Category Archives: Bridgeton

What’s in a Name? Town upgrade worth the effort!

Photo credit: Alan Welch

By Alan Welch

BRIDGETON — It took a while to convert a neglected weed patch into a warmly, inviting welcome to the small town of Bridgeton, but the wait and effort was well worth it.

It was a joint effort between me – in my capacity as an elected official on the Bridgeton Town Council – the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and the Bridgeton Improvement Committee, spearheaded by then president George Burens.

Since the state’s Department of Transportation owns the site (adjacent to Highway 17 through town), we kicked the initiative off by contacting state officials! After meetings with the Bridgeton Town Councils, DOT representatives agreed that the area did need — and deserved – a thorough enhancing! Fortunately, they approved releasing funds from the Department’s Beautification Fund. This fund comes from charges paid for vanity tags seen on private vehicles so no tax monies were involved.

The next step was to let the project out for bid and selecting a contractor to actually convert the agreed upon plan into reality. Once the landscaping was complete, Bridgeton Improvement Committee stepped up and funded both the flagpole and the newly installed town name.

What’s in a name? A bit of civic pride, a desire to make one’s home a little nicer, a new look for a somewhat neglected town. Working together can produce results!

Seaplanes, float planes, flying boats headed for Bridgeton

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By Alan Welch

BRIDGETON — Wings Over Bridgeton is the first (and so far only) seaplane “fly in” to happen on the Neuse River. This Saturday, Nov. 19, is the big day and admission is free!

Organizers expect more than a dozen fly / float aircraft, with the best viewing to take place at Bridgeton Harbor Marina, 1101 B Street in Bridgeton – which is just a stone’s throw from busy Hwy. 17 — which runs through this small waterfront community.

Pilots will begin to arrive Friday afternoon, for hobnobbing with locals and some demonstrations. About 9 a.m. Saturday, pilots will allow the public to view their aircraft and answer questions about taking off and landing on the water’s surface. An hour or so later, the aircraft are scheduled for take-offs – flying over and around Bridgeton, New Bern, and who knows where else??

Some of many highlights include competitions for accurate landings near markers, and other bizarre challenges — dropping missiles (water balloons or grapefruit) on water borne ‘targets’ The fun and excitement will end around 4 p.m. when pilots take off to refuel and begin their flights home. Aircraft from around the Carolinas and Virginia are expected to participate – although some entries may arrive from even further away.

Planners hope this first event will morph into an annual parade as fliers, using the Neuse River as an innovative portal to eastern North Carolina, while at the same time offering incredible entertainment for local residents.

Wings Over Bridgeton is produced by the Bridgeton Improvement Committee, a 501(c)3 non profit organization for the development of projects helpful to the town and areas around Bridgeton, North Carolina. The event is admission free with a modest charge of $5 per car for nearby parking. Information at: www.flybridgeton.weebly.com
or email: info@alanwelch.us

Bridgeton grabs spotlight

Blueberry Festival returns after 20-year hiatus

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BRIDGETON – Civic pride in this small waterfront community (which sometimes takes a backseat to the larger municipality on the ‘other’ side of the Neuse River) is almost busting at the seams these days. But, that is OK as long as the grommets hold on a huge banner stretched across the median of busy Hwy. 17.

Early in the planning for this Saturday’s Blueberry Festival, organizer Ray Parker collared local resident Dave ‘Bigfoot’ Brown and quickly twisted the massive arm of the welder and signsmith. Parker’s goal, of course, was to get the biggest possible banner at the lowest possible price.

“Well, it certainly is the biggest one that I’ve ever done,” chuckled Brown, during a recent telephone interview. “And, I intend to do everything I can to ensure it stays in place once it goes up!”

But, wait! That’s not all. In addition to the Bridgeton’s Community Watch program — which is the organization that has tackled Blueberry Festival preparations – another diligent group has also been busy!

Credit a band of brothers (and sisters), known as BIC for Bridgeton Improvement Committee, who toil away throughout the year to host a variety of good deeds, and implement much needed projects.

That’s how a new flagpole and appealing landscaping project materialized in the weeks leading up to
Blueberry Festival, this Saturday, June 25.

For Bridgeton’s historical records, here is a recap of recent events, submitted by BIC operative Alan Welch:

After a period of negotiation with the NCDOT, a landscaping project was completed last month in the heart of Bridgeton on a neglected corner of Hwy 17. The corner, across from Hardee’s, had become a weed patch and an eyesore and the state agreed to use assets from the Highway Beautification Fund to have a landscape contractor execute a plan that the Highway Department’s designers had developed.

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Starting from a base of Bermuda grass, the flowerbed contains Day Lillies, Knockout Roses, and Dwarf Fountain Grass — all backed up with a row of Catawba Crepe Myrtle. Now that the state is finished with its work the Bridgeton Improvement Committee recently erected a flagpole and the town’s name should soon float with attractive letters, just in front of the flowers!”

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Festival mascot needs a name!

NEWS1-Festival-Mascot-graphicBRIDGETON – The happy character is popping up everywhere, as a way of promoting the return of the Annual Blueberry Festival, scheduled this year for Saturday, June 25, along the banks of the Neuse River at Bridgeton Marina. Alas, the cherubic mascot has no name – until now! E-mail your suggestion to: adamstw70@yahoo.com. One lucky winner will receive a $50 gift certificate, which can be redeemed at a Walmart in New Bern. Limit one entry per household, and all entries must be received by Friday, June 17. Please enter our contest, and be sure to attend the Festival!

Blueberry Festival returns

blueberryBRIDGETON – Saturday, June 25, this waterfront town pays homage to traditions and heritage, as The Blueberry Festival returns – after a hiatus, by one estimate, of almost 20 years.

“I and others on our small committee just decided that it needed to be done,” explained organizer Ray Parker. “Fortunately, it is coming along quite nicely, although we have many, many things to do before the big day!”

Almost a dozen vendors have already signed up, according to Parker, with a host of activities planned for both young and old. One highlight from yesteryear is a competition, known locally as the Blueberry Bake-Off.

Watch this newspaper for complete details. And, to become involved, call Parker at (252) 636-3749

Former Bridgeton town commissioner pleads guilty

Drug dealing at hair salon nets hard prison time

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CHARLES D. FREEMAN, 56, of Bridgeton, entered guilty pleas Friday in cases pending against him, according to a press release from District Attorney Scott Thomas.

Superior Court Judge Ken Crow accepted Freeman’s pleas.

Freeman faced charges in two sets of cases – both of which occurred after he served the Town of Bridgeton as an elected official.

In the first case, Freeman sold trafficking amounts of oxycodone pills to an undercover officer on five separate occasions between August and October of 2015. The first four sales occurred at his salon located at 901 D Street in Bridgeton. The fifth occurred in his vehicle.

In the second matter, on September 24, 2015, Freeman went to Cotton Funeral Home and signed an authorization and release of jewelry and personal items form, claiming to be the immediate next of kin to a woman who had died. He received four rings of hers, which belonged to her estate. Five days later, he pawned two of the rings to a pawn shop in Bridgeton. The other two rings were never recovered.

Freeman pled guilty to six total counts of Trafficking in Opium; four counts of Maintaining a Dwelling or Vehicle for Controlled Substances; five counts of Possession of Oxycodone with Intent to Distribute; and, two counts of Obtaining Property by False Pretense. Judge Crow sentenced Freeman to 70 to 93 months in prison, and ordered hiim to pay a $ 50,000 fine. He also ordered Freeman to make restitution to the woman’s estate, to the Bridgeton Police Department for the “buy money” used in the investigation, and to the pawn shop, which paid him money based upon his false representation.

The cases were investigated by the Bridgeton Police Department and the New Bern Police Department, and were prosecuted in court by Assistant District Attorney Chekesha Hukins.

Full steam ahead! Effort underway to sink more boating fees!

Tom Wynn

Tom Wynn

BRIDGETON – A man on a mission personifies Tom Wynn, the manager and dockmaster of Bridgeton Harbor Marina. To put it politely, Wynn is incensed that Republican lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly have proposed more in the way of new boating fees.

In a recent e-mailed ‘alert,’ BoatU.S., the well-known association of boat owners, claims “the new user fee would make North Carolina the most expensive state in the nation in which to register a boat.”

That’s right. Hard to believe, but true.

And, according to Wynn, snowbirds back-and-forth on the IntraCoastal Waterway are likely to be hit with the assessment too.

Early indications are that Wynn will have no problem mounting an organized effort to torpedo this proposed legislation. One of the arrows in his quiver is legislation passed only two years ago, raising boat registration fees dramatically – with the ostensible goal of helping to fund dredging.

Wynn, who admits that he has spent many an hour researching this issue, says “$8.7 million has been paid into that fund already, and every request made has been funded.” He also lambastes another proposed purpose for the money:

“Lake weed control? Where in the heck did that come from?”

Wynn wants to hear from anybody and everybody on this issue. He’ll furnish the name and phone numbers of alll state legislator with fingerprints on this proposed new law. Call Wynn at (252) 636-0171, or e-mail: Dockmasterwynn@gmail.com

‘Warm, fuzzy’ unlikely to be part of negotiations for old school site

Buildings, originally constructed in the late 1940s, have become a liability on the site, which was used for decades as the former Bridgeton Elementary School.

Buildings, originally constructed in the late 1940s, have become a liability on the site, which was used for decades as the former Bridgeton Elementary School.

BRIDGETON – Town officials hope to acquire a six-acre riverfront site on B-Street, which was once the home of Bridgeton Elementary. However, the site’s long-time owner, the Craven County Board of Education, sent abrupt word Tuesday night – during a Bridgeton town board meeting – that future negotiations could get testy!

Having recently spoken with an attorney representing the Board of Education, the Bridgeton town attorney told Mayor Rodman Williams and town Commissioners Boots Parker, Keith Tyndall, John Chittick, and Alan Welch that the town “must submit a signed offer to purchase” before the Board of Education will allow Bridgeton to conduct routine inspections of buildings on the property and related ‘due diligence.’

And, the town attorney suggested that his counterpart with the Board of Education “said they will probably not sell for anything less than $600,000.”

The prospect of drafting an offer to purchase — for a price that is currently beyond the fiscal reach of the small town — struck Mayor Williams as a bit of a conundrum.

“This thing (the offer) has got to be drawn to the last detail,” said Williams. “There’s an awful, awful lot of work that has to be done and formulated before that happens,” later adding, “you’ve got to get inside those buildings to see what we’ve got to work with.”

Although everyone involved acknowledges the waterfront site is valuable, Commissioner Tyndall said the liability of abandoned buildings is risky, and any future clearing of the acreage would be costly.

“If we had it right now, free and clear, that spot would be an albatross around our necks,” said Tyndall.

The board unanimously approved a motion by Commissioner Chittick to meet Thursday, Feb.19, at 7 p.m. for a workshop “to come up with a game plan and goals for the former school property in Bridgeton.”

Bridgeton a ‘speed trap’ says motorist

Safety drives tickets, say officials

BRIDGETON — Officials here contend their town is not a speed trap, despite the allegations of a motorist – ticketed the morning after Thanksgiving — who recounts in an e-mail to this newspaper that “There really are small towns that make a lot of money off the speeders on busy highways. Rather than taking a bite out of genuine crime, they hire cops who spend their days hiding in the roadside bushes with a radar gun and writing tickets.”

Ed Norment and his wife are in their mid-70s. He says they are meticulous about safety and not speeding.

He normally navigates, while she does the driving.

“My wife and I were beginning a roundtrip, driving in a New Bern Airport rental car – which happened to have California plates – from our historic home in the Town of Beaufort, en route to Kent Island, Maryland, to attend my father’s funeral. Besides our historic home in Beaufort, my wife has a ranch in Kansas and we own another home in Texas. We often fly to the airports near these places and rent cars. We do not get tickets, because we are very careful to follow the law. Usually, she drives and I navigate using GPS, to find our way. I pride myself on making sure we are not speeding, by observing road signs, by comparing our measured speed to the speeds that are posted. We have driven thousands of miles without incident.”

In a brief telephone interview, Keith Tyndall, the elected town commissioner who oversees Bridgeton’s Police Department, said he supports the three paid officers, and two unpaid auxiliary officers, who are responsible for enforcing the speed limit on a stretch of Hwy. 17. The busy road — recently expanded to two north-bound and two south-bound lanes — dissects the small town. .

“People come off the Neuse River bridge flying,” said Tyndall. “We definitely try to slow people down out there. There are two big signs, that motorists pass – with blinking lights – displaying the reduced speed limit.”

Tyndall acknowledged that tickets can be expensive for offending motorists, but added the town receives just $8 per citation in those instances where fines are paid.

“It’s ludicrous to suggest the town is some type of speed trap,” said Tyndall, “and that we’re doing this to set up drivers. The revenue generated would come no where close to covering all of the costs involved.”

Bridgeton Police Chief Rick Barney — elevated to the post after former Director of Public Safety Steve Brown, abruptly resigned in January of last year – echoed Tyndall’s remarks.

“All we’re trying to do is slow traffic down, and avoid accidents,” said Barney. “There are no tickets for five or six miles per hour over. We don’t start writing tickets until someone is ten miles or more over the speed limit.” Barney later added, “My concern is for the safety of people pulling out of the Shell Station, or the Hess Station, or places like that.”

Given a chance to check his department’s log for that day, Barney reported the Norment vehicle was clocked with radar, indicating a speed of 68 in a 55 mph zone. He also reported the overall tally for the day:

“We had a total of 14 charges involving 11 people,” said Barney. “Nine were for speeding, one for no insurance, and the others were for expired tags — and we had only the one (Norment vehicle) from out-of-state.”

But the assurances of town officials have not convinced Norment.

“Our take on what happened is that Officer Katie Johnson was teaching this trainee how to single out a car, with ‘out of state’ plates; because they are less likely to be available to contest charges in court. What gives it away is, the emphasis all involved placed on how we should just pay the fine over the Internet – even circling the place on the ticket, which stated that.”

Norment and his wife hired a New Bern attorney. Court costs, fine, and legal fees came to almost $500, “and we avoided receiving points on our Texas driver’s licenses.”

Norment and his wife are adamant they were “unfairly ticketed.” He is a retired Department of Defense engineer, with expertise in the government grant process. In recent correspondence sent to all of Bridgeton’s elected officials, including Mayor Rodman Williams, Norment warned he will attempt to interrupt any type of government grant, which the town might pursue.

“Give the opportunity, I will have some impact on Bridgeton’s desire to obtain government grants,” wrote Norment, “as that is taxpayers’ money and subject to critique. We were not speeding that day, and the cops involved and our lawyer know it.”

State highway officials respond

Change unlikely to ‘Extreme Makeover’ in Bridgeton

Motorists from Blueberry Lane are now prohibited from turning left. The mandatory right turn adds more than a mile, plus at least five minutes, for those who want to head east on Highway 55.

Motorists from Blueberry Lane are now prohibited from turning left. The mandatory right turn adds more than a mile, plus at least five minutes, for those who want to head east on Highway 55.

By Terry Leigh McCune | Staff Writer

BRIDGETON — Last week I e-mailed some questions to the North Carolina Department of Transportation concerning the installation of a new traffic island at the intersection at Blueberry Lane and Hwy. 55 in Bridgeton:

Q – How did you determine that a new traffic intersection was needed there?

A – The location was identified by the 2013 Highway Safety Improvement Program due to meeting criteria for chronic frontal impact crashes.  Complaints had also been received by local elected officials and passed along to NCDOT for investigation. 

Q – Why did you choose this type of intersection, which I think is called either a Superstreet or J-Turn?

A – Installation of channelization as constructed at this location is expected to significantly reduce the number of frontal impact crashes (estimated at 51 percent), which are typically the most severe. 

Q – Can you give us examples of other locations in North Carolina where this has been used successfully?

A – Similar installations exist on US 70 at Sam Garner Road in Carteret County,  US 70 at Bayberry Road in Newport, US 70 at Cannon Boulevard in Newport, US 70 at West Chatham in Newport, US 70 at Ebeneezer Church Road in Wayne County and numerous locations on US 17 north of Washington in Beaufort County. 

Q – Why didn’t you install a traffic light there instead?

A – A traffic count conducted at this location on December 4, 2012, indicated there were insufficient traffic volumes on the side streets to justify signalization.  Additionally, placement of a signal at this intersection is not advisable due to eastbound traffic on NC 55 coming off of a freeway facility and around a curve.  Drivers unfamiliar with this location would not be expecting to see a signal.

Q – Are there plans to possibly modify the intersection in the future so motorists coming out from Blueberry Lane can go East on Hwy 55 after a U-turn?

A – There are no plans to allow motorists coming out of Blueberry to make a U-turn to go east on NC 55 due to the close proximity of the US 17 interchange. 

Q – Approximately how much did this intersection cost to install?

A – All work at the intersection, which included the channelization, bulb-out, right turn lane extension, signing and pavement markings cost approximately $64,000 to construct.

As a reporter for the County Compass, I want to thank Brian Rick, Communications Officer of Divisions 2 & 3 for the North Carolina Department of Transportation for responding so quickly! I guess people coming out of Blueberry Lane will have to turn right from now on.