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Local Government Roundup - Feb. 22, 2024

New Bern

The newly formed MSD board met this week. The MSD (municipal service district) is an area downtown encompassing businesses and pay an additional tax. The board focuses recommends economic development projects that'll use those tax dollars. The current attention is on identifying and prioritizing potential projects. Among the top responses from the board's 2023 meeting is a parking lot project, developing a master plan for downtown, crosswalk upgrades, dedicated police officers in the area, and regular trash cleanups.

In other parking/downtown news, a new ordinance has established fines for those who park on the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic. You can now say you've been warned.

A new airline carrier will be coming to Coastal Carolina Airport (EWN). Breeze Airways, which began in 2021, plans to offer direct flights to Hartford, Conn., and Orlando, Fla., starting May 24. Breeze President Tox Doxey said the low-cost carrier seeks to connect cities that don't currently have nonstop flights.

Plans are in the works to make New Bern more walkable and biking friendly. NCDOT is requesting public input for a project that'll link downtown to the city's major parks. The proposed route will become part of the East Coast Greenway, a more than 3,000-mile biking and walking route from Maine to Florida.

Lastly, say hello to the New Bern Southpaws. The New Bern Board of Aldermen gave the final approval for a nine-year lease agreement to bring a summer collegiate baseball team to Kafer Park.


Last month, as reported by PRE, the Greenville City Council expressed significant interest in building a state-of-the-art sports complex with the goal of making the city a "sports tourism destination." The council received a rosy report from a consulting group on the potential impact of a baseball/softball complex with turf fields. But that gave way to a bit of skepticism for some councilmembers since then, as they learned the complex could operate at a loss of more than $600,000 annually, according to the Daily Reflector.

“When I hear talk about sports tourism, how it’s always going to be growing and there’s plenty of money out there, we simply do not know that’s the case,” Councilmember Marion Blackburn said at a worksession in late January. “I see so many things that are uncertain here.”

Meanwhile, several sports groups are lobbying the council to consider their preferred sport if moving forward with the sports complex. Representatives from Pitt-Greenville Soccer Association touted their "Beast of the East" tournament brought 100 teams and more than 2,500 people to the county early this year, and a lacrosse group, too, is getting in on the action.

In other sports news, the city is welcoming the Greenville Yard Gnomes to Guy Smith Stadium this summer. Why not the alliterative Greenville Garden Gnomes is not known, but the stadium is currently under renovations to add seating and make it more handicap accessible.

The Greenville Branch of the North Carolina Science Museum reopened to much fanfare at its new location downtown. Now at the historic Cupola Building on 8th street, the museum unveiled new exhibits — like a mock submersible — while retaining some old favorites. The museum also opened at new visitor's center at its Contentnea Creek location in Grifton.


Updates to the Slocum Creek contamination were provided this month at an event in Havelock. The city hosted Sound Rivers at its monthly "Listening Session" Tuesday, Feb. 20. The hours-long event also provided information on ongoing and upcoming sewer projects.

Takeaway: The likely source of persistent contamination is septic tanks upstream near Wolf Creek, an area outside of Havelock's purview. Also, city officials announced they're on the cusp of beginning a project to completely map the city's sewer infrastructure. Mayor Will Lewis and Public Works Director Rick Day said for some areas of Havelock, it's unknown where exactly pipes are laid and what they're made of. In some cases, the city relies on decades-old plans from developers to help locate pipes in need of repair, but many of those plans are inaccurate -- and in one case, written on napkins.


Following a raft of resignations to start off the year, the private/public organization Downtown Kinston Revitalization is rebuilding. The nonprofit is charged with economic development in downtown and managing funds from the MSD tax. Earlier this month, a new board met for the first time since the resignations and enacted a new policy aimed at preserving continuity in leadership.

"It takes time. It takes energy. It takes patience, but I think Kinston is in a good place," Leon Steele, DKR's executive director, said about the situation.

At the Feb. 6 city council meeting, Police Chief Keith Goyette presented crime statistics. The Kinston Police Department solved all four homicides in the city and 5/11 shooting incidents. According to the report, total shooting incidents in which people were harmed were down last year, from 25 to 11. Notably, KPD recovered 370 guns last year. Traffic stops and calls in 2023 were service were on par with the year prior.

More complaints were filed against KPD in 2023 than in 2022, up to 34 allegations from 27. The department received more racial profiling and excessive force allegations compared to the year prior. Five for excessive force (up from two in 2022) and three for racial profiling (up from zero). Lastly, use of force remained about on par with the year prior, while officer involved vehicle accidents were up from 12 to 23. In total, the department received 33,000 calls for service.

Turning to the cultural scene, the 81-year-old Kinston-based musician Dick Knight performed at the library on Queen Street. Knight has toured with some of the biggest names in soul, jazz and R&B – James Brown, Patti Labelle, Dionne Warwick. PRE was at that concert and spoke to Knight and those in the audience.

Lastly, the headliner for this year's BBQ Fest will be Joe Nichols. The country musician is known for the early 2000s boot-tappin' single "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" and the ballad "Brokenheartsville." BBQ Fest is set for Friday, May 3.


The City of Goldsboro has secured state funding to look into expanding its sewer and water systems to merge with Fremont, Eureka, Mount Olive and Pikeville. Last month, the city council heard plans from an engineering firm on such a project, who emphasized future growth for the city and county is dependent on expanding the city's wastewater system. In 2021, the state imposed a temporary moratorium on adding new residents to the city's sewer due to capacity limitations. The state funding is for $260,000 in what will likely be an $80-140 million project.

The city heard updates on the HOME-ARP funding, a federal program dedicated to building new shelters to house homeless populations. Since 2022, the city opened applications to local nonprofits to receive a piece of the $900,000 in funding, but no organizations have applied. One challenge cited by the Felicia Williams, community relations director, is that applicants must have a demonstrated history of service, which includes prior experience running a shelter and submitting financials. The city has until 2030 to distribute the funds. The issue of homelessness in the city is "exacerbated," according to Councilmember Roderick White.

The council approved pay raises for its police officers, raising starting pay from $47,739 to $50,000 in an effort to curb hiring and retention issues. Goldsboro is the latest city in Eastern North Carolina to up its police salaries, as many municipalities struggle to fill vacant positions. Earlier this year, Greenville, too, upped its starting salary to be more competitive, adding that fewer people are even entering into basic training.

Police Chief Mike West reported a 21% increase in crime, as part of GPD's annual update to the council. Property crimes made up most of that increase. Larcenies and theft totaled 1,592 last year, up 21% from a year prior. West said the higher crime rates increases the need for staffing and reestablishing community engagement.

"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem,” West said. “Once we start getting staffed up, we’ve got to get back into the community with more community involvement."

Seymour Johnson Airforce Base announced it'll be retiring 68 F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft and inactivate its 333rd Fighter Squadron, while transitioning its 335th squadron to a formal training unit. It's unclear if base personnel will be cut at SJAFB, but the base will remain a home for training F-15 fighters.

Carteret County

The Carteret County Board of Commissioner voted 5-2 to dismiss the county attorney Rob Wheatley in what one commisioner called a "power play" against him that took place "outside the public eye." According to reporting in the News-Times, efforts to oust the longtime attorney started in December at a restaurant in Morehead City. Commissioner Ed Wheatley, attorney Rob Wheatley's brother, said the commissioners who organized the vote intended to get Ed to "lose my cool" and "get me out of office." Ed Wheatley faces a challenger in the upcoming Republican primary election.

Dredging at Cape Lookout National Seashore began this month. Some 200,000 cubic yards of sand will be moved as part of a $7 million project to make channels to the seashore more accessible, including ferry routes to the site.

The Carteret County Board of Elections will host an education seminar on new voter laws ahead of the March primaries. The event will focus on voting ID requirements, early voting opportunities, and absentee ballot procedures. It's scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City at 6 p.m.

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée.