Memo-07-12-2016-Item13

July 12, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Fire Department Awarded $147,000 Grant

We were recently informed that the Fire Department has received a significant grant from the US Fire Administration.  These funds will be used to purchase 24 new self-contained breathing apparatus (air-packs) and face masks for EIFD personnel.  The total amount of the grant is nearly $147,000, and the Town’s required match is 5%.  The new equipment will replace existing air-packs that are more than 17 years old, and will enhance the safety of our firefighters on-scene.  

We will place a formal resolution accepting the grant and a budget amendment for the required local match (approximately $7,400) on the August 9 meeting agenda.

Plans for New Commercial Shopping Center Expected Soon

We are expecting to receive official development plans for a new commercial shopping center planned for the vacant land between Mallard Drive and Emerald Plantation shopping center in the coming weeks.  The new shopping center would occupy both sides of Crew Drive between NC 58 and Archers Creek.  The developers will be requesting that the Town close Crew Drive (on paper only), and replace it with a perpetual, non-exclusive street easement that would result in the street functioning as good or better than it does currently.  The new street would include sidewalks and curb and gutter and essentially be in the same location.  The developer is also planning to install either a new traffic signal or roundabout at the Mallard Drive / NC 58 intersection, as directed by the Town and NCDOT.

The initial resolution of intent for the closure of Crew Drive (on paper only) is expected to be presented to the Board at the August 9 meeting, with a formal decision scheduled for the September 13 meeting.  The formal development plans are expected to be reviewed by Town staff in late July and early August, and considered by the Planning Board at its August 22 meeting.  Final decisions by the Board of Commissioners are tentatively scheduled for the September 13 meeting.  

Town staff also expect to present an amendment to the Town’s sign ordinance that limits wall signage to 32 sq. ft. per business.  This limit generally works well for smaller commercial buildings, particularly those with multiple tenants (each business entitled to 32 sq. ft.), but does not work well for larger, single-tenant buildings (for example, CVS signage).  A proposed sign ordinance amendment will be presented to the Planning Board at the August 22 meeting.

Bogue Inlet Navigation Dredging

All Carteret County local governments have approved funding for Bogue Inlet dredging ($50,000 collectively).  Greg Rudolph, Carteret County Shore Protection Manager, and I will be attending meetings with Onslow County and Swansboro during the week of July 11 in hopes of securing approval for their collective $50,000.  Assuming their approval, the $100,000 of local funding will be matched with $200,000 from the State.  I am hopeful that the Corps of Engineers can schedule additional dredging soon after all approvals are in hand.

Beach Music Festival

Planning continues for the new Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival scheduled for Saturday, August 27.  The first performer will go on at 11 am, and we expect the music to continue through 5:30 pm or 6 pm. 

Transportation Impact has signed on as presenting sponsor ($3,000), and we are working to secure additional sponsors.  Advertising will begin through WITN and regional radio stations later this month.  The new stage has been constructed at the Western Ocean Regional Access in a location atop the dune.  Nearby dune disturbance will be tidied up and additional dune grass planted.  An alternate temporary sand path between the volleyball courts and the beach strand has also been partly established.

Everything is coming together for the event, and we are hoping for a crowd of 5,000 to 10,000 for the event!

New Beach Access Walkway Adjacent to The Point Vehicle Ramp

We will be soliciting informal quotes for this new walkway later in July, with a goal to have the new walkway constructed and open to the public before September 15, the first day of beach driving season.

Cape Emerald Pipe Expansion / Replacement

We are planning to solicit informal quotes for this work in August, and remain hopeful that the budgeted amount will be sufficient to award a contract in September.  Permit authorization is still necessary, but we don’t anticipate any hurdles.

Osprey Ridge Pump Station

Survey work has been completed, and the engineer is currently working on design.  We plan to solicit informal bids in August, and present a construction contract recommendation to the Board at the September 13 meeting.  Our goal is to have the new pump station operational by January 1 or soon thereafter.

Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan

The Town’s online survey to gather public input for the new plan remains active, but will close on Friday, July 15.  We are expecting between 1500 – 2000 survey responses by the time it closes, which is excellent.  We have also scheduled a special public input meeting for Saturday, August 20 from 10 am – 1 pm in the Town Board Meeting Room.  We will continue to publicize this meeting, which is being held on a Saturday to hopefully encourage absentee property owners to also attend. 

The Steering Committee and the consultant are nearing completion of much of the background information gathering, and will soon move into a discussion of future goals, policies, etc.  The next committee meeting is July 20.

Golf Cart Permits Continue to Increase

The Town permitted a total of 655 golf carts during FY 15-16, more than double the amount in FY 12-13. 

Golf Cart Issues

The Police Department has been actively enforcing golf cart violations for the most common offenses, including illegal operation on the bike path, NC 58, and Coast Guard Road.  Several citations have been issued in recent weeks, and this practice will continue.

I was recently approached again by a resident in the Coast Guard Road area about allowing golf carts on Coast Guard Road, perhaps in conjunction with a reduction of the speed limit to 25 mph along Coast Guard Road.  Please let me know if you have any interest in this idea.

I was also recently approached again by a resident about allowing golf carts on the bicycle path on the east end of Town to provide a legal connection between the numbered streets and the rest of the Town, and also to access the Flip Flops / Dollar General area.  One idea discussed was the possible construction of a new “golf-cart only path” in this area.  Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this issue.

Rethinking Itinerant Merchants, Satellite Merchants

I have been considering alternative approaches to the Town’s regulation of itinerant merchants and satellite merchants (i.e., mobile vendors) in recent weeks, and have narrowed the options to three:

Option 1 – Maintain current system whereby they are not allowed in EI, except for oceanfront commercial and condo parcels, and must simply register with the Town.

Option 2 – Allow mobile vendors anywhere in Emerald Isle that is zoned commercial or mixed use, on private property only……provided the vendor is an Emerald Isle resident or business and has the permission of the private commercial property owner.  There would be no other restrictions, and the private commercial property owners and the market itself would regulate such activities.  Non-EI residents or vendors would still be prohibited, and no vendors would be allowed on public right of ways or the beach strand.  The mobile vendor would still be required to register with the Town, and no fee would be charged.

Option 3 – Allow mobile vendors anywhere in Emerald Isle that is zoned commercial or mixed use, on private property only……provided the vendor has the permission of the private commercial property owner and secures a permit from the Town.  The vendor could be from anywhere, and this approach would not be limited to EI residents or businesses.  The amount of the annual permit fee would be several hundred dollars ($500 - $1000?), and would be roughly equal to the average property tax bill paid by a brick and mortar business in EI.  There would be no other restrictions, and the private commercial property owners and the market itself would regulate such activities. No vendors would be allowed on public right of ways or the beach strand.

Ideally, I am seeking to eliminate or reduce the Town’s involvement in regulating this issue, and would transfer the decision making process to the private commercial property owner and the mobile vendor.  Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this issue.  Any desired changes would be presented to the Board for formal consideration this winter, and would be implemented for summer 2017.

Coyotes

We are planning to have a representative from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission at the September 13 meeting to discuss the management options developed by Police Chief Waters and distributed to the Board last month.  If the Board decides to pursue the elimination of coyotes, efforts will likely be scheduled for January and/or February 2017.

Nies v. Emerald Isle

Work continues on the Town’s defense in this case, with all briefs due to the NC Supreme Court on July 27.  I have been working closely with our legal team to secure amicus briefs in support of the Town’s position, and have been pleased with the outstanding support expressed for the Town’s position.  I am also planning to release a public statement from the Town about the case on July 27.  As you know, the case has significant ramifications for the future use of the beach strand by the public along the entire NC coast.

Oral arguments in the case are expected later this year, and a decision is not expected until late this year or early 2017.

Recent Internet Auction Results

The Town received a total of $3,924 from the sale of various items via internet auction recently. Among the items sold were a high mileage 2008 Ford Explorer and 2011 Honda ATV that was heavily used on the beach strand.  These funds will be credited to the General Fund.

Emerald Isle Woods Walkway

I am planning to award this small project to B&P Services (has completed numerous walkway projects to the Town) in the coming weeks to construct a low-profile elevated walkway over wetland areas at Emerald Isle Woods Park.  The new walkway will create a safer and more user friendly park trail, and will make it much easier to monitor storm water levels in EI Woods Park and flows between Cape Emerald and EI Woods Park.  Total cost of the work is approximately $7,000.

Cape Emerald Pipe Failure

A private storm water pipe in Cape Emerald recently failed, in part, due to poor workmanship by the Town’s contractor on a public storm water pipe in 2012.  Artie Dunn, Public Works Director, and I have been working to secure compensation from the contractor for these issues, and they have offered an amount that is not satisfactory.  We continue to talk with them to secure reasonable compensation for this issue for Cape Emerald.  The total cost of the work was approximately $25,000.

Islander Drive Properties

Additional clean-up has occurred at the abandoned go-kart track and batting cage properties on Islander Drive, and although those properties still don’t look as nice as desired, they do look better than they have in quite a while.  We continue to work on strategies to improve that area of Emerald Isle in both the short-term and the long-term.

State Budget Approved, General Assembly Adjourns – Sales Tax Not Harmed

Thankfully, the State budget does not include any harmful sales tax provisions, and Senator Harry Brown’s bill (S846) did not advance in the short session.  If approved, S846 would have resulted in an approximately $70,000 annual sales tax loss for Emerald Isle.  We will continue to monitor this issue in the long session that begins in January.

Fire Station 1 Renovations

Fire Chief Walker and I recently toured Fire Station 1 with a local contractor to consider possible future renovations to provide additional space and improve the function and exterior appearance of the station.  Several good ideas were discussed, and we will be working in the future to refine our plans for future presentation to the Board of Commissioners.  As discussed during the budget process, we hope to complete desired renovations in FY 18-19.

Town Dumpster Service

I have had informal discussions with Simmons & Simmons about their potential interest in also providing dumpster service for the Town beginning in 2017.  At this time, I am uncertain of their interest / ability to provide this service, but will continue discussions.  I am also planning to explore the feasibility of providing this service with Town employees and equipment.  I will also be talking with Waste Industries, our current contractor, and their competitors in the near future.  The Town’s existing contract expires on December 31, 2016, and has an annual value of approximately $80,000.

Beach Access Food Vendors

A few food vendors have dropped out of the program, and Jackie’s American Grille and Ben & Jerry’s are now the only participating vendors.  We are considering opening up this opportunity to non-EI based food vendors for 2017, and welcome the Board’s input on this issue. 

New Small Storm Water Relay Pumps – 6400 Block and Bogue Court

Public Works has begun work on this new system near the Sea Crest beach access walkway, and is expected to finish the new system later in July.  Public Works has also begun work on a similar system on Bogue Court, and we hope to complete this new system in August or September.  The new systems will include a catch basin and small submersible pump, and will direct storm water through a 4 inch PVC pipe to the dune field in each area. 

NC 58 Traffic Improvements

The Carteret County Transportation Committee is expected to finalize their transportation priorities later this month.  Based on discussion at its June meeting, we are optimistic that the Town’s requested intersection improvements will be near the top of their priority list.  The DownEast RPO will consider the regional priorities at its next meeting later this summer.  I recently submitted formal comments to NCDOT staff as part of the public input process for the development of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.  I remain hopeful that the requested intersection improvements will ultimately be included in the new plan. 

Potential Partnership To Provide Staff Assistance for Emerald Isle Business Association

I still plan to pursue this issue with more vigor in the coming weeks, and hope to develop a cost-effective plan to create a paid staff position for the EIBA, ideally in partnership with the Tourism Development Authority.  I envision that such a new position would better promote EI to our visitors and potential visitors, help with existing special events (i.e., St. Patrick’s Festival, Christmas Parade, etc.), help with new events (i.e., new “EI Beach Music Festival”, etc.), organize special shopping experiences among Emerald Isle businesses (i.e., Christmas shopping deals throughout the entire Town), and better galvanize the brick-and-mortar businesses in Emerald Isle. 

Design Students to Develop Plan for Additional “Downtown”  Streetscape Improvement

I am planning contact the NC State School of Design in the coming weeks to hopefully arrange a student project to recommend and develop graphics illustrating additional streetscape improvements in Emerald Isle.  The project would be focused on the area between the Welcome Center and the Town Government complex. 

Town Customer Satisfaction Survey – Early 2017?

I will be working with Town staff and a survey designer this fall and winter to devise a customer satisfaction survey for our residents, property owners, and visitors.  The survey will include queries on all Town services, and will hopefully provide helpful feedback that will ultimately result in improved services in the future.

Wyndward Court Beach Access Easement

In response to continuing concerns from the adjacent neighbor, we will soon be extending the white vinyl fence along this access easement to better direct individuals down the correct pathway toward the beach.  We will also be building a short elevated wooden walkway this fall or winter to provide a clear path to the beach during flooding conditions.  Additionally, the Wyndward Court cul-de-sac is also slated to receive a new small storm water relay pump (similar to those planned for the 6400 block and Bogue Court, discussed above) sometime this winter.

New Generator in Place at Community Center

A new generator is in place at the Community Center, and is scheduled for final testing in the coming days.  The new generator will power the entire building except for the HVAC system.  We are pleased to have this in place prior to the hurricane season.

New Residential Construction Starts

The town permitted a total of 33 new residential units during FY 15-16, the most in a decade.  The total dollar amount of construction activity during FY 15-16 was more than $29 million, also the most in a decade.