Monday, November 3, 2014

Neuse River Bridge: A final wrap up of an outstanding project

The Neuse River Bridge, which opened in 1999, is an important link
across the Neuse River and also a major landmark in the area. At a
cost of $120 million, it was the most expensive highway project in
North Carolina at the time it was built.
The Neuse River Bridge opened to traffic Sept. 26, 1999. This U.S. 17/N.C. 55 intricate system of roadway, ramps and bridges crossing the Trent and Neuse rivers was the largest single highway contract ever awarded by the state of North Carolina up to that time. It replaced the John Lawson Bridge, a flat two lane bridge built in the early 1950s that crossed the Neuse River at the foot of Broad Street to Bridgeton. It opened frequently to river traffic, causing long traffic delays on the U.S. 17/N.C. 55 corridor that carried traffic through the heart of the downtown commercial and residential area.
The $120 million construction project, consisting of a multi-lane, 10,000-foot-long, curved steel plate girder bridge including a three-level interchange with eight bridges, was a combination of three contracts awarded by the state Board of Transportation in October 1995.
On the east bank, BMCO Construction of Lumberton received the contract for the $13.3 million extension of U.S. 17 from Bridgeton to Sandy Point. On the west bank, T.A. Loving Co. of Goldsboro was awarded the contract for the $13.3 million in improvements to the twin-span Freedom Memorial Bridge that spans the Trent River. Traylor Brothers Co. of Evansville, Indiana received the $93 million contract for the bridge and the intricate cloverleaf exchange between U.S. 70 and U.S. 17.
STV/RWA was the lead engineering firm and management consultant for this NCDOT project that included conducting design-phase load testing and designing the bridge to withstand the impact of hurricane-force winds and ship impacts.
In 2001, the project won the National Partnership for Highway Quality Award for most outstanding highway bridge in the country. The American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the project as the sixth most significant engineering project in North Carolina’s history and in 2002, won an award for Excellence in Highway Design by the Federal Highway Administration.
It was a massive undertaking. Trucks carried in 25 million pounds of reinforced bars, and railroad cars transported 25.6 million pounds of structural steel bridge girders. Three hundred and forty 115 foot long precast concrete beams arrived at the site by water.
Additionally, hundreds of millions of dollars was infused into the local economy and hundreds of jobs were created during the four-year construction period.
Traylor Brothers alone, brought 30-plus employees with them, who in turn rented apartments/homes, hired household help, filled the hotels, purchased groceries and gas, shopped in our stores and ate in our restaurants. They also hired more than 250 people locally.
Local construction purchases of over $2.7 million included the purchase of 81,000 tons of sand, 85,000 tons of stone, one million feet of lumber and 35,000 tons of asphalt from area suppliers. North Carolina’s tax coffers realized $3.2 million in additional sales tax revenue.
Over the four years, Martin Marietta supplied more than 100,000 tons of dirt from its Rock Quarry in addition to 262,142 tons of marine limestone, and rock used in the concrete mixture and sand used for fill in the offramps and work on the embankments.
Subcontractors hired local labor and several companies provided the necessary repair work and replacement of machine parts when any of the heavy equipment broke down.
With the infusion of money, the city and county benefited from the economic boost whether they were directly or indirectly involved. Based on the $120 million the state spent on the project, the Chamber of Commerce estimated the economic impact to the local economy was approximately $450 million based on a three to five multiplier.
With major change, there is always a downside and such was the case with this project when several businesses and property owners were impacted with the right-of-way acquisition required for the extension of U.S. 17 from Bridgeton to Sandy Point and U.S. 70 in James City.
The original plan would have connected with U.S. 70 farther downriver and displaced 37 homes and 10 businesses. Meetings with Bridgeton area residents led to designing an alternate route through Sandy Point affected only four businesses on the Bridgeton side. Nelson’s Blueberry Farm lost 2.5 acres for right-of-way that included a bar named Taps. Annelieses’s Restaurant closed when 15 feet was taken for right-of-way; BridgePointe Harbor Subdivision lost 4.78 feet of its 25.25 acres for right-of-way and on the James City side, Adolph’s Auto Service relocated a mile down U.S. 70 due to right of way acquisition.
On Nov. 28, 1995, Governor Jim Hunt, along with a number of public officials, broke ground for the project behind the Ramada Inn (now the BridgePointe Hotel) stating, “The Bridge will change the face of New Bern.”
Four years later, Governor Hunt led the dedication on Nov. 6, a ceremony postponed from September due to hurricanes Dennis and Floyd. His comments included, “This Bridge is the regional solution to growing traffic problems and is one of the things that is going to help us leap over obstacles to growth and progress”.
Then-State Senator Beverly Perdue said, “All of us are here for a reason, to honor the water, the mighty Neuse River which demanded no less than a mighty and marvelous new bridge.
“Our state and federal government chose wisely in investing in the future of this area, in investing in us as a people, as a place of growth and as a place of opportunity — a new bridge for a new millennium; what could be more fitting?”
Fifteen years later, their comments still ring true.
Susan Moffat Thomas
Executive Director

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The tale of 2 abandoned tugboats and 10 barges

The two abandoned, derelict tug boats rested on the bottom
of this tributary of the Neuse River, at the foot of what is now
the base of the western ramp of the Neuse River Bridge, just
east of New Bern.
My recent articles on the Neuse River Bridge project led to a conversation with Jay Mattingly, former New Bern alderman, on his role in getting two abandoned tugboats removed from Scott’s Creek. The two abandoned, derelict tug boats rested on the bottom of this tributary of the Neuse River, at the foot of what is now the base of the western ramp of the Neuse River Bridge, just east of New Bern. 
Mattingly brought me his huge file of correspondence, photos, newspaper articles and summaries he amassed during the three years and five months he pursued every avenue to get the derelict tugboats removed. 
Mattingly said, “It seemed to me if these were motor vehicles on a city street they would have been removed promptly by city ordinance. Why can maritime law protect scofflaws who ignore or refuse to take proper care of their vessels?” 
Official records confirm the two tugs boats, the George McBlockwood and the J. Edgar Steigerwalk (aka) Snapper (built in the 1920s) were stuck in muck and mire, rusting away for more than 10 years. Sold “as is”, “where is” on Sept. 23, 1993, the tugs were considered abandoned as they were never moved by the owner. In 1994, in response to a complaint by the Neuse River Foundation, the U.S. Coast Guard ordered having the fuel pumped out of the two vessels and removal of an oil slick coming from the tugs. 
In December 1995, the N.C. Department of Transportation purchased land from Weyerhaeuser Company which included the submerged land the tugboats were on to construct U.S. 17and N.C. 55 across the Neuse River.
Mattingly’s quest began July 15, 1998.
He met with Special Deputy Attorney General, N.C. Department of Justice and the Manager of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Right of Way Branch who advised, “They were well aware of the situation but DOT’s mission was to build highways and not to move boats. DOT advertised and received one bid for $258,000, then decided to reject it since the bridge project could be built without moving the boats.” The meeting ended with a referral to speak with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Chief of Operations who stated, “Since the boats were in the creek and not a hazard to navigation, they were not responsible for doing anything.” 
With both avenues closed, Mattingly contacted P.A. Wojciechowski, division manager, Public Trust Submerged Lands in Morehead City who was knowledgeable on this case. Wojciechowski said he had talked to one of the partners who owned the boats but was unable to get them to remove them.
At his recommendation, Mattingly contacted the Commander and Executive Officer for the Port of Wilmington who advised, “since the pollutant fuels had been pumped out of the tugs, they were no further concern to the U.S. Coast Guard.” 
Undaunted, he contacted the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Boyce Hudson, senior field officer, who investigated the site, told him the boats were there when construction began so provisions were made to work around them and they were no longer a problem to the contractors.
In August, he wrote to DOT Secretary Norris Tolson. Several days later, the N.C. Highway Administrator called and advised “DOT cannot do anything. Legally gas tax dollars can only be spent on highway projects and cannot be used to move boats.” 
Secretary Tolson’s response was more of the same and encouraged Mattingly to continue to work with local authorities. A letter from then Sen. Bev Perdue suggested Craven County could authorize their removal with county funds. Mattingly’s position: since local county officials did not design, purchase the land, or contract with the bridge builders, why should the remedy fall in their jurisdiction? 

At an October meeting with a subcommittee of the Coastal Resources Commission, who are responsible for protecting the estuaries in the coastal region and shoreline stabilization of Public Trust Waters, Mattingly was told, “The tugs did not come under their mandate.” 
On May 21, 1999, he spoke with Rick Dove, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper who referred him to Weyerhaeuser management who in turn told him, Weyerhaeuser sold the property (real estate) where the bridge would be located to DOT and they were not involved with the tugboats. 
Many phone calls and contacts later, he found out previous owners of the tugboats were Bob Piner, general manager of the Morehead Towboat Company, Charles Carver who signed the bills of sale, and Cary McIntyre who was reported to be the primary purchaser. Piner advised Mattingly he sold both boats to a man from Leland, N.C. Mattingly’s attempts to contact that person were not successful and since he had no legal authority or official status to question him, he planned to inquire what his intentions were when he bought them. 
June 9 correspondence from County Attorney Jim Sugg advised, the subject was discussed at the June 7 Board of Commissioners meeting and the County Manager will pursue the matter with DOT. Although unsuccessful to date, the county was trying to find someone other than the County that was involved as the cost of removing the tugs would cost the taxpayers more than $250,000.
The Sun Journal’s first of many articles began on June 24 reporting, County officials want tug boats removed; not sure what can be done, but haven’t given up. 
On the same day, Jason Goins, Legal Aide, Neuse River Foundation advised they were preparing a warning letter to the DOT Secretary, with the intent to sue unless the tugs were removed within 60 days. 
In a June 28 letter to David McCoy (the new DOT Secretary), Mattingly asked him to reconsider DOT’s previous opinion.  More letters and meetings with state and local officials … no replies or “nothing can be done.”N.C. Secretary McCoy held a meeting in New Bern with Marion Smith, executive director of the Neuse River Foundation (NRF), Harold Talton, chairman of the County Commissions, Bob Mattocks, Division II Board of Transportation member, and other state and city officials and DOT staff. McCoy agreed to review DOT’s position, would provide a written up-date on their position and proceed with appropriate solutions.
Part 2
The Neuse River Bridge was a three-part project and T.A. Loving Company built the $13.3 million extension improvements (widening and repairing) to the U.S. 70 Bypass over the Trent River. When the work was completed they left a fleet of rusting barges, some loaded with construction debris. 
A July 20 Sun Journal article reported, “The Neuse River Foundation seeks removal of barges in the Trent River; sent letters to T.A. Loving President/CEO Samuel Hunter giving them 60 days to arrange for removal of the 10 barges. T.A. Loving’s contention was they sold the barges to a New Bern citizen who bought them at auction to sell but defaulted on the portion of the bid owed to the auction company.
More press. Raleigh News & Observer features front page story article ‘Tugs cast pall on new bridge.’” 
Governor Hunt’s letter to Senator Perdue stated funding sources will be explored and will require a cooperative effort. 
Letters to the Sun Journal continued to pour in…some writers suggested the tugs be preserved as art as they were beautiful relics. Others said they were ugly; clean-up should be done by the owners; DOT owned the property and the problem; it was their responsibility for clean-up. 
A letter from Secretary McCoy, responding to Mattingly’s June 28 letter, stated, “Please be assured that DOT is continuing to explore avenues by which this situation can be resolved. We will keep you informed of our progress.” 
On Aug. 30, DOT State Construction Engineer S. DeWitt sent a letter to the buyer of the barges notifying him the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified DOT they were in violation of the CAMA permit for the Trent River bridge project due to the continued existence of barges in the Trent River. DOT understood he and several others purchased the barges from T.A. Loving at auction, were the legal owners and encouraged him to contact Hunter and any prospective buyers to facilitate proper removal of the barges. 
 In Mattingly’s Sept. 1 letter to Governor Hunt, he related there was no action to date, the dedication for the bridge was only 17 days away and urged prompt action since the cranes would soon be moved to another site.
On Sept. 8, Secretary McCoy notified Marion Smith (NRF) that a letter from the Attorney General’s office was sent to Charles Carver (who signed the Bills of Sale for the tugboats) giving him 14 days to remove the vessels or face legal action. Carver’s attorney notified Mattingly, Carver disclaimed ownership. 
A Sun Journal article reported the Craven County attorney was drafting an ordinance prohibiting boat owners from littering county waterways with derelict boats.
Although the Sept. 17, 1999, dedication ceremony was postponed due to Hurricane’s Dennis and Floyd, the new Neuse River Bridge opened to traffic on Sept. 22. On Nov. 5, dedication ceremonies were held for the new Neuse River Bridge and the new Craven County air terminal.
Year 2000
In early March, Secretary McCoy sent Mattingly a packet with copies of all correspondence he received since his July meeting in New Bern including a letter to the citizen who reportedly bought the barges advising him he had 30 days to move the barges and a brief message: We are still addressing the issue.
On March 9, the Sun Journal reported the Neuse River Foundation (NRF) was close to filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the owners of the rusting barges abandoned in the Trent River and the NRF believed “it was T.A. Loving’s responsibility to get the floating scrap heaps out of the river.” The Foundation planned to file the lawsuit in 10 days after divers reported their findings and once the problem with the barges was resolved they would focus on the two tugs settled at the bottom of Scotts Creek. 
On March 13, DOT filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment against T.A. Loving Company in Craven County. DOT was still holding $250,000 in retainage and their legal staff was continuing to work toward a resolution of the removal of the construction barges. 
On March 25, the Sun Journal reported the remnants/equipment owned by Traylor Brothers still remained from bridge construction and included a photo of the staging area near the BridgePointe Hotel. Traylor Brother’s project manager stated all the equipment would be removed by July. County Manger Harold Blizzard was quoted that he was looking into the matter and would talk with the county attorney about a new strategy concerning the tug boats and barges in the river. 
On April 8, the Raleigh News & Observer reported on Edenton and New Bern’s efforts to remove derelict boats from the waters on the edge of both towns.
More meetings with the county manager, commissioners and T.A. Loving attorneys led to an attempt to come to an agreement to fund the cost of removing the barges and tugboats. 
On June 14, the Sun Journal reported that “an agreement had been reached only on raising the barges from the river bed, taking them to Barbour Boat Works and cutting them up for scrap. The project’s cost, $66,000 would be shared by NCDOT ($20,000), T.A. Loving ($30,000) and Craven County ($16,000).” 
On June 30, Representative Scott Thomas introduced a bill establishing procedures for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to bear the cost of removing vessels left unattended for more than 90 days and sue to recover that cost. The bill was passed by the Senate, signed by Governor James Hunt, and became effective July 1, 2000. 
More letters to county and state officials led to numerous meetings. 
The Oct. 6 Sun Journal reported, “Old tubs are being removed.” Jim Lewis, D.H. Griffin Wrecking Company, stated “prying them out of their resting places is a challenge; rigging is always the X-factor. Once the boats are free of the bottom, they’ll be raised, pumped out and floated to Barbour Boat Yard where they will be cut up and hauled to a steel recycling mill and will come back to life as something new made of steel.” 
On Oct. 30, work began to remove the tugs. At first, only one of the tugs could be dislodged from the mud. The larger of the two was raised and floated over to the Barbour Boat Works yard, cut up for scrap and trucked away. The work to raise the smaller tugs ceased until they could figure out the best way to raise it from the muck and mire. 
Year 2001
On July 20, after a 10 month delay, the McBlockwood was patched, pumped out, floated and towed by a barge and the contractor’s tug boat, the Huck Finn, to the former Barbour Boat Works yard and was cut up and removed as scrap metal. 
Mattingly’s perseverance
On his own as a private citizen concerned the tugs would continue to pollute our river, Mattingly contacted 27 officials with state and federal agencies and elected state and local officials, along with many others over a period of three years and five months. He pushed a lot of buttons, followed every lead, was met repeatedly with “can’t, won’t or not our responsibility,” but in the end his perseverance finally paid off.
Faced with overwhelming odds and unlimited obstacles, Jay Mattingly’s relentless perseverance of every avenue was ultimately the impetus for official remedial action and our community and our two rivers are all the better for it. 
Susan Moffat-Thomas is executive director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Non profit booths are part of Mumfest's long heritage

Greg Smith is kept busy filling in the color as mums
 are purchased at Mitchell Hardware on Craven Street
as residents prepare to celebrate the Annual
Mum Festival this weekend.

Amid the 300-plus vendors filling six blocks of downtown New Bern today and Sunday are upward of 50 local nonprofits and other charitable organizations that use the event to get public exposure and offer information about their causes.
The charitable groups represent the heritage backbone of the event, which began as a minor show more than three decades ago.
It has continued under the guidance of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp. into one of the premier festivals in the Southeast.
Groups such as Vietnam Veterans of America, ChAapter 886 get the opportunity at Mumfest to share information that many people may not know.
“Our chapter’s focus is to provide information and support not just to Vietnam veterans but all veterans regarding medical care, VA disability claims, or family survival benefits veterans earned in service of our country,” said Dobert Owsley, the chapter president.
The nonprofits are intermingled with the hundreds of vendors along a festival area that includes Broad Street, from Hancock to East Front Street; one block sections of Middle and Craven streets off of Broad; and East Front extending to South Front Street.
There is parking at public lots downtown and a free shuttle service is provided from New Bern Mall on the half-hour. It is available Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The mall pick-up is at the rear parking lot of J.C. Penny.
There is designated handicapped parking in the O. Marks parking lot on Hancock Street.
Most of the events, except for musical and dancing groups, are scheduled both days.
Free musical events begin at 11 a.m. with a today-only performance at the Christ Church Ministry Center on Middle Street. It features the New Bern Suzuki Strings, Down East Dulcimers and the Craven Community College Chorus ENCORE performing.
Another today-only venue is on Broad Street, beside the Sudan Shrine Center — site of dancing and drill performances by the area’s leading dance studios and schools, along with the New Bern High Drill Team and the Tryon Palace Fife & Drum Corps.
The main stage on East Front Street has different music each day.
Today at 11:30 a.m. and continuing until 6:30 p.m., the performers include DNA — A Band of Brothers; Gaylon Pope and Sweet Water and Billy Holton and the Soul Shakers.
There is an amusement park on East Front Street, with Michael’s Enterprises, a mobile midway company, with rides, games and food.
There is also a special Lil’ KIDSTUFF KORNER, under the tent at the corner of Broad and Craven streets.
It has magicians, story-tellers, mask-makers and other performers each day beginning at 10 a.m. such as the Gary Shelton, Poly & Ester, Steve Myott, Steve Willie and the Garbardine Sisters.
At 11 a.m. today and Sunday, there is the Scalawag School for Aspiring Pirates at Union Point Park for youngsters ages 6 to 12. 
There is also chainsaw carving in the park by Boon Hill Gallery.
A local historical location open for the festival is the New Bern Firemen’s Museum on Hancock Street.
Tryon Palace’s gardens are open both days. The Palace’s annual Heritage Plant Sale continues this morning.
For detailed information, on the web:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New Bern to host Mumfest next weekend

The 34th annual Mumfest will be Oct. 11 and 12
along the streets of New Bern’s downtown district and along the waterfront.
Vendors and visitors for New Bern’s largest outdoor event — Mumfest — will begin arriving next week for the Oct. 11 and 12 festival on the city’s waterfront downtown.
Sponsored by the city, it is a production of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp. and annually attracts upwards of 100,000 festival-goers from across the Southeast.
Swiss Bear Executive Director Susan Moffat-Thomas said the history and restoration of the city is a drawing card.
Also, visitors can spend a little or a lot with more than 300 commercial and nonprofit exhibitors. The array includes pottery, crafts and art.
There is always plenty of food in booths along the downtown district streets, as well as two days of free entertainment. That includes live bands, dance troupes, magicians, roving street performers, face painters and mermen and mermaids.
Another tradition is a pay riverfront amusement park on the Neuse River, with lots of rides, including a Ferris wheel.
Title sponsor Joe Alcoke Auto and Truck Center will bring NASCAR to the festival with an exhibit from the Richard Childress Racing Team. It includes famous stock cars and two racing simulators to allow visitors to test their driving skill — for free.
Also featured will be the X-POGO Stunt Team, performing extreme pogo exhibition. These world class athletes fly up to nine feet in the air, doing flips and other stunts on their high-powered pogo sticks.
The popular Signora Bella will balance on her orb of doom while juggling Turkish swords — all the while telling tales of her journeys.
Along with Bella will be Rick Hubbard with Juggle Stuff — teaching the audience how to juggle.
A number of favorites will return, including Alex Clark, the comedian who performs jaw-dropping stunts; the Purina Incredible Dog Team making aerial disc catches; the Silver Drummer Girl; a huge model train show, and the New Bern Police’s K-9s, along with the Weller Kennels Labrador retriever demonstrations.
The out of water 15th annual Boat Show will be a place to find a new boat or water-related gear.
More music can be found on Oct. 11 in the Christ Church Ministry Center, 305 Middle St., with the Fairfield Harbour chorus, ENCORE Craven Community Chorus and Down East Dulcimers/New Bern Suzuki Strings.

Wine and beer connoisseurs will enjoy sampling a wide variety of craft wines and beers at the Galley Store’s second annual “Juice on the Neuse Festival.”
“Big Kids Stuff and Lil’ Kids Stuff” will be back this year with Poly and Ester; the famous Gabardine Sisters; master storyteller Steve Myott; mask-maker Steve Wille; and Gary Shelton’s Magic shows.
Every festival has lots of chrysanthemums and Tryon Palace will serve them up in its gardens, which will be open free Oct. 10 to 12. The Palace also will have its bi-annual Heritage Plant Sale on Oct. 11 and 12.
On Oct. 12, join in the 5k run, sponsored by the Coastal Women’s Shelter. Registration will begin at 7 a.m. at Union Point Park.
Also, Tokyo Rosenthal and Gumbo Lily will be performing with other talented members of the N.C. Songwriters. They will perform on the main stage by the Galley Store at East Front and Pollock streets.
Something new this year will be Shepard’s Point Tours of Morehead City, providing boat rides between Lawson Creek Park and Union Point Park. A small fee makes this new attraction possible, sponsored by Woodforest National Bank.
Those who park at the New Bern Mall can travel downtown by free trolley, which is sponsored by Little Caesar’s Pizza and Swiss Bear.
For more, visit on the web.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Neuse River Bridge: A once-in-a-lifetime project

The Neuse River Bridge
Photo by Bill Hand/Sun Journal Staff
Since the mid-1970s, vision, achievable goals, partnerships, commitment, and hard work by the public and private sector were key to the downtown’s renaissance — and the state-of-the art Neuse River Bridge.
Opened to traffic in November 1999, the U.S. 17/N.C. 55 intricate system of roadway, ramps and bridges crossing the Trent and Neuse rivers was North Carolina’s largest single highway contract at that time. It is a project that was/is critical to the growth and economic development of Eastern North Carolina.
Historically, in Eastern North Carolina, ferry transportation was relied on as the cost of building bridges was financially burdensome. By the late 1800s, the inconvenience of ferries led to the county borrowing $35,000 to construct a Neuse River Bridge from New Bern to Bridgeton that opened in 1898.
In the 1940s, the ever increasing number of cars and trucks intensified N.C. 55/U.S. 17 traffic on the Neuse Boulevard/Broad Street corridor through downtown, led to the widening of Board Street and construction of a new Neuse River Bridge at the foot of Broad Street to Bridgeton in the early 1950s.
By the 1980s, it was a common sight to see cars lined up bumper to bumper on Broad and East Front streets as the swing span bridges over the two rivers opened to let boats through. Even though a boat could clear the span with the bridge rotating back in place in 10 minutes, it took 30-40 minutes for the traffic jam to clear. If the drawbridge opened at 5 in the afternoon, traffic backed up for miles. Major traffic problems were expected to intensify in the coming decade.
Its impact on the downtown revitalization effort led to Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp.’s active involvement in pursuing the bridge’s replacement.
At the April 1988 Swiss Bear Board meeting, County Manager Tyler Harris reported both the Trent and Neuse River bridges were eligible for replacement and at a recent NCDOT presentation three options were being considered. The first, a New Bern Bypass, carrying traffic far outside New Bern; the second, construction of a high rise bridge to extend from Bridgeton to the vicinity of Hatteras Yachts. The last was the possible construction of a high-rise bridge from Sandy Point to James City and closure of the two existing drawbridges.
Harris said, prior to that meeting, representatives from the county, City Manager Bill Hartman and a 12-member committee met with NCDOT representatives to ensure any plans for improvements to existing and new roadways would be geared to improving local traffic as opposed to through traffic. The committee felt the last option for a new bridge system would best serve the needs of the community.
In discussion, downtown merchant, Lou Steinberg agreed improvements to our existing bridge and road system were necessary; however, the downtown merchants would miss earnings from traffic now forced through the downtown if the bypass option was selected. Jimmy Chagaris felt downtown would become more tourist-oriented in the future and sales would come from this new group of people. John Phillips said traffic congestion was already hurting downtown businesses and he favored plans that would improve traffic flow through New Bern.
Tyler Harris noted if the bridge replacement project received funding from the Federal Bridge Replacement Act, the two existing bridges would be removed. Bill Hartman said the bridge and road improvements were a necessary risk and offered the opportunity for developing park areas where the old bridges were, giving citizens and visitors additional access to the water.
During the same year, 2001 Craven County – Previewing the Future, a two-year strategic planning effort initiated by the Chamber of Commerce in 1987, determined a vital key to the future development of the county was the locations and timely construction of a new Neuse River Bridge and U.S. Highway Bypass. Those working on the 2001 Committee saw an opportunity for local citizens to have a significant impact on decisions concerning the two projects as important NCDOT hearings were scheduled and critical time would pass before such an opportunity arose again.
In 1989, at the Swiss Bear October Board meeting, Representative Gerald Anderson noted federal discretionary funds could be used for the bridge project and with the right people working on this bridge project, it could begin in three years with monies coming from the state and federal government.
Responding to the opportunity, the Craven County Transportation Committee, chaired by Troy Smith, was expanded to include Pamlico and Jones counties. Committee representatives included the Craven County Commissioner’s Chairmen and Vice Chairmen, Harold Talton, Roy Brison, Sr., Nolan Jones, Albert Toon; Mayors Tom Bayliss and George Griffin; County Managers, Harold Blizzard, Larry Meadows, Randy Beaman; City Manager, Bill Hartman and Havelock Clerk, Kathleen Townsend. Representatives Scott Thomas and William Wainwright, Sen. Beverly Perdue, NCDOT Division II Board, Bob Mattock; Joe Thomas, Lonnie Pridgen, Michael Avery, Dallas Blackiston, Don Baumgardner, Jim Davis, Billy Haire, Lauren Hillman. Division Engineer, Rick Shirley (replaced later by Neil Lassiter) and Susan Moffat Thomas, all representing and providing liaison with the governments of the smaller towns, chambers of commerce, civic groups and state legislators. A united front by all three counties was crucial to the effort.
Nancy Stallings, a former NCDOT Assistant Secretary, was hired as the Transportation Coordinator and operated out of the Swiss Bear office. Her challenge was to work with the Committee and NCDOT to build a bridge in an appropriate location and most challenging of all, bring everyone in the three counties together as it was politically important to have a strong unified show of support for a new bridge.
An immediate need was getting the Neuse River Replacement project listed in the N.C. Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). Congress’ passage of the Surface Transportation Act changed the method of funding bridges. Prior to that, Committee plans were to obtain funds for the new bridge from federal discretionary funds and now funding would be provided through the state with a funding amount placed at $70 million.
The primary concern was NCDOT spent its highway funding on projects contained in the TIP, a plan that was updated every year with highway improvement projects planned for the next seven years. Projects not listed in the plan would not be considered. The Transportation Committee also recognized the project could ultimately cost a $100 million so federal financial assistance was needed as the plan was to lobby for a project that would exceed the standard bridge replacement concept of bridge replacement and reasonable approaches only. The desired project would be a part of a bypass of New Bern and would exceed the funding allowed by Federal Bridge Replacement criteria.
In February 1992, a resolution requesting that NCDOT include the Neuse River Bridge Replacement Project was signed by all members of the Craven, Pamlico, and Jones Transportation Committee. Thomas Harrelson, Secretary, NCDOT, State Reps. Gerald Anderson and William Wainwright, Sen. Beverly Perdue, Congressmen Martin Lancaster and Walter B. Jones, Senator’s Terry Sanford and Jesse Helms were inundated with letters and a resolution from all counties, cities and organizations involved.
As a follow up, Nancy Stallings traveled to Washington and met with Congressman Walter B. Jones and Senator Terry Sanford seeking ways federal dollars could be secured for this project.
To be continued in two weeks.
Susan Moffat Thomas is executive director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp.

Ship-hauling machine completes series of city's 300th projects.

Final dedication ceremony featured many involved in winch's discover, restoration.

Michael and Andrea Harrison of Boston look at the interpretive board at the
 display of a 1960s-era ship-hauling machine at Lawson Creek Park Sunday.

The final project of the New Bern 300th celebration was officially dedicated and turned over to the city by Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp. on Sunday.
A ceremony featuring many of the principal players in the discovery and restoration of a 1960s-era ship-hauling machine were on hand along with a crowd of about 100 people at the now-restored piece at Lawson Creek Park.
The massive winch, with one gear wheel weighing seven or eight tons, was purchased by Barbour Boat Works for work getting large steel hull vessels in and out of the water at its planned Neuse River Facility, on property now owned by Maola Milk.
The project did not come to pass, and the giant machine lay dormant amid weeds and other vegetation for decades until it was discovered in 2007 by 300th volunteers Tom McGraw, the late Dick Lore, Harry Goodman and Wade Tilley.
Susan Moffat-Thomas, Swiss Bear’s executive director, said she enthusiastically embraced the project.
“When I saw it, I knew it had to be acquired for public display,” she said Sunday. She credited Maola Milk with donating the huge winch, the city of New Bern for storing it for several years, then-New Bern resident Mary Ann Harrison with the major funding for the project, and the Williams Service Company for the restoration of the artifact.
“I have absolutely been passionate about this,” said Moffat-Thomas, who earlier pointed out that the city has no major public displays to reflect its rich boat-building and shipping history. “I knew I could never leave Swiss Bear until this project was completed.”
Moffat-Thomas is retiring at the end of the year.
“It is an absolutely magnificent piece of maritime machinery and a reminder of the outstanding historic role our city had as a port and major boat-building center,” she added. “Like all of our projects, it has taken the public and private sector to make them happen. That is what has made this community so very, very special.”
This installation joins a restored Blue Angels F-11 at the park, along with some other 300th projects such as the restoration of the New Bern City Hall clock, now at the North Carolina History Center; an expanded River Walk downtown, with several small parks added; a historic cemetery restoration; and a 29-foot Spider Lily sculpture at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center.
Speakers for the event included McGraw, chairman of the project; New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw; Harrison; New Bern Parks and Recreation Director Thurman Hardison; New Bern City Manager Mark Stephens; Eileen Tennor of MORTAR& Ink, Graphic Design for the Built World, and urban planner Cy Paumier.
Craven Brass Quintet provided music before and after the event, which featured a number of historic Barbour Boat Works boats.
Harrison provided nearly all the funding for the project, in honor of her late husband, Timothy.
He was a World War II veteran and according to his son, Michael, who came from Boston with his wife, Andrea, Timothy Harrison loved boats and was an active member of the Neuse River Foundation, along with his wife.
“As you have heard, a project like this doesn’t happen as the result of one person,” said Mary Ann Harrison. “(It takes) a lot of people, a lot of effort, a lot of dedication.”
She urged everyone to “contribute in some way in the community, to leave your community, your home better than what you found it. Volunteer. Donate a little bit, donate a lot if you can. Just be an active part of your community.”

Sun Journal, September 29, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mumfest organizers look back at festival's early days

It won’t be long now: New Bern’s Mumfest, which started 34 years ago as a small street festival and is now the city’s premier event, will be here Oct. 11-12.
Susan Moffat-Thomas, executive director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp., who is marking her 29th Mumfest, said the festival has grown so much it touches many people year-round.
“There are so many people who participate and benefit,” Moffat-Thomas said. “The economic impact is tremendous with hotels, restaurants and stores. But I think a lot of people don’t realize there are a lot of people who come from outside New Bern and spend their time here and on gas and food. There are many dollars spent here.”
There are also nonprofits, such as the New Bern Lions Club, that sell carbonated drinks to raise funds for its blindness program, she said.
An economic study done on Mumfest in 2002 found that 55,000 people attended and the economic impact was $2.5 million, Moffat-Thomas said.
“We know the crowd has doubled since then,” she said. “This is good for our community in many ways. It is a grand community effort, and I think everyone is very proud of it.”

Mumfest grew initially from a strategic event to draw people downtown when it was being revitalized in the 1980s, Moffat-Thomas said.
It won’t be long now: New Bern’s Mumfest, which started 34 years ago as a small street festival and is now the city’s premier event, will be here Oct. 11-12.
Susan Moffat-Thomas, executive director of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp., who is marking her 29th Mumfest, said the festival has grown so much it touches many people year-round.
“There are so many people who participate and benefit,” Moffat-Thomas said. “The economic impact is tremendous with hotels, restaurants and stores. But I think a lot of people don’t realize there are a lot of people who come from outside New Bern and spend their time here and on gas and food. There are many dollars spent here.”
There are also nonprofits, such as the New Bern Lions Club, that sell carbonated drinks to raise funds for its blindness program, she said.
An economic study done on Mumfest in 2002 found that 55,000 people attended and the economic impact was $2.5 million, Moffat-Thomas said.
“We know the crowd has doubled since then,” she said. “This is good for our community in many ways. It is a grand community effort, and I think everyone is very proud of it.”

Mumfest grew initially from a strategic event to draw people downtown when it was being revitalized in the 1980s, Moffat-Thomas said.
“By partnering with the city, it allow us to really grow,” she said. “Then we began recruiting sponsors. We partnered with all the media to really market the festival because tourism was such an important part of the revitalization project. We wanted to market the festival so people would come in and stay overnight and enjoy the city.”
As the Bicentennial Park was developed and the revitalization of downtown started filling the empty buildings, venues for the festival were getting restricted.
“The density of the crowds was becoming too much,” Moffat-Thomas said. “We were beginning to worry about the safety of the people.”
But after the new drawbridge was completed, Swiss Bear was able to work with the Department of Transportation and get East Front Street and two blocks of Pollock Street closed, linking the Board Street area with Union Point Park for the two-day festival, Moffat-Thomas said.
“There have been a lot of partnerships and organizations helping us; the city and nonprofits,” she said. “We’ve grown from a little festival of maybe 10,000 in the 1980s to probably more than 100,000. I’m very proud of that. We have received many awards over the years. We have worked hard and we are going to make darn sure we live up to our reputation and quality.”
Some of this year’s newer attractions that promise “Something for Everyone” will include: Signora Bella, the Great Italian Equilibrist; a longer water taxi from Lawson Creek Park to Union Point park (small fee); a pirate Skallywag School; and the late Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo and two other races care from Richard Childress Racing for NASCAR fans; and many other staples of the festival.

This year there will be 23 venues at Mumfest and a lot of entertainment for young people, Moffat-Thomas said.