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Mayor: Road construction sign of Greenville's growth

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Greenville Mayor PJ Connelly speaks at the Chamber of Commerce Power Luncheon at the Hilton on May 21, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Greenville’s mayor joked that starting in 2020 the city should erect signs at its entrances asking people to pardon the construction that will be underway on local roads.

However, the investment the state Department of Transportation is making to widen 14th and Evans streets and Allen, Fire Tower and Portertown roads will provide the necessary infrastructure to further encourage development in the city, P.J. Connelly said at Tuesday’s Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce Power Luncheon.

“There is a lot of positive energy in Greenville right now,” Connelly said. “Our growth and prosperity is evident with some of the new construction and some of the detours that are annoying but are necessary elements with such rapid growth,” he said.

Connelly led more than 100 business and local government leaders at the luncheon in applause over the near completion of the 10th Street Connector

“That stretch, a convenient link between the university and the medical campuses, is a result of the city, ECU, Vidant and (N.C. Department of Transportation) all working together,” Connelly said. “It was certainly a much needed project for the city and once fully completed will provide a nice gateway for our visitors.”

Improvements to local streets aren’t stopping. NCDOT will begin repaving 10th Street between Evans Street and Greenville Boulevard starting June 3, Connelly said. Much of the work will be done at night to limit negative impacts on daytime traffic, he said.

Also beginning this summer is the Dickinson Avenue modernization project, where the state will upgrade existing infrastructure and repave the road. The city is funding streetscapes, street lighting and the installation of sidewalks and brick pavers to enhance the pedestrian access along the road, Connelly said.

Sound infrastructure is just one of the priorities to current City Council set for itself, Connelly said. The council also is making investments to provide a great workforce for a strong economy and a safe community.

The city has invested $2.5 million for street improvements, Connelly said, a 400 percent increase in what was spent in 2014. The money funded the resurfacing of 27 miles of roads and filling 1,000 potholes.

The city also spent $250,000 on safety improvements such as additional lighting and pedestrian enhancements, he said.

Public safety remains the council’s top commitment, Connelly said, and it’s an investment that has paid off with a 20 percent reduction in crime between 2017 and 2018, according to data released by the Greenville Police Department earlier this year.

Reported burglaries dropped 34 percent between 2017 and 2018 and a 27 percent drop in robbery over the same time period. Property crime also went down 20 percent. Homicides increased, going to five in 2018 from 4 in 2017.

The city’s proposed 2019-20 fiscal year budget maintains the city’s current 52-cent tax increase.

The proposed budget adds staff and equipment to increase preventative maintenance of the city’s stormwater system. It’s the first step in launching the city’s watershed master plan, which seeks to reduce periodic street flooding, erosion problems and improve the quality of water entering the Tar River.

Along with improved maintenance, capital improvement projects will begin. Connelly said the work is being undertaken without a stormwater rate increase in the new budget.

Howeve, the council did approve a $4 rate increase in the fee that will be phased in over a five-year period starting in fiscal year 2020-21.

There are also plans to invest additional money in commercial and industrial site development, Connelly said.

The city is accomplishing many of its goals due to its partnerships in the community, ranging from the state transportation department, local education institutions to private businesses.

“We will continue to grow our partnerships because we recognize that by working together we can achieve more,” Connelly said.

The city is continuing its annual $20,000 contribution to Pitt Community College that provides financial assistance to individuals in workforce development programs such as framing and carpentry, welding, nursing assistants, electronics and electrical wiring, HVAC training and emergency medical technician training. Connelly said 70 individuals received the city’s financial assistance and nearly 40 found jobs after completing the courses.

The city also continues leading efforts to form the Greenville Eastern North Carolina Alliance, a public-private partnership between local municipalities and private businesses that will market the region, support new and existing business development, maximize investment opportunities and enhance public and private sector collaboration.

It’s an approach that has been effective in other states and other parts of North Carolina, Connelly said, because it allows for more coordination and communication among partners to leverage all resources.

“Times are certainly good in Greenville,” Connelly said. “We continue to see new businesses in our area, businesses expanding and a population that continues to grow as we continue to solidify the city as an economic, medical, educational and cultural hub of eastern North Carolina.”

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com and 329-9570.

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