The year 2013 may just be a momentous time in the history of Havelock. It may just be remembered as the year the city took a step toward future progress.
But anxiety over defense spending cuts and the impacts it may have on Cherry Point and the area economy doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
Havelock has a number of projects on tap in 2013, the biggest of which could be the first step toward future city growth.
Work on an estimated $9.8 million sewer project is expected to start this year, with an expansion of the sewer plant as well as relocation of the sewer discharge pipe from Slocum Creek to the Neuse River.
The project will increase sewer capacity, clearing the way for potential residential and commercial growth. Currently, the city has little sewer allotment available for new businesses or residential developments.
"You can actually put out a sign that says we’re open for business," said Jim Freeman, Havelock city manager. "It’s very important for us down the road that we will not have that limitation for decades. Probably from 18 to 24 months when the project is actually completed you will see the capacity for future growth. It really opens up a new chapter for Havelock in terms of economic development and the future."
The city has $11.8 million available in grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the project, with bids for the work coming in at $9.8 million. Work that involves putting down about six miles of new pipe through Cherry Point to reach the Neuse River could begin in March or April.
The project would increase sewer capacity from 1.9 to 2.25 million gallons per day when completed sometime in 2014.
Still, the biggest impact the area may see in 2013 could come from Washington in the form of defense cuts that could have long-reaching implications on area residents. Fears abound that cuts could impact defense contractors as well as Fleet Readiness Center East workers and the Marines themselves. Concern continues over the future of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter program, which is tied to the base’s long-term future.
The Allies for Cherry Point lobby group has completed a strategic plan and has been stressing the importance of the base to federal officials and legislators.
Also of concern is a potential windmill farm that could impact training for pilots not only at Cherry Point, but also at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro. Freeman said windmills would be considered an encroachment issue should any Base Realignment and Closure process take place.
"That will go against you because now you have hurt your training areas," Freeman said. "They are very much concerned about this location of tall structures in training areas that will affect the missions. If they do that and we’re a military-based economy, then that hurts us. That’s one issue that we’re going to address in this upcoming 2013."
Beyond the long-range future, many area families will be impacted as about 1,000 Marines with the 2nd Marine Air Wing (Forward) based at Cherry Point deploy to Afghanistan early in 2013.
Meanwhile, the base and city are in talks about water service in Slocum Village. The city could sell 75,000 to 100,000 gallons of water per day, but a rate has not been set.
The uncertain big picture could impact city staffers and commissioners as they enter the 2013-14 budget process. The city balanced a budget without a tax increase in 2012 but could face declining revenue after the N.C. Supreme Court ruled last month that Internet cafés were illegal. Freeman said the closure of the businesses could cost Havelock an estimated $40,000 to $60,000 in fees and taxes.
One of the fiercest debates of 2012 carries into 2013 with proposed tolls for the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach ferry. The tolls — $4 for the typical passenger car and $1 for each additional passenger or pedestrian — had been set to go into effect in 2012. Gov. Beverly Perdue’s moratorium put a temporary stop on the fees, but she and her moratorium are on their way out in 2013, clearing the way for the possibility that the proposed fees could be implemented starting in July as new Gov. Pat McCrory and a new General Assembly go to work on a state budget.
Havelock commissioners and city staff are expecting to see new designs on a $1.8 million new city hall building project possibly by the end of the month.
"The board hasn’t seen all of them but from what we saw with staff looking at them, we thought it was an ugly building, what we saw," Freeman said. "We have some restrictions in terms of money, budget, but we think they could do a little bit better on designing that. So we just asked them to go back and put some more effort into it."
The new building, at 9,233 square feet, would include office space as well as a separate courtroom/commissioners meeting room. A lobby will divide the building in two portions, with the main entrance overlooking Cunningham Boulevard.
The site of the new building is between Cunningham Boulevard and the existing city hall, which would allow city staff to continue to work in the old building as construction takes place.
Meanwhile, the city will see another building project come to an end in 2013 with the completion of the fire annex at the east end station. The 3,795 square-foot annex will have 12 or 13 beds for firefighters. The $700,000 project replaces the old annex that had structural and other issues.
The two-phase project also involved renovation of the station bays.
Freeman said firefighters, who have been using the old Cherry Point fire house at Slocum Village as construction has taken place, could be in the annex by the end of February.
Also in the immediate future, Havelock commissioners have a decision on the potential for a new recreation park on 47 acres off Lewis Farm Road near Carolina Pines. The city has a state grant of about $500,000 for the project but would have to partially match the grant with about $75,000 of city money.
In a meeting last month, residents who lived on the road voiced opposition to the project, with one of their concerns being increased traffic and its effects on nearby horse stables and trails. Others spoke in favor of the project, saying the current recreation facility off Fontana Boulevard didn’t have enough space to support the various youth athletic leagues in the city.
The project is being proposed in cooperation with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust, which is backing the effort with the idea of limiting encroachment on Cherry Point.
Commissioners acknowledged that they would annex the park property but would not annex any other existing property in the area.
Commissioners are expected to address the project during a Jan. 14 meeting.
The board may also discuss another piece of property, the old Church of the Nazarene property off Greenfield Heights Boulevard. That property, about 15 acres, already has a gymnasium.
The completion of a new bridge over Slocum Creek is expected by the middle of May, with the city continuing efforts for a recreation area along the water.
The new span will connect the service road in front of the Hampton Inn with the service road in front of Tim Newton Auto Sales. Church Road will be reconfigured to intersect the service road near the old Wendy’s restaurant.
The old Church Road Bridge, built in 1924, was the site of two fatal crashes in 2012. It is scheduled to be torn down sometime this month.
The portion of Church Road that leads to the old bridge will be returned to its natural setting, as the city seeks to use the creek as a focal point for recreation.
The city already owns property in the area and hopes to add other property to complete a scenic recreation area that would include access from the Havelock Tourist and Event Center as well as the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels.
"It gives the community a sense of place," Freeman said of the project. "It’s such a great concept, not just with the bridge but connecting that bridge to what the commissioners are doing in that whole target area, with the property they are talking about acquiring, the potential expansion in the future of the TEC by the aviation foundation, and that Bate grant that they got ties into that.
"It will give Havelock a sense of place when this project is fully completed. The opportunity is just abound. It’s great for the city to continue that. What the city is considering now is doing a master plan concept for that area where they can put all these ideas together, tying the bridge and the Civil War site, the walking trails, the tourist center and the recreation on Slocum Creek and looking at that in 2013."
A key person on the project would be the city’s planning director. Havelock enters 2013 without a person in that position, but Freeman said an offer has been made to fill the job.