As was recently announced, the Emerald Isle Board of Commissioners has selected the next full-time Town Manager of Emerald Isle. The schedule calls for Mr. Matt Zapp to assume the position in mid-June, 2019. Matt is the current Town Manager in Benson, North Carolina. I have congratulated Matt, and pledged that I will do everything I can to ensure a smooth managerial transition. He and I have begun communicating and sharing updates, and we intend to continue this dialogue in the weeks ahead of his formal arrival and for a limited time after as deemed necessary by the Town.
This schedule does require that I be involved for the duration in preparing and finalizing the Fiscal Year 2019 – 2020 Town operating budget for the new fiscal year which commences on July 1st. To this end, I have been actively engaged with the staff for several weeks in crafting a recommended budget proposal for the Town Board of Commissioners’ consideration. The plan is for management’s proposed budget to be formally presented to the Board on May 14th with a public hearing on the proposal scheduled for June 4th. The Board of Commissioners have scheduled consideration of adoption of the official budget for June 11th.
In addition to the very important budgetary process, there are a lot of things going on in this very busy spring season. In March, we hosted a hugely successful and likely the best attended St. Patrick’s Day Festival ever. Attendance was estimated at approximately 30,000, and it was great to see the community celebrating again since all major Town events had been cancelled since Hurricane Florence left us in September. This writing immediately follows the annual marathon, half-marathon & 5k road races on the streets of Emerald Isle. By all accounts, it was a tremendous success with very favorable weather, a large group of dedicated volunteers engaged and in excess of 1,150 participants in all events. I thoroughly enjoyed both events, and my observations were that local businesses were very positively impacted by the St. Patrick’s & running events.
Beach nourishment in Eastern Emerald Isle is now underway as well. Phase 1 of the Post Florence Beach Re-nourishment Project which began earlier this year has progressed on schedule thus far and is projected to be complete before the April 30th deadline. Although weather, environmental permitting requirements and things like equipment issues can adversely impact the project schedule going forward, the contractor remains committed to completing the project on time and within budget. Thus far, the project has successfully replenished the beaches of Salter Path and Indian Beach next door with top quality sand and we expect nothing less to be the outcome in Emerald Isle. Upon the arrival of the equipment used in the operation and for the safety of all parties concerned, the Town acted to suspend beach driving privileges for the entire project area beginning at the “dog leg” four-wheel drive beach access location and going east to the Indian Beach town limits. This prohibition will stay in effect for the duration of the project.
Shortly after the sand is on the beach, the contractor will begin installing dune plantings. It is imperative that beachgoers refrain from crossing the dune planting areas in the weeks ahead as these plantings have a significant benefit in dune sand retention. Please do your part in helping to educate your guests and other visitors on the importance of giving these dune plantings a chance to survive.
The following are updates on other ongoing major projects and activities Emerald Isle is currently pursuing:
- As a result of the impacts of Hurricane Florence, the North Carolina General Assembly thankfully created a source of funding to assist distressed areas in the state affected by the hurricane. Specifically, the authorization included the creation of the N.C. Office of Resiliency & Recovery to distribute grant and loan funding to eligible communities in disaster declared counties. Based upon management’s recommendation, the Emerald Isle Board of Commissioners authorized the staff to submit an application for grant funds to assist with expenditures that were not eligible for federal disaster reimbursement assistance. The Board also authorized staff to apply for a 0% interest short term loan to assist with the Town’s cash flow needs during the lengthy federal FEMA reimbursement process for eligible expenditures incurred by the Town. I am most pleased to report that Emerald Isle was awarded $370,000 in grant funds and $2.0 million in 0% interest loan funding. Given that the Town currently has outstanding reimbursable expenditures in excess of $2.4 million, these funds are a much needed and welcome relief for the community. Town officials and residents can now rest easy that the Town will have sufficient cash flow in the months and years ahead related to the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. These funds will ensure that the Town can meet all its obligations until reimbursements are received with the authorized no cost loan, and the grant funds will allow the Town to meet its annual debt service obligations without any unnecessary delays and resulting negative outcomes.
- With the warmer weather and approaching tourism season, the Town’s Parks & Recreation Department will soon begin charging parking fees at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access and the Western Ocean Regional Access on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. In past years, this has begun around the Easter holiday. Due to the impacts of the beach project on Eastern Emerald Isle, this year the Town will defer beginning the fee collections at both accesses until Friday, May 17, 2019. For more details on regional beach access parking for visitors and residents, please refer to the Town’s website or contact the Emerald Isle Department of Parks & Recreation.
- The Town continues to have an abundance of debris along street right-of-ways related to construction activity in Town much of which is likely the result of Hurricane Florence damages. The Town desires to cooperate with property owners and their agents to the maximum extent possible, but we need contractors and owners to remove Construction & Demolition (C&D) debris from the right-of-ways as soon as possible. Be reminded, the Town does not collect C&D debris from the street edge as part of its solid waste collection service. Contractors or residents may transport C&D debris to the Carteret County operated Newport Transfer Station located at 800 Hibbs Road in the Newport area. Disposal fees apply to anyone delivering to the Hibbs Road facility. Residents of Emerald Isle may transport small amounts of C&D debris normally associated with household maintenance to the Fire Tower Road (Hwy. 58) convenience site. This is typically limited to no more than a pickup load and there is no fee charged at this site.
- The month of April has been designated by the County and most of its Towns as Litter Free Month. Carteret County has labelled local efforts to cleanup right-of-ways as “Carteret Big Sweep”. More information will be distributed through media outlets and social media, but plans call for the effort to culminate with a day of litter cleanup countywide on May 11th. Participation by civics groups is being encouraged. Anyone desiring to participate needs to monitor future announcements on this effort to get our roadsides ready for summer.
- As the Town enters into spring and with the tourism season rapidly approaching, I am pleased to report that the Board of Commissioners will soon achieve another goal that will initiate efficiency efforts and in the process allow the Town to significantly improve welcoming, appearance and safety efforts. For some time, a goal of the Board has been to upgrade its street lighting particularly in the “downtown-like” commercial district located along Emerald Drive from the visitor center to the vicinity of Black Skimmer Road (35 mph section). In collaboration with Carteret-Craven Electric Membership Corporation (CCEMC), the Town has appropriated funding for the replacement of the existing low pressure sodium street lighting with the more energy efficient and over-time more cost effective LED lighting that also enhances public safety benefits. In the process, the Town has also agreed to support the replacement of the decorative street light poles in this area with hurricane resistant designed poles and base infrastructure that can support the addition of banners on the poles that will promote Emerald Isle in general as well as seasonal local events and holidays. The Town and CCEMC had experimented last year with trial banners on a small number of poles near the Town’s office buildings and Florence proved that the existing poles could not adequately support these type banners.
- Anyone interested in seasonal or part-time employment with Emerald Isle is urged to check out the Town’s website and social media platforms for advertisements. The Town has vacancies for part-time police officers for individuals that meet certification requirements. The Town is also currently hiring seasonal employees for lifeguard and parking attendant positions. Come be a part of the EI Team.
Thanks for your continued support,
Randy Martin, Interim Town Manager