Vehicle fee debate draws protests

Havelock commissioners faced a few challenges in 2016, including fierce opposition to a proposed vehicle fee that would have helped paid for street repairs and maintenance.

Still, the city celebrated the opening of two new recreational facilities, though one was several months behind schedule.

Vehicle fee debate

Havelock commissioners and staff faced strong opposition to a proposed vehicle fee that would have gone toward street repair and maintenance.

About 50 people flooded the board meeting room for a meeting on May 23, many speaking against the proposed $15 fee that would have produced about $139,000 in revenue for the city.

Facing such opposition, city leaders rejected the idea in favor of a proposed property tax increase. Still facing opposition, the board eventually rejected that idea as well for the 2016-17 budget.

In November, commissioners voted to use $170,000 in state funds and $330,000 from the city’s own reserve funds to pay for street maintenance after Public Services Director Mark Sayger presented a detailed plan for the repairs.

Sewer spills

Havelock experienced numerous spills of untreated wastewater, many during periods of heavy rain.

In two instances, on Feb. 4 and 5, the city reported spills of 192,000 gallons on Oakwood Drive into Joe’s Branch, and 2,500 gallons at Webb Boulevard and Main Street into ditches leading to McCotter Canal. An estimated 5,500 gallons spilled out of Manhole G111 on Oakwood Drive on June 6.

The city is currently undergoing a major cleaning and inspection of the sewer lines in the portion of the city where the spills have occurred.

Apartment complex rejected

Havelock commissioners initially voted in May to allow a 72-unit apartment complex on Catawba Road behind Walmart as long as certain road improvements and design changes were part of the package, but when local residents objected to the idea of a government-subsidized project coming to their neighborhood, the board took a different view of the matter.

Weaver–Kirkland Development, of Greensboro, had planned a 10-structure, two-story complex on 8.69 acres they intended to call the Woodfield Cove apartment complex. Residents said that traffic would be too heavy if an extra 180 cars were added to the area, and additionally had concerns that their property values would fall if the apartments were built.

The developer said the $8.5 million development would not add an unsatisfactory amount of traffic with the construction of an extra lane on Catawba Road, but in August commissioners pulled their support for the proposal. By the end of the year, the property went up for auction.

Havelock buys Phoenix site

Craven County and Havelock agreed to terms that would allow for the city to take ownership of the 34-acre Phoenix Recycling site in September in exchange for paying $23,000 in back taxes for the property.

Havelock had taken the lead over several years in attempting to create some type of plan to clean up the site, once used as a dump, and reuse the area for a park of some sort. The city has also considered the possibility of converting the tract into a residential development. No final plans have been announced on the use of the property, which is located at the end of Pine Grove Road behind the West End Fire Station and between the Tucker Creek Middle School and Tucker creek subdivision and MacDonald Downs subdivision.

Park openings

Havelock formally opened the Slocum Creek Recreation Area off Church Road on Nov. 17.

The project to create a new water access to Slocum Creek was years in the making and opened nearly five months late. Havelock has purchased about 42 acres along the creek’s edge since 1999. The centerpiece of the park, a 2.59-acre tract at 120 Church Road, was purchased for $185,000 in 2013 with Coastal Area Management Act funds. In total, the city and state and private funders have contributed some $407,726 for improvements to the site, which include kayak launches, a paved driveway, walkways, picnic tables, and grills. Future improvements include the addition of bathrooms at the site, a large patio, and added walking paths to the launch beyond the all-accessible pathway that has been installed.

The city also opened a new $450,000 all-accessible playground at Walter B. Jones Park on Nov. 10. The money for the park came from a grant from Trillium Health Resources.