Board gets update on trash collection contract

The Craven County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the Solar Energy Facilities Ordinance during its meeting Monday morning.

County officials cited several purposes behind the regulations, including preserving the dignity and aesthetic quality of the environment in Craven County, preserving the physical integrity of land in close proximity to residential areas and protecting and enhancing the economic viability and interests of the residents of Craven County who have made substantial financial investments in homes, businesses and industry.

The ordinance addresses abandonment or decommissioning of the solar farms, and also restricts placement of the farms to no closer than 100 feet of public roads or structures.

The board had a public hearing during its Nov. 7 meeting during which many residents spoke in support of adopting the rules.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board heard the pros and cons of continuing the county’s trash contract with Republic Services of North Carolina. Republic is the exclusive provider of household trash services to the areas in Craven County that are not serviced by municipalities. The current contract expires June 30, and Republic has indicated to county officials that rates would increase in a new contract.

County officials will meet with representatives of Republic to discuss new contract negotiations and present the information to the board at a future meeting.

Also Monday, Billy Wilkes, assistant director of the Craven County Parks and Recreation Department, asked the board to approve a grant application through the NC Connect Bond Grant Program. The money would be a one-time allocation available for counties and cities and can be used to build special recreational facilities or adapt existing recreational facilities. The county would apply for $140,000 and be required to match 20 percent of the grant. The match would come from a Harold Bate Foundation grant in the amount of $35,000 for a total of $175,000.

The money would be used for inclusive improvements at Creekside Park, including creating easier access to the baseball and softball field area, adding sidewalks and some paved parking. The department also intends to add a wheelchair accessible picnic shelter to the baseball and softball area.

Other improvements include repaving the existing walking trail and adding wheelchair accessibility to the tennis courts for the future wheelchair tennis class.

Commissioners agreed to allow the grant application to move forward.

During the meeting commissioners also heard from Ray Staats, Craven Community College president, about the future First Street Workforce Development Center, a collaboration between the college and the city of New Bern.

New Bern received a $549,000 GoldenLeaf Grant and is awaiting final notification regarding a $1.3 million Economic Development Authority grant that will fund the renovation of the former electrical generation plant into an approximately 7,500 square-foot training center to be leased by the college. The center is projected to offer up to 20 classes a year and serve up to 150 students annually.

According to the proposed budget no college capital outlay is required, New Bern will maintain the building and the grounds, the college will fund program equipment and personnel but will request county funding, estimated at $100,000 annually, to support utility, security and custodial costs.

The Craven County Board of Commissioners next meeting is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 in the commissioners meeting room at 406 Craven St.

Contact Jennifer Cannon at 252-635-5671. Follow her on Twitter at JCannonNBSJ.