Emerald Tidings

October 2009

  1. FY 2008-2009 - The Year in Review

TOWN OF EMERALD ISLE Continued Progress in Challenging Times FY 2008-2009 - The Year in Review

The past year has been an especially challenging time for our Nation and State, and also for the Town of Emerald Isle.  In response to these challenges, the Town acted responsibly to insure that Emerald Isle emerges from these challenging times poised for future success.  We are proud that the Town remains in a strong financial position while minimizing the cost of Town government for our residents and property owners.   
Despite these challenges, the Town was able to continue progress on several key initiatives intended to improve the quality of life for our residents and property owners, and to maintain and enhance Emerald Isle's desirability as a tourism destination.  The Town continues to maintain both an immediate and long-term view to insure that Emerald Isle remains a vibrant community for many years to come.
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 2009-2010!
Highlights of the past fiscal year included the following:
Emerald Isle Responds to Economic Downturn
Like most private and public entities, the Town faced significant budget challenges during FY 08-09.  Emerald Isle has likely fared better than many other communities, however, the Town experienced significant decreases in sales tax revenues, building permit fees, and investment earnings during FY 08-09.  Fortunately, the Town acted quickly to reduce expenditures, and thus far has survived the economic downturn without increasing taxes or reducing service quality.
The Town's budget was not significantly impacted by the economic downturn until late 2008, when the Town began to realize declining sales tax revenues (which are remitted to the Town 3 months after payment by the consumer at the sales register).   In response, in November 2008 the Town made significant expenditure reductions by delaying capital purchases, trimming operating expenses, and eliminating 3 full-time positions indefinitely.  The Town ended FY 08-09 with a more than $250,000 decrease (approximately 14%) in annual sales tax revenues from FY 07-08 totals, while building permit fees declined by approximately $40,000 and investment earnings by more than $60,000. 
The November 2008 expenditure reductions enabled the Town to minimize the use of fund balance during FY 08-09, and also positioned the Town well for the FY 09-10 budget process.  The Town's FY 09-10 General Fund budget is more than $1 million less than the FY 08-09 original budget, and did not increase property taxes. 
With the recession hopefully coming to an end, the Town is poised to emerge with its strong financial position intact, with a commitment to continually improve the quality of life in Emerald Isle at the lowest possible cost to our taxpayers. 
Town Continues to Enjoy Low Tax Rate and Maintain Sound Financial Position
The Board of Commissioners adopted the FY 09-10 budget in June 2009, and maintained a General Fund tax rate of 7 cents per $100 of assessed value.  The Town enjoys the 2nd lowest General Fund tax rate of all 21 North Carolina beach towns, second only to Holden Beach at 6.9 cents.  Other NC beach towns' General Fund tax rates range from 8 cents to 27 cents. 
The Town continues to maintain a solid financial position, and is well-equipped to deal with emergencies and address unexpected challenges.  The Town has ample reserves in the event of major hurricane impacts, and also maintains excellent bond ratings.  The Town's General Fund balance is nearly $2 million, with an additional $2.2 million in reserve for future beach nourishment bond payments.  The Town's total annual budget for FY 09-10, across all Town funds, is approximately $9.1 million.
As an indication of the Town's strong financial position, Standard & Poor's upgraded the Town's bond rating from an A+ to AA, a two-step increase, in early 2009.  The Town maintains an A2 rating from Moody's Investors Service. 
Town Makes Deal for New Public Boat Launching Facility
By mid-2008, the Town became aware that there were serious plans to redevelop the privately-owned Island Harbor Marina.  The redevelopment plans include a new, upgraded marina facility with a dry stack, however, do not include a public boat launching component.  Because this is the only public location (for a small fee) to launch a boat in Emerald Isle, the Town became concerned and immediately began work on the acquisition of land for a new public boat launching facility.
After evaluating property along the entire Bogue Sound shoreline, the Town was fortunate to enter into a purchase contract for the only remaining site in Emerald Isle that is suitable for a new public boat launching facility.  In November 2008, the Town entered into a purchase contract for a 16-acre undeveloped tract that is adjacent to 7 acres of Town-controlled land near Chapel By The Sea.  The 16-acre tract includes a recently dredged canal and ½-acre boat basin with access to deep water in Bogue Sound.   The total purchase price is $4.25 million.
The Town immediately began to seek grants from Federal, State, and County agencies, and thus far has secured a total of nearly $3.2 million for the land acquisition.  The Town completed a partial closing on the land in September 2009, and will complete the remainder of the land acquisition within the next year +.  The NC Wildlife Resources Commission, the Town's partner in the project, has agreed to construct and operate the new facility, which will become the largest public boat launching facility on the NC coast.
The Town makes public access to the water a high priority, and is pleased to be able to insure adequate boating access to Bogue Sound and other nearby waters.
Design of Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle Initiated, Advisory Committee Appointed, Land Conveyed to State
The Town and the NC Aquariums continued to make strong progress on the planned Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle during FY 08-09.  After having been awarded a $2.2 million grant in early 2008, the Town and the NC Aquariums began to move forward with the project.
The Town and the NC Aquariums jointly appointed an 8-member advisory committee to assist with the development and design of the project, and the committee is off to a good start.  The Town finalized the donation of the Eastern Ocean Regional Access (former site of the old Emerald Isle Pier) to the State for the new Aquarium Pier, and also incorporated the soundfront area of Park Drive into the overall project plans. 
After a lengthy and competitive selection process, the State selected a design team led by Moffatt & Nichol Engineers and BJAC Architects to complete the design of the new Aquarium Pier.  Design work is well underway, and the design is expected to be complete by the end of 2010. 
Early cost estimates place the total construction cost at approximately $16 - $18 million for the new facility, which will also include a large pier house with Aquarium facilities.  The NC Aquariums and the Town will be working to secure construction funding in the coming months and years, with a goal to construct the new Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle within the next five years. 
Although Bogue Inlet Pier remains in operation and is serving our community well, in the long term the Town believes that future storms and/or economic realities will someday result in the loss of Bogue Inlet Pier.   The Town believes it is important to maintain the existence of a public ocean fishing pier in perpetuity, and is committed to making the Aquarium Pier at Emerald Isle a reality in the future, for the long-term benefit of our residents, property owners, business owners, and visitors.
New EMS Station Opens
The Town is fortunate to be served by an outstanding private, non-profit EMS squad.  Emerald Isle EMS, Inc. has served the Town well for many years, and operates with a combination of paid personnel and dedicated volunteers governed by a separate Board of Directors.  The Town contracts with EI EMS, Inc. for emergency medical services for our residents, property owners, and visitors.  A special Joint EMS Committee, comprised of representatives from the Town and EI EMS, Inc. plays an important role in maintaining a cooperative working relationship.
The Town and EI EMS, Inc. were very pleased to complete the construction of a new EMS station in September 2008.  The new station will serve Emerald Isle for decades to come, and includes 3 vehicle bays, office space, bunk space, and a training room.  EI EMS, Inc. previously operated from a converted beach house for many years, and we are pleased to provide a first-class EMS station.  The new EMS station, with a total construction cost of approximately $775,000, was built on Town-owned land, and financed with a combination of EI EMS, Inc. funds and Town funds.  The new EMS station is owned by the Town and is leased to EI EMS, Inc. for $1 per year.    

Old EMS Station For Sale
With the construction of the new EMS station, the Town took possession of the converted beach house that served as the old EMS station in September 2008.   The Town completed significant interior renovations to the property in early 2009, and is offering the property for sale.  The old EMS station includes approximately 2,400 heated sq. ft., and is located approximately 1 block from the ocean at 218 Cedar Street.  The asking price is $397,500.  Please contact Town staff at 252-354-3424 or visit  http://www.emeraldisle-nc.org/forsale.htm  for a complete property description.
New Town Administration Building Constructed
Construction of the Town's new Administration Building began in late 2008, continued throughout FY 08-09, and opened to the public in August 2009.  The new building includes offices for the Mayor, Board of Commissioners, and Town administrative staff, a conference room, and also provides for long-term growth of the Town organization.  The new 4,100 sq. ft. building has an attractive coastal design, and is similar in appearance to the new EMS station.  The new building is intended to serve as a symbol of the kind of community we are in Emerald Isle, and we hope the community is proud of the new building.  The new tide clock adds a unique feature to the building!  Total construction cost was approximately $765,000.
The new building was built to replace the old administrative offices that are now occupied by the Police Department.  In May 2007, the Police Station was renovated and expanded from 2,200 sq. ft. to 5,000 sq. ft. to relieve significant overcrowding.  After making room for the Police Department, Town administrative staff operated for more than 2 years in temporary offices in the Town Meeting Room.  With the completion of the new building, the Town Meeting Room will now be used again for official Town meetings and other groups in need of a large meeting room. 
Additional Storm Water Pump Stations Installed in Spinnakers Reach
The Town continues to address storm water management issues along the Coast Guard Road corridor, and in July 2008 completed the construction of two new storm water pump stations in the Spinnakers Reach neighborhood.  The two new pump stations complement three previous pump stations located on Deer Horn Drive, Doe Drive, and Conch Court, and collectively help to mitigate storm water flooding concerns in neighborhoods along Coast Guard Road. 
Storm water pumped from the five pump stations is discharged in the Town's 43-acre nature park, Emerald Isle Woods, where it filters through several created and natural wetland areas.  The Town has future plans for the construction of a new pump station in the Island Circle area at The Point, and may integrate existing and/or new pumps in the Land's End community.   
Town Approved for Universal Storm Water Management Program
The Town has implemented a comprehensive storm water management program for many years, including a strong but balanced local storm water management ordinance.  Because of the strength of the Town's storm water management ordinance, with a few minor tweaks, the Town was able to gain approval for the NC Division of Water Quality's Universal Storm Water Management Program (USMP) in late 2008. 
By participating in the USMP, the Town is now the storm water permitting authority for State storm water permits, and large scale development projects that receive Town storm water permits will automatically receive State storm water permits.  This process expedites the permit process for applicants, eliminates redundancy in storm water plan reviews, and insures that all new development projects are managing storm water runoff effectively - helping to maintain the outstanding water quality in the waters adjacent to Emerald Isle.
Town Awarded Clean Water Management Trust Fund Grants
The Town was awarded two separate grants in late 2008 from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund aimed at maintaining and improving water quality near Emerald Isle.  The Town was awarded a $75,000 grant (to be matched with $25,000 from the Town) to complete a comprehensive study of ways to improve or eliminate existing storm water outfalls draining to Archer's Creek.  The Town was also awarded $97,000 to enable the Public Works Department to remove small-area outfalls along Bogue Sound in eastern Emerald Isle, which would also improve public access to Bogue Sound in this area.  Unfortunately, the State's budget challenges in 2008 and 2009 have delayed the distribution of these funds to the Town, and these projects are on hold.  The Town hopes to receive these grant funds sometime in 2010 and will begin work soon thereafter.
New Fire Engine
The Town is fortunate to be served by a dedicated Fire Department, and the Town works hard to insure that they have the most reliable equipment possible to keep our residents, property owners, visitors, and structures as safe as possible.
The Town took delivery of a new Fire Engine in early 2009, replacing a 23-year old Fire Engine.  The Fire Department maintains 4 large pieces of Fire apparatus (3 pumper trucks and 1 ladder truck), and expects to receive a 20-year life from each piece.  The Town's strategy is to replace one piece every 5 years to insure that the Fire Department has reliable firefighting equipment and also to stabilize Town expenditures for these expensive trucks.  The new Fire Engine cost approximately $420,000.  The Town expects to replace a then 24-year old Fire Engine in FY 13-14.
Coast Guard Road Bicycle Path Extension
The Town continues to work hard to expand the Town's bicycle path and sidewalk network.  We are proud to have added nearly 5 miles of new bike paths and sidewalks since 2003, and these paths and sidewalks are heavily used by the public.  
There is significant demand for a bicycle path along Coast Guard Road, and the Town was pleased to make a good start in 2009 toward meeting our long-term goal to add a path along the entire 2-mile length of Coast Guard Road.  A new 0.2 mile segment from Reed Drive to Deer Horn Drive was completed in early 2009, and creates a safer environment for bicyclists and pedestrians in this area.  The project was made possible through a combination of donations, proceeds form the Emerald Isle Triathlon, and a contribution from the Town. 
Town Awarded Federal Stimulus Funds for NC 58 Bicycle Path Extension
The Town also has a long-term goal to extend the NC 58 bicycle path all the way east to the Indian Beach town line.  The existing NC 58 bicycle path terminates at Black Skimmer Drive (mile marker 19), and the remaining 7 miles to the east are included in the NC Department of Transportation's long-range Transportation Improvement Program. (TIP).
Because this project is included in the TIP, the Town was awarded $500,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Federal stimulus package) for the construction of additional bicycle paths in mid-2009.  The Town expects to begin construction of an additional 2 miles of bicycle path between Black Skimmer Drive and Hurst Drive (mile marker 17) in late 2009.  The new bicycle path is expected to be complete prior to summer 2010.
The Town will continue to seek additional Federal and/or State funding for additional extensions of the NC bicycle path and additional sidewalks in the future.
The Point Continues to Evolve
It has now been approximately 4 ½ years since the Town's project to relocate the main channel in Bogue Inlet, which also used the dredged material to nourish 4 miles of oceanfront beach.  The Town continues to closely monitor the condition of The Point, which continues to adjust.  The Town's coastal engineering consultants predicted that all adjustments would occur over a 4 - 6 year period, so we are right in that time frame now. 
The results thus far are mostly positive, however, short-term and small scale oceanfront erosion in the area directly east of The Point continues to be troublesome.  The entire area of Bogue Inlet between Emerald Isle and the main channel is all very shallow (areas that were once 25 - 30 feet deep are now high ground or only a couple feet deep), and The Point itself looks terrific, with nearly 2,000 feet of dry sand beach extending west from homes on Bogue Court.  It is troubling, however, that an approximately 1,000 ft. length of oceanfront beach has again eroded in 2009, but is fortunately quickly repairing itself.  Sand continues to migrate onshore and from the east, and the area is in the process of being restored naturally, as occurred in 2008.  We expect this area to completely heal in the coming months, and the US Army Corps of Engineers will also be placing dredge material from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at The Point in winter 2010, which should expedite recovery. 
Planning Underway for Next Round of Beach Nourishment
The Town completed major beach nourishment projects in 2003 and 2005, and also minor "touch-up" nourishments in 2004 and 2007 after Hurricane Isabel and Hurricane Ophelia.  The Town, through the Carteret County Beach Commission and Shore Protection Office, monitors the condition of the beach annually with detailed beach profile surveys, and the beach generally remains in very good condition.  Barring any significant storm-induced erosion, the Town expects that the Town's beaches will remain in good condition for at least the next few years.
There will come a time, however, when the Town's beaches will need to be nourished again, and the Town began to actively plan for the next round of beach nourishment activities in FY 08-09, and these activities are continuing.  The Town is participating in efforts by the Beach Commission and Shore Protection Office to develop a multi-decade environmental impact statement / permitting document and long-range plan to keep the beaches nourished and healthy.  The Town is also working on a financing plan for future beach nourishment projects that includes a combination of State funding, room occupancy tax revenues, and Town funds.  The Town's existing special district property taxes for beach nourishment (16.2 cents oceanfront, 1.1 cent non-oceanfront) will come off the books after 2010, and the Town is currently considering new special district property taxes of 3 - 4 cents for oceanfront properties and approximately 1 cent for non-oceanfront properties that would begin in 2011.
The Town, along with the Beach Commission and the Shore Protection Office, continues to pursue Federal funding for future beach nourishment needs, however, there is great uncertainty about this issue.  As a result, the Town is working hard to keep our beaches healthy regardless of whether or not Federal funding is ultimately forthcoming.
Static Line Exception Rule Becomes Effective; Town to Pursue Exception
The NC Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) enacted new rules in late 2008 to create a "static line exception" that could produce significant benefits for properties in eastern Emerald Isle.  The new rules were appealed to the NC General Assembly (for reasons unrelated to the "static line exception"), but ultimately became effective in the summer of 2009.  The Town, along with Ocean Isle Beach and Oak Island, worked hard to promote the rule change over the past 2 years.
The application of the "static line" is very problematic for the eastern 2 miles of oceanfront in Emerald Isle, and results in these properties remaining non-conforming in perpetuity.  The new rules will enable Emerald Isle to petition the CRC for a "static line exception", which would enable the use of the first line of actual stable vegetation for oceanfront setbacks.  This could potentially result in many, but likely not all, oceanfront properties in eastern Emerald Isle regaining conforming status again. 
In order to qualify for the "static line exception", Emerald Isle must submit a 25-year beach nourishment plan for review by the CRC.  The Town has contracted with a coastal engineer to prepare the plan and hopes to submit it to the CRC in early 2010.    
Unified Development Ordinance Adopted
After more than 2 years of hard work by Town staff, the Planning Board, and Board of Commissioners, the Town's new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) was formally adopted by the Board of Commissioners in September 2008.  The new UDO consolidated and updated the Town's development regulations, and also incorporated the creation of new Village East, Village West, and Marina Village zoning districts.  These districts promote mixed use development and also include companion overlay districts that include incentives for the provision of significant public recreational benefits. 
Town Joins Fight Against Coastal Insurance Changes
Significant increases in coastal insurance premiums and significant changes to the "Beach Plan" were proposed in late 2008, with serious consequences for our residents and property owners.  Many coastal local governments banded together in early 2009 to challenge these changes, and Emerald Isle joined this fight by providing funding for an effort led by Dare County. 
The coalition of local governments worked hard on this issue throughout 2009, and helped encourage the NC General Assembly to approve new legislation in summer 2009 that represented a better outcome for coastal property owners.  Although the new legislation did not address all of the group's concerns, the new legislation was a significant improvement over initial proposals.
Pilot Recycling Program Implemented on the Beach Strand
The Town is making an effort to become more "green", and the Public Works Department and Parks and Recreation Department initiated pilot recycling programs on the beach strand and at the Town's two major beach accesses in 2009.  The Town has maintained trash receptacles on the beach strand and on the street side at each public beach access location in Emerald Isle for many years, and this year added recycling receptacles on the beach strand at the Lee Street and Page Place neighborhood accesses, and also at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access and Western Ocean Regional Access.  The pilot program was very successful, and the Town will implement recycling at all public beach access locations in 2010. 
Other Notable Accomplishments / Items of Note During FY 08-09:

* Mayor Schools was appointed to the Board of Directors of the NC League of Municipalities, a statewide group that advocates for cities and towns and provides other valuable services. * The Mayor and Commissioners instituted a new opening prayer at monthly Town meetings.  Youth from Emerald Isle Chapel By The Sea and Emerald Isle Baptist Church alternate each month. * The Town is participating in the NC League of Municipalities' Green Challenge program, which encourages the implementation of "green" practices by local government.  Initiatives undertaken during FY 08-09 include an energy audit, improved recycling efforts, and investigation of solar energy options, among others. * The Board of Commissioners adopted a new ordinance in May 2008 to clarify that itinerant merchants are not allowed in public areas in Emerald Isle, and only allow satellite merchant activities at commercial oceanfront properties.  * The Planning and Inspections Department spent considerable time learning about dry stack boat storage facilities and preparing appropriate information for the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners to consider amendments to the Town's zoning ordinance pertaining to these structures. * The Town continued to assess the proposed consolidation of E911 communications services by Carteret County.  Police Chief Hargett and Fire Chief Walker serve on a County advisory board providing input into the consolidation. * The Fire Department's Beach Patrol collected data on the proliferation of tents left on the beach overnight, and the Board of Commissioners will consider this issue prior to the summer 2010 season. * The Fire Department received a grant for and installed new Fire vehicle exhaust systems at each Fire station to improve air quality and heating efficiency in the Fire stations. * The Public Works Department oversaw the resurfacing of approximately 1.5 miles of Town streets.  Overall, the Town's street network is in generally good condition. * The Public Works Department purchased and installed new Christmas decorations along NC 58.  The Town hopes to expand the quality and quantity of Christmas decorations in future years. * New beach access walkways were constructed at Gregg Street and Ocean Oaks Drive to replace aging walkways.  The Channel Drive walkway was also restored after being damaged by erosion.  The shower area at the Western Ocean Regional Access was also reconfigured to reduce congestion on the walkway. * 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 3rd Annual Day 4 Kids, 5th Annual Emerald Isle Triathlon, 5th Annual Christmas Parade, and the 18th Annual St. Patrick's Festival. * The Parks and Recreation Department and volunteers planted additional vegetation on the NC 58 right of way, and continues to cultivate a park-like environment along the entire length of NC 58 from the Cameron Langston Bridge to the Town Hall complex.  * The Town now has a presence on both Facebook and Twitter.  Mayor Schools has created an Emerald Isle Facebook page with a focus on tourism in Emerald Isle.  The Town now also posts information about Town events and services on Twitter as we expand our efforts to keep our residents, property owners, and visitors well informed about the Town.

Quality Employees Providing Quality Services - For You
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.  These daily services that are sometimes taken for granted include emergency response, fire inspections, police patrol, garbage collection, yard debris collection, park maintenance, recreation programs, public-area landscaping, street maintenance, building inspections, beach access maintenance, general administration, and many others.  
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!  You can stay in touch with what's happening in Emerald Isle by reading Emerald Tidings in the Island Review, signing up for our email newsletter at our website, following us on Twitter, or by visiting www.emeraldisle-nc.org for all the latest information about the Town's activities.  Have a great next year!

Frank A. Rush, Jr.
Town Manager
Posted by Frank Rush Thursday, October 1, 2009 7:31:00 AM