- FY 2009-2010 - The Year in Review
TOWN OF EMERALD ISLE WORKING HARD FOR A BETTER EMERALD ISLE FY 2009-2010 - The Year in Review
The entire Town of Emerald Isle organization continued to work hard during the past year to make Emerald Isle an even better place than it already is! Despite the significant economic challenges faced by our Nation, State, and local area, the Town completed and continued progress on several key Town initiatives that are intended to maintain and enhance Emerald Isle's desirability as a residential community and tourism destination.
The Town maintains both an immediate and long-term focus to insure that Emerald Isle remains a vibrant community for many years to come. Several accomplishments during the past year are already contributing to an improved quality of life in Emerald Isle, while others represent carefully calculated efforts to prepare Emerald Isle for the future.
The Mayor, Board of Commissioners, Planning Board members, advisory committees, Town Manager, Town staff, and many concerned citizens remain committed to the continued success of Emerald Isle. We are proud of our collective accomplishments - for you - during the past year, and look forward to another productive year in FY 2010-2011!
Highlights of the past fiscal year (July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2010) included the following:
Hard Work on New Public Boat Launch Facility Pays Off
With the Town's goal to insure that the public always has adequate boating access in Emerald Isle, the Town worked very hard all throughout the past year to secure outside grant funding and contributions to purchase land for a new public boat launching facility. The Town is proud to report that the new facility is about to become a reality, with construction slated to begin literally any day now.
The new facility is the result of a partnership between the Town and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and will be located on 23 acres of soundfront land adjacent to Chapel By The Sea on NC 58 near mile marker 18. For many reasons, the selected site is the last possible site in Emerald Isle for such a facility. The new facility will include 4 boat launching ramps, parking for 112 vehicle / trailer combinations, 19 single-vehicle parking spaces, a bathroom facility and picnic shelter, and future soundfront park amenities.
To date, the Town has secured more than $3.4 million in grants and contributions for the $4.25 million land purchase, and continues to seek additional grant funding. The Town has completed the acquisition of all but 2 acres necessary for the new facility, but has entered into a lease agreement for the final 2 acres in the interim. The Town expects to complete the final land purchase no later than September 2011. The NC Wildlife Resources Commission has agreed to fund 100% of the construction cost, estimated at nearly $1 million.
The new facility is expected to open to the public in early 2011, in time for the warm-weather boating season.
Design Work for New Aquarium Pier Continues
The design process for the new Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle continued throughout FY 09-10, and is nearing completion. The design team, with input from Aquarium and Town officials and a citizen advisory committee, expects to complete the design in late 2010 or early 2011. A public input session is being planned for later this year.
The new facility is a partnership between the Town and the NC Aquariums, and is the second of three concrete ocean fishing piers planned for the NC coast. The first new pier, Jennette's Pier, in Nags Head, is affiliated with the NC Aquarium at Manteo, and is currently under construction. The Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle will be affiliated with the NC Aquarium at PineKnollShores, and is next in line for construction. The third pier will be located in CarolinaBeach and be affiliated with the NC Aquarium at FortFisher.
The new facility in Emerald Isle will include a 1,000 ft. long concrete ocean fishing pier and 10,000 sq. ft. pier house with aquarium exhibits and banquet facilities. The pier house will be built over the flat beach at the Town's Eastern Ocean Regional Access, located at mile marker 15 on NC 58, with new parking and storm water management features constructed at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access site.
The Town and the NC Aquariums will be working to secure construction funding for the estimated $16 - $18 million project over the next year. We hope to open the new facility within the next 3 - 5 years, thus insuring the perpetual existence of an ocean fishing pier in Emerald Isle in the future.
Bicycle Path Network Continues to Grow
The Town completed the construction of 2 miles of additional dedicated bicycle path along NC 58 in May 2010. The new 2-mile segment runs along the south side of NC 58 from Hurst Drive to Black Skimmer Drive, and connects to a previously constructed 2.2 mile segment that extends all the way to Coast Guard Road at Deer Horn Drive. The new 2-mile segment was funded by the NC Department of Transportation with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The total cost of the project was approximately $500,000.
Bicycle paths are a key goal for the Town, and the Board of Commissioners adopted a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan in February 2010. The plan includes the eventual construction of a dedicated bicycle path along the remaining length of NC 58 (from Hurst Drive to the IndianBeach town limits) and Coast Guard Road (from Deer Horn Drive to The Point).
The Town completed necessary site preparation work for the next segment of the bicycle path along Coast Guard Road from Deer Horn Drive to EmeraldIsleWoodsPark in April 2010, thus making it easier to construct that .3 mile segment in the near future. MayorSchools and the Town's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee organized a raffle to raise additional funds for this segment during summer 2010. We hope to construct this new segment prior to the 2011 summer season.
New Town Administration Building Opens
The new Town Administration Building was completed and opened in August 2009. The new building includes offices for the Mayor, Commissioners, and Town administrative staff, a conference room, and also provides for long-term growth of the Town organization.
The new 4,100 sq. ft. building has an attractive coastal design, and is similar in appearance to the new EMS station. The new building is intended to serve as a symbol of the kind of community we are in Emerald Isle, and should serve the community well for the next several decades. Total construction cost was approximately $765,000.
The new building was built to replace the old administrative offices that are now occupied by the Police Department. In May 2007, the Police Station was renovated and expanded from 2,200 sq. ft. to 5,000 sq. ft. to relieve significant overcrowding.
Static Line Exception Approved
The Town's Static Line Exception Report, which includes a description of the Town's future beach nourishment plans, was approved by the NC Coastal Resources Commission in March 2010. The approval of this report (the "static line exception") allows oceanfront lots in eastern Emerald Isle to once again utilize the first line of actual stable vegetation to measure oceanfront setbacks, as opposed to the "static line" used since 2003.
The result is that many of the existing oceanfront homes in this area are again considered conforming, making it possible to reconstruct these homes if they are destroyed by fire, storm, or if the owner wishes to build a new structure. The restoration of conforming status also makes it easier to refinance these properties and will make it easier for owners to sell their property in the future. The Town sought this change to assist oceanfront property owners in this area and to promote property improvements in this area.
Long-Term Beach Nourishment Planning and Permitting Effort Underway; New Financing Plan Developed
The Town is committed to future beach nourishment efforts to provide storm protection and a wide recreational beach, and formally initiated planning and permitting activities for future locally-initiated beach nourishment projects in March 2010. The Town executed an interlocal agreement with Carteret County and the other towns on Bogue Banks to seek a multi-decadal permit for all future beach nourishment projects, and this long-term planning and permitting process is being coordinated by the Carteret County Shore Protection Office.
The Carteret County Shore Protection Office has retained a consulting firm to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and secure the necessary Federal and State permits. The entire process is expected to take approximately 3 years, and the eventual permits are expected to be valid for 30 - 40 years or more. The EIS and permits will likely outline acceptable design parameters (sand sources, sand quality, frequency of beach nourishment activities, etc.) up-front in order to provide a more routine and expedited approval process for individual beach nourishment projects over the 30-40 year + time frame.
The Town also developed a new financing plan for future beach nourishment activities earlier this year. FY 10-11 is the final year of special district property taxes (16.2 cents for oceanfront properties and 1.1 cent for all others) earmarked for the debt service on the Town's 2003 and 2005 beach nourishment projects. The Town intends to eliminate these taxes after FY 10-11, and levy new special district property taxes of 3 cents (oceanfront) and 1 cent (all others) in FY 11-12 and beyond to finance the Town's portion of projected future beach nourishment costs. The Town's new financing plan also relies on significant contributions from Carteret County (derived from room occupancy taxes) and the State of North Carolina to meet future nourishment needs.
Although the Town (and Carteret County and other towns on Bogue Banks) continues to seek a Federal Shore Protection Project for beach nourishment needs over the next 50 years, the Town, County, and the other towns are increasingly concerned about the slow pace of the Federal effort and the likelihood for future success. The Federal Shore Protection Project was initiated in 1999, and is unfortunately highly uncertain at this time.
Island Harbor Marina Redevelopment Plans Approved
The Board of Commissioners formally approved site and building plans for the proposed redevelopment of Island Harbor Marina in March 2010. The proposed redevelopment involves a reconfiguration of wet slips, construction of a 250-boat dry stack storage facility, a new ship's store, restaurant, and pool. The Town worked closely with the owners of the project over several months to accommodate their plans while maintaining the integrity of Town ordinances. The planned new facility has an attractive design, and should be an asset to the entire Emerald Isle area when completed.
New Beach Services Plan Implemented
In response to increased beach visitation and public demand in recent years, the Town implemented a new beach services plan for summer 2010. In the past, the Town relied on 2 Beach Patrol personnel to cover the entire 12 miles of ocean beach in Emerald Isle during the summer months. For summer 2010, the Town expanded the Beach Patrol to 3 personnel and assigned each patrol member to a 4 mile stretch of beach, and also added a dedicated Police Officer on the beach strand at both Bogue Inlet Pier and the Western Ocean Regional Access.
The Town's staffing presence increased from 2 people to 5 people on the beach strand at any one time, and enabled the Town to provide better water rescue, ordinance enforcement, and general assistance services to our beach visitors. Overall, the public response to the increased Police and Beach Patrol presence was very positive. Unfortunately, despite these improvements, the Town experienced 3 ocean drownings during summer 2010, and continues to seek cost-effective ways to enhance swimmer safety. The overall beach services program will continue to be evaluated, and may be adjusted as the needs evolve in the future.
Beach Strand Recycling Expanded to Entire Beach Strand
After a trial program in summer 2009 at a few locations, the Town expanded recycling to all public beach access locations along the beach strand for summer 2010. The response to the beach stand recycling program was outstanding, and the Town collected approximately 10 tons of recyclables per month from the beach strand. The Town continues to seek ways to improve recycling throughout the Town.
Planning for the Future of EMS in Emerald Isle
Emergency medical services in Emerald Isle are provided by Emerald Isle EMS, Inc., a separate non-profit corporation under contract to the Town. The Town and Emerald Isle EMS, Inc. continued to work very closely together over the past year, and have been working to determine the best future organizational structure for EMS in Emerald Isle.
The Joint EMS Committee, comprised of 3 representatives from EI EMS, Inc. and 3 representatives from the Town, meets regularly, and recommended a 1-year contract extension in April 2010 to provide additional time to study these issues. The Joint EMS Committee continues its work, and plans to make a recommendation to EI EMS, Inc. and the Board of Commissioners by early 2011. The options include maintaining a contractual relationship, incorporating EMS into the Town organization as a Town department, and partnering with Carteret County.
Town Responded to Unprecedented Rainfall Events in Late 2009
November and December 2009 brought unprecedented rainfall totals to Emerald Isle, causing storm water flooding problems in many areas along Coast Guard Road. The Town estimates that we received at least 35 inches of rain over a 7 week period. To put this in perspective, the Town averages approximately 55 inches for an entire year! These rainfall events far exceeded the amount of rain received in any of the recent hurricanes in the past two decades.
The Town's 5 fixed pumps in the Coast Guard Road area worked very well, and those specific areas avoided any problems. Other areas experienced repeated flooding, and Town staff responded at all hours of the day and night with Town-owned portable pumps and rental pumps brought in to clear the water more quickly. Most areas were cleared in a few days, but had to be pumped multiple times during that period. In the end, the limiting factor was not the amount of equipment or manpower, but rather finding acceptable places to discharge the pumped water. Federal and State regulations allow discharge to the ocean and sound only in limited circumstances, and permission is required to discharge on private property.
Although this experience was not pleasant for anyone, the Town responded as quickly and effectively as possible, and resolved most issues in a relatively short time frame. Town staff also continue to learn more and more about how to manage these issues, and the Town continues to plan for additional permanent Coast Guard Road solutions in the future.
FY 10-11 Budget Adopted; Limits Expenditures and Invests in Coast Guard Road Storm Water Improvements
The Board of Commissioners adopted the FY 10-11 budget in June 2010 after carefully reviewing Town expenditures over the past two years in an effort to maintain the lowest tax rate possible. The Board adopted a $9.43 million total budget for FY 10-11 that was slightly less than the FY 09-10 budget, with the exception of $375,000 specifically allocated for additional storm water improvements along Coast Guard Road. The inclusion of Coast Guard Road storm water funds required a 1-cent General Fund tax rate increase, bringing the Town's FY 10-11 General Fund rate to 8 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Town Continues to Enjoy 2nd Lowest General Fund Tax Rate Among NC Beach Towns
Despite a 1-cent General Fund tax rate increase for FY 10-11, Emerald Isle continues to enjoy the 2nd lowest General Fund tax rate among the 21 NC beach towns. The Town's 8 cent rate is higher than only HoldenBeach (6.9 cents), while other NC beach town rates range from 9 cents to 32.75 cents. All of the other NC beach towns are on similar revaluation cycles with similar high value properties as Emerald Isle.
New "Residents & Visitors Guide"
The Town works hard to keep our residents, property owners, and visitors well-informed about the Town, and one tool is the new "Residents & Visitors Guide". This comprehensive guide was updated in April 2010, and includes all of the key information about Town programs, services, and regulations, and is available for free at the TownAdministrationBuilding. A copy of the guide can also be downloaded at www.emeraldisle-nc.org/residentvisitorguide.htm .
Other Notable Accomplishments / Items of Note During FY 09-10:
- Mayor Schools and Commissioners Hedreen, Wootten, and Wright were re-elected in November 2009, and will continue their public service to the Town through 2011 and 2013.
- A new Town ordinance requiring unattended beach equipment to be removed from the beach strand each night was adopted in January 2010, and was implemented in May 2010 and all through the summer. Town staff made a significant effort to educate the public and provide friendly warnings, and this effort greatly reduced overnight clutter on the beach strand.
- The US Army Corps of Engineers placed additional dredge spoils from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at The Point in early 2010, helping to further stabilize this area.
- The Town received an Honorable Mention as a "Bicycle-Friendly Community", reflecting the Town's past and continuing efforts. The Town continues to strive for the full designation in the future.
- The old EMS station, located on Cedar Street, was sold to a local couple in February 2010, and the proceeds from the sale were used to fully retire outstanding debt on a new Fire Engine.
- The Emerald Isle Board of Commissioners pushed for CarteretCounty to remain on schedule for the planned 2011 tax revaluation so that tax values reflect current market conditions. After some debate, the County agreed to proceed with the 2011 tax revaluation, which will take effect in FY 11-12.
- Emerald Isle EMS, Inc., the non-profit organization funded by the Town to provide emergency medical services, took delivery of a new ambulance in early 2010. Emerald Isle continues to enjoy high quality paramedic services.
- The NC Department of Transportation, after receiving a formal request from the Town, agreed to resurface the entire length of NC 58 from Coast Guard Road to the IndianBeach town limits. NCDOT is planning to complete this work in late 2010 and early 2011, and will also construct a dedicated left-turn lane at the new public boat launching facility.
- The Public Works Department oversaw the resurfacing of approximately 1.2 miles of Town streets. Overall, the Town's street network is in generally good condition, however, declining State Powell Bill revenues make it increasingly difficult to keep up with resurfacing needs.
- The Town continues to experience a growing deer population, particularly along the Coast Guard Road corridor, and undertook a controlled hunt to reduce the deer population in early 2010. Additional deer population management strategies are currently being evaluated for the long-term.
- The Town is participating in the development of the new Carteret County Comprehensive Transportation Plan, a long-term plan for future bridge, highway, and bicycle path improvements in Emerald Isle and other areas of CarteretCounty.
- The Planning Board and Planning and Inspections Department worked to develop appropriate regulations for "internet sweepstakes cafes" before the NC General Assembly enacted a ban on these establishments this summer.
- In February 2010, the Town agreed to participate in the new consolidated Carteret County E911 dispatch center scheduled to open in early 2011. Beginning in early 2011, E911 communications services will be provided by County personnel rather than EI Police staff. The Town will maintain limited staffing at the Police Department during evening and weekend hours, and this transfer is expected to result in annual savings to the Town of approximately $100,000.
- The Parks and Recreation Department, in conjunction with the Emerald Isle Business Association and committed volunteers, continued a strong tradition of quality special events, including the 4th Annual Day 4 Kids, 6th Annual Emerald Isle Triathlon, 6th Annual Christmas Parade, and the 19th Annual St. Patrick's Festival.
The Town maintains a comprehensive website ( www.emeraldisle-nc.org ), an email distribution list (sign up in the top right corner of the website), publishes the monthly Emerald Tidings newsletter in the Island Review magazine mailed to all property owners, and has a presence on Twitter and Facebook. The Town also recently developed an optimized website for smartphones that is more user-friendly for these devices. The Town continues to seek out new ways to keep the public informed!.
Town Employees Strive to Provide Highest Quality Services
The entire Town staff is committed to serving you in the best way possible, and our employees work hard to maintain and improve our beautiful town. Although there is always room for improvement, the Town is fortunate to employ a quality staff of committed people. Despite declining resources, the various Town departments continued to provide the high quality, responsive, and courteous daily services that our residents, businesses, and visitors deserve in Emerald Isle over the past year, and will continue to do so in the future.
All of us at the Town of Emerald Isle are proud of the Town's accomplishments over the past year, and we look forward to an even more productive year ahead!
Enjoy Emerald Isle! We are all so fortunate to be here and enjoy this wonderful place!