Emerald Tidings

January 2012

  1. FY 2010-2011 - The Year in Review



The entire Town of Emerald Isle organization continued to work hard during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011) to make Emerald Isle an even better place than it already is!

The Town works hard to provide quality services for our residents, second home owners, and visitors to sustain a high quality of life and to maintain a small-town atmosphere in Emerald Isle. The Town also continues to invest in strategic community improvements that will maintain and enhance Emerald Isle's desirability as tourism destination, retirement location, and investment option. We recognize that people will always want to come to the beach and sound, and the Town's goals are carefully designed to preserve the desirability of these assets while also developing additional recreational assets. We want to make sure that when people choose a beach and sound location for vacation, retirement, or investment that they choose Emerald Isle over the numerous other choices out there - we want to make sure Emerald Isle remains competitive among our peers! Of course, the improvements that we make for vacation, retirement, or investment audiences are enjoyed by our residents and second home owners all year-round, and contribute to the high quality of life that we are all fortunate to enjoy here in Emerald Isle.

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 2011-2012!

Highlights of the past fiscal year (July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011) included the following:

New Public Boating Access Area Opens!

The Town and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission officially opened the new Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area in April 2011 after nearly 3 years of hard work. The new facility, located on Bogue Sound on NC 58 adjacent to Chapel By The Sea, includes 4 boat launching ramps, parking for 112 vehicle / trailer combinations, and 19 single vehicle parking spaces. The project also includes significant storm water management features and attractive landscaping.

The Town worked with several funding partners to purchase land for and complete construction of the new facility. The total cost of the new facility was approximately $5.3 million, and the Town secured more than $4.6 million of outside grants and contributions to make the project a reality. The Town, along with the non-profit Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Association, Inc., will be working in the future to develop additional soundfront park amenities at this site, including a planned new soundside pier.

Emergency Storm Water Discharge Completed in Emerald Isle Woods Park

The Town completed significant improvements to the storm water receiving site located at Emerald Isle Woods Park in June 2011, and these improvements will enhance the Town's ability to address storm water flooding concerns in the Coast Guard Road area in the future.

A new emergency discharge feature was added in the northwest corner of the park that can be activated during and after significant flooding events when Bogue Sound is closed to shellfishing. This emergency discharge will enable the Town to connect additional storm water / ground water pumps to the Emerald Isle Woods receiving site in the future, and will also relieve concerns in the neighboring Cape Emerald subdivision.

The Town currently has a total of 5 pumps connected to the Emerald Isle Woods system, and has future plans to connect 3 more pumps to the system (at The Point and in Lands End), as funds are available.

Two New Bicycle Path Segments Completed!

With additional grant funding and significant local fundraising activities, the Town was able to complete an additional ½ mile of bicycle paths in spring 2011.  

An additional .2 mile segment was added to the NC 58 bicycle path from Ocean Drive to the Eastern Ocean Regional Access (future Aquarium Pier site), and was primarily funded by an additional grant from the NC Department of Transportation. An additional .3 mile segment was added to the Coast Guard Road bicycle path from Deer Horn Drive to Emerald Isle Woods Park, due largely to the successful fundraising activities of the Town's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

With the completion of these two new segments, the Town now boasts a total of 4.7 miles of dedicated asphalt bicycle paths.   The Town's eventual goal is to extend the Coast Guard Road path all the way to The Point, and to extend the NC 58 path all the way from Hurst Street to the IndianBeach town line. The Town will continue to seek any and all grant funds for these projects, and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will continue its aggressive fundraising efforts to make this goal a reality!

Town Golf Cart Program Implemented

State law prohibits the use of golf carts on all public streets in North Carolina, but allows municipalities to develop their own golf cart programs, and the Board adopted an Emerald Isle golf cart ordinance in fall 2010. The new program was implemented in January 2011, and allows registered golf carts to operate on all Town streets except for NC 58 and Coast Guard Road (crossings are allowed, however).

Many safety-based regulations are in effect, and golf carts are subject to similar traffic and parking laws as regular motor vehicles. The Town began constructing limited golf-cart-only parking spaces at select public beach access walkways during 2011, and will gradually add others in the future on a case-by-case basis.

Entire Length of NC 58 Resurfaced by NCDOT

Acting on a request from the Town, the NC Department of Transportation completed the resurfacing of the entire length of NC 58 through Emerald Isle in spring 2011, greatly improving the ride quality and aesthetics of NC 58.  NC 58 had not had a comprehensive resurfacing in more than 30 years, and the Town greatly appreciated NCDOT's efforts to identify funding and complete this resurfacing work.

Future Beach Nourishment Efforts Ongoing in FY 10-11; Will Continue

The Carteret County Beach Commission, which includes significant Town representation, continues to work on the development of a long-term beach nourishment master plan and multi-decade permit for future beach nourishment activities in Emerald Isle. The Beach Commission continued to make good progress on this effort in FY 10-11, and is continuing its efforts. The Town and the Beach Commission hope to complete the master plan and secure long-term permits within the next 2 years.

In conjunction with the long-term planning and permitting effort, the Town also worked to develop reliable, ongoing funding sources for future beach nourishment needs. In February 2011, the Board established new municipal service districts to fund future beach nourishment activities in Emerald Isle, and established new district tax rates of 4.5 cents for oceanfront and inlet-front properties and 1.5 cents for all other properties when the FY 11-12 Town budget was adopted in June 2011. The new municipal service districts are expected to generate more than $650,000 annually, and these funds, combined with Carteret County Beach Commission funds (derived from room occupancy taxes) and a reasonable State appropriation are expected to be sufficient to meet the Town's future beach nourishment needs for the foreseeable future.  Due to current and expected future State budget challenges, the Town also continues to work with other NC officials to hopefully develop a dedicated State funding source for future State beach nourishment appropriations.

In the short-term, the Town worked throughout FY 10-11 to secure permits for a small beach nourishment project in eastern Emerald Isle that is currently planned for winter 2012-13. The Town will be seeking to place up to 410,000 cy of sand in eastern Emerald Isle at that time, along with up to 265,000 cy of sand in western Emerald Isle (an addition to the original project scope due to impacts from Hurricane Irene in late August 2011). The completion of these projects, which are expected to be funded by a combination of FEMA, State, County, and Town funds (from the new municipal service districts), will continue to provide valuable storm protection for oceanfront structures and enhance the recreational beach.

The Town remains committed to beach nourishment, and seeks to maintain a wide beach strand along our entire oceanfront.

The Point Remains Stable, Continues to Improve

The main ebb channel in Bogue Inlet remains in a relatively central location away from Emerald Isle, and there is more than 1500 feet of beach in place from the Town's 4 wheel drive vehicle ramp out to the main ebb channel. The Point is now connected to "Coast Guard Island", dune vegetation has expanded to new areas, and all old sandbags are now covered with sand. The Town continues to closely monitor the bathymetry of the entire Bogue Inlet complex on a routine basis.

New Regional Access Parking Fee Program Initiated

The Town initiated a new parking fee at the Town's two large regional beach access facilities (Eastern Ocean Regional Access and Western Ocean Regional Access) in April 2011 and continued the program through the summer and early fall.

The Town now charges $10 per vehicle on weekends and holidays only (April - September only), and expects to generate more than $100,000 annually to fund the significant services provided at these two facilities. Recognizing the historical tax contributions of our property owners, the Town implemented a free parking permit for Emerald Isle taxpayers.

Despite concerns expressed by some visitors about the new fee, visitation at both of these facilities remained very high throughout the beach season. The Town continues to strive to keep both facilities clean, safe, and family-friendly, and the new parking fees will enable the Town to meet this goal without burdening our property taxpayers.  

Lifeguards Added at Regional Access Facilities; Expanded Police Patrols on Entire Beach Strand

With additional revenue generated from the new parking fee, the Town was able to add fixed lifeguards at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access and Western Ocean Regional Access in 2011 for the peak summer months. In addition to two roving lifeguards on the Town's Beach Patrol that cover the entire beach strand, the Town now stations a fixed lifeguard at each location between May and September. The new lifeguards provide additional safety for swimmers at these facilities, and were well received by our visitors in 2011.

In addition, the Town also expanded its Police presence on the entire beach strand during 2011.  Fixed officers are on duty throughout the peak season in the most heavily visited areas, and the Town also added a roving Police Officer on an ATV in 2011. The Emerald Isle Police Department continues to work hard to promote a safe and family-friendly beach experience on the beach in Emerald Isle.  

Design Work Completed for new Storm Water Pump Station at The Point; Construction To Begin Soon

The Town's engineers completed the design for a new fixed storm water / ground water pump station in summer 2011. The new pump station will be constructed at the intersection of Island Circle and Coast Guard Road at The Point.

The new pump station will enable the Town to respond more quickly to flooding concerns in this area in the future as they occur, and when an acceptable temporary discharge location is authorized by the State of NC on a case-by-case basis. The initial work will include the pump station only, and it will be outfitted with a "quick-connect" feature that can be used to direct pumped water toward the ocean (if authorized by the State) or toward Town-owned wetlands at the corner of Wyndward Court.

The construction of the pump station is an incremental step toward the overall solution to flooding issues in this area. The Town will ultimately be working to connect the new pump station back to the Emerald Isle Woods receiving site with fixed piping as funds become available in the future.

The new pump station should be constructed in early 2012 and be operational in time for the 2012 hurricane season.

Design Work for New Aquarium Pier Nearing Completion; Construction Funding Uncertain

The design process for the new Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle continued throughout FY 10-11, and is nearing completion. The design team, with input from Aquarium and Town officials and a citizen advisory committee, expects to complete the design in early 2012.

The new facility is a partnership between the Town and the NC Aquariums, and is the second of three concrete ocean fishing piers planned for the NC coast. The first new pier, Jennette's Pier, in Nags Head, is affiliated with the NC Aquarium at Manteo, and opened in May 2011. The Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle will be affiliated with the NC Aquarium at PineKnollShores, and is next in line for construction. The third pier will be located in CarolinaBeach and be affiliated with the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

The new facility in Emerald Isle will include a 1,000 ft. long concrete ocean fishing pier and 10,000 sq. ft. pier house with aquarium exhibits and banquet facilities. The pier house will be built over the flat beach at the Town's Eastern Ocean Regional Access, located at mile marker 15 on NC 58, with new parking and storm water management features constructed at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access site.

Due to the State's current budget challenges, construction of the project will be delayed until an acceptable construction financing plan can be developed. Town officials will be working with appropriate State officials in the coming year to develop a responsible construction financing plan and attempt to make this project a reality within the next 3 - 5 years.

In the meantime, planned soundside improvements at the future Aquarium Pier site are expected to be constructed in 2012. These planned improvements will approve the aesthetics and functionality of this area, and will eventually be tied into the ocean pier development across NC 58.

Town Ends FY 10-11 in Sound Financial Condition

The Town remains in sound financial condition despite the prolonged recession over the past few years, and will be working hard to maintain financial stability in the future.    

The Town's total expenditures for FY 10-11 were more than $10.2 million, and the General Fund (the largest operating fund) ended the year with a surplus of nearly $84,000. The Town had total fund balances of nearly $4.4 million, including nearly $1.9 million in the General Fund.

The Town's total outstanding debt at fiscal year-end was approximately $3.6 million, and the majority of this debt will be fully retired (with funds already on hand to retire the majority) in FY 12-13. The Town's debt ratios are very low at 0.12% of the total assessed value of the Town, and total General Fund debt service expenditures that equal 4.9% of the annual General Fund budget.

2011 Tax Revaluation Implemented

Carteret County completed the 2011 tax revaluation in January 2011, and the Town used these new tax values to develop the FY 11-12 Town budget. Due to the decline in the real estate market, the total assessed value of the Town declined from approximately $4.3 billion to nearly $3 billion. Emerald Isle experienced the largest percentage decrease of all municipalities in CarteretCounty after having experienced the largest increases in the 2007 tax revaluation.

Emerald Isle continues to be the largest municipality in CarteretCountyin terms of total tax value, and has a larger tax value than Morehead City + Beaufort + Newport combined. Overall, Emerald Isle represents more than 20% of the total taxable value of all of Carteret County.

FY 11-12 Town Budget Adopted With Revenue-Neutral Tax Rate; General Fund Tax Rate is 3rd Lowest of NC Oceanfront Towns

Due to a projected significant decrease in the Town's sales tax revenues in FY 11-12, Town staff and the Board worked hard to identify budget reductions throughout late 2010 and early 2011. These efforts resulted in the Board's adoption of a balanced budget with a revenue-neutral tax rate in June 2011.

The FY 11-12 General Fund tax rate is 11.5 cents, using the new 2011 tax values, and this rate will generate the same amount of property tax revenue (approximately $3.4 million) in FY 11-12 as the old 8 cent rate generated in FY 10-11.

Emerald Isle continues to enjoy a relatively low General Fund tax rate, with the 3rd lowest rate of all 21 oceanfront towns in North Carolina. Despite recent budget reductions, Town staff continue to provide high quality services for our customers. The Town also continues to maximize the use of grant revenues and other outside contributions to complete desired capital improvements.  

Other Notable Accomplishments / Items of Note During FY 10-11:

  • The Town participated in a County-wide consolidation of E911 communications, and shifted responsibility for E911 communications from the Police Department to the new County E911 Center in Morehead City in January 2011. This consolidation will result in significant cost annual savings for the Town in the future.
  • Mayor Schools served as 2nd Vice President of the NC League of Municipalities, a statewide advocacy group and service provider for NC cities and towns, during most of FY 10-11 and is in line to become the future President of the organization.
  • The Board adopted a new overlay zoning district for oceanfront properties in eastern Emerald Isle that reduced the front yard setback from 30 ft. to 20 ft. in an effort to make more properties in this area "conforming" properties, thereby allowing reconstruction and enhancing property values.
  • The US Department of Defense completed the removal of potentially unexpired munitions on and around the former Cat Island (Wood Island) bomb target in Bogue Sound near 24th Street., and posted new warning signage for any remaining hazards.
  • The Town provided comments on the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter planned to replace the AV-8B Harrier jets later this decade. The new JSF will likely utilize Bogue Field for training activities, and the Town expressed its support of the US military but also requested that strong consideration be given to reducing / mitigating noise impacts over Emerald Isle.
  • The Fire Department received a $95,000 grant for new turn-out gear and communications equipment from the US Fire Administration in April 2011.
  • The Town continued its close partnership with the non-profit Emerald Isle EMS, Inc. during FY 10-11, and reached agreement to provide financial administration services for EI EMS, Inc. in FY 11-12 and beyond.
  • The Public Works Department oversaw the resurfacing of approximately 1.1 miles of Town streets. Overall, the Town's street network is in generally good condition, however, declining State Powell Bill revenues make it increasingly difficult to keep up with resurfacing needs.
  • The Public Works Department and Parks and Recreation Department added 3 more inmate laborers to the Town workforce in an effort to reduce staff expenditures. The Town now relies on a total of 6 inmate laborers each day to provide services in these departments.
  • 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 5th Annual Day 4 Kids, 7th Annual Emerald Isle Triathlon, 7th Annual Christmas Parade, and the 20th Annual St. Patrick's Festival.

Stay Informed!

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 in the Island Review magazine mailed to all property owners, and has a presence on Twitter and Facebook.  The Town strives to make sure our residents, second home 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. Despite declining resources, 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.

All of us at the Town of Emerald Isle are proud of the Town's accomplishments over the past year, and we look forward to an even more productive year ahead!

Frank A. Rush, Jr.
Town Manager
Posted by Frank Rush Sunday, January 1, 2012 10:24:00 AM