- FY 2013 - 2014: The Year in Review
Town of Emerald Isle - Continued Progress & Fiscal Responsibility FY 2013 - 2014 - The Year In Review
The entire Town of Emerald Isle organization continued to work hard during FY 2013 - 2014 to keep Emerald Isle the great place that it is, and to make it even better in the future for our residents, property owners, businesses, and visitors!
The Town strives to provide quality services to sustain a high quality of life and to maintain a small-town atmosphere in Emerald Isle. Our services and community improvements are designed to make Emerald Isle an even better place for our residents to enjoy their lives, and are also strategically implemented to maintain and enhance Emerald Isle's desirability as a tourism destination, retirement location, and investment option. Our challenge is to accomplish all of this in the most cost-effective manner, and we continue to place a high priority on the maintenance of the lowest possible tax rates and strategic grant opportunities. We also strive to be an inclusive community, and the Town's leadership thoughtfully considers the input of all who live here, recreate here, make their livelihoods here, and invest here. Emerald Isle is a special place to so many people, and it takes everyone's input and contributions to achieve the Town's goals!
The Mayor, Board of Commissioners, Planning Board members, advisory committees, Town Manager, Town staff, and many concerned citizens remain committed to the continued success of Emerald Isle. We are proud of our collective accomplishments - for you - during the past year, and look forward to another productive year in FY 2014 - 2015!
Highlights of the past fiscal year (July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014) included the following:
Additional 5.2 Miles of Bicycle Path Completed - Now Runs Entire Length of Emerald Isle
The Town is very pleased to fully complete the Town's bicycle path along the entire length of Emerald Isle, and it now runs from the eastern town limits to The Point - a total of nearly 11 miles! Additional segments were completed during FY 13-14 along NC 58 from Fairfax Road to Ocean Drive (1.4 miles), along NC 58 from Ocean Reef to the eastern Town limits (2.7 miles), and along Coast Guard Road from Dolphin Ridge to The Point (1.1 miles). These new bicycle path segments were funded by the proceeds of a dedicated 1-cent property tax rate increase approved in 2013 after significant public support was expressed.
The "Emerald Path", the new formal name for the Town's bicycle path network, is heavily utilized by residents and visitors. The Town developed and maintains the "Emerald Path" to provide an alternative transportation option, promote healthy lifestyles, provide a safe environment for bicyclists, walkers, and runners, promote the patronage of local businesses along the path, and to provide another attractive amenity to entice visitors to choose Emerald Isle!
Additional Storm Water Pumps Connected to Town System Along Coast Guard Road
After more than a decade of consistent progress, the Town finally completed all of the planned storm water pump improvements along the Coast Guard Road corridor that were envisioned in a Town-commissioned study completed in the early 2000s. Two existing storm water pumps in the Lands End community and one existing pump at The Point were connected to the Town's environmentally-friendly storm water management system at Emerald Isle Woods Park, and are now providing relief from chronic nuisance flooding concerns in these areas. More than 1.5 miles of additional storm water pipe was installed to connect these pump stations to Emerald Isle Woods. These connections were also funded by the proceeds of a dedicated 1-cent property tax rate increase approved in 2013.
The Town's overall system pumps storm water, pond water, and ground water from 8 locations in various neighborhoods along Coast Guard Road, and discharges the pumped water in Emerald Isle Woods Park. The pumped water is filtered through a series of upland and wetland areas before ultimately being infiltrated into the ground or discharged to Bogue Sound.
Community Center Expansion Completed
A new 1,200 sq. ft. expansion of the Community Center was completed in June, and now provides dedicated space for the Town's popular exercise classes. The former area used for exercise classes is now part of an expanded weight room, eliminating crowded conditions and providing a more comfortable workout experience. Come on down and take a class or lift some weights today!
New Playground Equipment at Blue Heron Park
The Town's largest playground, located at Blue Heron Park (behind the Emerald Isle Police Station), was outfitted with all new playground equipment in April, and is a big hit with kids, parents, and grandparents alike! The new equipment replaced aging equipment that was installed approximately 15 years ago.
New Soundfront Pier Added at Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area
A new 1,000 ft.+ long soundfront pier along the west side of the entry canal at the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area was completed in November, adding another amenity to this popular facility. The new pier enables access to fishing, beautiful views of Bogue Sound, and provides a temporary mooring location while boaters retrieve their vehicles to pull boats out of the water. The new pier was funded primarily by a grant from the NC Division of Coastal Management.
Town Takes Active Position on Several Key Issues With Potential to Significantly Impact Emerald Isle
The Town was actively engaged in several key issues during FY 13-14 that have the potential to significantly impact Emerald Isle's property owners in a negative manner. The Board of Commissioners established the Town's firm opposition to the issues below, and continues to work with the decision-makers and other coastal stakeholders to protect the Town's interests:
Coastal Homeowners Insurance Increases:
The Town continues to oppose the latest request for a 35% increase in coastal homeowners insurance rates, which are already 5 times higher for Emerald Isle property owners than communities in the NC Piedmont and Mountain areas. A final decision by the NC Commissioner of Insurance is expected in early 2015.
Flood Insurance Reform:
Certain reform provisions in a 2012 Federal law were set to take effect in 2014, and potentially would have resulted in significant flood insurance rate increases for some Emerald Isle property owners who complied with flood zone requirements that were enforced at the time of construction. Fortunately, the US Congress approved a 4 year delay in the provisions in the 2012 law, and directed further study.
Critical Habitat Designations:
Emerald Isle is well-known for its sea turtles, and the Town continues to support and conduct several activities designed to protect sea turtles. Despite these historical and ongoing activities, Federal agencies have declared all of Bogue Banks, including Emerald Isle as "critical habitat areas". At this point, the designation has not had any negative consequences for Emerald Isle, however, it is likely to lead to additional Federal regulations in the future that could potentially add significant cost to beneficial beach nourishment projects and restrict public access. The Town continues to monitor this issue closely, and will remain engaged if / when any negative new regulations are proposed.
School Calendar Changes:
Prior to 2005, NC school districts each established their own school start date, which increasingly occurred earlier and earlier in August, and even into late July, and directly impacted tourism in Emerald Isle. As a result of legislation approved by the NC General Assembly, a uniform school start date of August 25 was implemented in 2005. That legislation was later tweaked, and now specifies that the school year begin no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26. This change resulted in a 36% increase in August room occupancy tax collections after the August 25 start date was established in 2005. There are now annual efforts by others to change the school calendar to again allow schools to start earlier and earlier in August, and the Town continues to monitor and oppose these efforts.
County Sales Tax Distribution:
A request by mainland municipalities in Carteret County to change the way sales tax is distributed to the various municipalities in the County could potentially result in a loss of up to $600,000 (the equivalent of 2 cents on the Town's tax rate) in annual sales tax revenue for Emerald Isle. The Town has worked hard, and continues to work hard to convince the Carteret County Board of Commissioners to reject this request and maintain the current distribution formula, which is the only authorized formula that recognizes the economic contributions of second home owners and visitors.
New Fire Engine
The Emerald Isle Fire Department provides fire suppression services with 3 pumper trucks and 1 ladder truck, and responds out of 2 stations. The Town has established a 20-year life cycle for each truck, and has scheduled the replacement of one truck every 5 years. A new Toyne pumper truck was placed in service in March, and replaced an existing Seagrave pumper truck (that was actually 25 years old). The new pumper truck insures that the dedicated EIFD personnel have safe and effective equipment to battle fires in Emerald Isle.
Plans for New Welcome Center Advance
The Town worked closely with the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) during FY 13-14 to develop a plan to replace the existing Western Carteret Visitors Center on the mainland (near the NC 58 / NC 24 intersection) with a new Welcome Center on the island. The plan to construct a new building at the site of Merchants Park in Emerald Isle was ultimately approved by the Town and the TDA, and construction of a new 1,400 sq. ft. facility will occur in early 2015. The new facility is expected to draw many more visitors to learn more about Emerald Isle and Carteret County, and will present a higher quality image to visitors to our area. The Town will construct and own the new building, and will lease it to the TDA for a 10-year period to recover construction costs.
State Grant Funds Transferred to Town for Parking Lot Improvements at Future Pier Site
After considerable coordination with State officials, the Town was finally able to secure the remaining grant funds originally associated with the formerly proposed Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle for the Town's ongoing, solo efforts to eventually develop a new ocean fishing pier at the site of the Eastern Ocean Regional Access.
With the State's decision to no longer partner with the Town, the Town continues to work toward the development of a new ocean fishing pier over the long-term. As such, the remaining State grant funds ($726,000) were released to the Town during FY 13-14, and will be used to fund parking lot and storm water improvements at the site in winter 2014 - 2015. These grant funds were originally awarded to the NC Aquariums, the Town's original partner, for this purpose.
Inaugural Emerald Isle Half-Marathon & 5K Draws Big Crowd
The inaugural Emerald Isle Half-Marathon & 5K race drew nearly 1,300 runners and their families to Emerald Isle in March, adding another first-class special event to the Town's spring shoulder season. The event, which was coordinated by a volunteer committee with assistance from the Town, raised a total of $42,000 for future bicycle path improvements in Emerald Isle. The success of the 2014 event led the committee to add a full marathon (26.2 miles) to the half-marathon and 5k races for 2015, with a goal of more than 2,000 runners!
Fortunately No Hurricane Impacts.........But SNOW Instead!
Town staff was again prepared for hurricane threats during 2013, however, Emerald Isle was fortunate to avoid any serious threats. The Town faced a different weather challenge in 2014, as Emerald Isle was blanketed by snow and ice in January and February, which forced school and business cancellations in the entire area.
Ocean Beach and The Point Remain In Good Condition; Planning for Future Nourishment Continues
The Town, in partnership with the Carteret County Beach Commission, continues to closely monitor the condition of the beach strand and is prepared to implement future beach nourishment projects in the future when necessary. Fortunately, the beach remains wide, with continued seaward migration of sand dunes, resulting in an attractive recreational beach and effective storm protection system.
The Point also remains very stable, now more than 9 years after the Town relocated the main ebb channel in Bogue Inlet in 2005. The main ebb channel remains approximately 1,800 feet away from the Town's vehicle ramp, with a wide flat beach area and new dunes in between. The Town's long term plans include the replication of the 2005 project when needed in the future in order to keep The Point stable.
Reliable funding sources (room occupancy taxes, special district property taxes, dedicated General Fund property taxes) are in place, and are expected to be nearly sufficient to meet the Town's future beach nourishment and inlet management needs. Additionally, the Town continues to support work by the Carteret County Beach Commission to secure a 50-year permit authorization for future projects. These actions will help to insure that the beach, our most important asset, and The Point remain stable over the long-term.
Dredge Spoils Placed at The Point
The Town worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers to place dredge spoils from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) at The Point in January, with approximately 50,000 cubic yards of material added to increase the ground elevation and further promote the future stability of The Point. The US Army Corps of Engineers typically dredges the AIWW near Cedar Point every 3 years or so, and historically disposes of the dredged sand on the beach in Emerald Isle.
Town Works With Other Area Local Governments to Keep Bogue Inlet Dredged
Bogue Inlet connecting channel (a separate Federally-authorized channel from the AIWW to the Atlantic Ocean) is a vital navigation channel for western Carteret County and eastern Onslow County, but has not received regular annual appropriations from the US Congress for nearly a decade. For the third time in the last decade, the Town helped to organize a State-local funding partnership to secure an additional $320,000 for maintenance dredging in Bogue Inlet in the absence of Federal funding. These funds should enable maintenance dredging to occur over the next year as needed.
Town Maintains 2nd Lowest General Fund Property Tax Rate Among NC Oceanfront Towns
The Board of Commissioners adopted the FY 14-15 budget in June 2014, with total annual appropriations of nearly $8.7 million across all Town funds. The FY 14-15 budget maintains the same property tax rate for all property owners, with 12.5 cents per $100 of assessed value dedicated for General Fund activities and an additional 1.5 cents dedicated for future beach nourishment activities. (An additional 3 cents is levied on all oceanfront and inlet-front property owners for future beach nourishment activities.)
The Town's General Fund property tax rate remained the 2nd lowest of the 21 oceanfront towns in North Carolina. Only Sunset Beach, with a 10.5 cent tax rate, enjoys a lower rate than Emerald Isle, with other NC oceanfront communities' General Fund rates ranging from 12.7 cents to 43.5 cents. The Town continues to place a high priority on the lowest possible tax rate.
Town Maintains Solid Financial Position
The Town continues to maintain a solid financial position that seeks to balance the Town's financial needs with the ability of our taxpayers to fund the Town government. The Town's leadership works very hard to develop clear priorities, invest appropriately in service quality and strategic capital improvements, and operate in an efficient manner.
The Town ended FY 13-14 with total net assets in excess of $19 million, and with more than $3.4 million of fund balance across all Town funds. The Town ended FY 13-14 with a slight General Fund surplus of $43,000, and the Town's General Fund balance is approximately $2.15 million, or approximately 26% of annual General Fund expenditures during FY 13-14 (~ $8.3 million). The total assessed valuation of the Town is nearly $3 billion. The Town continues to operate with relatively low outstanding debt of approximately $4 million, with no terms longer than 9 years.
EIPD Implements New Outreach Programs
The Emerald Isle Police Department implemented three new programs during FY 13-14 to better educate our residents, prevent crime, and develop productive relationships between EIPD and the community. The new monthly "PEP" program, "Police Educating the Public", includes presentations from senior EIPD personnel about crime prevention and public safety, and has been well-attended. The new "Coffee With a Cop" program visits a different local restaurant each month, and provides an opportunity for informal conversation with EIPD's finest with a goal to develop better relationships. With the assistance of a dedicated volunteer committee, the Town's Neighborhood Watch program has been re-established, with great participation from most Emerald Isle neighborhoods.
Fire Department Continues to Promote Beach Safety
The Fire Department continued its efforts to promote beach safety in FY 13-14. The Town's trained Fire Department personnel, fixed lifeguards (at the Town's two regional beach access facilities), and the roving Beach Patrol were involved in numerous "saves" during the summer of 2013 and 2014, and made a positive difference for numerous beach visitors. The Fire Department also implemented a new "Beach and Water Safety Course" in 2014, with periodic educational programs including information on rip currents, warning systems, weather conditions, and other helpful information for beach visitors.
Town Continues Deer Management Efforts
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission has recommended that the Town plan to remove approximately 50 deer annually in order to maintain a stable deer population in Emerald Isle. The Town continued its efforts to control the deer population in the most cost-effective manner by removing a total of 51 deer in January and February with a specially trained volunteer bow-hunting group and EIPD officers. More than 1,000 lbs. of deer meat was donated to the Hope Mission, a community kitchen serving the hungry in Morehead City.
Maximum Building Heights Reduced
Consistent with the Town's key goal of maintaining a small-town, "family beach" atmosphere, the Board of Commissioners amended the Town's building height ordinance to establish a maximum mean roof height of 40 ft. for nearly all new structures (commercial and residential) in Emerald Isle. On a case-by-case basis, commercial structures may be granted a 50 ft. maximum mean roof height upon issuance of a special use permit by the Board of Commissioners. An exception is also included for dry stack marina structures (50 ft. maximum mean roof height).
Plans for Jean Preston Memorial Playground Advance, Fundraising Continues
A volunteer committee continues fundraising efforts for the planned Jean Preston Memorial Playground, in honor of the late NC Senator who served for two decades in the NC General Assembly. The new playground will be located on two vacant lots owned by the Town directly adjacent to the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area (west side), with beautiful views of Bogue Sound. The committee's fundraising goal is $75,000, which would fund new playground equipment and a small splash-park feature.
Village West Rezonings Begin
In the mid-2000s, the Town identified the areas centered on Bogue Inlet Pier and Islander Drive as likely candidates for future redevelopment, and created the Village East (Bogue Inlet Pier) and Village West (Islander Drive) land use concepts to promote quality redevelopment that would allow mixed uses (residential and commercial in the same area and in the same building). The area centered on Bogue Inlet Pier has now been completely rezoned to the Village East zoning district, and the first two parcels in the Islander Drive area have now been rezoned to the Village West zoning district in anticipation of a new building expansion at The Islander Suites and the planned new Transportation Impact headquarters. It is anticipated that other parcels in the Islander Drive area will eventually be rezoned to Village West as the real estate market fully recovers in the future.
Town Seeking New Traffic Signal Poles
The Town's 4 signalized intersections on NC 58 (Coast Guard Road, Emerald Plantation Shopping Center, Mangrove Drive, and Bogue Inlet Drive) are currently outfitted with signals suspended from creosote poles and wire, and the Town submitted a formal request to the NC Department of Transportation to replace these traffic signal poles with fixed steel poles in the future. The fixed steel poles would be more durable, particularly in hurricane wind conditions, and would improve the aesthetics of the NC 58 corridor through Emerald Isle. The Town is seeking assistance from NC Representative Pat McElraft, NC Senator Norman Sanderson, and the NC Board of Transportation for State funding for this project in the future.
2014 St. Patrick's Day Festival Was Biggest Ever!
The 23rd annual Emerald Isle St. Patrick's Day Festival was held on March 15, and brought out a record setting crowd estimated as high as 30,000! Great weather, great attractions, and great people made it a great kickoff for the 2014 season. Please join us on March 14, 2015 for the 24th annual event!
Other Notable Accomplishments / Items of Note During FY 13-14:
- A 2.7 mile segment of Ocean Drive in eastern Emerald Isle was resurfaced, improving ride quality and aesthetics in the area between the eastern Town limits and 25th Street. This project was the largest and most expensive Town street resurfacing project in the history of the Town. Several small drainage improvements were also installed prior to resurfacing.
- All EIPD officers were trained and equipped with tasers. The new tasers make it easier to apprehend suspects and hostile subjects, promote officer safety, and, most importantly, the presence of the tasers serves as a deterrent to hostile behavior.
- The Town's golf cart program continues to grow in popularity, with more than 425 carts now registered. Town staff have added more than 30 golf-cart only parking spaces at neighborhood beach accesses, and plan more in the future.
- The EmeraldFest concert series, produced in conjunction with the Seaside Arts Council and the companion "SwanFest" series, continues to offer quality outdoor musical entertainment during the summer months.
- Replacement beach access walkways were constructed at Fawn Drive, Sea Dunes Drive, and Deer Horn Drive. The Town maintains more than 60 beach access walkways, and strives to replace 2 or 3 walkways per year.
- The Town participated in the development of a strategic economic development plan with the Carteret County Economic Development Council, the County, and other municipalities in the County that identified the need for more spring and fall special events in Emerald Isle, among other goals to enhance economic opportunity in Emerald Isle.
- Town staff collected yard debris from more than 16,000 collection points during FY 13-14, and disposed of nearly 700 loads of yard debris. The demand for yard debris collection continues to grow exponentially, and Town staff are working as hard as possible to keep up with the demand.
- New Police Chief Jeff Waters promoted Tony Reese to Police Major, Paul Cheshire to Police Captain, and Bill Bailey to Police Lieutenant. EIPD continues to offer excellent service under this leadership team.
- The Town's contractor, Simmons & Simmons Management, collected nearly 3,300 tons of residential trash and nearly 725 tons of recyclables in FY 13-14. Recycling collections have increased by 43% over the past five years.
- The Parks and Recreation Department, in conjunction with the Emerald Isle Business Association and committed volunteers, continued a strong tradition of quality special events, including the 8th Annual Day 4 Kids, 10th Annual Emerald Isle Triathlon, and the 10th Annual Christmas Parade.
- The Parks and Recreation Department continues to offer high quality children's programs, including pre-school, afterschool, and summer day camps.
- Parks and Recreation and Public Works staff worked hard to maintain an attractive and well-maintained NC 58 right of way all through Town. The Town strives to create a "park-like" appearance along NC 58 from the bridge to the Town Hall complex.
- The Planning and Inspections Department permitted a total of 24 new residential units in Emerald Isle during FY 13-14, and conducted nearly 2,500 inspections during the fiscal year.
- The Police Department was involved in nearly 8,500 calls for service during the entire fiscal year, with a significant increase in call volumes during the summer months.
- The Fire Department extinguished 18 structure fires in Emerald Isle during the entire fiscal year, with nearly all resulting in only minor damage.
- The Town continued its close partnership with the non-profit Emerald Isle EMS, Inc. during FY 13-14. EI EMS, Inc. continues to operate a high quality, professional service for the Town's residents and visitors, and responded to more than 725 calls for emergency medical services during the fiscal year.
Mayor Barber Takes Office, Commissioners Re-Elected
Emerald Isle voters elected Eddie Barber as the new Mayor of Emerald Isle in November, and also re-elected Nita Hedreen, Maripat Wright, and John Wootten for new terms on the Board of Commissioners. They serve alongside Floyd Messer and Tom Hoover, whose current terms don't expire until 2015.
Sadly, Commissioner Hedreen passed away in August 2014 after a courageous battle with cancer. She served on the Board of Commissioners for nearly 11 years, and cared deeply about the Town and its people. She is greatly missed by all of us. The Board of Commissioners appointed Jim Normile to serve the remainder of her term after her passing.
The Town maintains a comprehensive website ( www.emeraldisle-nc.org ), an email distribution list (sign up in the top right corner of the website), publishes the monthly Emerald Tidings newsletter via the email distribution list and in the Island Review magazine, and also sends out Twitter updates. The Town strives to make sure our residents, property owners, and visitors are well-informed about the Town's services, projects, and issues.
Town Employees Strive to Provide Highest Quality Services
The entire Town staff is committed to serving you in the best way possible, and our employees work hard to maintain and improve our beautiful town. Although there is always room for improvement, the Town is fortunate to employ a quality staff of committed people. The various Town departments continued to provide the high quality, responsive, and courteous daily services that our residents, businesses, and visitors deserve in Emerald Isle over the past year, and will continue to do so in the future.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you!