September 12, 2017

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Special Board Meeting – Tuesday, September 19 – 6 pm – Meeting and Events Center Discussion – Town Board Meeting Room

We have scheduled a special meeting for September 19 for the Board to review conceptual plans for the potential development of a new meeting and events center on Town-owned property off Islander Drive.  The conceptual plans will be presented to enable the Board to gain a better understanding of what is physically possible on the Town’s property, hopefully enable the Board to establish the basic parameters (general building locations, height, bulk, parking areas, etc.) for any public-private partnership that may be pursued, and hopefully address the concerns that have been expressed by the neighboring residents in the Queens Court complex. 

July Room Occupancy Collections May Be Most Ever In a Single Month

Total room occupancy tax collections by Carteret County for July 2017 were $2.023 million, and this is believed to be the most ever in a single month.  Of this amount, $1.442 million, or 71%, was derived from Emerald Isle reporting locations.

Fire Department Open House – Saturday, October 7 – 11 am – 2 pm – Fire Station 1

The EIFD will host its annual Open House on October 7, and we look forward to educating our residents and property owners about our capabilities and fire safety.  Food and drink will be provided free of charge to attendees.

NC 58 Right of Way Landscaping Improvements

I am planning to have Town staff install 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 in February or March, just before the St. Patrick’s Festival.  The total cost for this pine straw is approximately $5,000, and should enhance the appearance of this area if maintained properly in the future.

Additionally, I met recently with representatives of the Emerald Isle Garden Club and discussed their potential assistance planting colorful flowers near the base of the Emerald Isle bridge.  I discussed the possibility of the Town purchasing the flowers, and Garden Club members completing the planting.  I also hope to add some accent lighting in the area near the base of the bridge prior to the St. Patrick’s Festival weekend.

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 November 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.

Emerald Isle Group Donates New Automatic External Defibrillators and Beach Wheelchairs 

A local group of residents from the Bogue Inlet Pier area recently donated two new AEDs for use by the Police Department.  The group, which refers to themselves as the "Emerald Isle Beach Patrol" (not the EI Fire Department staff), is represented by Barry Kreager and also previously donated beach wheelchairs to the Fire Department.  I hope to have the group attend the Board’s October meeting to be formally recognized. 

Deer Population Survey To Be Conducted

NC Wildlife Resources Commission biologists and EIPD personnel will conduct a new deer population survey later in September, and the results of this survey will determine the scope of any new controlled deer hunt in January and February.

EIPD Plans Additional Coyote Trapping This Winter

Due to continued concerns from our residents about coyotes, the EIPD will be duplicating its coyote trapping efforts again this winter.  The authorized coyote trapping season runs from December 1 – February 28, and we will again arrange for trappers to provide services on any private properties that are interested, and also conduct trapping on certain Town-owned properties.

First Application Received for Civilian Commendation Program

The Review Committee is currently considering the very first application to the Town’s new Civilian Commendation Program that was approved by the Board in July.  I expect the Review Committee to make its determination later this month, and have the Board formally recognize any recipients at the October meeting.     

New Position to Assist Town Administration and Town Planner

I continue to work to identify sufficient funds in the FY 17-18 budget to add a new position to assist Town administrative staff and the Town Planner, and hope to present a recommendation to the Board at the October or November meeting.

Golf Cart Safety Classes Scheduled

The Police Department has scheduled the following golf cart safety classes, and attendance at one of these sessions will entitle the attendee to a $25 discount on the annual golf cart registration fee:

  • Tuesday, September 19 @ 10 am, 
  • Monday, December 4 @ 6 pm,
  • Saturday, December 9 @10 am,
  • Saturday, January 13 @10 am,
  • Friday, January 19 @ 6 pm,
  • Friday, February 2 @ 6 pm, and
  • Saturday, February 3 @10 am. 

The classes have intentionally been scheduled on or near weekend days to make it easier for absentee property owners to attend.

Annual Meeting With Vacation Rental Agencies

I am hoping to schedule this helpful annual meeting for sometime in October.  I greatly appreciate the cooperative relationship between the Town and the EI vacation rental agencies, and always value their feedback.

Charters of Freedom Monuments

I continue to work with Emerald Isle residents Doug and Erin Starcke on a project to install Charters of Freedom monuments in Emerald Isle.  After meeting recently at the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park with the Starckes, Judy Wilgus, Bernie Whalley, and Jimmy Farrington, they are now also considering incorporating the monuments into the potential new meeting and events center development on Town-owned property off Islander Drive, in addition to still considering the Preston Park site. 

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 at a Board meeting later this fall. 

Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Fund Established by State

The NC General Assembly, during its recent special session, established the new Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Fund in the State budget.  The new fund is specifically targeted to reserve State funds to assist local communities with future beach nourishment projects, and has been a goal of NC beach towns for many, many years.  Although the new fund is not endowed with any funding, it is a positive step that we hope will lead to future appropriations by the General Assembly. 

Representative Pat McElraft has been instrumental in these efforts for many years, and we are thankful for her continued support.  As you know, the Town is in early planning stages for a winter 2018-19 beach nourishment project, and I am hopeful that Emerald Isle may be among the first communities to benefit from the new State fund.

Nies v. Emerald Isle

The Town’s attorneys have submitted a response to the Nies petition to the US Supreme Court, and we expect to receive the US Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not they will consider the case as early as September 28, or in the following weeks.

Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival – September 30 – 11 am – 5:30 pm – Western Ocean Regional Access

Town staff are finalizing plans for the 2nd year of the revived Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival, and we are looking forward to a big crowd and a great day.  Radio advertisements are airing now, and we expect television advertisements to begin any day now.  Digital advertising has been underway for some time now.

The Town’s contractor recently completed a 200 sq. ft. stage expansion, with a roof area over a portion of the stage.  The stage expansion will be used for the Beach Music Festival, and also serve as a public beach viewing area for the other 364 days of the year.

Town staff will be closing the area of the beach between Bogue Inlet Pier and the Doe Drive emergency vehicle ramp to beach driving during the Beach Music Festival.

Bogue Inlet Dredging Funding Requests

Thus far, Carteret County, Emerald Isle, Swansboro, and Cedar Point’s governing bodies have approved funding for Bogue Inlet dredging.  We expect Onslow County and Cape Carteret’s governing bodies to consider the funding requests in the coming weeks.

Bogue Inlet remains in decent condition, with some relatively minor shoaling across the ocean bar and in a small area just west of The Point. 

Cape Emerald Pond Bulkhead

I have awarded a contract for the construction of a new ~ 825 linear ft. vinyl bulkhead along the Cape Emerald pond to B&P Construction, Cedar Point, NC.  The total contract amount is $29,900, and I expect work to begin later this month.  I sought two additional quotes for this work, however, I did not receive a response from the other contractors after numerous conversations.  The total budget for this project is $32,100.

Donations - Hurricane Harvey Flood Supplies

On Labor Day, the Town delivered a sizable load of donated supplies to Kinston for loading onto a tractor trailer to the Houston area.  The Town continues to accept additional donations in the Town Board Meeting Room until September 15, and is partnering with Encounter 61, a new Emerald Isle-based church on this effort.  Encounter 61 will arrange for delivery of all items to the Houston area after September 15.

Comprehensive Land Use Plan Review

NC Division of Coastal Management staff have approved the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, with minor modifications, and it is now being reviewed by other State agencies.  We expect to receive their feedback in the coming weeks, and hope to schedule the Plan for final Board approval in November or December. 

Islander Drive Site Clean-Up

I expect to direct the Town’s contractor to proceed with seeding the site later this month in an effort to establish a grassy cover. 

Commercial Village Concept

Town Planner Josh Edmondson continues to work with the Planning Board on new zoning regulations to implement the Commercial Village concept outlined in the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  The current thought process is to retain the Business zoning district, and simply incorporate these concepts (i.e., allow complementary residential uses, reduced setbacks, etc.) into the zoning regulations for the Business zoning district.  I expect that Josh Edmondson will present the Planning Board’s recommendation to the Board at the November Board meeting. 

Transition of EMS to a Town Department

I continue to work on various issues associated with the assimilation of Emerald Isle EMS into the Town organization, and hope to present a formal plan to the Board at the November or December Board meeting.  As discussed previously, EMS will become a part of the Town organization on or before March 1, 2018. 

Beach Driving Permits

Beach driving season begins on September 15, and beach driving permits are now available for sale to the public.  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.  As of August 31, the Town has issued a total of 353 permits.

New Flood Maps

Town Planner Josh Edmondson continues to assist our property owners with questions and concerns about the proposed new flood maps.  The deadline for flood map appeals is November 13. 

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.

Unified Development Ordinance Simplification

Town Planner 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.

Beach Access Walkway Replacements

Parks and Recreation Director Alesia Sanderson will soon solicit quotes for the replacement of beach access walkways at Fairfax, Beachview, and Whitewater, and I hope to present a contract recommendation to the Board at the November meeting.

We are also working to identify a strategy to replace the existing handicapped-accessible walkway at Randy’s Way (off Page Place in Ocean Oaks) in winter 2018-19, and I hope to present a plan to the Board at the annual budget planning workshop this winter.

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 later 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 before the St. Patrick’s Festival next spring. 

The Board may also wish to consider the installation of this new sign in the interior of the new Publix roundabout to be constructed this winter.

Improvements to the Emerald Isle APP

Town Clerk Rhonda Ferebee and I continue to work with the Town’s app developer on significant improvements to the Emerald Isle APP, and hope to unveil the redesigned app very soon.  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, and Parks and Recreation Director Alesia Sanderson is currently working to fill this position.  We hope to have the position filled in the coming weeks.

New Firefighter Positions

Fire Chief Bill Walker is currently overseeing interviews and testing for the 3 new firefighter positions funded by the recently awarded Federal SAFER grant.  We expect to have the new staff in place by early October, with one additional firefighter on duty at all times at Fire Station 1.

2020 Census

Town Planner Josh Edmondson and I are working to gain a better understanding of how the US Census Bureau counts part-time residents who spend considerable time in EI each year, and will be working to insure that all eligible residents are included in the Towns’ official population count.

Residential Driveway and Parking Inventory

Summer Intern Ryan Staebler, under Town Planner Josh Edmondson’s direction, completed a comprehensive inventory of all locations in Emerald Isle where  1) the driveway exceeds the maximum permitted driveway width of 16 ft. (two 16 ft. wide driveways are permitted at each residential location), and  2) residential units have created dedicated parking spaces within the Town right of way.  This inventory identified a total of 2,779 driveway width violations, with 1,134 of these being very minor and associated with the driveway turning radii.  This inventory identified a total of 181 residential units with dedicated parking spaces within the Town right of way.

Josh Edmondson will be discussing this inventory with the Planning Board in the coming months, and seeking their guidance on what, if any, ordinance amendments or enforcement approaches should be considered.

Potential Federal Legislation to Create a Clear Exception for Dredging / Sand Placement Activities Within a CBRA Zone

County Shore Protection Manager Greg Rudolph and I have been discussing potential new Federal legislation with Howard Marlowe, a Federal coastal affairs lobbyist, and staff in Representative Walter Jones office that would create a clear exception in Federal law and allow Federal expenditures for dredging and sand placement in a CBRA zone.  Howard Marlowe is working closely with Representative Frank LoBiondo’s (R-NJ) office on this potential legislation, which should address Emerald Isle’s concerns with the proposed CBRA zone expansion in Bogue Inlet. 

BB&T Branch Closing in Emerald Isle

BB&T has announced that it will be closing the Emerald Isle branch later this year, and consolidating operations at its Cedar Point location.  I have fielded a few inquiries from individuals interested in renting the BB&T building, and have referred those individuals to the owner, Larry Watson.  I am hopeful that a new tenant will occupy the building soon after BB&T vacates the building.