05/16/06 — Mayor says improvements will mean more opportunities for Princeton

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Mayor says improvements will mean more opportunities for Princeton

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 16, 2006 1:47 PM

PRINCETON -- Residents can expect a new town hall, a park and an overhauled water and sewer system to bring economic development and growth to the area, Princeton's mayor said.

"The future is very bright," Mayor Don Rains said. "We've had tough years with water and sewer problems. Putting together a new town hall and a park have been major accomplishments. I have a feeling the next few years won't be easy, but the challenges will be growth-related challenges, which are opportunities."

The new town hall on West Dr. Donnie Jones Boulevard will more than triple the space of the current, obsolete building on South Pine Street. It will provide more space for the town clerk, mayor and police, and it will include a meeting room and space for juvenile justice and probation officers.

The current 1,200-square-foot Town Hall was built in the 1930. It was damaged by hurricanes in 1999, and the roof leaks during heavy rainstorms.

Rains said the town will sell the old fire department portion of the Town Hall and probably will tear down the remainder.

The new town hall will cost about $1 million and will be paid through a federal grant and a low-interest loan. He said it should be finished in October.

A picnic shelter is being built at the park, named in honor of Ray M. Floors, a businessman, civic leader and magistrate who died in 2000. The four acres were donated by his two daughters on condition that the park be developed within five years. They also stipulated that the park could not be used for athletic events.

Playground equipment has been installed, and a walking trail has been constructed.

Princeton was awarded a $152,000 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to build the park, but the town must match the money within three years. The town also received a county grant and raised donations to fund the project.

Rains said Johnston County is working with communities on parks and recreation needs. Princeton will get $150,000 in seed money from a $3 million county bond issue to look into building three more baseball fields and soccer and football fields.

"It's another five-year project, but the needs are here now," the mayor said.

Rains said water and sewer issues were becoming less of a problem at the town's unique, but antiquated sewer plant.

"We have a brand new plant with room to grow," the mayor said.

Two clarifiers were installed at a cost of $1.8 million, and now the plant operates at only about 30 percent capacity.

Rains said some water lines should be replaced and improvements will come as the town gets the money.

As U.S. 70 is upgraded to near-interstate standards between Raleigh and Morehead City, Rains said Princeton will have retail opportunities. He said that when the Clayton bypass is completed, Princeton would be the first stop for drivers heading to the coast. The town would be the only stop for about 75 miles when the Goldsboro bypass is finished. The Clayton and Goldsboro bypasses are scheduled to be finished in 2008 and 2011, respectively, he said.

The edges of Princeton continue to grow. The second phases of the Eagles Crest and Lakeview subdivisions, just outside of town, are being developed. Both have 150 lots. Rains said 14 of the 41 lots in his Cloverdale subdivision in town are under contract.

Princeton has 475 acres, and by law, it can annex only 10 percent more land that is not contiguous to the town. It now has annexed eight acres and wants to add 40 more acres, the limit, in Eagles Crest. Rains said the town is asking its state legislator for an exemption from the law.

The town's new industrial park, Princeton Commons, offers land for new businesses. A strip center on Edwards Mill Road at U.S. 70 may be expanded, Rains said.

"I'm hearing rumors about things that might happen," he said, "but nothing specific right now."

The mayor said he wants to offer water and sewer services to more customers, even those in western Wayne County, so that rates could be reduced for current users.

At a February retreat of the town board, Rains said working with nearby Pine Level and eastern Johnston County was stressed.

Princeton School, one of a few kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools in the state, is a big reason why the town is growing, the mayor said. Despite recent additions, the school has 20 mobile units. A second campus for K-5 grades might be built to alleviate overcrowding, "but it still will be our school," he said.