September 11, 2018

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:       Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Public Hearing – Potential Easement Closure, 5200 Block

Town staff have notified adjacent property owners, posted the area in question, and advertised appropriately for the October 9 public hearing.  Following the public hearing, the Board will formally consider the closure of this 12.5 ft. wide easement located between Emerald Drive and Ocean Drive in the 5200 block.

Islander Drive Land Transferred

A-Team Enterprises LLC is now the official owner of the 1.8 acre tract of land located at 203 Islander Drive.  The bulk of the Town’s sale proceeds have been credited back to the Future Beach Nourishment Fund ($200,000), and the remainder are being held for planned public improvements at the Western Ocean Regional Access and along Islander Drive (~$87,000). 

The County’s initial investment ($450,000) and their share of the sale profits (~ $67,000) have been remitted to the County, however, the Town will soon submit a formal request to the County to use the ~ $67,000 of sale profits for the planned improvements.  The Town also continues to hold $100,000 of State grant funds in reserve for the planned improvements.

A-Team continues to work on project design, and remains on track to submit formal development plans in November.  Assuming Board approval, A-Team expects to begin construction of approximately 30 commercial and residential condominium units in early 2019. 

Islander Drive / Western Ocean Regional Access Improvements

Ark Consulting Engineers is working to refine various improvement options and cost estimates for the Board to consider at the October 9 meeting.  Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative is also working to refine options and cost estimates to relocate overhead power lines in this area underground, and these options will also be presented to the Board at the October 9 meeting.    

Improvements currently under consideration include a new beach access walkway, shower and bathroom improvements, EmeraldFest stage improvements, a new pedestrian walkway through the parking area at the WORA, additional on-street parking on Islander Drive and Louise Avenue, potential conversion of overhead electric lines to underground, decorative street lighting, landscaping improvements, and more.  The total budget available for these improvements is expected to be approximately $250,000, and some public improvements will be funded by A-Team Enterprises, LLC. 

Assuming Board approval in October, work on the selected improvements is expected to begin in early 2019 and be complete prior to the 2019 tourism season.

Flood Risk Evaluation Outreach Events – September 21 & 22

The Town is sponsoring two free seminars for our property owners to learn about ways to reduce flood insurance premiums.  The free sessions will be held on Friday, September 21 from 2 pm – 4 pm, and Saturday, September 22 from 10 am – 12 noon.  Both sessions will be held in the Town Board Meeting Room.  Pre-registration is requested, and attendees are asked to bring their current flood insurance policy and a flood elevation certificate.  A flyer with more details is attached.

Emerald Isle Fall Fishing Tournament

The Executive Committee is making good progress on the planning for the 1st annual tournament that will be held on September 20-21, 2019.  The committee has developed the basic structure of the tournament, prize categories, and tournament rules, and is beginning to roll out the official tournament website and social media platforms.  The committee is meeting monthly to continue planning efforts.

Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival – Saturday, September 29

Town staff are busy preparing for the 3rd annual “re-boot” of the Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival, and we are looking forward to another big crowd on Saturday, September 29. 

Performances begin at 10:30 am on the beach at the Western Ocean Regional Access, and will continue throughout the day until approximately 5:30 pm.  Performers include Sammy O’Banion, Band of Oz, Fantastic Shakers, Chairmen of the Board, The Embers, and The Tams.  The event setup will be nearly identical to the previous two years. 

We are again fortunate to have Transportation Impact as the title sponsor for this event, and they have contributed $5,000 for this sponsorship.

Day4Kids – Saturday, September 15

Parks and Recreation staff are busy preparing for this free annual event that features numerous kids activities.  Festivities begin at 10 am at the Community Center, and will continue until 2 pm.

Draft 2020-2029 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) Released

NCDOT has released a draft of the new 10-year plan, and requested intersection improvements at three Emerald Isle intersections are included.  The NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive intersection is again included in the new plan, with construction targeted for 2025.  The NC 58 / Coast Guard Road intersection is included, with construction targeted for 2027.  The NC 58 / Loon Drive (Emerald Plantation) intersection is also included, with construction targeted for 2028.  The NC 58 / Mangrove Drive intersection is not yet included in the draft plan, but there is still a chance that that intersection will also be added to the 2020-2029 STIP later this year.

As you know, inclusion in the STIP is the critical first step in securing State funding for future NC 58 improvements.  Without inclusion in the STIP, no improvements of any kind are likely to proceed in the future.  Although the 3 intersections are identified in the draft STIP as either mini-roundabout or roundabout improvements, NCDOT will perform significant additional analysis, consult with the Town, consult with nearby business owners, and solicit additional public input in the coming years before finalizing any specific plans for these intersections.  In the end, the actual improvements may be roundabouts, traffic signal and/or lane improvements, or perhaps no improvements at all, however, it is critical for these projects to be included in the STIP in order to have any chance at all for future NC 58 improvements. 

As you know, the vast majority of people in Emerald Isle are opposed to the widening of the NC 58 bridge and NC 58 because it is believed this will drastically change the character of the Town and negatively impact the Town’s small-town atmosphere.  As discussed in the past, if one accepts this position, yet still wants to improve traffic flow into and out of Emerald Isle, the only remaining options are small, incremental intersection improvements.  It is obvious that the 4 signalized intersections are the primary factors causing traffic congestion, and the projects included in the draft STIP would seek helpful, incremental improvements at these locations.  There are likely no “magic bullet” solutions to the Town’s traffic congestion issues during peak periods, and the Town has consistently worked to identify any helpful improvements to at least promote incremental improvement in traffic flow through Emerald Isle.

One other option that is often suggested is the potential for a 3rd bridge to the mainland in the middle of Bogue Banks.  This project is not currently under consideration by NCDOT or any local government in Carteret County, and it is unlikely such a project would ever be constructed in any of our lifetimes due to significant cost, environmental hurdles, and local political issues in other municipalities.  

NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive Intersection Improvements

NCDOT continues to evaluate potential intersection improvements at NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive, and I am awaiting additional feedback from NCDOT before discussing further with nearby business owners.  I expect to receive additional information in the next week or two, and will then engage in additional discussion with nearby business owners. 

I remain hopeful that NCDOT will ultimately pursue beneficial improvements to this intersection that are supported by nearby businesses, the general public, and the Town, however, I am increasingly concerned that no improvements will ultimately be feasible.  I hope to provide a more definitive update to the Board and the community at the October or November meeting.

NC 58 Traffic Camera Request

NCDOT staff are currently evaluating the Town’s request for a fixed traffic camera along NC 58, and are developing a more formal plan and cost estimate.  I hope to receive additional feedback about this initiative in the coming weeks.

NCDOT Still Planning Installation of Flashing Beacons at New NC 58 Crosswalks

NCDOT is still planning to install flashing beacons at the new NC 58 crosswalks installed earlier this year at Islander Drive, the Town Government Complex, and near the Ocean Drive dog-leg.  Initial price quotes were higher than expected, however, and NCDOT is currently evaluating other options, but still intends to eventually install the flashing beacons.

New Deer Population Estimate

The Police Department is working with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to coordinate a new deer population estimate in the coming weeks.  The updated population estimate will be used to determine if a controlled hunt is necessary this coming winter. 

Anecdotally, the deer population appears to be much lower in Emerald Isle, and the Town has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of deer-motor vehicle accidents.  Deer-motor vehicle accidents have decreased from 31 during FY 13-14 to only 4 during FY 17-18.

McLean-Spell Park Pedestrian Bridge / Dedication Ceremony

B&P Services, the Town’s contractor, has begun work on the new pedestrian bridge from the Community Center to McLean-Spell Park, and the new bridge is expected to be complete in the next few weeks.  The formal park dedication ceremony will be scheduled as soon as possible after the new bridge is complete – likely sometime in early October.

NC 58 Landscape Lighting Installed

Town staff have completed the installation of 26 lights in landscaping beds along both sides of NC 58 near the base of the Emerald Isle bridge.  An additional 8 lights will be installed in the coming weeks, and Town staff hope to gradually expand the landscape lighting in this area in future years as funds become available.

Additional Beach Swings To Be Installed This Winter

The Town has received payment for 5 new beach swings, and has received verbal commitments for an additional 3 locations.  Planned new locations include Lee Avenue, Bluewater Drive, Whitewater Drive, 18th Street, Tammy Street, and 3 as-yet undecided locations.  Interested businesses or individuals may sponsor additional locations with a $1,000 contribution. 

Town Purchasing Drone

The Town is in the process of purchasing a drone equipped with a high quality camera to aid in various Town services in the future.  Specialized training and certifications are required for governmental use, and two Fire Department employees are currently enrolled in required training. 

The new drone will be available for use by all Town departments, and is expected to be helpful for firefighting incidents, crowd monitoring at special events, search and rescue activities, and more.  Town staff will also be exploring potential modifications to potentially enable the delivery of flotation devices to swimmers in distress in the future. The new drone is expected to be operational in the coming weeks.

Fire Department Open House – Saturday, October 6

The Fire Department’s annual “Open House” will be held at Fire Station 1 from 11 am – 2 pm on October 6.  The public is invited to come out and meet the dedicated staff at EIFD, tour different Fire apparatus, meet Sparky The Fire Dog, and enjoy lunch!

Fire Department Continues to Investigate New Water Rescue Equipment

Town staff recently tested individual, motorized water rescue devices (similar to motorized diving devices) in Wrightsville Beach, and continue to evaluate the applicability, effectiveness, and reliability of these devices for potential future use in Emerald Isle.  We hope to schedule a demonstration in Emerald Isle sometime in the coming weeks.  Fire Department staff will also be evaluating new jet skis to replace the Town’s two existing jet skis that are now more than 14 years old.  

Potential Relocation of Marked Navigation Channel in Bogue Sound

I met recently with NC Division of Coastal Management staff to explore the potential relocation of the existing navigation channel (associated with the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area) in Bogue Sound further away from homes along Sound Drive.  Initial discussions were generally positive, however, there are still many environmental, practical, and financial issues to be explored. 

I am scheduled to tour two new potential channel alignments with NC Wildlife Resources Commission and NC Division of Marine Fisheries staff this week to further explore this possibility.  An aerial photo map indicating potential new channel locations is attached. 

Regional Access Parking Fees End September 16

Sunday, September 16 is the last day that parking fees will be collected this year.  Through September 3, the Town has realized more than $163,000 of paid parking revenue in 2018.  As you know, 100% of these funds are invested in services provided at the two regional access facilities. 

EIPD “Golf With a Cop” – October 20

EIPD staff and the Neighborhood Watch Program continue planning efforts for this annual event that will be held at Star Hill Golf Course on Saturday, October 20.  Please contact EIPD if you’d like to participate and/or organize a team.

Bogue Inlet Dredging Completed

The US Army Corps of Engineers completed dredging in Bogue Inlet and the Coast Guard Chanel on September 5.  This dredging work should result in a safe inlet channel for the fall fishing season and beyond. 

I am awaiting a new survey of the Bogue Inlet channel and the actual cost of the recent dredging efforts, which I expect will be in the $100,000 range.  The State-local partnership reserve fund had a balance of approximately $298,000 prior to the recent dredging work.

Town Banner Program

Thus far, the 4 new test banners on decorative light poles near the Town Government Complex seem to be holding up well.  Assuming that remains the case, and Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative is comfortable with widespread installation of banners on all decorative street light poles, we expect to proceed with the new banner program this fall and winter. 

Funding will be sought from the Tourism Development Authority, and a banner sponsor program will be implemented for Emerald Isle businesses and individuals to sponsor a banner.  We expect to place approximately 50 banners on decorative light poles along NC 58 and Bogue Inlet Drive.

Downtown Light Conversion - LED     

The FY 18-19 budget includes funding to convert existing high pressure sodium lights in the downtown area to LED, and we are currently working with Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative to schedule this work for sometime this fall. 

Pickleball Court Plans

The FY 18-19 budget includes a total of $25,000 for the construction of at least one (perhaps two?) pickleball court(s) at the Town Government Complex.  Alesia Sanderson, Parks and Recreation Director, and I will be working to complete this project this winter.  The likely location for the new pickleball court(s) is the area between the existing tennis courts and the Police Station parking lot.

Old Circle Pizza Building

The owner of this building continues to cooperate with the Town, and is planning to demolish the building in the near future.  EIFD is exploring the potential for a controlled burn of the building for training purposes, however, environmental issues may ultimately prevent this training exercise from occurring.  Town Planner Josh Edmondson continues to work closely with the owner on this issue.

NC 58 Bridge Work

NCDOT contractors continue to complete maintenance work on the underside of the NC 58 bridge decking, and this work is not expected to significantly impact motor vehicle traffic on the bridge.  I am still awaiting clarification from NCDOT on the schedule for the installation of new guardrails on the bridge, however, I expect this work to be completed sometime prior to the 2019 tourism season.

Gigabyte Level Fiber To The Home

Commissioner Normile and I met recently with representatives from ATMC, a community cooperative that provides fiber to the home in Brunswick County, to learn more about their system and also explore potential opportunities for ATMC in Emerald Isle in the future.  The meeting was productive, and also included participation by Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative. 

ATMC is currently investigating the most cost-effective connection point for potential new fiber lines to Emerald Isle, and we are awaiting further feedback from ATMC in the coming weeks.  Commissioner Normile and I are also planning to meet with other fiber providers in the coming months.  As discussed previously, we continue to work toward a goal of promoting internet service competition and improved service quality / speed in Emerald Isle in the future. 

Additionally, Commissioner Normile has agreed to serve on the NC League of Municipalities’ new Broadband Task Force that will be working on these issues at the State level.  

Seasonal Population Study

I recently attended the first meeting of a working group that includes NCDOT staff, NC League of Municipalities staff, and local government officials that has been tasked with devising a methodology to accurately account for seasonal population in the Powell Bill (State street maintenance funding) revenue distribution formula.  I am pleased to serve on this working group, and am hopeful that this group’s efforts may result in more “credit” for communities like Emerald Isle in State revenue distribution formulas. 

This specific study is focused on Powell Bill revenues, however, I am hopeful that any new formula may also eventually be applied to other State revenues that are distributed based on population – particularly sales tax.  The incorporation of seasonal population in State revenue distribution formulas would likely result in significant additional revenue for places like Emerald Isle.

Golf Cart Advisory Committee

The Golf Cart Advisory Committee has identified several additional golf cart parking locations at various neighborhood beach accesses, and Public Works staff will gradually construct the additional spaces this offseason.  The Committee is also working to develop standards for all golf cart spaces, with a goal to maximize the number of carts that can be parked at each beach access location without infringing on adjacent property owners. 

The Committee also continues to consider the potential construction of a new golf cart path along Coast Guard Road between Osprey Ridge and Reed Drive.  The estimated cost of the new path is approximately $35,000, and the Committee will need to raise 50% of the necessary funds before presenting a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.  The Committee will also be considering safety issues at the Reed Drive / Coast Guard Road intersection. 

Dog Park Development Committee

The Dog Park Development Committee is planning a “brick sale” to raise money for the new dog park, and details will likely be announced soon. 

The Town has retained a contractor to clear out underbrush on the proposed dog park site in McLean-Spell Park, and will issue a notice to proceed after the new pedestrian bridge is completed in the coming weeks.  Once the underbrush is cleared, the Committee will begin determining more specific design features.