A large portion of Tuesday night’s city council meeting was dedicated to The Gate of Lenoir County. In response to The Gate’s request to put an external wrap, which is similar to a mural, around the city-owned building which houses The Gate, questions were raised about the existence of a lease agreement. The Gate needs permission from the City of Kinston to perform modifications to the structure.  

During the citizen comment segment of the meeting volunteers and family members alike spoke of the positive impact The Gate has had on their lives, and that of their communities. 

Carolyn Coward of Kinston has been a longtime volunteer and supporter of The Gate. She said, “We have seen many good young people come through The Gate. The Gate is a safe haven for these young people. We need to do what we can to support The Gate.” 

The Gate even had out of state supporters. Alfred Sutton said, “Even though I live in Dallas, I support Kinston. People helped me stay out of trouble. Through their work of keeping me straight, I’ve been successful as a businessman. The children just need a chance. There are so much crime and drugs, so many chances for children to go wayward. I don’t see how anyone cannot support The Gate. I support The Gate.” 

Gaylen Hawkins has been going to The Gate since 2006. “It’s a second home to me. I really encourage everyone to come down. It sets kids on the right path, the righteous path. It keeps them off the streets and keeps them in school.” 

Per their website, The Gate of Lenoir County is a faith-based community center, which empowers youth to take ownership of their decisions, so they can change their lives.  

Director of The Gate, Donna Hardy said, “Each Friday night, we come together as a family. We share a meal and experience family time. Because we are a family at The Gate. What we do is bridge communication gaps and foster transparency and honesty within our Gate family. This helps teach them life skills, conflict resolution, and also builds confidence.” 

Councilmember Chris Suggs, and founder of Kinston Teens, listed the financial support the City of Kinston has given The Gate over the last decade as a clarification to show his questions about a lease agreement was not a reflection of the city’s support of the organization.  

“I realized that there were a few folks who reached out regarding the city’s support of The Gate. I want to share some numbers with everybody,” said Suggs who then shared the following: 

The City has spent:

“This is a very substantial in-kind contribution from the city to The Gate,” said Suggs. “So, we are very supportive of the community and the youth that are served by this facility by providing this facility free of charge to you all.” 

His issue wasn’t with The Gate, but with the agreement currently in place. “My issue is that there hasn’t been a formal agreement in place between the city and The Gate since 2011, and that agreement was a service agreement. It was not a lease for the facility.” 

The Gate is not opposed to a discussion of a formal lease agreement, but due to the time constraints of grant monies received, they needed the council’s permission to wrap the building to utilize the grant funds before they ran out.  

“Most of us that are currently on the board, were not here when that original 2011 document was in place,” said board member Sue Ellen Maddux. “We weren’t aware of what the terms were of any agreement. I don’t know that we’d still be aware if we hadn’t made the request for the mural.” 

The Gate had not been made aware of the expenses discussed in the meeting but are willing to work with the council moving forward.  

“Let us wrap this building, and we will come to the table and take whatever time, whatever energy, and whatever resources to get a contract because that would be for our protection as well as the councils,” said Maddux.

A motion by Councilmember Suggs to approve The Gate’s building wrap contingent on a lease in place failed 4-1. After more discussion a motion by Councilmember Robbie Swinson to move forward with The Gate’s building wrap and to develop a lease agreement in the near future passed unanimously.

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