May 8, 2018

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:       Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Lifeguard Services Begin May 23

The Town has hired 15 lifeguards for the summer season, and lifeguard services will begin on Wednesday, May 23.  We will generally have a total of 6 lifeguards on duty each day throughout the summer until mid-August, when staffing levels will be reduced due to the fact that many on the lifeguard staff will be returning to college.  Fixed lifeguards will be in place at the Western Ocean Regional Access and the Eastern Ocean Regional Access, and 4 roving lifeguards will provide service on all-terrain vehicles. 

The entire Fire Department lifeguard team, along with the Police Department’s beach patrol officers, will be formally introduced to the Board and the public at the June 12 Board meeting.

Town’s Lifeguard Program Now Certified by USLA

We recently received notification that the Fire Department’s lifeguard program is now certified by the US Lifesaving Association, the leading certification program for open water lifeguard services in the United States.  The achievement of this certification is significant, and is the result of a significant effort by Fire Department staff in recent years.  Emerald Isle is the first lifeguard program in Carteret County to achieve this certification.  Other certified programs in our region include Nags Head, Wrightsville Beach, and Myrtle Beach.

Rescue Tubes to Be Re-Deployed Next Week

Town staff will be re-deploying rescue tubes at all public beach access locations in the next week.  The public is advised to first call 911 to dispatch Town responders, and be certain they are capable of responding before entering the water to assist a swimmer in distress.

August Regular Meeting Date

The Board’s regular meeting in August is scheduled for Tuesday, August 14.  Due to a conflict in Mayor Barber’s schedule, this meeting will be rescheduled for 6 pm on Monday, August 13.     

McLean-Spell Park Land Closing

The Town will take title to the McLean-Spell Park property on May 11.  Federal REPI grant funds ($1.5 million) will be released at that time, and the Town will “up-front” the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF - $545,000) and NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF - $500,000) grant portions, and then immediately file for reimbursement.  We hope to receive the reimbursements prior to June 30 for proper inclusion in the Town’s annual financial report. 

Although the Board and the public don’t see the behind-the-scenes work, this effort has required a great deal of coordination and hard work by many in recent weeks, including staff at the US Department of Defense, CWMTF, PARTF, The Conservation Fund, Town Attorney, Richard Stanley, BB&T, Finance Director Laura Rotchford, and others.  I am pleased that this 17-month land acquisition process is coming to an end, and that the Town’s share of the total land acquisition cost is only approximately 17%. 

McLean-Spell Park Official “Grand Opening” Ceremony – Monday, June 11

Although the new park is open for public use now, The Conservation Fund and the Town are planning a special “Grand Opening” ceremony for Monday, June 11, likely at 10 am. 

I expect many involved in this project to attend, including the Federal and State grant funding partners, MCAS Cherry Point officials, Representative McElraft, the family members of the original land owners, and others.

Planned Pedestrian Bridge Over Archers Creek from Community Center to McLean-Spell Park

After further consideration, we are pivoting away from the idea of a pre-fabricated pedestrian bridge at this location, and will be working toward the on-site construction of a wooden pedestrian bridge (that is handicapped accessible) sometime this fall.  We expect the construction to be of a similar quality standard as the Town’s beach access walkways, and of sufficient design to allow a utility vehicle to cross.  The new walkway will be 12 – 15 feet wide, and will become the primary entrance to the new McLean-Spell Park.

Fishing Tournament Committee

Thus far, the Town has received emails from 7 individuals expressing interest in serving on the fishing tournament committee.  We will continue to solicit for individuals interested in serving on the committee through May 25, and present a list of applicants to the Board at the June 12 meeting. 

Meeting with Islander Drive Property Owners

I will be scheduling a meeting with adjacent property owners along Islander Drive in the coming weeks to solicit their input on the planned Islander Drive streetscape improvements.  I hope to secure valuable input from adjacent owners and then proceed with professional design services later this summer.  A proposed design will be presented for Board consideration later this summer or early fall, and I hope to complete construction prior to May 2019.

I will also be working to incorporate “Charters of Freedom” monuments into the planned Islander Drive streetscape / Western Ocean Regional Access improvements.  Local residents Doug and Erin Starcke continue to express interest in a significant contribution toward these monuments, which include inscriptions of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. 

Bundled (Gigabyte Level) Broadband Fiber To The Home

Commissioner Normile and I recently attended a State-wide meeting highlighting strategies to expand gigabyte level fiber connections to rural areas of NC.  Emerald Isle is currently served by fiber connections through Spectrum, however, the fiber does not typically extend to individual homes and thus does not provide as fast, reliable, or sufficient capacity of service as necessary or desired.  We will be exploring different strategies, both by the private sector and through any potential public partnerships, to promote additional competition in this market in Emerald Isle in the future.

NC 58 Traffic Cameras?

I have been working toward the installation of traffic cameras - to enable our residents and visitors to monitor traffic conditions over the internet - along NC 58 for several years, but have been unable to make this goal a reality.  I recently submitted a new request to NCDOT to install a traffic camera near the base of the Emerald Isle bridge on the Emerald Isle side, and hope to gain some traction on this request in the coming months. 

NCDOT staff recently informed me that they are currently working on the installation of a traffic camera at the NC 58 / NC 24 intersection, which would also be helpful to our residents and visitors. 

New Fireworks Company for July 4 Fireworks

We have executed a contract with Class A Fireworks, based in eastern NC, for the July 4 fireworks show from Bogue Inlet Pier.  The Town’s long-time contractor, East Coast Pyrotechnics, a SC company, recently informed the Town it can no longer provide services.

NC Commissioner of Insurance Negotiates 5.5% / 12% Increase in Homeowners Insurance Rates; Dwelling Rate Request Still Pending

The NC Rate Bureau (the entity representing insurance companies in North Carolina) requested a 25% (homeowners) and 40% (tenants and condominiums) increase in insurance premiums for permanent homes in Emerald Isle in late 2017.  After reviewing the request and considering significant public input, NC Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey approved a 5.5% (homeowners) and 12% (tenants and condominiums) rate increase for Emerald Isle in April. 

I am pleased that the approved rate increase is significantly lower than requested (5.5% and 12% is certainly better than 25% and 40%), but continue to have concerns about the overall unfair rate structure used in North Carolina.  Because Commissioner Causey essentially approved a similar increase for nearly all areas of NC, Emerald Isle property owners (and those in other barrier island communities) will continue to pay insurance premiums that are 4 - 5 times higher than many other communities in NC.  The Town recently hosted top staff from the NC Department of Insurance in Emerald Isle, reiterated these concerns, and again requested that Commissioner Causey work with the NC General Assembly and others to implement a fairer rate structure.  

A separate rate increase request for second homes and vacation rental units (nearly 40%) is still pending a final decision by Commissioner Causey.  I remain hopeful that this requested increase will also be rejected or significantly reduced.  A final decision on this request is expected sometime in the coming months.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Indicates Insufficient Depths in Alternate Channel from Archers Point to AIWW

I have attached a recent channel survey completed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), which shows depths mostly ranging from 2.6 feet to 3.9 feet, with most in the 3 ft. +/- range.  NCWRC staff indicated that they are not comfortable relocating the navigation buoys to this area, and ideally would like to see a consistent 3.5 feet at low water. 

This channel, which has been informally marked by local residents (with white PVC poles), is approximately 3,900 linear feet.  Assuming a constant dredge depth of 5 feet, with an initial width of 30 feet (that would likely equilibrate to approximately 20 feet wide), the total dredge volume would be approximately 7,000 cubic yards.  Depending on the type of dredge and the spoil disposal site, a dredging effort could range anywhere from $100,000 - $250,000.  I believe the Town would have a reasonably good chance of securing significant State grant funds for this effort, however, permitting is likely to be very challenging and potentially expensive. 

I plan to investigate this issue further in the coming months, and may present additional strategies and recommendations to the Board in the future.

Town Planner Working With Owner of Old Circle Pizza Building Near Ocean Drive ‘Dog-Leg’

Town Planner Josh Edmondson has had encouraging discussions with the owner of this abandoned building in recent weeks.   The owner is working to secure appropriate assurances regarding the future use of the existing on-site wastewater system, and assuming this system can be re-used in the future, the owner has indicated a willingness to remove the abandoned structure and restore the property to vacant status.  We will continue to pursue this outcome, and will update the Board accordingly in the coming weeks. 

Final Roundabout Markings, Additional Roundabout Street Lights

All permanent pavement markings and signage have been installed at the NC 58 roundabout, and the new traffic feature is working well. 

I have ordered new decorative street lights (5 total) to be installed around the outer perimeter of the roundabout, and Carteret Craven Electric Cooperative is attempting to install these lights prior to or soon after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  The new lights should improve night-time visibility in this area. 

New Lighting Along Coast Guard Road Bicycle Path

Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative will soon be installing new street lights (traditional, pole-mounted lights) along the Coast Guard Road bicycle path between Deer Horn Drive and Wyndward Court.  I expect the new lights to be in place before Memorial Day weekend.

Coast Guard Road Clearing for New Electric Pole / Line Installation

I continue to work with Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative on a plan to install new mulch, trees, and ornamental plantings in the areas most impacted by recent clearing for a new electric poles and lines along Coast Guard Road.  Parks Maintenance staff have recommended plantings for the area near Spinnakers Reach and along the back of Dolphin Ridge that were most severely impacted, and I am attempting to have Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative fund the cost of materials, and would then direct Parks Maintenance staff to install the new plantings.

New Welcome to Emerald Isle Signs

The new sign near the base of the Emerald Isle bridge was recently installed, and we are awaiting delivery of a smaller sign with an identical design to be installed at the eastern Town limits.  We hope to have this new sign in place before or shortly after Memorial Day weekend. 

NC 58 Uplighting Near Bridge

Town staff have received NCDOT approval for the planned installation of uplighting of certain trees in the NC 58 right of way near the base of the Emerald Isle bridge.  We are hopeful that these lights will be functional sometime in June, and will enhance the entrance to Emerald Isle during night-time hours. 

NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive Intersection Improvements

NCDOT and their consultants are working to refine the preliminary design of planned NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive intersection improvements after receiving helpful input from “downtown” business owners earlier this spring.  NCDOT and their consultants are working toward a design that involves lane improvements between the Welcome Center and the US Post Office, but without significant median features that caused concern among business owners in this area.  I am scheduled to meet with NCDOT staff and their consultants later in May to review their latest ideas, and will then coordinate additional review by “downtown” business owners.

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.

Representative McElraft Working on State Beach Nourishment Funding Request

With the NC General Assembly’s short session beginning on May 16, Carteret County Shore Protection Officer Greg Rudolph and I recently provided potential bill language and revenue estimates to NC Representative McElraft to assist her in securing State funding for the Town’s (and Pine Knoll Shores’ and Indian Beach’s) planned beach nourishment project this coming winter.  I am encouraged by recent conversations with Representative McElraft, and remain hopeful that she will be successful in securing State funding for these important projects.  The Town’s total State funding request is $4.6 million, and would be matched with $4.6 million from the County and the Town. 

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.  We are awaiting an updated channel survey from the US Army Corps of Engineers in the next week or two, and upcoming dredging activities will be dependent on the survey results.  I am hopeful that the US Army Corps of Engineers will perform touch-up dredging prior to Memorial Day weekend, but it is more likely that this work will occur sometime in early June. 

Dog Park Advisory Committee Focusing on McLean-Spell Park

The committee reviewed 5 Town-owned locations that may be suitable for a future new dog park, and is now focusing on a 1 – 2 acre area in the new McLean-Spell Park.  The committee will be reviewing more specific locations in the new park in the coming weeks, generally on the southern edge near Archers Creek and in close proximity to the Community Center and planned new pedestrian bridge.  Any new dog park facility will be located as far from adjacent homeowners as possible, and designed in such a manner that no storm water runoff enters Archers Creek.  I expect to schedule Board review of the committee’s preferred dog park location at an upcoming Board meeting.    

Beach Access Walkway Construction

The new beach access walkways at West Landing Drive, Fairfax Drive, and Beachview Drive are complete, and the Town’s contractor is currently working on the Whitewater Drive beach access walkway.  We expect this walkway to be complete before Memorial Day weekend.  Following completion of the Whitewater Drive walkway, the Town’s contractor will be constructing new steps at the Lee Avenue soundside access.  

NC 58 Flashing Pedestrian Crosswalks

NCDOT will be installing three new crosswalks on NC 58 near the Ocean Drive ‘dog-leg’, at the Town Government Complex, and at Islander Drive.  Preliminary work has begun, and NCDOT hopes to complete all three locations within the next several weeks. 

The planned crosswalk at the Town Government Complex will also have a concrete “refuge island” for pedestrians in the center turn lane, similar to the feature at the new NC 58 roundabout.

Wyndward Court Storm Water Improvements

Public Works has completed this new system, which will relay storm water from the Wyndward Court cul-de-sac 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.

Public Works Touching Up Crosswalks, “Downtown” Curbing

Public Works crews continue to repaint various sidewalk and bicycle path crosswalks in an effort to have the Town looking as attractive as possible for the prime summer season.  I expect most of this work to be complete prior to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. 

Public Works will also again be repainting the “downtown” curbing in mid-May to provide a fresh, clean appearance in this area.  Additionally, the Town’s contractor recently repainted the pavement markings on Bogue Inlet Drive between NC 58 and Bogue Inlet Pier.

Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival – Saturday, September 29 

Town staff will soon begin planning efforts for the 3rd annual (renewal) of the Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival – which is now less than 5 months away.