Johnston County aims to promote tourism through sports

ajames@newsobserver.comNovember 9, 2013 

— The Town Council last week backed a resolution to create a master plan for parks and recreation in Johnston County.

The master plan will help the county as it tries to boost the local economy by attracting sports tournaments and other recreation tourism. The plan, for example, could call for construction of the first county-owned ball field or for more passive recreation along the Neuse River.

Parks and recreation departments, town leaders and the public will help shape the plan.

Donna Bailey-Taylor, executive director of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, presented the resolution to the council. The Johnston County Sports Council is heading up the project. It’s a part of the Visitors Bureau, which promotes Johnston as a tourism destination.

“We realized there is a great potential for sports and recreation to bring additional tourism dollars to the county,” Bailey-Taylor said.

The Sports Council will next ask Smithfield and Selma leaders to support the resolution. After that, the group will draft a proposal of what it wants in the master plan and hire an outside group to conduct the work.

“It is great to see a county agency taking interest in recreation facilities,” Town Manager Steve Biggs said later. “I think the towns and independent associations do a great job of programming, but we definitely have too few facilities to meet local demand, and we are missing out on the opportunity to attract outside dollars by hosting youth and adult tournaments.

Also last week, the council raised the fee it charges developers for water capacity. The one-time fee will rise from $3 to $3.25 per gallon of capacity.

Clayton is raising its fee after a similar increase by the county, which supplies the town with both water.

For a new single-family dwelling, the new water-capacity fee will be $1,170, up from $1,080, based on a standard of 360 gallons of use per day. Families don’t actually use that much water every day, but the capacity fee factors in peak demand on Clayton’s water supply. In the summer, for example, people water their lawns and gardens, fill their pools and wash their cars.

Biggs updated the council on the old Red & White Grocery. The town manager said his staff met recently with a financial backer of Randy Messick, who has bought the rundown building and plans to repair it.

Some council members seem to be growing impatient with the building. Councilman Michael Grannis said he hears complaints from residents who are tired of staring at the eyesore.

The council has been patient with the current and previous owners, holding off on demolition for nearly a year.

Messick plans to put a business in the building, though has not disclosed what it will be. He has said before that he would like to open a grocery store there.

James: 919-553-7234

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