient parking, and development of second-story uses such as residential and office space. The

Alderman Sabrina Bengel pointed out that downtown’s second-floor spaces are being developed “one right after another. I don’t see that holding us back as much as development of empty lots, vacant buildings and underutilized buildings.”

Bengel also urged SoG to make sure there is public participation in the process.

Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey reminded that the Five Points area continues to lack any attention from the city in terms of economic development.

“It would be good to see the city grow together,” he said.

 

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Craven County Board of Commissioners, Mayor, New Bern, New Bern business and commerce

January 5th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

First off, the obvious

Things are getting back to normal now that the holidays are behind us.

Just kidding. With snow and ice blanketing the region, it’s like having an extra week off for the Christmas break. Schools have been closed since Wednesday. So much of New Bern was shut down on Thursday, it nearly felt like Christmas Day.

Though we were well supplied with food, cabin fever drove us from the house and we thank the folks at Sonic and Piggly Wiggly for braving the weather and serving our needs. Other businesses were open, too … these are just the two we happened to visit.

There was enough snow that sledders had more than enough for two full days of sledding on the U.S. 70/Country Club Road interchange, with more sledding days likely through the weekend.

And Tyson makes two

Craven County Commissioner Steve Tyson announced on his Facebook wall that he will not be seeking reelection this year. Scott Dacey is also not running for county commissioner, instead seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Walter Jones.

Beneath a picture of a torch being passed, Tyson said this on his Facebook wall:

I want to thank the citizens of Craven County for allowing me the privilege of serving as one of their County Commissioners for the past eleven years. It has been a wonderful experience and I feel like we, meaning the County Board and the 650 County employees, staff and department heads that work for the County, have accomplished quite a lot during my tenure. I have enjoyed working with all of the other Commissioners despite at times not always in agreement with them on all issues. When we disagreed on one issue we moved on to the next issue without remorse.

It is with some sadness that I am announcing that I will not seek reelection next year. I will have served 12 years when I finish my current term and It is time to pass the torch. The County is well managed and in excellent financial condition.

I utilized my 35 years of business experience and exercised a businesslike approach in my decision-making for the County government and I would hope my successor will also take that approach.

When my term is up I will forever remain a cheerleader and advocate for the city and County in which I was born and love.

Again, thanks for your past support, and may 2018 be a blessed year to all.

Tyson will undoubtedly remain busy. He is a Realtor, owns an inn, hosts a weekly TV program, is an amateur historian. Am I missing anything? I feel as though I am missing a lot.

 

Things get rolling

The first Board of Aldermen meeting of the new year, and the first full meeting of the newly constituted board, is on Tuesday, and its agenda is just packed with interesting stuff. Packed!

Highlights include:

Public hearing on recommendations from the Master Parking Plan Advisory Committee. At least one alderman, Sabrina Bengel, has expressed reservations about at least a portion of the recommendations. Fun fact: a member of the committee, downtown New Bern businessman Buddy Bengel, is her son.

Discussion of potential lease of the old Firemen’s Museum building at 408 Hancock St. It’s an interesting series of twists. The previous board sped (synonym for “bum’s rush”) the Firemen’s Museum’s departure from the building ostensibly to sell the property during a period which the city sought to shed surplus properties. But in the end the city could not sell the building. A group of local artists, meanwhile, approached the board hoping to lease the building. Now it looks like the building could be taken over by Parks & Recreation.

Consider adopting a policy for naming city fire trucks. The city started doing this in 1879, but Mayor Dana Outlaw expressed doubt whether that long tradition is actually a policy.

Consider a resolution leading to reducing First Street from four lanes to two (“Road Diet”). The latest trend among transportation boffins is not to add lanes to accommodate more city traffic, but to reduce lanes. It makes surface streets safer, they say.

Speaking of fire trucks

Alderman Jeffrey Odham had a poll on his Facebook page that ended Friday. Here is the question (more of a leading statement, really) and the results:

New Bern has a long tradition of putting the sitting Mayor’s name on fire trucks purchased while they are in office. Most are aware of the controversy surrounding this tradition due to the issues of the former Mayor. Evidently there are two Aldermen that feel we should issue a resolution supporting this tradition. Some of the ideas that hat (sic) have been discussed are a Fireman of the Year from within the NBFD, honor fallen firefighters, name them after non-profits throughout the community, etc.

27%Keep the tradition

73%Do something different

171 Votes

In the interest of full disclosure, I had to vote in the poll in order to see the results. I was among the 27 percent who voted to keep the tradition.

Pat Schaible phoned home

In response to my commentary, Why New Bern’s ward system is necessary, a sitting alderman and a former alderman weighed in.

The two focused on a particular passage in the commentary:

So what did (former alderman E.T.) Mitchell accomplish during her year as an alderman?

She worked on goals set out for her by the mayor and other members of the board (which means, mainly, Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham).

On its face that sounds great, but it put her in a sort of unique position on the board: no other alderman or the mayor had their agenda set for them by other members of the board.

While Ward 3 may have been represented, it was the only ward during that year whose alderman’s main purpose was accomplishing tasks set out for her by aldermen from other wards.

Alderman Jeffrey Odham took issue, leading to the following exchange between him and me:

Odham: Randy, I’m curious as to what you mean when you say that Alderman Mitchell worked on goals laid out for her by the mayor and other board members, mainly me. What do you mean by that exactly and where do you get that idea

Me: She said so in her final comments on the board.

Odham: 

Interesting. I’ll have to go back and watch ch because I don’t recall those comments. Thanks for bringing it to light. Although I don’t remember setting out any specific goals and objectives for Alderman Mitchell. She came in with her own agenda for Ward 3 based on things her and Alderman Schaible had discussed (flashing lights at Taberna, widening of Old Airport Road, etc.)

Former alderman Pat Schaible chimed in, as well. She was the alderman who resigned and who was replaced by Mitchell. Schaible wrote:

Alderman Odham is correct in that I had lengthly conversations with Alderman Mitchell about the concerns of Ward 3 (including the flashing lights at Taberna and the widening of Airport Road). In fact, I gave Alderman Mitchell my entire file cabinet with everything fully documented.

Comments and Tips for Friday free-for-all

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Craven County Board of Commissioners, Mayor, New Bern, New Bern business and commerce, New Bern Fire Department

December 13th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin
Note: This has been corrected since originally posted to reflect that there had never been more than two women on the board, not one.

The glass ceiling was cracked, if not shattered, on Tuesday, as three women took their seats on a Board of Aldermen that had never had more than two female members throughout its existence.

 



 

And one of the first things the more feminine board did on Tuesday was vote unanimously to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment.

In 1972, a proposed Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) to the Constitution passed both houses of the U.S. Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. To add the ERA to the Constitution, ratification was needed by 38 states prior to 1982. Only 35 of the required 38 states ratified the ERA by this deadline.

Earlier this year, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. (More)

North Carolina has not ratified the ERA. In 2015 and 2017, bills supporting state ratification were introduced to the N.C. General Assembly in both the House and Senate, but the General Assembly has still yet to ratify the amendment. U.S. Representatives G. K. Butterfield, David Price, and Alma Adams cosponsored bills in the 114th Congress to pass an ERA and lift the time limits on the states for ratifying the ERA.

The resolution aldermen approved on Tuesday calls on the N.C. General Assembly to ratify the amendment and for Congress to remove the time limit for ratification and pass the ERA.

Ward 2 Alderman Jameesha Harris introduced the resolution, saying that she had approached the all-male Craven County Board of Commissioners to seek support without success.

“I hope to set the tone and show the Board of Commissioners that this is how you do it,” she said.

Ward 1 Alderman Sabrina Bengel said she was in school protesting for equal rights in 1972: she wore pants, and was sent home.

Earlier in the meeting, Bengel pointed out that women make up 53.3 percent of the population in New Bern, and though she said she didn’t think she needed a piece of paper to give her equal rights, she supported the motion and seconded it. The motion passed on a 7-0 vote.

Here is the resolution:

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT

WHEREAS, the City of New Bern forthrightly supports equal rights for the citizens of New Bern; and women constitute over 53 percent of the citizenry of New Bern; and

WHEREAS, women play a critical role in families, the workplace, and in society, contributing to our economy and advancing our city and our nation; and

WHEREAS, women continue to confront a lack of political parity, workplace discrimination, health care inequities, disparate rates of poverty, rape and domestic violence assaults; and

WHEREAS, the US Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that all rights that it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex; and

WHEREAS, the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause has never been interpreted to guarantee equal rights for women in the same way the ERA would, by situating sex as a suspect category invoking strict judicial scrutiny, just as race, national origin and religion do; and

WHEREAS, state laws are not uniform and federal laws are not comprehensive; additionally, these laws can be repealed or reduced; and

WHEREAS, the Amendment would help correct systemic sex discrimination; and

WHEREAS, the ERA was passed by Congress in 1972 and ratified by 35 of the 38 states necessary to put it into the Constitution, yet was assumed to have expired in 1982; and

WHEREAS, Congress can alter time limits in the proposing clauses of amendments; and the deadline for ERA appeared only in the preamble and not in the actual legislation; and

WHEREAS, US Representatives G.K. Butterfield, David Price and Alma Adams co-sponsored the bills in the 114 Congress to pass an ERA and to lift the time limits on the states for ratifying the ERA.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of New Bern calls on Congress to pass into law a bill to pass an ERA and remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA so that ratification shall be achieved upon the affirmative vote of 38states, of which 35 have already ratified; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the City of New Bern calls on the NC General Assembly to pass into law a bill to ratify the ERA to the US Constitution as proposed by Congress on March 22, 1972.

This the 12th day of December, 2017.

(Signed Mayor Dana Outlaw and City Clerk Brenda Blanco)

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Craven County Board of Commissioners, Mayor, New Bern

December 6th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin

Belk, the North Carolina-based retailer that relies so much on holiday receipts to meet investor expectations, got into some hot water over its decision to ban Salvation Army bell ringers, so much so that it has reversed course and decided bell ringers are welcome, after all.

Here’s the Tweet that Belk sent out on Dec. 2:

Merry Christmas! The picture Belk included in its Tweet that it had restored bell-ringing privileges to its stores.

Christmas truly is the giving season and we’d like to welcome Salvation Army bell ringers to all 294 Belk stores. Merry Christmas! 

Happy ending to a story that started badly for the retailer, which has a store at New Bern Mall.

Belk was once a family-owned chain, but no more. It is now owned by Sycamore Partners, which also owns Staples, Dollar Express, Coldwater Creek, Talbots and a bunch of other things.

Steve Tyson, a New Bern real estate agent, Cable TV show host, amateur historian, and county commissioner, was among the first to squawk about the bell ban on Dec. 1.

“I was very disappointed to hear today that the new manager at the New Bern Belk store will not allow the Salvation Army to have their bell ringers there this year. The Salvation Army raises about 1/3 of their funds through the bell ringing campaign,” Tyson said on his Facebook page.

“Good news is that J.C. Penney is allowing the Salvation Army at their store so shop at J.C.Penney and you will see my smiling face doing the ring-a-ding. If this info is disappointing to you please share and shop at J.C. Penney.”

Tyson’s post got some traction. Since he posted it on Saturday morning, his post was liked or wowed or sadded by 117 people, had 128 shares and 51 comments, not counting the comments others made to comments.

Later Saturday, Tyson posted this update:

“The manager of the NB Belk store called me and said that the decision not to allow the Salvation Army to ring bells at Belk was a corporate decision, not hers. I believe her and we had a good conversation. There are some stores that had committed to the Salvation Army prior to the corporate decision and that is why they are ringing bells at the store in Morehead. Belk was once a family run store. They were recently bought out by a large private equity firm called Sycamore Partners firm based out of New York. I personally believe, but have no proof ,the decision was made because the Salvation army is a Christian based organization. Their decision will cost the Salvation Army, a great charity, in excess of $1,000,000. I bet it will cost Belk more than that.”

Tyson and his Facebook followers weren’t the only ones complaining about the Belk ban on bell ringers.

“Hundreds of Wilsonians — and thousands of shoppers throughout the Southeast — expressed their outrage with Belk after news that charitable contributions would be taken at the register as part of a Home for the Holidays campaign with Habitat for Humanity in lieu of the Salvation Army’s red kettles being placed outside the stores,” the Wilson Times reported.

“‘As you know, Belk decided to focus our giving this holiday season with our Home for the Holidays campaign, and during the process of making that commitment stronger, we mistakenly left out the Salvation Army at some stores,” said Belk public relations manager Tyler Hampton in a statement Monday and reported in the Wilson Times. “But we have fixed that. We have had a long relationship with the Salvation Army, and they are absolutely welcome at all of our 294 stores

“And they will certainly be a part of our community commitment moving forward.”

 

 

Posted in Craven County Board of Commissioners, New Bern business and commerce Tagged with:

November 24th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin

In 1992, the same year Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as president, the City of New Bern installed a software system called Banner. It’s still in use today, even though the software developer got out of the municipal software business long ago and focuses on education institutional software now.

Only one person among the 450 who work at New Bern City Hall knows how to maintain the Banner system, and the company that makes it will stop supporting the version the city uses in early 2018.

The city’s aging software system has been a subject of conversation by city leaders for at least eight years, but because the “current” version is aging out in 2018, there has been an increased sense of urgency that began in March.

The city has zeroed in on an “enterprise resource planning” (ERP for short) software package called Munis by Tyler Technologies. Described as the Cadillac of municipal software packages, Munis is used by more than 1,500 counties and cities including 89 in North Carolina and two in Craven County (Craven County, which is installing the system, and Havelock).

Munis will be able to handle functions throughout city hall, including financials, human resources management, computer information services, utility billing, contract and purchasing, content management, project and grant accounting, comprehensive annual financial report, time and attendance, work orders, talent management and permits and inspections.

In New Bern, those functions are presently handled by six other software systems or some other workaround (including forms filled out by hand, in triplicate). Costs to run and maintain the systems run at $273,000 a year, and with needed upgrades would cost the city $3.94 million over the next 10 years.

The Munis system, on the other hand, would cost the city about $106,000 a year following an up-front implementation cost of $1.35 million. The 10-year cost with the new system would be $2.6 million.

So, in boffin-speak, the city would save $1.34 million over 10 years by going with the new system, plus have software that is more integrated and user-friendly.

The bid for the project expires at the end of this month, so there was a sense of urgency in moving forward.

The Board of Aldermen went over the specs during a work session on Tuesday, but inexplicably went ahead and OK’d the new system (6-1, with Mayor Dana Outlaw voting against, saying that he would rather gamble on the price going up than gamble on the budgeted contingency — $115,000 — being sufficient to pay for unforeseen costs).

Inexplicably? The meeting was a work session, not a regular meeting. The board has one more meeting this month, on Nov. 28, before the bid expires. Typically, among most local elected bodies, work sessions are intended to work out bugs and regular sessions are intended to take action. Both run off agendas that are publicly available, both types of meetings are public, but regular sessions tend to be better attended by the public and media.

It amounts to a lame-duck board (four new members — a majority of the seven-member board — take office in December) committing to spend more than a million bucks during a work session just weeks before the new members take their seats. Erp!

Regardless of anything else, Outlaw said, because of the outdated system now in place, “This board or the next will implement a new system.”

Aldermen-elect Sabrina Bengel and Jameesha Harris attended Tuesday’s work session as private citizens. (Aldermen-elect Bobby Aster and Barbara Best did not.) Mayor Outlaw gave Bengel and Harris the floor to express any concerns. Harris said she supports city staff’s proposal and would vote for it.

Bengel, on the other hand, had some questions. She wanted to know why the cost increased from when it was initially unveiled in October, to when it was re-presented on Tuesday. City staff accounted for some of the discrepancy, but not the majority of it. Bengel also wanted to know whether the system would be compatible with the city’s electric utility billing software, which handles $80 million per year in utility payments.

“I strongly support the new system,” Bengel said. “I’m just concerned about the missing pieces.”

Following the meeting, Bengel expressed concerns about a decision involving such high expense being made at a work session. She sent Mayor Outlaw a message about her concerns:

My overall comment is that a Work Session should be for review and comment only and not a vote, especially when spending that large amount of taxpayer dollars. I do understand that the voting part of the agenda was noticed but felt strongly that it should not have been included in the agenda. There was no representative from Tyler to really assure us of what the system can and can not do. I also was concerned that you did not have any comment from Jordan or Carl Toler relative to the AMI system and the pay as you go application.

Our citizens deserve better when it comes to spending large sums of money and this item should have been scheduled for a vote at the next regular meeting of the Board of Alderman.  There still is a regular meeting on November 28th so the vote could have taken place then and possibly a Tyler rep could have been present and still meet the Nov 30 quote deadline.  I like you agree that Tyler would have happily given us at least another 30 days on a contract of this size.

Going forward I will ask the Board of Aldermen to review our policy for Work Sessions. The most transparent thing would be that during Work Sessions we review and discuss items in an informal manner that will be coming forward for a formal vote in the future. Work sessions should be where we get and digest information on particular items and then allow us some time to do additional research or ask questions based on what we learned at the Work Session.  If an item must be decided due to deadlines, etc I would ask that a special meeting be called to make the vote.

I am committed to working towards a more transparent process for our Board and most importantly for our citizens.

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Craven County Board of Commissioners, Mayor, New Bern Tagged with:

November 16th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin

This article is a stub while I wait to receive the news release from Billy Joiner.

Meanwhile, here is his bio from the Town of Trent Woods website:

Commissioner/Mayor Pro Tem
Billy R .Joiner.jpg
  • “Resident for 39 years”
  • Worked for Sprint for 37 years
  • Married with 2 daughters, sons-in-law and 4 grandchildren
  • Retired from the West of New Bern Volunteer Fire Department with 20 years
  • Active member of Tabernacle Baptist Church
  • Crossing Guard of Bangert Elementary School
  • 20 years as a referee for youth basketball & umpire for youth baseball
  • Serves on Town’s Citizens Emergency Response Team
  • Shriner & Mason
  • Serves on local Community Watch program
  • Retired military E-8 after 4 years US Air Force  3 years NC National and 23 years US Army Reserve

Trent Woods resident

Posted in Craven County Board of Commissioners, New Bern

November 15th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin

Sometime soon, when you call 911 in New Bern for an ambulance, the 911 dispatcher may ask a lot of questions that, in the heat of the moment, may seem beside the point.

But the questions 911 dispatchers ask, and the answers they get in return, will save lives.

New Bern’s 911 dispatchers are rolling out a system called “Emergency Medical Dispatch.” The system is a combination of software and training that allow 911 dispatchers to ask medically pertinent questions and then give medical advice about how to save that person’s life.

The program was hatched in New Bern earlier this year, and in October the first phase of implementation began: software installation and training.

Expect to see a PR blitz including brochures and a video explaining the system.

Said Dr. Stanley Koontz, Emergency Medical Services coordinator for Craven and surrounding counties, “We’re trying to make our city safer. I think we can save some lives. This is a good first step.”

Craven County 911 dispatchers have already been using the Emergency Medical Dispatch system for some time, said Koontz.

If you find yourself in one of those situations, don’t worry that the EMTs and ambulance will be delayed while you are answering questions and delivering first aid. The dispatchers will have already taken care of those details simultaneously.

 

 

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Craven County Board of Commissioners, Mayor Tagged with:

November 9th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin

Saltwater Creek LLC, a real estate company that lists New Bern lawyer Kelly Greene as its manager, has put in a bid for $109,000 for long-vacant commercial building on Broad Street.

The two-story office building is on a half acre lot at 509 Broad St. The Craven County tax office puts the building’s value at $310,000.

The building, constructed in 1950, was once the location for Craven County Council on Aging and more recently the Craven County Probation Office. The building has been vacant for years.

At one point there was a plan to turn the building into a business incubator and work was started. But drainage problems in the rear parking area put an end to that project.

Saltwater Creek LLC is listed as a real estate business. In the limited liability corporation filing, Greene lists the company’s address as 401 Middle St., the same location as the law firm in which he is a partner, GreeneWilson, P.A.

GreeneWilson, P.A., is located in the renovated Clark’s Drug Store at the corner of Broad and Middle streets, location of a famous desegregation protest sit-in in 1960.

The Craven County Board of Commissioners accepted the offer at its meeting on Tuesday, which will be followed by the property being advertised for upset bids in accordance with General Statutes. If no further upset bids are received, the county may accept or reject the final offer, according to a Board of Commissioners report.

209 Broad St. is located in a C-4 zoning district, which the city of New Bern defines as: The C-4 neighborhood business district is established as a district in which the principal use of land is to provide for the retailing of goods and services to the nearby residential neighborhoods. The regulations of this district are designed to limit the businesses which may be established therein in order to protect the abutting residential areas.

Posted in Craven County Board of Commissioners, New Bern, New Bern business and commerce

November 8th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin

Paid parking on Broad Street won’t be among the recommendations an advisory committee brings to the Board of Aldermen at its Nov. 21 meeting.

The Downtown Parking Advisory Committee also decided not to meddle with current parking rules on Broad Street, New Street, Hancock Street and Metcalf Street.

Both proposals were among several contained in a draft list of recommendations that came before the committee on Tuesday. The committee will finalize its plan on Tuesday, Nov. 14, before bringing its recommendations to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

The committee will likely proceed with its recommendation to start enforcing 2-hour parking limits in the core of Downtown New Bern and call for improved directional signage to get motorists to city parking lots at the Farmers Market on South Front Street and at the intersection of New and Middle streets, among others.

The two-hour parking limit would be in effect from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, excluding holidays. The purpose of the limit is to discourage downtown workers from using on-street parking and instead use city off-street parking. It is estimated that 300-400 on-street parking spaces downtown are being used by people who work downtown each weekday, in an area where there are only 464 on-street parking spaces.

Studies of downtown parking in New Bern report that employee-used on-street parking is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales each year from motorists leaving the downtown discouraged over a shortage of parking.

The two-hour enforcement brings its own set of complications, namely enforcement. New Bern Police Chief Toussaint Summers, when asked about the chances of having parking enforcement officers ready starting on Jan. 1, 2018, formed a zero with his thumb and index finger.

He recommended the city hire up to three officers, plus a supervisor, to enforce parking downtown and also serve as community resource officers, much like those stationed at local schools, to enhance law enforcement downtown, develop good community-police relations, and adequately deal with parking enforcement.

It would take as long as four months to recruit, hire police officers to fill the positions once they are approved by the Board of Aldermen, and then six months more to receive field training and equip them.

It is possible that he could backfill the downtown positions with current police staff — the department has just one vacancy, the lowest vacancy rate since he became chief in 2011 (just to compare, Wilson’s police department has 16 vacancies and Kinston’s has 10). But Chief Summers said he would prefer to use his officers on the force now to fight drug use and sales in the city.

A suggestion by City Manager Mark Stephens that parking enforcement could be contracted out to a private firm was generally rejected by the committee.

Said committee member Danny Batten, “This is more than a financial decision. If we bring in contractors, who knows how they’ll treat our visitors, or how they’ll treat our business owners. I see value in having community resource officers.”

Rather than work out the details about enforcement, the committee decided it would simply recommend that 2-hour parking be enforced, and leave it to the Board of Aldermen and city staff to work out the details.

There would be a phase-in period once the 2-hour limit is enforced, during which motorists would receive a warning rather than a ticket.

The committee may also recommend the fine for a parking ticket be increased from $5 to $25, which would double if it isn’t paid after 30 days.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Craven County Board of Commissioners, Mayor, New Bern, New Bern business and commerce

November 5th, 2017 by newbernpostadmin

Lots of folks in downtown New Bern think they dodged a bullet when a downtown parking advisory committee leaned against recommending paid parking throughout downtown.

Except along Broad Street. Folks there are still at the shooty-shooty end of the barrel.

The committee will probably recommend that the city start enforcing the two-hour parking limit downtown. But anticipating an exodus of cars to nearby unregulated streets starting with Broad Street, the committee came up with the idea of installing paid parking kiosks charging a dollar an hour on Broad Street from the traffic circle to Middle Street.

Parking would be free on nights, weekends, holidays and election day, by the way.

Most committee members thought it would be a good idea to see how folks along that stretch felt about the idea. (Alderman Jeffrey Odham being the only exception.) So they sent out invitations.

Of those who responded, here’s what they said:

Gary Clemmons, partner at Chesnutt, Clemmons & Peacock

Clemmons said the law firm has been at 225 Broad St. since 1994 and downtown since 1985. He said his offices has three partners and 13 employees, but the 10-space parking lot at his building is generally reserved for clients. That means the 15 people in his offices park on-street, competing for the 50 parking spaces along the 200-300 block of Broad Street.

His employees face the prospect of paying $2,000 a year to park on the street near where they work.

That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. He said District Court’s criminal calendar draws 300-600 people downtown, and “those people have to have somewhere to park. They come and need to stay all day.”

He anticipates the crowds will take up spaces in nearby neighborhoods where it is free and there are no time limits.

“A lot of those people are elderly,” he said. “I don’t think you should impede people from accessing the court houses.”

“There are no other blocks affected,” he said. It’s unfair, he said, and gives other law firms elsewhere downtown at a competitive advantage where parking is free.

Meloni Wray, director of the Craven County Board of Elections

She said the county already has problems with voter turnout without having something like paid parking to further complicate the process. The Board of Elections has already voted in opposition to paid parking.

During elections where crowds actually show up to vote, such as presidential elections, there may be a three-hour wait, she said.

Jack Veit, Craven County manager

Craven County is one of downtown’s largest employers and landowners. He urged the city to look for other options and not seek a plan that amounts to “self-inflicted chaos.”

He urged the committee to hold off making any decisions about paid parking on Broad Street.

Terri Sharp, clerk of Craven County Superior Court

She said people travel to the court house for many reasons, including criminal cases. Her office handles adoptions, estates, trusts, foreclosures, name changes, boundary disputes, domestic cases, small claims, Department of Social Services cases, juvenile court … and on andon anonanonanon.

The courts also deal with jury selection, 150 jurors per term, two per month … all looking for parking places.

City Manager Mark Stephens

He said New Bern is a 300-year-old city that has been kicking the can down the road rather than solving parking problems, which have existed for 100 years.

He points out the conundrum in solving downtown parking issues. A shortage of spaces (caused in no small part by employees and managers taking up on-street parking) would be solved by enforced two-hour parking, but would not be practical on Broad Street, where visitors may need to park all day due to court calendars.

“Judge Alford is not going to recess every two hours so everyone can move their cars,” Stephens said.

Paid parking would provide an option for court visitors while at the same time discouraging people from parking there if their business is in the commercial areas of downtown.

Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham

He said he was opposed to having Broad Street interests come to the committee to give feedback. He said the advisory committee has spent several months working toward solutions, and advised against “outside influences” and “everyone’s individual opinion” interfere with the committee’s recommendation.

“We’re not going to make everybody happy,” he said. “We want to find a way to make everyone equally unhappy.”

“Other cities have the same situation as New Bern with paid parking,” he said. “We need to make it work here.”

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Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Craven County Board of Commissioners, Mayor, New Bern, New Bern business and commerce Tagged with:

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