April 10, 2018

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:             Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:       Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

FY 18-19 Recommended Budget

Town staff and I continue to work hard on the Recommended Budget, which will be presented to the Board at the May 8 meeting.  I hope to present a Recommended Budget that reflects the Board’s highest priorities, as discussed in December and February, and hope to maintain the current property tax rates.

Pre-Positioned Hurricane Debris Removal Contract

We are currently evaluating bids for the annual pre-positioned hurricane debris removal contract, and plan to present a contract recommendation to the Board at the May 8 meeting.  The Town’s pre-positioned storm water pump and emergency generator contracts from 2017 will remain in effect for 2018.  As always, I am hopeful we won’t have to activate this contract this year!

Meeting With NC Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey

We have arranged for Emerald Isle officials, Carteret County officials, Emerald Isle business owners, Representative McElraft, and Senator Sanderson to meet with Commissioner Causey in Emerald Isle on April 10.  The purpose of the meeting is to express concerns about requested rate increases for homeowners insurance and dwelling insurance, and also request a fairer rate structure for coastal areas. I greatly appreciate Commissioner Causey making the time to meet with us, and also local businessman Ronnie Watson for connecting us with Commissioner Causey for this meeting.

August Regular Meeting Date

The Board’s regular meeting in August is scheduled for Tuesday, August 14.  Due to a conflict, Mayor Barber would like the Board to consider rescheduling the August meeting for Monday, August 13.  Please let us know your thoughts on this change.

Emerald Isle Secures Top Spot in USA Today Poll for Best North Carolina Beach

USA Today released the final results in its recent poll for the Best North Carolina Beach, and Emerald Isle came out on top!  It’s great for our community to receive that kind of recognition from a national publication.

McLean-Spell Park Land Closing

Much work continues on the various legal and bureaucratic requirements to release the Federal REPI grant funds ($1.5 million), the NC CWMTF grant funds ($545,000), and the NC PARTF grant funds ($500,000) for this land acquisition.  There is still much work to complete, and we are cutting it closer than I would like, but I believe we are on track for a closing sometime between May 11 and May 18.  The Town will finalize its installment financing agreement, all grant funds will be released, and The Conservation Fund will formally transfer the property to the Town of Emerald Isle at that time.

McLean-Spell Park Trail Clearing

The Eagle Scout candidates are nearing completion of the nature trails in the new park, and 3 signs identifying “McLean-Spell Park” have been ordered.  The 3 signs will initially be placed at each of the two street stub entrances off Sound Drive, and also at the terminus of Maritime Forest Drive between the Fire Station and EMS Station.  These 3 locations will be the only public access points when the park officially opens for public use later in April.  Park visitors should travel by bicycle or foot, or can park at the Town Government Complex and make the short walk along Archers Creek to the entrance at the terminus of Maritime Forest Drive.

Town staff will be reviewing design options and costs for pre-fabricated pedestrian bridges this summer, and will present a recommendation to the Board later this summer.  I hope to have the new pedestrian bridge installed in the general vicinity of the Community Center building to create a convenient link to other Town recreation facilities at the Town Government Complex.  We will also be working to find a new location for the Public Works debris piles located between the Community Center and the Public Works building in an effort to tidy up the entire area along Archers Creek. 

Emerald Isle Garden Club Presents “Emerald Isle Bikes and Blooms”

The Emerald Isle Garden Club is encouraging local businesses to decorate with bicycle-themed floral arrangements for the weekend of May 5-6, in conjunction with the annual Bike the Banks event.  I have attached an informational flyer, and I am hopeful many of our businesses will participate in the “Bikes and Blooms” event.

Quick Review of 3 Key Summer Programs

With the tourism season essentially beginning, I wanted to briefly review the basics of 3 key summer programs for the Board.

Itinerant Merchants and Satellite Merchants:

Itinerant merchants are essentially mobile merchants that move about through the Town and/or set up in public places.  Examples include ice cream trucks, food trucks, or a vendor who sets up on the side of the road or on a sidewalk.  Itinerant merchants are prohibited in Emerald Isle.

Satellite merchants are the same type of merchants, but that set up in a fixed location on another private property that is zoned business.  The Town’s ordinance allows satellite merchants to set up only at OCEANFRONT commercial properties and condominium complexes, and only one satellite merchant may set up at a time (although multiple satellite merchants may operate at the same location on different days, etc.).  The satellite merchant must have all Health Department permits, secure permission from the property owner, and register with the Town. 

The only authorized locations for satellite merchants are as follows:  Ocean Reef, Pier Pointe, Marlin Point, Beachfront RV Park, Bogue Inlet Pier, Camp Ocean Forest, Sound of the Sea, Boardwalk RV Park, The Islander Hotel, Queens Court, Holiday TravLPark (including the gas station, pool, and go-kart track portion of the property near Reed Drive), Pebble Beach, and Point Emerald Villas.  Satellite merchants are also permitted at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access and Western Ocean Regional Access, upon invitation by the Town.

In previous years, satellite merchants operated at several of the authorized locations, however, the only property that was registered with the Town in 2017 was the Holiday TravLPark. 

Satellite merchants are not permitted to set up at any other locations in Emerald Isle (including businesses along NC 58), UNLESS they are functioning as a catering service and no cash is collected from customers.  For example, a food truck could set up at a local bar and provide food to patrons of the bar, but only if the bar has contracted with the food truck to provide the food at no direct cost to patrons.

Unattended Beach Equipment / Beach Equipment Exception Stickers

The Town’s ordinance requires all UNATTENDED beach equipment to be removed from the beach each night, and any unattended equipment left out between 8 pm and 8 am is subject to confiscation by the Town.  The Town utilizes a system whereby the beach is checked daily, and first time offenders receive a warning sticker.  Any subsequent violations result in confiscation.  Almost all equipment that receives a warning sticker comes into compliance, and is not an issue the following day.  For example, during summer 2017, a total of 644 warning stickers were placed, and only 31 items were ultimately confiscated. 

Oceanfront property owners are eligible for 2 “exception stickers” upon request, and this sticker enables the oceanfront owner to leave equipment out overnight. The “exception stickers” are ONLY available to the actual oceanfront owners, not interior property owners or short-term renters.  This “exception” is rooted in NC public trust beach law, which is why the exemption is provided for oceanfront property owners only.

Regional Access Parking Program

The Town collects a $10 per vehicle per day parking fee at both the Western Ocean Regional Access and the Eastern Ocean Regional Access.  This fee generates approximately $125,000 annually, and 100% of these revenues are invested in services provided at the two regional access facilities (lifeguards, maintenance personnel, attendants, Police Officers, etc.).  Fees are charged on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays only (Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day) between mid-April and mid-September.

The Town does not offer a weekly or seasonal pass for purchase, in part because of the previous Board’s conscious decision not to charge a fee on weekdays.  Emerald Isle residents and property owners are, however, eligible for two free parking stickers.  The free parking stickers are issued ONLY to the individuals who own the property (and are not provided to children who don’t live in the home, brothers, sisters, friends, etc.), and the maximum number of stickers issued is 2.  Any handicapped individual from any community is also eligible for a free parking sticker. 

Generous Donations Earmarked for Automatic External Defibrillators

The Emerald Isle Parrott Head Club recently donated $2,000 to the Town, and these donations have been earmarked for the purchase of 1 (and perhaps 2) automatic external defibrillators to be placed in Police vehicles.  Additionally, the Emerald Isle “Beach Patrol”, a group of residents in the area near Bogue Inlet Pier who previously donated funds for the purchase of new beach wheelchairs, is also working on a new fundraiser that also aims to provide funding for additional automatic external defibrillators for Police vehicles.  We greatly appreciate the generosity of these groups!

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Pursuing Relocation of Marked Navigation Channel from Archers Point to AIWW

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission recently informed me that they believe there may be sufficient depths in an alternate channel leading from Archers Point to the AIWW (a more northeasterly route currently marked with white PVC poles by residents), and that they may relocate channel marker buoys from the current marked route in Bogue Sound (behind the homes on Sound Drive generally between Ridge Road and Cedar Street) to the new route.  Additional survey work is planned, and it will also be necessary for NCWRC to secure a Major CAMA Permit, which may take several months.  I expect that this change will be well-received by residents in this area.

Old Circle Pizza Building Near Ocean Drive ‘Dog-Leg’ in Poor Condition

The old Circle Pizza building in the 3000 block has been vacant for the past several years, and has deteriorated significantly.  Town staff recently visited the structure, noted the deficiencies, and are attempting to work cooperatively with the property owner to either have necessary repairs completed or perhaps have the building demolished.  We are hopeful that the property owner will be responsive to these concerns and work cooperatively with the Town.

Final Roundabout Markings

The pavement marking contractor is awaiting delivery of special thermoplastic markings, and will soon complete the full installation of thermoplastic markings in the new roundabout.  Approximately half of the markings currently in place already have thermoplastic, and the remainder are temporarily painted until the additional thermoplastic can be installed.

Additional Street Lighting Planned

I am scheduled to meet with Carteret Craven Electric this week to determine the specific locations for new decorative lights in strategic locations around the outside edge of the new roundabout, and I hope to have these lights installed in the coming weeks.  We will also determine specific locations for 5 or 6 new (traditional) street lights along Coast Guard Road in an effort to improve bike path lighting in this area.

AARP Roundabout Sheet, Graphic for NC 58 Roundabout      

I have attached two helpful handouts for the Board and the public.  One is an AARP publication and it explains the benefits of roundabouts from the AARP membership’s perspective.  The other is a graphic prepared by NCDOT that includes clear illustrations of the proper lane movements at the new NC 58 roundabout. 

Coast Guard Road Clearing, New Electric Pole / Line Installation

Contractors for Carteret Craven Electric have completed all clearing activities along Coast Guard Road between Ocean Oaks Drive and just west of Spinnakers Reach, and new electric poles are currently being installed in this area.  This work is expected to be complete no later than Memorial Day weekend.

I am disappointed in the appearance of the right of way where clearing was completed, and have received a few concerns from residents in this area.  I am currently working with Carteret Craven Electric to hopefully have them purchase new plantings for the most impacted areas, and have offered to have Town staff provide the labor.  I hope to reach an agreement with Carteret Craven in the coming weeks, and hopefully have additional plantings installed as soon as all electric pole / line installation is complete.

New Welcome to Emerald Isle Sign

We expect to take delivery of the new sign in the next week or two, and look forward to having the new sign in place at the main entry to Emerald Isle.

NC 58 Uplighting Near Bridge

Town staff have submitted an encroachment permit application to NCDOT, and will proceed with the installation of uplighting for certain trees in the NC 58 right of way near the base of the bridge soon after the permit is issued.  I hope to secure the necessary permit in the next week or two, and have the new lighting installed and functional before Memorial Day weekend.  Commissioner Steve Finch, an electrical contractor, is graciously volunteering his expertise to reduce Town expense for this project.

NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive Intersection Improvements

After receiving helpful input from “downtown” business owners last month, NCDOT will be working to refine design options for the NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive intersection in the coming months.  Based on the recent discussions, I expect that NCDOT will analyze the potential to construct additional thru lanes and turn lanes in the “downtown” area without the need for a median, and that NCDOT may also re-assess the potential for a small roundabout that would not require significant additional right of way acquisition.  Once the revised design options are ready, I will reach out again to the “downtown” business owners and work with NCDOT to schedule a public input session later this summer or early fall.

Regardless which improvements are ultimately selected, I remain hopeful that the Town will be able to benefit in some way from NCDOT funding to improve traffic flow at this intersection and also improve the aesthetics of NC 58 in the “downtown” area.  If NCDOT, the Town, the “downtown” business owners, and the general public are unable to identify a workable design, it is likely that no improvements will occur in this area for many years.  At a bare minimum, I remain hopeful that the end result of this process will at least include more attractive traffic signal poles at this intersection.

Olde Cove Road Golf Cart Path Complete

The new golf cart path is complete, and has been well-received by the residents in this area.  Public Works will be adding new STOP signs at each end of the path, and will also install signage identifying the new path as a golf cart path. 

State Beach Nourishment Funding Request

I spoke recently with NC Representative McElraft about the Town’s funding request, and she is committed to helping the Town secure the requested beach nourishment funding.  With the NC General Assembly’s short session beginning in May, we expect to work more closely with NC Representative McElraft and NC Senator Sanderson on this issue in the coming weeks.

As approved by the Board in January, the Town is seeking $4.6 million from the new Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund, or 50% of the total $9.2 million project cost.  We remain hopeful that these funds can be included in the FY 18-19 State budget, and thus enable the project to be constructed during winter 2018-2019.

Bogue Inlet Navigation Dredging

The navigation channel from the AIWW to the ocean bar in Bogue Inlet is in generally good condition, with only a few shoaling areas in the marked navigation channel.  I am expecting the US Army Corps of Engineers to perform touch-up dredging sometime in the next month or so, hopefully before Memorial Day weekend.   

Dog Park Advisory Committee

The new committee held its first meeting in March, and will meet regularly on the third Wednesday of each month at 3 pm. 

The committee reviewed 5 Town-owned locations that may be suitable for a future new dog park, and will be visiting these locations before the next meeting.  The 5 locations are Emerald Isle Woods Park (near the main parking lot), the new McLean-Spell Park (near Archers Creek and the Community Center, but far enough away to prevent any negative water quality impacts), the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground site, the Town Government Complex (between the tennis courts and the Police Station), and the vacant tract just west of the Town Administration Building.  The committee may also review other potential sites.  The committee is enthusiastic and eager to make this project a reality!

Golf Cart Advisory Committee

This new committee also held its first meeting in March, and will meet regularly on the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 pm.  The committee received an overview of the Town’s golf cart program, learned about the history of the program and the Board’s previously stated rationale for the golf cart regulations, and discussed the geographically isolated areas for golf carts in Emerald Isle.  The committee had thoughtful dialogue, and we expect it to be a productive group. 

Commitments Received for 6 More Beach Swings

We have received commitments for 6 new beach swing locations, with a $1,000 contribution for each of them.  In addition to the 2 existing beach swings at the Western Ocean Regional Access and The Point, new swings will be added on the beach near the following locations:  Eastern Ocean Regional Access, Hubert Street, Bryan Street, Lee Avenue, 18th Street, and Bluewater Drive.  

Due to the busy summer season approaching, Parks and Recreation staff won’t be able to construct and install the new beach swings until the fall, and the individuals who have contributed are comfortable with that timeframe. 

Beach Access Walkway Construction

The new beach access walkways at West Landing Drive and Fairfax Drive are complete, and the Town’s contractor is currently working on the Beachview Drive walkway.  We hope to have Beachview Drive complete in the next couple of weeks, after which the contractor will construct a new walkway at Whitewater Drive.  We are hopeful that Whitewater will be complete by mid-May. 

NC 58 Flashing Pedestrian Crosswalk

In response to a legislative funding request by NC Representative McElraft, NCDOT has been working to provide new flashing pedestrian crosswalks at three locations along NC 58:  on NC 58 near the Ocean Drive ‘dog-leg’, at the Town Government Complex, and at Islander Drive.  The estimated cost for each location is approximately $15,000+/-.  Town staff will assist NCDOT as needed on this project, and I remain hopeful that these new features will be installed before the bulk of the summer season.

Wyndward Court Storm Water Improvements

Public Works has begun preliminary work on this project, and hopes to have a new pump system operational before May 1.  A small electrical pump will be installed in the low area along the public access path, and will relay storm water from the Wyndward Court cul-de-sac over to the Town’s large storm water pump on Island Circle. 

Sunset Lane Storm Water Improvements

This project is in a holding pattern due to permitting issues, and Town staff are awaiting further input from the adjacent property owner’s engineer and NC Division of Coastal Management staff before constructing any improvements.

Continued Coyote Trapping at Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area

In response to concerns from nearby residents, the Town has secured a special depredation permit from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to continue coyote trapping efforts in the marsh area of the boat ramp facility. The Town’s trapper will continue to monitor this area.

Deer – Vehicle Accidents Decrease Significantly

The number of deer – vehicle accidents reported have dropped from a high of 31 accidents in FY 13-14 to only 3 accidents through the first 9 months of FY 17-18.  The Town’s past controlled hunts, and likely the impact of coyotes, have reduced the deer population to a more manageable number in recent years.

Fire Department Continues Lifeguard Recruitment Efforts

The Fire Department hopes to hire a total of 16 – 17 lifeguards for the summer, and has received applications from 18 candidates thus far.  The Fire Department continues to assess the candidates’ abilities, and hopes to have a full lifeguard team in place for training by early May.  It is likely that not all 18 candidates will meet the requirements for a lifeguard position, thus the EIFD continues to actively recruit.  

Police Department Recruiting Reserve Officers for Beach Services

The Police Department is currently recruiting additional reserve Police Officers to provide high quality services on the beach strand, at Bogue Inlet Pier, and at the regional beach accesses this summer, and hopes to fill 5 vacant positions by Memorial Day.  There has been increased competition for law enforcement officers in our area recently, with 11 full-time Police Officer vacancies in our area.  Understandably, a full-time position is more attractive to candidates than a part-time reserve officer position, thus it makes EIPD’s challenge even greater.

EIPD Being Reviewed by NC League of Municipalities

The Police Department is participating in a comprehensive risk management review offered by the NC League of Municipalities.  The Law Enforcement Risk Review is designed to assess a Police department’s adherence to best practices, court decisions, and policies and procedures related to high liability activities in law enforcement.  The goal of the program is to mitigate liability exposure, enhance officer safety, and validate that training and operating procedures are meeting industry standards.  The program is led by retired law enforcement leaders, and is offered at no cost.

The review process will likely take about a year to complete, and is especially helpful to smaller departments that don’t have the staff resources to pursue full law enforcement accreditation.  I applaud Chief Reese for undertaking this exercise, and believe it will be helpful to the Town to have an external party review EIPD operations.  I am confident that EIPD is already doing things the right way, however, there are always additional learning and improvement opportunities.

Public Works Touching Up Crosswalks, “Downtown” Curbing

Public Works crews are gradually working to repaint various sidewalk and bicycle path crosswalks before the bulk of the tourism season, and these efforts will continue through Memorial Day.  Public Works will also again be repainting the “downtown” curbing in mid-May to provide a fresh, clean appearance in this area.  Additionally, a contractor will soon be repainting the pavement markings on Bogue Inlet Drive between NC 58 and Bogue Inlet Pier.

Allies for Cherry Point Annual Report, Funding Request

Allies for Cherry Point has requested a $1,700 contribution from the Town for FY 18-19, and a copy of that request is attached.  The request also includes a summary of the group’s accomplishments over the past year.  Unless directed otherwise by the Board, I will plan to include the requested contribution in the FY 18-19 Recommended Budget.