August 8, 2017

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Comprehensive Land Use Plan Review

The Town’s consultant and Town Planner Josh Edmondson are currently making final modifications to the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan for final approval by the NC Division of Coastal Management.  None of the changes are substantive in nature, and the previously approved policies and goals remain in the plan.  I expect to present this plan to the Board for final approval at the September 12 meeting.

Water Resources Development Grant – Archers Creek

I hope to present a revised scope of work for this grant, focused on improvements in the Emerald Plantation subdivision, at the Board’s September 12 meeting.  The grant award ($25,000) and local match ($25,000, shared between the Town and adjacent property owners) will not change, however, the revised scope of work will likely include a “living shoreline” concept in Emerald Plantation to replace an existing bulkhead, along with other clean-up activities to improve water quality in the creek and hopefully enhance its use for kayaking in this area. 

Grant for Islander Drive Revitalization

I will be working over the next few weeks to finalize the project scope for the $100,000 grant awarded to the Town to assist with revitalization efforts in the Islander Drive area.  As noted previously, State Representative Pat McElraft worked with others in the NC General Assembly to provide these grants to many municipalities across NC, and Emerald Isle was included.  I expect to have a specific proposal on the Board’s September 12 meeting agenda.

Charters of Freedom Monuments

I am currently working with Emerald Isle residents Doug and Erin Starcke on a project to install Charters of Freedom monuments at the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park in the future.  The Charters of Freedom monuments include attractive monuments that include the text of the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.  I expect to schedule a presentation about this project on the Board’s September 12 meeting agenda.

Conceptual Site Plans for New Meeting and Events Center

I have been working with engineering consultants on the development of multiple conceptual site plans for a potential “meeting and events center” on the Islander Drive property, and expect to review their work in the coming weeks.  My goal is to present multiple (perhaps 3 – 6) conceptual plans to the Board and the public at an upcoming Town meeting, and begin to refine the Board’s goals for the future development of the Islander Drive site. 

Islander Drive Site Clean-Up

All debris removal and re-grading is complete, and the site is essentially restored to vacant lot status.  I have intentionally delayed the seeding of the site until the fall in order to increase the chances for successful establishment of a grassy cover. 

Surfside Realty Tract Acquisition

I continue to work with officials at MCAS Cherry Point to secure the requested $1.5 million of Federal funds for this land acquisition.  I expect to receive additional information in the coming weeks to enable the Town to proceed with the planned closing prior to October 31.  It is likely that The Conservation Fund of NC will complete the purchase on the Town’s behalf in October, and then hold the property for several months until the Federal cash is released for the land purchase.  I expect the Town to utilize the two State grants ($1,045,000) in October, along with the Town’s contribution of up to $500,000.  I am planning to schedule Board approval of an installment financing agreement for the Town’s contribution on the October Town meeting agenda.

Commercial Village Zoning District

Town Planner Josh Edmondson continues to work with the Planning Board on new zoning regulations for the proposed Commercial Village zoning district.  In a nutshell, the Commercial Zoning district will likely include all of the areas currently zoned Business, but allow complementary residential uses as part of any new commercial development (residential uses are currently prohibited in the Business zoning district).  I hope to have Josh Edmondson present formal ordinance language to the Board at an upcoming Town meeting this fall.

Bogue Inlet Drive Intersection Improvements To Be Included in New Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)

Although the Town’s requested intersection improvements at the 4 signalized intersections along NC 58 scored well in NCDOT’s review process, they were not included in the draft version of the new STIP earlier this year due to limited funding.  The Town was recently informed, however, that additional funding has been identified for the final version of the STIP, and the Bogue Inlet Drive intersection improvements will be included in the final version of the STIP, with construction tentatively scheduled for 2022 (and perhaps earlier). 

The initial scope of the project includes a new mini-roundabout and curb and gutter improvements along NC 58 between the Welcome Center and the Post Office.  NCDOT is currently working on preliminary design, and expects to present the preliminary design to the Town later this fall or winter.  I expect to schedule the Board’s review for a Town meeting sometime this winter.

NC 58 / Mallard Drive / Emerald Landing Roundabout Construction

I am scheduled to meet with NCDOT officials and engineers for the new Publix project later in August to review plans for the new roundabout to be constructed at the NC 58 / Mallard Drive / Emerald Landing intersection.  I am working with NCDOT and the developer to insure that construction impacts are minimized and that all work occurs during the winter months.  My goal is for all work to be complete prior to the annual St. Patrick’s Day festival on March 17, 2018. 

Transition of EMS to a Town Department

The Joint EMS Committee is scheduled to meet in September to discuss the upcoming transition of EMS to a Town department.  As discussed previously, EMS will become a part of the Town organization on or before March 1, 2018.  There are several logistical issues to be resolved between now and then, however, no significant hurdles are anticipated.  I expect to present a detailed plan to the Board at a Town meeting in November or December.

Potential Winter 2018-19 Beach Nourishment Project

I have had preliminary discussions with County officials and our engineers about a potential beach nourishment project for eastern Emerald Isle during the winter months of 2018-19.  We will be meeting in September to advance this concept and potentially begin work on detailed design. 

We expect to receive permit authorizations for the 50-year “Master Plan” in early 2018, and will be working to complete design work during spring 2018 and solicit bids in late summer 2018.  The exact scope of the project (project boundaries, volume of sand necessary, estimated project costs, etc) will likely be determined this fall or winter and presented to the Board for approval sometime in spring 2018.  I also anticipate a request for significant State funding for this beach nourishment project, and remain hopeful that funding may be approved in the 2018-19 State budget.

Beach Music Festival Set for September 30

Town staff continue planning for the new Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival to be held at the Western Ocean Regional Access on Saturday, September 30 from 11 am to 5:30 pm.  More than $18,000 of sponsors have been signed on, including presenting sponsor Transportation Impact.  We are hopeful that this year’s event will match or exceed last year’s crowd!  In preparation for this event, the Town’s contractor will be adding an additional 200 sq. ft. to the dune stage in the coming weeks.

Bogue Inlet Dredging Funding Requests

The Town of Cedar Point has approved its $2,500 contribution for Bogue Inlet dredging, and the Carteret County Board of Commissioners will consider its $35,000 contribution later in August.  Onslow County, Swansboro, and Cape Carteret are also expected to consider the request in the coming weeks. 

Property Tax Bills

Tax Collector Gayle Parker and Finance Director Laura Rotchford are currently working to finalize the property tax database so that property tax bills can be mailed out.  I am hopeful that the property tax bills will be mailed on or around August 14.  Under State law, property tax bills are due on September 1, however, penalties and interest do not accrue until January 5.

Beach Driving Permits

Beach driving season begins on September 15, and beach driving permits are available for sale to the public beginning August 14.  A new Town ordinance requires all old beach driving permit stickers to be removed from the vehicle, and also requires the stickers to be placed in the lower driver’s side corner of the windshield.

Comment Period Open for Proposed New Flood Maps 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced the formal public comment period on the proposed new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Carteret County (including Emerald Isle).  The public comment period provides an opportunity for those with concerns about the flood zone assigned to their property to express concern and seek adjustments.  Public comments are due by September 20, 2017.  Town Planner Josh Edmondson is available to assist Emerald Isle property owners with any questions about the proposed new maps or the public comment process.

As reported previously, the proposed new flood maps include beneficial changes for many Emerald Isle property owners, particularly near the oceanfront, and these changes will likely result in potentially significant flood insurance premium reductions when the new maps are finalized. There are, however, a relatively small number of Emerald Isle properties that could be negatively impacted, and Town Planner Josh Edmondson is available to assist these property owners upon request. 

Town Receives GFOA Award   

For the 4th year in a row, the Town has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the national Government Finance Officers Association.  The award recognizes local governments that exceed the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure.  

Nies v. Emerald Isle

The Town’s attorneys will be submitting the Town’s official response to Nies’ petition to the US Supreme Court later this week.  The Washington, DC law firm of Deutsch Hunt PLLC is assisting the Town’s attorney, Brian Edes, with this response.  We expect to receive the US Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not they will hear the case sometime later this fall.

New Beach Swing at Western Ocean Regional Access

I will be working with NC Division of Coastal Management staff in the coming weeks to request a rule change to allow the Town’s new “beach swing” to remain in place at the Western Ocean Regional Access.  In the meantime, NC DCM staff has indicated that the new “beach swing” may remain until this issue is resolved. 

Alesia Sanderson, Parks and Recreation Director, has received several requests from Emerald Isle property owners interested in sponsoring additional “beach swings”, and we have placed these requests on hold until we can resolve the permit issue.

Cape Emerald Pond Bulkhead

I will be working with the Cape Emerald homeowners association this fall to install a new, 2-ft. high bulkhead along the south side of the Cape Emerald pond.  All adjacent property owners have expressed support for this approach, with the exception of one, and the bulkhead may “skip” this property if the owner does not wish to participate in the project.

Unified Development Ordinance Simplification

Josh Edmondson and I will be working on a significantly simplified UDO to present to the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners in the coming months.  My goal is to eliminate all unnecessary regulations and confusing language, and create a simple, reader-friendly ordinance that achieves the Town’s most important development policy goals.

Emerald Isle Commercial

I hope to meet with TDA officials in the coming weeks to pursue the airing of the new “Emerald Isle commercial” video in strategic markets.  I remain hopeful that the TDA will embrace this idea and help to better promote Emerald Isle as a tourism destination.

Old Ferry Road Sidewalk

The FY 17-18 adopted budget includes a total of $30,000 for the construction of a new sidewalk along Old Ferry Road between CVS and Canal Drive.  I hope to solicit bids for this work in the coming weeks, present a contract recommendation to the Board this fall, and complete construction later this fall or winter.  If bids are favorable, we may also try to identify funding to extend the new sidewalk all the way to Sound Drive. 

New Welcome to Emerald Isle Sign

The FY 17-18 adopted budget includes a total of $15,000 for a new, sandblasted wood “Welcome to Emerald Isle” sign near the NC 58 bridge.  The new sign will include the new EI logo and the “Nice Matters” tagline, and will replace the existing sign.  I hope to have the new sign installed later this fall.

NC 58 Right of Way Under Power Lines Near Bridge

We are considering installing pine straw along the entire length of the NC 58 right of way under the power lines (on the north / east side) between Coast Guard Road and the bridge.  The total cost for this pine straw is approximately $5,000, and would enhance the appearance of this area if maintained properly in the future.

NC 58 Bridge Work

NCDOT has awarded a contract for structural work on the Emerald Isle bridge and the Atlantic Beach bridge.  Work will begin on the Atlantic Beach bridge in the coming weeks, and will continue for up to a year.  Work on the Emerald Isle bridge will not begin until Atlantic Beach is completed, with work expected to begin in EI in fall 2018.  The majority of the work on the EI bridge will be underneath of the bridge deck, and should not significantly impact traffic.  This project also includes the installation of new, higher guardrails on the EI bridge, and this portion of the work may result in minor traffic impacts.

Improvements to the Emerald Isle APP

Town Clerk Rhonda Ferebee and I are working with the Town’s app developer on significant improvements to the Emerald Isle APP, and hope to unveil the redesigned app in September. The new design is more customizable, and will provide more flexibility for the Town to highlight specific information (i.e., hurricanes, rip currents, other emergency situations, etc.)

New Parks Maintenance Worker Position

The FY 17-18 adopted budget includes funding for a new Parks Maintenance Worker position to improve bicycle path and NC 58 corridor maintenance.  Due to the uncertainty surrounding potential sales tax changes by the NC General Assembly, we delayed filling this position.  Because the proposed sales tax changes were not approved (at least for this year), we will now proceed with filling this position.  I expect to have the new position filled sometime in September.

Wyndtree Drive Public Beach Access

Historically, the public using this beach access has deviated out of the public access easement boundaries and onto private property to cross through the frontal dunes and access the flat beach strand.  Because both adjacent property owners advised the Town that they no longer wish to allow the public to cut across their property, Town staff delineated the boundaries of the public access easement and marked a new sand path that remains within the boundaries of the public access easement.  However, this route requires the public to traverse a larger dune in this area, and this can be difficult for older or handicapped individuals.  As a result, we have received a few complaints about this route. 

The Town’s options for resolving this issue are limited to either  a) constructing a wooden walkway extension over the dune (at considerable expense),  b) manipulating the frontal dune to make the grade less steep (with appropriate approval from the NC Division of Coastal Management),  or  c) doing nothing and hopefully allowing the continued public use to gradually reduce the slope.

Fire Engine Debt Fully Retired

The Town made an approximately $189,000 payment in June to fully retire an outstanding installment financing agreement for a 2013 Fire Engine purchase.  The debt was retired two years earlier than required. 

Town Financial Audit, EMS Audit

Finance Director Laura Rotchford is working with the Town’s new auditors, S. Preston Douglas & Associates (SPDA), on the June 30, 2017 financial statements and financial audit.  We expect SPDA to present the audit report to the Board at the October Town meeting.  Williams, Scarborough, Smith, and Gray (WSSG), the Town’s previous audit firm, will continue to perform the annual EMS audit for the Town for what may be the final year that a separate EMS audit is necessary.

Drinks at Two Regional Beach Access Facilities

Parks and Recreation Director Alesia Sanderson is working to either  a) install drink vending machines or  b) install new water fountains at both the Western Ocean Regional Access and the Eastern Ocean Regional Access in order to provide this option for visitors to the two facilities.  The Town has previously offered these amenities at these two facilities in the past, but the equipment often did not function correctly due to exposure to the salt air.  We are hopeful that we can identify a more reliable product for these two facilities in the future.