City officials and citizens meet to discuss possible grant money

City officials and citizens meet to discuss possible grant money

Kinston Community Development Planner Tatiana Height addresses the crowd at Holloway Recreation Center during this week's meeting about the N.C. Neighborhood Grant application. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News

Citizens turned up in droves this week to voice their opinions regarding possible grant money that could affect their community.

The Kinston Planning Department held an event at Holloway Recreation Center Tuesday to discuss community and economic development activities, which would be included in the 2018 N.C. Neighborhood Grant application. The $750,000 grant is designed for non-entitlement communities and must incorporate equitable affordable housing, the support of existing communities or valuing communities and neighborhoods.

Dozens of citizens came to the meeting to listen and voice their opinions at the final public meeting before the Planning Department began work on a proposal to present to the Kinston City Council in September.

“I didn’t know how many people would show up because the last meeting didn’t have nearly as much participation,” Community Development Planner Tatiana Height said. “I was really pleased with the turnout here. Both recreation and housing were really high priorities and both impact the community in many ways.

“It was a very passionate forum and the community output was very positive. It really showed the community really cares about what’s going on. We hope to have internal discussions later with a couple of people at this meeting as well before September.”

A long-time Holloway staffer and retired coach, Skeet Davis, said he appreciated the event and hopes the conversation will continue.

“I thought it was a very productive meeting and I think we need more like this,” Davis said. “We also need to have more city officials out here to give answers to the people at the meetings. If the community is more involved, things would be better.”

There were a pair of members of the Kinston City Council in attendance — Sammy Aiken and Kristal Suggs — along with Lenoir County Commissioner Roland Best.  

“I’m very grateful the community came out and provided a lot of passion with great suggestions,” Aiken said. “We should have more of these meetings and the community needs to get together, including the city council meetings, to voice their opinions.”

There were numerous discussions throughout the meeting, especially between housing and parks and recreation. Among the concerns were acquiring abandoned houses, redevelopment actions to include Kinston citizens and accountability toward people’s properties.

As for parks and recreation, the conversation turned toward making East Kinston more walkable, along with improvements to Emma Webb Park and Holloway.

“We started off in a good direction when we talked about revitalizing the neighborhoods, but we weren’t all in agreement,” Kinston resident Debra Tyson said. “We’ve got plenty of abandoned homes and many of them can be fixed. You have people without places to stay, but (the conversation) went back toward putting money into Holloway when they receive money in the parks and rec budget.”

Overall, Kinston resident Lori Carmon felt like there should be more accountability toward those in authority.

“If we didn’t know about the grant, it wouldn’t be discussed,” Carmon said. “Everything being discussed tonight, the city should’ve had it in place — you’ve got taxpayer money going toward busing kids to Holloway, but Emma Webb was shut down.

“I’m petrified for our city. As long as we have that crab mentality — not wanting to see others succeed — I just don’t know what the future will hold.”

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