Category: New Bern

May 20th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin
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The owners of Courts Plus will close their struggling New Bern location on May 31 and focus their resources on the Jacksonville location.

Owners Jan and Tim Stelma made the announcement in a letter to club members.

“May 31, 2018, will be the last day of operations for Courts Plus of New Bem. As you all know, we were forced into bankruptcy almost two years ago and have been working hard to continue operations. Despite the best efforts of all, New Barn continues to suffer financially. My husband and I will continue full operations in Jacksonville and put our efforts there.”

The Stelmas bought the Jacksonville Courts Plus in 1989 and the New Bern club in 1990.

“We do not know what will become of the club or property in New Bern, but we do know we walk away wtth heavy hearts In this very difficult season.”

They said they may offer limited memberships to New Bern club members to use the Jacksonville club.

Located at 2911 Brunswick Ave., Courts Plus is a full-service health club with indoor and outdoor pools. Its troubles coincide with the arrival of Planet Fitness, whose prices undercut other fitness services in New Bern.

Posted in Business, New Bern Tagged with:

May 18th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

If you are new to the area, find out where to go and NOT to go.

  • When: Saturday, May 19th, 9 a.m. until noon
  • Where: New Bern Convention Center, 203 South Front Street, New Bern
  • Cost: $10 (additional household members FREE); includes information-packed CD

As every boater knows, obtaining local knowledge is an important part of a safe and enjoyable boating experience. In this educational seminar, you will receive detailed information about the Neuse River and adjoining waters. While the primary focus is on the Neuse and Trent rivers, you will also learn the locations and features of many popular anchorages, marinas, and boatyards in the Neuse and Pamlico river basins, as well as the ICW to Morehead City/Beaufort and on to Cape Lookout.

The presentation will incorporate electronic charting but it would be helpful for you to bring NOAA charts 11552 and 11548 (or their equivalents) to follow along. To get the most from this presentation, the attendees should already have some general boating knowledge. This is not a basic boating course.

In another seminar offered Saturday, SEVERE WEATHER – PREPARATION AND PLANNING, find out what to do and what NOT to do when severe weather threatens.

  • When: Saturday, May 19 , 1-4 p.m.
  • Where: New Bern Convention Center, 203 S. Front St., New Bern. This course if free but pre-registration is required and seating is limited.
  • Cost: Free

This information packed afternoon begins with a presentation by a severe weather prediction expert who will discuss what to know and where to get information about severe weather threats for boaters. He will be followed by an expert panel including marina and boat yard managers who will answer your questions about how to prepare your vessel to ride out the storm.

For more information and to register this seminar e-mail: David Fort dbfort@gmail.com or call and leave a message at 252 672-1653

On the Web at http://www.newberncgaux.org/

The U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the United States Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit http://www.newberncgaux.org/.

Posted in New Bern Tagged with:

May 8th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Aldermen meet this evening to hold a public hearing into how the city will spend taxpayer and user fee money during the next fiscal year.

This is the first budget for the newly coined Board of Aldermen, which met during budget workshops last week that lasted just over 11 hours.

As presented by city staff, the draft budget is fairly status quo and would not result in any additional taxes or fees. However, City Manager Mark Stephens also laid out a number of steps aldermen could take to raise addition revenue to pay for new projects. (Fun fact: “Raise revenue” is boffin-speak for new fees and higher taxes.)

That’s where you come in. This evening’s meeting is when average citizens (that is, those who don’t have board members on speed dial or over for a round of golf) have their say on how the city should spend its money.

During last week’s workshops, which were public but extremely tedious to sit through (video here), board members set up a virtual “parking lot” that includes projects, initiatives and wishes that were not included in the draft budget.

Included in the parking lot are things like $75,000 toward a long-promised community center in the Pleasant Hill community, employee pay raises, aldermen pay raises, and a second animal control officer.

But the biggest thing in the parking lot is $350,000 for six additional firefighter positions that would be based at Fire Station 2 on Thurman Road.

One truck company is based at the station now, but because of OSHA rules, those firefighters can’t enter a burning building until a second truck arrives, usually from the Headquarters Station near downtown New Bern. That could take as long as 10 minutes, an eternity in terms of protecting life and property in a structure fire.

Much of New Bern is well-protected by existing Fire Department manpower and equipment, but the fringes of the city are not. Increasing staffing at Station 2 would plug one gap, but others remain that will have to be addressed over time and as money becomes available.

(A third fire station is on Elizabeth Avenue, covering the north and west ends of New Bern.)

City Hall provides a wide range of services: electric, water and sewer; street maintenance; parks and recreation; law enforcement; fire protection and EMS; and dozens of smaller services.

Keeping it all going while at the same time controlling costs is a challenging thing.

For example, the city operates and maintains 25 parks, many of which are small neighborhood playgrounds. Some of these playgrounds were built in neighborhoods that once crawled with children but are now dominated by senior citizens. City officials estimate about a half dozen city parks go unused.

At the same time, the city has acquired a huge parcel that will become Martin Marietta Park, but work on that won’t commence until the city has secured a $475,000 grant to kickstart plans.

Newly minted City Parks Director Foster Hughes has been rolling out maintenance of city parks, some of which have been sorely neglected for years. Kidsville, a popular wooden playground, has been closed until it can be renovated, for example.

Meanwhile, over in water and sewer, a funny thing happened. The city has been growing at a respectable 2-3 percent, according to city officials, but water usage (and subsequent sewer usage) are declining because of effective water conservation.

At rates seen a decade ago, the city would be looking at expanding water and sewer capacity about now, but conservation has given years of life to existing capacity.

Still, revenue has not increased to match demand. To avoid fee increases, the city will need to maintain its current growth rate of 2-3 percent. A downturn in the economy will force the city to raise fees to make up the difference.

 

Posted in Board of Aldermen, New Bern, New Bern Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public works

April 28th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

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New Bern residents may have noticed a change in their city tap water which, as one resident pointed out vividly but probably hyperbolically, suddenly tastes like shit.

Beginning on April 16 and continuing until June 18, the city changed the disinfectant used in the water treatment process from chloramines to free chlorine.

The city started using chloramines as a secondary disinfectant starting in 2010. This involves adding a small amount of ammonia after water is chlorinated. Compared to free chlorine, chloramines form fewer chemical byproducts, improve taste and odor, and last longer in the water system to prevent bacterial growth.

But!

“It is customary for water systems using chloramines to revert back to free chlorine for six to eight weeks annually,” the city said in a news release. “Free chlorine serves to remove any microbial growth that may have formed while using chloramines, which is a less potent but more stable disinfectant. This is a standard water treatment practice to keep our distribution system clean and free of potentially harmful bacteria throughout the year. During this period, customers may notice more chlorine taste and odor. This will go away immediately once the water system is returned to chloramines.”

Some residents in the Ghent neighborhood are experiencing a doubly refreshing experience with treated water.

“This is likely due to the crews disinfecting the new portions of the water main that have been installed in the area and the extra flushing that is also needed with the new installs. This should be short lived and should be back to normal quickly,” said City Engineer Jordan B. Hughes.

So in the meantime, for the next few weeks, what are your options if you can’t stand the taste of your water? Here are your options:
  • Bottled water.
  • Water filtration.
  • Pour tap water into an open container and let it sit overnight to let the chlorine dissipate.
  • Suck it up — unless you’re a dialysis patient or keep fish. In these cases, your water will need to be treated further. See your physician or pet store for further information.

Meanwhile, the water system will perform high velocity flushing of water mains during and shortly after the reversion period, and you may notice some discoloration in your water after the service is performed in your area. If this happens, run a tap in in your house for five minutes to clear your service line. If the discoloration persists, contact the Water Treatment Division at 639-7568.

 

Posted in Public works, Water

April 25th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

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

Goals were:

  • 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.

City staffing:

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)
  • Water—37 positions
  • Sewer—40 positions
  • Electric—79 positions
  • Stormwater—6 positions
  • 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.
  • Begin implementation of Martin Marietta Park master plan

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
  • Vehicle replacements
  • 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
Large projects
  • 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.
  • Martin Marietta Park—$5 million
  • 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.

What’s next:

May 1 and 2 workshops. Public hearing on May 8. Budget adoption on May 22. Other meetings as necessary.

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Mayor, New Bern

April 17th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin
City of New Bern News Release

NBPRArtistinResidenceFLYER.JPGNew Bern Parks & Recreation is looking for artists who need studio space.  The Artist in Residence program offers emerging to mid-range local artists the opportunity to work in an open studio with public interaction.  The open studio space is located at 408 Hancock St., formerly the New Bern Firemen’s Museum.

The open studio space, located downtown, gives artists an opportunity to be a part of a growing art scene and to bring culture and vibrancy to our community.  Artists can apply for a rented studio space by completing an application. If approved, they’ll have access to 96 square feet of space with Wi-Fi access included. Rents are currently charged at $175 per month.  Applications and rental requirements are posted on the city website.

“This is a perfect opportunity and a beautiful open space for artists who want to contribute to the community,” said Foster Hughes, Director of Parks & Recreation. “We’re hopeful that artists with talents in multiple disciplines and media will fill the space with creative expression and a spirit of collaboration.”

The Artist in Residence program also gives renters access to exhibition, teaching, and professional development opportunities. The building is fully handicap accessible and all artists are encouraged to apply.  Applicants must be 18 years of age or older to rent space and a commitment to volunteering through docent services or teaching/workshops for the public and youth groups is strongly encouraged.  Space will be awarded to applicants who best demonstrate commitment to their practice and experimentation and innovation in their work.

If you have questions about the Artist in Residence program, studio accessibility, or would like more information, email Foster Hughes, Director of Parks & Recreation.

Posted in New Bern, New Bern business and commerce, Parks and Recreation

April 16th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Posted in Planes Trains and Automobiles, Transportation

April 11th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin
An artist rendering of the Greater Five Points Transformation Plan. Released in February 2016, the plan could be the roadmap for an Urban Redevelopment Commission.

After a lengthy discussion in which an informal motion first lacked the votes to pass, the Board of Aldermen on Wednesday directed city staff to develop plans to establish an Urban Redevelopment Commission to kickstart long-stalled city improvement plans.

The board directed City Attorney Scott Davis to draw up plans to establish a Redevelopment Commission with nine city resident members who are not members of the Board of Aldermen and who will serve staggered terms.

The next step is for the city attorney to come back with a more formal plan and hold public hearings. Those next steps could begin later this month.

The board met during a special meeting to discuss city redevelopment and the city’s controversial utility deposit structure (story).

First just three members of the board supported creation of a redevelopment commission: Mayor Dana Outlaw and aldermen Sabrina Bengel and Bobby Aster.

“The door is open. We need to step through it,” Bengel said.

After further discussion, two more aldermen joined in: Jameesha Harris and Jeffrey Odham.

Harris was concerned about forming a commission without first knowing the boundaries of area that will benefit from the redevelopment. However, the boundaries would be set by the city Planning Board and only after the commission is established.

Odham said he would support establishing a Redevelopment Commission only if a majority of the wards potentially targeted for redevelopment were in support.

Though the boundaries have not been set, they will likely closely mirror an area described in the Greater Five Points Transformation Plan, a $400,000 project that took nearly two years to develop but which has been sitting mostly idle since it was released in February 2016.

Aldermen representing that area are from Ward 1 (Bengel), Ward 2 (Harris), and Ward 5 (Barbara Best). Because two of the three aldermen voted in favor, Odham added his as the fifth vote.

Aldermen Best and Johnnie Ray Kinsey voted against forming a Redevelopment Commission, saying they believe the city can carry out the same work without an added layer of bureaucracy.

The discussion lasted about 90 minutes and barely mustered the necessary votes. Had Harris not changed her mind, Odham would not have changed his vote, and the notion of redevelopment in New Bern could very well have died.

“It has been terribly exhausting trying to get something done,” said Mayor Outlaw.

“This is about creating excitement in the community. It sends a sign that we’re open for business.”

A Redevelopment Commission would have powers that the Board of Aldermen lacks. It could sell property and place restrictions on buyers requiring them to, for example, build housing aimed at low-income residents. Right now, when the city sells surplus property, it can place no such restrictions.

A Redevelopment Commission can also loan money to developers.

On the flip side, and this was not discussed by the aldermen, is that redevelopment is all about increasing property values, which in turn increases property taxes. By targeting the Greater Five Points Area, which includes some of New Bern’s most impoverished neighborhoods, redevelopment may eventually price some people out of their homes.

Posted in New Bern

March 30th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Local businesses have notified the City of New Bern that they’ve been getting calls from people posing as the “City of New Bern Utilities/Electric Department.”

The callers say the business owes money for an overdue utility bill and they must pay it immediately over the phone or the caller will disconnect service.

“HIS IS A SCAM! THIS IS *NOT* THE CITY OF NEW BERN!,” the city said in a news release.

“These scammers are trying to steal your credit card and personal information over the phone. We will NEVER call you demanding payment or asking for your personal information.”

If you have a question about your utility bill, call 252-639-2750.  The office is staffed Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to answer questions and help with payment needs.

“Be vigilant against these scammers,” the city advised. “Hang up on them and never give your personal information over the phone.”

By the way, city offices are closed today (Good Friday) but will be open Monday, and your electric bill is also due Monday if you have not yet paid it.

Posted in New Bern

March 24th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

A group spearheaded by Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Pastor Robert and retired chemist Anne Schout is taking the initiative to fix problems in the Duffyfield neighborhood of New Bern.

The group is called Duffyfield Phoenix Project, and it plans to lead a wide range of projects in Duffyfield, including:

  • Assessment of Duffyfield’s properties, their conditions and their owners. Determine which properties need upgrade or repair, whether owners want or need assistance, and which properties could be razed.
  • Obtain grants for infrastructure and housing improvements.
  • Improve the appearance of two cemeteries and apply for a grant to pay for a brick entrance to Evergreen Cemetery.
  • Reinter 13 African Americans whose remains were moved from Cedar Grove Cemetery to Evergreen Cemetery in 1913.
  • Education workshops for GED, basic finances, money management, credit repair, etc.
  • Establish a Farmers Market in Duffyfield.
  • Start and sponsor regular Duffyfield Clean Up events.
  • Request the city install public trash receptacles.
  • List all properties that are subject to flooding, and work with the city to find permanent solutions.
  • Clean up and enlarge the Duffyfield Canal to stop erosion and improve drainage.
  • Identify which streets in Duffyfield need repair or paving.
  • Work with the city to strengthen and enforce housing ordinances to encourage property owners to fix their properties.
  • Establish transportation, partnering with the city and county, to grocery stores, doctors and pharmacies.
  • Develop a program for housing subsidies for police, firefighters, and teachers to live in Duffyfield.

Close-up of a map inventorying properties in Duffyfield. The inventory identifies the type of property ownership, whether owner-occupied, rental, city-owned, or divided among heirs.

The group also wants to develop a plan for vacant, buildable lots by enlarging the scope of the Duffyfield Phoenix Project to include a community housing development organization that will focus on revitalization of Duffyfield and the surrounding area. The group hopes this would encourage new home construction.

Johnson and Schout met when Schout was running for Ward 1 alderman in the 2017 municipal elections. Schout noticed a huge need in the Duffyfield area while she was knocking on doors campaigning for office, while Johnson has worked on behalf of the poor and homeless in New Bern since 1980.

“When anyone walks the streets of Duffyfield, they see an area that is forgotten, neglected and in serious need of attention. What was once a thriving, vibrant community is suffering the effects of years of decline,” according to a presentation by the group.

Schout and Johnson formed the Phoenix Group and started recruiting board members in November 2017. The group is operating as a 501(c)3) under the aegis of the James City Historical Society.

On the board, Johnson is chairman and Schout is vice chairman and secretary.

Other members are Coleman “Sully” Sullivan (treasurer) and board members Robert Benjamin, Elijah Brown, Sharon Bryant, Grace Hudson, the Rev. Ethel Sampson, Jim Schout, Ben Watford, and John Young.

The group has already made a presentation to Duffyfield area residents. Anyone interested in learning more about the group can contact Anne Schout to schedule a presentation. Email her here.

 

 

Posted in Economy and Employment, Housing, New Bern

March 24th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Updated 3/25/2018 at 10:23 a.m.

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 Carolina Avenue
Acres 14.07 built-out 30.81 undeveloped but mostly wetland
Tax value $663,990 $140,150
Tax value per acre $47,191 $4,548

 

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. 

 

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Community, Economy and Employment, Housing, Mayor, New Bern

March 21st, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Among New Bern-area fast food restaurants, Wendy’s fries have overtaken McDonald’s in both taste and quality following a long run where McDonald’s reigned supreme.

That’s the results of a 55-year-long study conducted by New Bern man, an area resident who has been monitoring the rise and fall of fry quality among leading fast food chains since 1963.

The change is the result of a modest improvement in quality of Wendy’s fries and a gradual decline in the quality of McDonald’s fries.

McDonald’s fries have changed in flavor and consistency over the years following controversies over ingredients including milk, gluten, and beef.

As a result, McDonald’s fries have undergone recipe and ingredient changes over the years that have robbed them of their former greatness. Though still good, they’re not the best, New Bern man said.

“Wendy’s fries are very good. They’re not as good as McDonald’s fries used to be, but they are better than McDonald’s fries are now,” New Bern man said. “But then, I’m not Hindu, gluten-intolerant, milk-intolerant or vegetarian. If I were any of those, that may have changed my thinking about McDonald’s fries when they were at the top of their game.”

New Bern man described Wendy’s natural cut, sea-salt-seasoned fries as crispy but not artificially so like Burger King fries, which were not even in contention because, as New Bern man pointed out, “I’m not even sure what they put in those things to make them that way.”

Wendy’s leaves on the peel, which may not be as aesthetically pleasing to purists but does ad an air of authenticity and reassurance that, yes, the fries are made out of real potatoes.

Important to note, said New Bern man, is that this survey only includes simple French fries, not tater tots, crinkle-cut fries or waffle fries, or fries loaded up with paprika and other flavoring and coloring agents.

How low has McDonald’s fallen in New Bern man’s survey? They don’t even hold a strong second, instead tying for Sonic’s fries, which like Wendy’s also leaves on the skin. In fact, if Sonic would ease up on the salt just a little bit, it would overtake McDonald’s for the second-place spot. Hardee’s came in fourth, only because, as New Bern man pointed out, he doesn’t eat there all that much.

In-N-Out fries were not considered in New Bern man’s survey because of a lack of outlets in the area. Five Guys fries were also not considered because, while the chain does have a restaurant aboard Cherry Point Marine Air Station, it does not have one in a public location.

“Five Guys fries are a little over the top, anyway,” New Bern man said.

Other popular chains were not considered in New Bern man’s survey because there’s only so much fast food one can eat and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Local restaurants like Famous also were not included in New Bern man’s study, which focused strictly on national fast food chains.

 

Posted in New Bern Tagged with:

March 15th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

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.

Posted in Activities, Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Mayor, Parks and Recreation

March 15th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Site plans are being reviewed for a new, expanded and relocated Brewery 99.

Brewery 99, a micro-brewery off Hancock Street operated by Pete Frey, has submitted plans for a new location on Pollock Street that is about three times larger than its original location.

I’ve reached out to Frey for information about the project and will update this story once I hear back.

Site plan submitted to the city for review.

Posted in Beer, New Bern business and commerce

March 15th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Fresh from her first National League of Cities conference in Washington D.C., Alderman Jameesha Harris returned  to 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.

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Economy and Employment, New Bern business and commerce

March 13th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

The popular Harry Goodman Battlefield Adventure Day for children is Saturday, March 24 at New Bern Battlefield Park.

A day full of learning activities, period games and living history, it is held annually at the park, which has been recently upgraded by the New Bern Historical Society. The event is for boys and girls ages 6-12 years old and an adult. Check-in begins at 11:30 a.m. with activities from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Young recruits and their parents will be greeted by re-enactors from the 5th N.C. Regiment, the 7th N.C. Regiment and artillery from McCullough Living History. The newly “enlisted” recruits can choose to participate in practice drills or Civil War period activities and crafts. They will also take part in Civil War era games.

Historical Society battlefield guides will provide an informative and entertaining walking tour of the battlefield. A commissary lunch, provided by Moore’s Olde Tyme Barbeque will be served to each young recruit and adult. After lunch, the day’s activities will conclude with a battle re-enactment that includes the children.

Cost is $10 for one child with accompanying adult, plus $5 for each additional child or adult, with a $20 maximum for a family. Special price for active duty military and families qualifying for free/reduced school lunch program.

For more information or to register, call New Bern Historical Society at 252-638-8558 or go register online.

New Bern Battlefield Park is located off U.S. 70 at the entrance to the Taberna subdivision at 300 Battlefield Trail. This program is supported through the generosity of the family of Harry K. Goodman, who was key to the preservation and restoration of the Battlefield Park.

The mission of the New Bern Historical Society is to celebrate and promote New Bern and its heritage through events and education.  Offices are located in the historic Attmore Oliver House at 511 Broad St. in New Bern.  For more information, call 252-638-8558 or go www.NewBernHistorical.org or www.facebook.com/NewBernHistoricalSociety

Posted in Activities, Community, New Bern, Parks and Recreation

March 8th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

New Bern Parks and Recreation is holding a public input meeting on Monday, March 12 to review the proposed Master Plan for Martin Marietta Park.

The meeting will be held at the West New Bern Recreation Center, located at 1225 Pine Tree Drive in New Bern. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for an informal review of the Plan. A formal presentation will begin at 6 p.m.

During this meeting, results from the previous public input meeting as well as the recent Recreation Needs Survey will be discussed. City staff as well as planning partners, McGill Associates, will be on hand to answer questions.

“McGill Associates took the recommendations received from the previous public input meeting and the Recreation Needs Survey and combined that information into, what we think, will be an exciting park that will draw not only residents, but visitors from all around. I look forward to hearing comments from the public at this meeting.” said City of New Bern Director of Parks and Recreation Foster Hughes.

In September of 2017, Martin Marietta donated 55 acres along South Glenburnie Road to the City of New Bern. These 55 acres complete a contiguous stretch of land and lakes totaling approximately 888 acres that are owned by the City of New Bern.

Martin Marietta’s donation coincides with the city’s vision to create a regional park with multi-recreational opportunities and the potential for an outdoor amphitheater capable of hosting various entertainment and performances.

For additional information on the master plan process, contact Hughes at 252-639-2915.

Posted in New Bern, Parks and Recreation

March 7th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin
Before and after photos show impacts on Trent Road from the New Bern Marketplace shopping center construction. The photo on the left was taken several years ago. The photo on the right was taken on Wednesday.

City officials are revising design standards for the Trent Road Corridor “to accurately reflect the development pattern” that has emerged on that stretch of city street.

Changes were approved by the Planning and Zoning Board at its meeting on Tuesday and will come before the Board of Aldermen for final approval.

Changes include:

  • Removing a requirement that buildings maintain a front yard setback of 35-50 feet from the street right-of-way.
  • Removing a requirement that at least 60 percent of the front yard area of any development will consist of vegetation.
  • Removing a requirement that parking be on the side or behind buildings rather than between Trent Road and the main building.

The section of Trent Road the city is looking to revise development guidelines amid a surge in growth. City of New Bern map

The affected corridor stretches from Ninth Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Trent Road was once the main road serving New Bern, Jones County and Jacksonville, but a new road, once called Clarendon Boulevard but now called Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, shifted development away from Trent Road.

Trent Road became a commercial backwater over the years, but more recently, with the development of New Bern Marketplace and other smaller commercial and office facilities, Trent Road is becoming a popular location for developers.

Of course, the largest by far is New Bern Marketplace, a 34-acre, 325,000-square-foot shopping center located between Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, Trent Road and South Glenburnie Road.

New Bern Marketplace will be anchored by Harris Teeter’s first 100,000-square-foot grocery store, which will include a gas station and a pharmacy with a drive-though. Other retailers opening there include Academy Sports, Ross, ULTA, Five Below, Lee Nails Spa, Hobby Lobby, and Rack Room.

A worker installs lettering at the Ross Dress for Less store at New Bern Marketplace on Wednesday. Randy Foster/New Bern Post

Posted in Board of Aldermen, New Bern business and commerce, Planning and Zoning

March 7th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

Michael Stephens, a Riverside Neighborhood resident, plans to open an outdoor recreation facility on Beech Street off Oaks Road following approval by the city to rezone the property from residential and light industrial to commercial.

Location of a proposed privately owned and operated outdoor recreation facility off Oaks Road. Google Maps image

Stephens has combined two lots, 107 and 109 Beech St., which have access to Jack Smith Creek near its mouth with the Neuse River. The resulting 1.14 acres would be used for a venture he is calling Oaks Watersport Landing: The Owl.

“The property will be used for recreational outdoor activities and small indoor and outdoor events,” Stephens said in a written report to the city. “It will allow opportunities for civic organizations to hold small events. A perfect opportunity to allow residents and homeowners in the area to be part of various organizations and functions while helping build a strong sense of civic pride.”

He said most activities will be done during daylight hours.

Initial hours of operation would be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., five to seven days per week, weather permitting. It may close one to two months out of the year due to seasonally declining activities.

He estimates the venue will have about 10-15 guests per day with a total capacity of 120 people.

A building described as a “lodge” is part of the plan.

Two vacant buildings, a business and a house, are located on the two properties. Google Maps image

Posted in New Bern, New Bern business and commerce, Planning and Zoning

March 6th, 2018 by newbernpostadmin

The late Steve Jobs is often touted as one of the great innovators of the age, but his real genius was in taking ideas from others, tweaking them, and selling them.

Jobs didn’t invent the computer mouse, smart phone or the MP3 player, for example; others came up with those ideas, but his tweaks changed everything.

Taking cues from Steve Jobs, the City of New Bern has gone into he business of taking others ideas, as well.

For example, take the Farmer’s Market.

For $1 per year, the Farmers Market was leasing city-owned land at South Front and Hancock streets coveted by developers. Everyone was happy, the Farmers Market thrived, and neighboring businesses enjoyed the extra foot traffic Farmer’s Market attracted.

Meanwhile, the city was saddled with a blighted piece of property off First Street zoned for heavy commercial use that it will never be able to sell because of decades of accumulated pollutants from the power plant that once stood there.

On a tear to unload surplus property, here was one property the city could not unload, so it sought alternatives.

City officials thought they could kill two birds with one stone. They approached Farmers Market leaders about moving to the First Street power plant property, a concept called City Market. Moving Farmer’s Market would free up city-owned land it could sell, and put to use city-owned property the city could not sell.

Farmers Market board members didn’t like the idea. They are doing well where they are and the rent they paid to the city for the property was almost nothing. Also, the present location brings in casual visitors who are downtown for other reasons.

Downtown businesses didn’t like the idea, either. They see Farmers Market as an additional attraction that fills restaurants and shops with customers on mornings when the Farmers Market is open.

At the moment, almost nobody goes to the old power plant, and other than Lawson Creek Park across the road, there is nothing else for people to do in that section of town.

It started to get ugly, as things often do when one opposes City Hall. There were veiled threats of eviction countered by a petition that gathered 15,400 signatures from people opposed to the Farmer’s Market moving.

At some point city officials realized that the Farmer’s Market had an ace up its sleeve: Although its lease with the city was about to expire, it had the option to extend it for one more year. That would have put the city in the awkward position of evicting a beloved downtown institution right in time for the 2017 municipal elections.

The city backed off. Rather than let a squabble with Farmers Market and downtown merchants drive the 2017 municipal elections, the city was forced into another lease. This time, however, it increased the rent from $1 a year to $500 per month.

The idea seemed to wither away. There was no further public discussion about outdoor vendor sales at the old power plant property. But meanwhile, city officials worked out a deal for Craven Community College to use the First Street main building for vocational classes, calling it the Volt Center (a nod to the building’s past as an electric plant).

Then on Feb. 13, the City Market plan sprang forth once more. The city is now seeking grant funding to help pay for outdoor vending areas, a market, a commercial kitchen accelerator, and an inventor’s space.

As city director of Development Services Jeff Ruggieri said, the idea never went away. But now, rather than forcing the Farmer’s Market to move, the city now looks poised to go in head-to-head competition with the Farmer’s Market.

It’s an odd thing, the city trying to compete with an existing commercial operation. Alderman Jeffrey Odham has said he wanted to run the city more like a business, but this? Start a business? One that competes with existing businesses?

And it’s not the only one.

In January, a private artists group approached the city seeking approval to rent the old Firemen’s Museum on Hancock Street.

A little background on that: after he became mayor, Dana Outlaw began a push to unload as much surplus city property as possible. The Hancock Street museum property was on the list, and the city gave the bum’s rush to the Firemen’s Museum, forcing it to rush fundraising efforts to pay for renovations of the old Broad Street Fire House so the museum could move there.

Outlaw and city staff envisioned selling the old museum site on Hancock Street, but when bids came in, they didn’t meet minimum requirements. The building is a fairly large commercial space suitable for a restaurant or even a microbrewery, but there’s a problem: it has no parking.

True, there’s a city-owned parking lot right next to it, but the downtown parking plan calls for the city to reduce the number of leased spaces, not increase the number. And the city parking lot at New and Hancock streets is a pretty important component to the city’s master parking plan.

So, like the old power plant on First Street, the city found itself with a substantial piece of real estate that is virtually unsellable.

It makes one wonder whether city officials do any research into these things before jumping in.

Back to the artists’ group. It had lost its existing location and was basically homeless and in a bind. They thought that perhaps they could rent the Hancock Street property from the city for, say, $500 a month — the same thing Farmer’s Market was paying for its piece of prime real estate.

Good idea, Mayor Outlaw said. More research is needed. Could be the city would pay them, rather than the other way around.

But that’s not how it turned out.

Meetings were held and the city came back with a plan: The city Parks and Recreation Department would open up its own art gallery and artist space at the old Firemen’s Museum — and make money doing it.

That private artists group? Still homeless, although they are welcome to apply to use the city-owned, city-run artists gallery along with everyone else.

So, yeah, those are two examples of the city shouldering its way into areas previously the domain of private groups.

A little bit sneaky, a little big underhanded. But unlike Steve Jobs, who bought or stole proven, successful ideas and made them better, the city still has to prove whether it is any good at running an outdoor market and an artists gallery, both of which have existing and entrenched competition in the city.

But, paraphrasing a line from Steve Jobs when he would announce new products, in the sneaky, underhanded department, that’s not all.

More on that here.

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Community, Craven Community College, Economy and Employment, Mayor, New Bern business and commerce, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning

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