October 10, 2017

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - (Monthly Statistical Report)

Town Financial Audit, EMS Audit

The Town’s new auditors, S. Preston Douglas & Associates (SPDA), and Finance Director Laura Rotchford are nearing completion of the June 30, 2017 financial statements and financial audit.  We expect SPDA to present the audit report to the Board at the November meeting.  The Audit Committee is scheduled to review the report at a meeting on October 30.

Comprehensive Land Use Plan Review

All applicable State agencies have approved the Town’s 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, with only minor tweaks to the plan that was approved by the Board earlier this year.  We have scheduled a public hearing and final adoption by the Board for the November 14 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 plan to present a formal report to the Board at the November 14 meeting.  As discussed previously, EMS will become a part of the Town organization on or before March 1, 2018. 

The auditors have nearly completed the June 30, 2017 EMS audit report, and report a total EMS fund balance of approximately $88,000.  These funds will be earmarked (and supplemented) for the planned replacement of an existing ambulance in the next few years.  Of note, total EMS service fee revenue for FY 16-17 was approximately $204,000.  The FY 17-18 budget is conservative, and relies on total service fee revenues of $180,000. 

Presentations – Carteret County Clerk of Court, Register of Deeds

Clerk of Court Pam Hanson and Register of Deeds Karen Hardesty will attend the Board’s November 14 meeting to make a presentation about their offices and the services available in western Carteret County.

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 at a public location in Emerald Isle.  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 for the November or December meeting.

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.  Based on feedback received to date, these concepts (i.e., allow complementary residential uses, reduced setbacks, etc.) will be incorporated into the zoning regulations for the Business zoning district.  We expect to present formal ordinance amendment recommendations at the Board’s November 14 meeting. 

Adjustments to Vegetated / Natural Area Requirements

The Town’s current ordinances require the preservation of 15% of the lot in a “natural” state in the Business zoning district.  The wastewater drain field, which is usually a grassy area, is included in the 15%, and thus the actual amount of “natural” area typically preserved in the Business zoning district is usually only somewhere in the 5% - 7% range.  The Town’s ordinances for Village East, Village West, and Marina Village require 25% of the lot to be “vegetated” (not “natural”, because in many cases the land has already been developed and cleared, and the goal was to promote revegetation and nice landscaping).  The Planning Board has been considering an amendment that would simply standardize the Town’s “natural” area / “vegetated” area requirements in these zoning districts, and this amendment may be presented to the Board for consideration at the November 14 meeting.

Surfside Realty Tract Closing

Town Attorney Richard Stanley continues to work with The Conservation Fund on the closing for the 30-acre tract directly behind the Town Government Complex.  We hope to complete the closing in the next couple of weeks, after which we plan to task Eagle Scouts and Town staff with the improvement of existing nature trails and the installation of appropriate signage.

Islander Drive Land

The contractor is expected to seed the 1.8 acre tract this week to hopefully establish a consistent grassy cover on the property in the coming weeks.

New NC 58 Roundabout Construction, Detour Route

Town staff have been working with engineers and contractors for the new Publix grocery store to establish a special “truck-only” detour route during construction of the new NC 58 roundabout this winter.

Typical passenger vehicles will be routed down Islander Drive to Reed Drive to Loon Drive, and we expect this detour to function effectively.  EIPD will maintain a presence along Reed Drive to deter speeding.  Due to concerns about mixing truck traffic with typical passenger vehicles on Reed Drive, we are attempting to establish a special “truck-only” detour route on Coast Guard Road (north / soundside) to Crew Drive, through the new Publix property, and back out to NC 58.  We are optimistic that this approach will be implemented, and should work well.   

We are still awaiting the exact construction dates for the new roundabout and associated detour.  I  remain hopeful that construction will not commence any earlier than November 13, and hopefully later.

NC58 / Bogue Inlet Drive Intersection Improvements

As reported previously, this project was in fact included in the new Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and NCDOT has already begun preliminary design work.  I am scheduled to meet with NCDOT engineers later this month to discuss the project scope, review their preliminary concepts, and assist in any way that’s helpful.  Once the project design moves further along, I expect to schedule a presentation by NCDOT at a Board meeting in 2018 for the Board to review the planned improvements. 

Lee Avenue Bicycle Path?

The Down East RPO is currently considering bicycle path projects for potential inclusion in the next Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and is considering including State funding for the construction of a new bicycle path on Lee Avenue (soundside).  Additional discussion by the Down East RPO and others is expected in the coming months before any specific projects are requested by the Down East RPO.

As you know, this project was noted as a priority in the 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan and also identified by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  If funding is ultimately provided, it will be important to work closely with residents in this area to design a bicycle path improvement that is acceptable to the residents on this street. 

Demolition of Fire-Damaged House on Heverly Drive

Town staff have been working to have the remains of the fire-damaged home on Heverly Drive removed, and the lot returned to vacant status.  Informal efforts have been temporarily suspended due to the owner’s serious health concerns, and we are attempting to be patient and work with his family to ultimately achieve the demolition of the home.

Beach Music Festival a Success!

Town staff are very pleased with this year’s Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival, and believe we had a slightly larger crowd than 2016.  We expect to book the musical performers for the 2018 event (likely September 29, 2018) in the coming weeks. 

Deer Population Down From Previous Years; No Controlled Hunt Planned for This Winter

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission has completed an updated deer population survey for the Coast Guard Road area, and estimates a total of 48 deer, which is the lowest we’ve recorded since annual surveys began in 2005.  This total compares to 159 deer in 2013, 105 deer in 2014, 105 deer in 2015, and 90 deer in 2016.  This decrease in the deer population is attributed to predation by coyotes, along with a more effective controlled hunt strategy by the Police Department in recent years. 

Because the deer population has decreased significantly, Chief Reese and I recommend that the Town not conduct a controlled hunt this winter.  If the Board concurs with this approach, we’ll solicit a new deer population survey in fall 2018, and determine future controlled hunt activities at that time.  I have attached a copy of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s 2017 report for your review.

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.  Interested property owners should contact the Emerald Isle Police Department to learn more and coordinate trapping activities. 

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:

  • 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. 

New Golf Cart Path to Serve Olde Cove Rd Area

Public Works staff have completed vegetative clearing along this 300 ft. +/- stretch of NC 58 in anticipation of the future golf cart path construction.  We expect to proceed with construction in the next month or two.  I am still evaluating whether or not to utilize Public Works staff for this work or to retain a contractor.  I hope to have the new path open for public use by spring 2018.

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.  Cape Carteret has indicated preliminary approval, and we expect a formal decision later this month.  We expect the Onslow County Board of Commissioners to consider the funding request at their October 16 meeting.   

Cape Emerald Pond Bulkhead

The Town’s contractor, B&P Services, has begun work on the bulkhead project and is making good progress.  We expect all work to be complete in the next few weeks. 

Duckweed Barrier

In an effort to address concerns from residents in Cape Emerald about perceived duckweed flowing from Emerald Isle Woods Park into Cape Emerald, Town staff has installed a silt fence barrier in the Emerald Isle Woods wetlands to prevent the flow of duckweed from EI Woods into Cape Emerald.  Thus far, the barrier seems to be working, and Town staff will continue to monitor this issue.

Beach Driving Permits

The Town has issued 1,447 beach driving permits through September 30.  This number is approximately equal to the number issued during September 2016. 

Annual Meeting With Vacation Rental Agencies

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

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.  I hope to present a contract recommendation to the Board at the November or December meeting.

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, and present a contract recommendation to the Board at the November or December meeting. 

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.).  Other, more pressing issues have delayed this project in recent weeks. 

New Flood Maps

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.

Due to concerns in several other Carteret County municipalities, it is likely that the effective date for the new maps will be pushed back to sometime in 2019 or perhaps even 2020.

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 November or December meeting.

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 before the end of October, and will introduce the new employee at the November 14 meeting.

New Firefighter Positions

We expect to finalize the hiring of 3 new firefighter positions funded by the recently awarded Federal SAFER grant within the next week, and will introduce the new employees at the Board’s November 14 meeting.  

Emerald Isle Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5K Races – March 10, 2018

Early planning is underway for the 5th annual event, to be held on March 10.

Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Festival – March 17, 2018

The Town’s signature festival will be held for the 27th time on the actual St. Patrick’s Day holiday, and planning is underway.

Public Works Assisting Town of Cedar Point With Fall Vegetative Clean-Up

As we’ve done for several years, Public Works staff will collect vegetative debris in Cedar Point during the weekend of October 13 – 15.  The Town of Cedar Point will reimburse Emerald Isle for all direct costs associated with the clean-up.

Meeting with Spectrum Cable / Internet

I am attempting to schedule a meeting with appropriate personnel from Spectrum Cable / Internet in the coming weeks to learn more about the broadband network available in Emerald Isle, and also explore strategies to improve service in the future.