- FY 14-15 The Year in Review
- Town Fortunate to Escape Harmful Sales Tax Changes
- Homeowners Insurance Premium Increase Rejected, Slight Decrease in Premiums
- New Welcome Center Constructed
- Improvements Completed at Eastern Ocean Regional Access
- Tax Revaluation Implemented, Revenue-Neutral Tax Rate Adopted
- Board Opposes Seismic Testing
- Yard Debris Demand Continues to Increase Significantly
- Neighborhood Watch Program Certified
- Restructuring of Building Inspections Services Yields Significant Savings, Customer Service Improvements
- Town Maintains Solid Financial Position
- Beach Nourishment Master Plan Adopted
- The Point Remains Stable
- Effort Underway to Secure Local Permits for Bogue Inlet Navigation Maintenance Dredging
- Town Purchases Two Strategic Vacant Lots
- Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground Moves Forward
- Town Prevails in Superior Court on Important Beach Case, Now in Court of Appeals
- Maximum Building Height Limits Reduced
- Coast Guard Road Resurfaced
- Fire Department Maintains ISO Rating of "4"
- New Town Staff Hired for Two Key Positions
- Passing of Commissioner Hedreen
- Stay Informed!
- Town Employees Strive to Provide Highest Quality Services
The entire Town of Emerald Isle organization continued to work hard during FY 2014 - 2015 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!
L to R: Commissioner Hoover, Commissioner Wright, Mayor Barber, Commissioner Messer, Commissioner Wootten, Commissioner Normile
The Town strives to provide quality services to sustain a high quality of life and to maintain a small-town, family beach 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 funding opportunities. We also strive to be a friendly, respectful and inclusive community - Nice Matters! 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 2015 - 2016!
Highlights of the past fiscal year (July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015) included the following:
Town Fortunate to Escape Harmful Sales Tax Changes
Town officials worked diligently during FY 14-15, both publicly and behind-the-scenes, to protect Emerald Isle's sales tax revenues from two distinct threats. Fortunately, Emerald Isle was able to work closely with State and other local officials to prevent any revenue losses.
During spring 2015, the Carteret County Board of Commissioners considered a change in the in-county sales tax distribution formula that could have resulted in the loss of more than $600,000 annually. Fortunately, the County did not proceed with any changes to the distribution formula. Later in spring 2015, and all through summer 2015, the NC General Assembly considered various proposals that could have resulted in Emerald Isle losing anywhere from $200,000 to more than $1 million annually. Fortunately, the NC General Assembly ultimately enacted sales tax changes that did not help or harm Emerald Isle.
Sales tax continues to be the Town's most important revenue source, as it is the only significant revenue source with consistent growth. The Town received nearly $1.7 million of sales tax revenue in FY 14-15.
Homeowners Insurance Premium Increase Rejected, Slight Decrease in Premiums
In January 2015, NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin rejected a requested 35% increase in homeowners insurance premiums and instead ordered a 5.8% decrease in premiums for our area. Town officials worked closely with State and other local officials on this issue, and will continue to be engaged in the process for future rate increase requests and (hopefully) homeowners insurance reform efforts.
New Welcome Center Constructed
The Town, in partnership with the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) and the NC Department of Transportation, coordinated the construction of a new Welcome Center in "downtown" Emerald Isle at the site of the former Merchants Park. The new Welcome Center includes an attractive coastal design, and is located on the island adjacent to the bike path.
This $276,000 project was funded by the Town, however, the full construction cost (and then some) will be recouped through lease payments from the TDA over the next 10 years. The Town is pleased to be a part of this project, and looks forward to our visitors learning more about the great opportunities and experiences available in Emerald Isle and the entire Crystal Coast area.
Improvements Completed at Eastern Ocean Regional Access
Thanks to a State grant ($732,000), the Town completed construction of significant storm water and parking lot improvements at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access in April 2015, resulting in an attractive regional beach access facility with parking for 160 vehicles. The new parking lot will ultimately serve a new ocean fishing pier envisioned for this site in the future.
Tax Revaluation Implemented, Revenue-Neutral Tax Rate Adopted
The Carteret County Tax Office implemented new tax values in 2015, and the total taxable value of the Town decreased by approximately 10% from $3 billion to $2.7 billion. Town officials worked diligently to limit expenditures when developing the FY 15-16 budget, and the Board of Commissioners adopted a new FY 15-16 budget in June 2015 that relies on an overall revenue-neutral property tax rate. The Town's FY 15-16 General Fund tax rate of 14 cents for general services plus an additional 1.5 cents for future beach nourishment activities remains the 2nd lowest property tax rate among the 21 oceanfront municipalities in North Carolina.
Board Opposes Seismic Testing
In April 2015, the Board of Commissioners took a formal position opposing seismic testing activities in the Atlantic Ocean off the NC coast. Seismic testing is being used in the search for offshore oil and gas deposits, and the Town is concerned that future offshore drilling activities could potentially harm the environment, quality of life, and our tourism economy. (The Board later also took a formal position against offshore drilling in October 2015.)
Yard Debris Demand Continues to Increase Significantly
The Town continues to collect an ever-increasing amount of yard debris from developed residential properties in Emerald Isle. During FY 14-15, Town staff made nearly 19,000 collection stops (an average of more than 50 stops per day for 365 days), which is more than double the number of stops just two years ago. A total of 843 loads were disposed of at the Town's contracted facility off NC 24.
In response to the continually increasing demand, and in order to strive for a one-week collection time for all yard debris, the Board of Commissioners authorized the purchase of a second yard debris collection truck (and new employee) in the FY 15-16 budget adopted in June 2015. The new truck and employee are funded by an $18 increase in the annual solid waste fee ($228 per year, or $19 per month).
Town staff continue to work hard to keep up with demand, and appreciate our customers' patience during peak volume seasons!
Neighborhood Watch Program Certified
Thanks to the diligent efforts of a volunteer committee and EIPD personnel, Emerald Isle became a certified Neighborhood Watch community during FY 14-15. The Town greatly appreciates the diligence of our residents and property owners in keeping an eye out for suspicious activity and reporting it promptly by calling 911. With your help, the EIPD will be that much more successful in promoting and maintaining a safe, family-friendly environment in Emerald Isle!
Restructuring of Building Inspections Services Yields Significant Savings, Customer Service Improvements
The Town began contracting with Carteret County for building inspection services in late 2014, and expanded the contract to also include administrative assistance in spring 2015. The Town Planner remains a Town employee, and continues to coordinate the development review process for the Town to insure compliance with applicable Town ordinances and the provision of thorough, timely, and courteous building inspections services by County personnel. This change resulted in savings of more than $60,000 in the FY 15-16 Town budget, and has also resulted in more timely inspections and improved communications with contractors.
Town Maintains Solid Financial Position
The Town maintains a solid financial position as of the end of FY 14-15, with a net position in excess of $21 million, and combined ending fund balances in excess of $3.4 million. The Town's total expenditures in FY 14-15 were nearly $8.9 million. The Town's total outstanding debt is approximately $3.5 million, all in short-term instruments at very low interest rates. The Board of Commissioners maintains a fiscally conservative philosophy, and works closely with Town staff to insure the Town achieves the correct balance between a low property tax burden, high service quality, strategic capital investment, and adequate financial reserves.
Beach Nourishment Master Plan Adopted
The Town remains committed to beach nourishment and inlet management, and the Board of Commissioners formally adopted a new master plan in July 2014 (in conjunction with Carteret County and other towns on Bogue Banks). The plan outlines future monitoring activities, establishes thresholds for future nourishment activities, projects future needs, identifies future funding sources, and also maintains the Town's eligibility for future FEMA and State financial assistance to replace sand lost during future hurricane events. The master plan also includes an inlet management strategy whereby the Town will periodically relocate the main channel in Bogue Inlet when it encroaches within 1,000 linear feet of the homes on Bogue Court (and also use the dredged sand for oceanfront beach nourishment activities.)
The master plan serves as the basis for the pursuit of a multi-decadal permit authorization for future beach nourishment and inlet management activities. The County continues to pursue this permit authorization on behalf of the Town, and we anticipate securing the necessary long-term permit authorization in the next year. The master plan will be implemented with County room occupancy tax revenues (for at least 2/3 of future project costs) and Town special district property tax revenues and other Town funds (for the remaining 1/3 of future project costs) that have been in place for the past several years.
The Point Remains Stable
The Town relocated the main channel in Bogue Inlet in 2005, locating it approximately half-way between Emerald Isle and Bear Island to the west. The main channel was moved approximately 3,300 linear feet from Emerald Isle in 2005, and is now approximately 1,700 feet west of the homes on Bogue Court. Several new dunes have formed, and The Point remains a popular spot for swimming, boating, fishing, and beachcombing........not to mention some of the best sunsets you'll ever see!
Effort Underway to Secure Local Permits for Bogue Inlet Navigation Maintenance Dredging
Historically, the US Army Corps of Engineers has maintained suitable depths across the Bogue Inlet ocean bar and connecting channel (from the ocean bar to the AIWW in Cedar Point). Until the mid-2000s, Federal funding was routinely available, however, maintenance dredging has primarily been accomplished with State and local funding remitted to the US Army Corps of Engineers during the past several years.
There is concern that the Federal government, which currently has the only permit authorization and dredge plant capable of keeping Bogue Inlet dredged, may eventually abdicate this responsibility. The State, County, and Town have been working over the past year with other NC communities to secure a new local permit for navigation maintenance dredging. This new permit authority will eventually allow the Town to directly contract with a private dredging company to keep Bogue inlet navigable.
Town Purchases Two Strategic Vacant Lots
The Town purchased two vacant lots adjacent to other Town-owned property during FY 14-15. In September 2014, the Town purchased a vacant soundfront lot adjacent to the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area for $172,000, financed over a 10 year period. In March 2015, the Town utilized $150,000 of General Fund balance to purchase a vacant lot on the corner of NC 58 and Seagull Drive, adjacent to the Town Administration Building. Both acquisitions are strategic for the Town, as the soundfront lot will be incorporated into the overall boat ramp site and will become part of the planned Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground in 2016, while the NC 58 lot will be reserved for future (undetermined) Town development at the Town government complex.
Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground Moves Forward
A volunteer committee has been working hard over the past year to raise funds for the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground, and the new playground is expected to become a reality in 2016. The Town has made land available adjacent to the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area, and the new playground equipment will be purchased with fundraising proceeds.
Town Prevails in Superior Court on Important Beach Case, Now in Court of Appeals
Superior Court Judge Jack Jenkins ruled in the Town's favor in the case of Nies v. Town of Emerald Isle in August 2014. The Nies then filed an appeal, and the NC Court of Appeals is currently considering the case. Town officials worked closely with the Town's legal defense over the past year on this important case. The ultimate outcome of the Nies case could have serious ramifications on the public's right of access to the flat beach strand (between the base of the dunes and the ocean). The Town remains committed to maintaining the historical public uses of the flat beach strand in Emerald Isle and all along the NC coast.
Maximum Building Height Limits 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 in July 2014 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. An exception is also included for any future dry stack marina structures (50 ft. maximum mean roof height).
Coast Guard Road Resurfaced
Coast Guard Road, the most heavily travelled street maintained by the Town, was resurfaced between Dolphin Ridge Road and Ring Street in spring 2015. Several small pavement failures occurred in the months following resurfacing, and the Town's contractor subsequently repaired the failures to restore a smooth driving surface.
In recent years, the Town has been fortunate to completely resurface long segments of Ocean Drive (on the east end and in central EI) and Coast Guard Road. The Town-maintained street network includes approximately 46 miles.
Fire Department Maintains ISO Rating of "4"
Emerald Isle is fortunate to be served by an outstanding group of firefighters, and EIFD's hard work enabled the Town to maintain a "4" ISO rating after a comprehensive inspection was completed in early 2015. An ISO rating of "4" helps to keep fire insurance premiums low for property owners in Emerald Isle, and is an exceptional rating for a town of Emerald Isle's size. The Town maintains two staffed fire stations, one ladder truck, and three engines to serve nearly 7,000 housing units and business locations.
New Town Staff Hired for Two Key Positions
Laura Rotchford joined the Town staff in December 2014, and serves as the Town's Finance Director. She is a certified public accountant and has several years of private sector and public sector experience. Josh Edmondson became the Town Planner in April 2015, and oversees the enforcement of Town development ordinances and oversees the County inspections contract. He holds a degree from ECU, and previously served in similar roles with Tarboro and Edgecombe County. Both Laura and Josh are performing well for the Town, and are happy to assist our customers in any way that is helpful!
Other Notable Items:
- Hurricane Arthur grazed Emerald Isle in July 2014, resulting in no significant impacts. The Town was fortunate to avoid hurricanes for the remainder of the 2014 hurricane season.
- Several shark incidents were reported in other NC beach towns in June 2015, but fortunately none in Emerald Isle. The Town provided public education materials about sharks, and responded to numerous inquiries. Sharks are and have always been present in nearshore waters, but fortunately shark encounters are extremely rare, with a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being bit by a shark.
- The access road in Emerald Isle Woods Park was paved, creating a smooth ride vehicles and bicyclists accessing the park.
- The Town replaced older public beach access walkways at 1st Street, Shell Drive, and Tracy Street with new walkways in spring 2015. The Town's goal is to replace three beach access walkways each year.
- The 24th annual St. Patrick's Festival was held in March 2015, and was another great success despite persistent rain. Join us on March 12, 2016 for the 25th annual event!
- The 2nd annual Emerald Isle Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5K race event was held in March 2015, with nearly 1600 runners registered in the 3 races. A total of $50,000 was raised for the EI bike path and heart charities.
- Additional street lights were added along the popular Coast Guard Road bike path, providing a safer environment for bicyclists, walkers, and runners at night.
- The Town's hurricane re-entry pass process was greatly simplified, resulting in shorter wait times for our residents and property owners and a more efficient process for Town staff.
- The Town continued to follow and support planned amendments to the static line exception rules enforced by the NC Division of Coastal Management, and anticipates the elimination of the 2,500 sq. ft. size limit in 2016.
- Town staff proposed, and the Board of Commissioners approved the strategic conversion of 3 existing full-time positions into a new Police Officer to improve police presence in the community and a new Parks Maintenance Worker position to help maintain the attractive appearance of the NC 58 right of way and other park facilities.
- Career advancement plans were implemented for Police and Fire personnel, providing a mechanism for our public safety personnel to improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities, prepare the next generation of Police and Fire leaders, and enhance compensation for these dedicated employees.
- The Town continued to pursue new steel traffic signal poles for the Town's 4 signalized intersections in an effort to enhance safety and improve aesthetics.
- The Emerald Isle Police Department conducted a controlled deer hunt in January 2015, and removed 51 deer from the Town, as recommended by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. All deer meat was donated to the Hope Mission in Morehead City.
- A special fireworks show was conducted in Emerald Isle on New Year's Eve as part of the growing Crystal Coast Countdown events all across Carteret County.
- The Emerald Isle Garden Club, supported by the Town, secured a Blue Star Memorial Highway designation for NC 58. A special dedication ceremony will be held on Veterans Day 2015.
- A new mixed use building that will house the corporate headquarters of Transportation Impact (along with residential units and a new restaurant) was approved in April 2015. The new building is the first new structure built under the new Village West zoning classification. Village West includes the area centered on Islander Drive on both sides of NC 58.
- The sign ordinance was amended to allow for additional wall signage for businesses that front on more than one street.
- Town staff and the Board of Commissioners completed a thorough review of the entire Code of Ordinances in an effort aimed at simplifying the Town's regulations.
- A new floating kayak launch was added to the soundfront pier in Emerald Isle Woods Park to enable easier and safer launching. The new kayak launch was funded by a grant from the NC Division of Coastal Management.
- The tennis and basketball courts at Blue Heron Park behind the Police Station were resurfaced to provide a better playing experience.
- The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee presented the inaugural Crystal Coast Lighthouse Challenge bicycle event. The event was held in May 2015, with approximately 100 bicyclists participating in three rides.
- The Town continued to oppose school calendar law changes discussed by the NC General Assembly that would allow school to begin earlier in August and perhaps July. Current State law mandates that school begin no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 each year, and this law is very important to the local tourism industry.
- A new study aimed at improving traffic flow on NC 58 in Emerald Isle and all along Bogue Banks was initiated by NCDOT and others in 2014, and will be complete sometime in 2016.
- A new Joint Land Use Study was initiated by MCAS Cherry Point, and is intended to insure compatible development near MCAS Cherry Point and MCALF Bogue. The new study is expected to be complete sometime in 2016.
- The Town's golf cart program continues to increase in popularity, with a total of 530 permits issued in FY 14-15. Town staff constructed several new golf-cart-only parking spaces at various neighborhood beach accesses.
- The Town continues to receive excellent service from Simmons & Simmons Management, the Town's solid waste contractor, and extended the service contract to 2021. Simmons & Simmons collected nearly 3,300 tons of residential trash and nearly 825 tons of recyclables in FY 14-15. Recycling collections increased by nearly 14% over FY 13-14 totals.
- 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 9th Annual Day 4 Kids and the 11th 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 Town permitted a total of 25 new residential units in Emerald Isle during FY 14-15, and conducted more than 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 25 structure fires in Emerald Isle during the entire fiscal year, with all but two resulting in only minor damage.
- The Town continued its close partnership with the non-profit Emerald Isle EMS, Inc. during FY 14-15. EI EMS, Inc. continues to operate a high quality, professional service for the Town's residents and visitors, and responded to nearly 850 calls for emergency medical services during the fiscal year. EI EMS, Inc. now relies on paid staffing for all shifts, and is supplemented by volunteer services.
Passing of Commissioner Hedreen
Sadly, long-serving Commissioner Nita Hedreen passed away on Monday, August 18, 2014 at the age of 61 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Commissioner Hedreen truly loved the Town of Emerald Isle, and was first elected as a Town Commissioner in 2003, serving her community for more than 10 ½ years. Her thoughtful insights, caring nature, and wisdom were greatly valued by our community and the entire Town organization.
The Board later appointed then-Planning Board member Jim Normile to fill Commissioner Hedreen's term that expires in December 2017.
The Town strives to make sure our residents, property owners, visitors, and businesses are well-informed about the Town's services, projects, and issues. There are several ways to 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 via the email distribution list and in the Island Review magazine, and also publishes Facebook and Twitter updates.
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, property owners, 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!
Frank A. Rush, Jr.
Town of Emerald Isle
7500 Emerald Drive
Emerald Isle, NC 28594