January 9, 2018

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Reports

NC Insurance Commissioner Rejects Requested Homeowners Insurance Increase, Schedules Formal Hearing for July 23

NC Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has formally rejected the 25% - 40% rate increase requested for Emerald Isle and other barrier island communities, which is great news.  If a compromise is not reached in the coming months, a formal hearing will be held on July 23.  We remain hopeful that the request will ultimately be completely rejected.

The Town’s official comments were submitted to the NC Department of Insurance on December 22, and a copy is attached.  We have also discussed the proposed insurance rate increase with NC Representative Pat McElraft, and she indicated she would arrange a meeting with Commissioner Causey in the coming weeks. 

Public Hearing – Early Citizen Input – FY 18-19 Budget

We will soon begin work on the FY 18-19 Town budget, and have scheduled a special public hearing for the Board’s February 13 meeting to provide an opportunity for the public to offer comments at the beginning of the budget process. 

Installment Financing Agreement – McLean-Spell Park Land Purchase

We continue to anticipate the release of more than $2.5 million of Federal and State grant funds later this spring, and the Town will be required to remit its share of the land acquisition cost at that time.  As reviewed by the Board at the September 2017 meeting, the Town’s total share of the cost will be approximately $500,000 - $530,000, and will likely be financed over a 10-year period.  The estimated annual debt service payment will likely be in the $60,000+/- range.  A public hearing is required before entering into an installment financing agreement, and will likely be scheduled for the Board’s February 13 or March 13 meeting.

Board Actions - Town EMS Department   

I expect to include four procedural items associated with the creation of the new Town EMS Department on the Board’s February 13 meeting agenda.  An amendment to the Town’s official Pay Plan, an amendment to the Town’s Drug and Alcohol Policy, a budget amendment for the remaining 4 months of the fiscal year (after the March 1 transition date), and an official Fee Schedule amendment (for EMS billing rates) will all be presented for formal Board consideration.

EMS Transition Update

Town staff and EI EMS staff continue to work toward the March 1 transition date, and are making good progress.  The Joint EMS Committee will meet again on Wednesday, January 10 to discuss any outstanding issues, including the desired structure for volunteer involvement in the future.

The Town received a total of 26 applications for the EMS Chief position, and I expect to narrow the applicant pool to 5 – 7 finalists in the coming days.  Finalist interviews and activities are scheduled for Friday, January 19, and I hope to extend a job offer no later than January 30. 

Annual Budget Planning Workshop – Monday, February 26?

I would like to schedule the Board’s annual budget planning workshop meeting for Monday, February 26 if that date is acceptable.  The meeting would begin at 8:30 am, include numerous presentations by Town staff, and enable the Board to provide helpful direction on the FY 18-19 budget.  I would expect the meeting to end sometime mid-afternoon. 

If Monday, February 26 is not convenient, possible alternative dates are Friday, February 23 or Friday, March 2.  Please let me know which date works best for you.

Annual Street Resurfacing Contract

We expect to present the 2018 street resurfacing contract for Board approval at the March 13 meeting.  Artie Dunn, Public Works Director, and I will be reviewing potential street segments in the coming weeks.  One idea I am considering is the resurfacing of Crew Drive between Coast Guard Road and Mallard Drive, to complement the new street improvements being constructed by Publix.  We may also consider limited resurfacing of Reed Drive, and also the Ocean Oaks neighborhood.  A full recommendation will be presented to the Board at the March 13 meeting.

Sale of Islander Drive Land

The request for proposals (RFP) was released in mid-December, and has been forwarded to several interested parties, posted on the Town’s website, and included in the Town’s email newsletter.  Proposals are due to the Town by Friday, February 16.  I am optimistic that the Town will receive several quality proposals for the Board to review. 

Old Ferry Road Sidewalk

We have awarded a contract for the construction of a new 800 ft.+/- sidewalk segment along Old Ferry Road between CVS and Canal Drive, and expect this work to be completed later in January.   The total cost of this work is $14,800, and sufficient funds are included in the FY 17-18 budget for this project.

New Golf Cart Path Along NC 58 Near Olde Cove Road

I am still awaiting NCDOT’s formal approval for this new path, and will schedule construction as soon as possible after the necessary permit is issued.  The new path will be a concrete path on the north side of NC 58 between Olde Cove Road and Whitewater Drive, and will likely be 8 feet wide.   The new path will be clearly marked as a golf cart path, and will remain effectively segregated from the NC 58 travel lanes and the NC 58 bicycle path.  

NC 58 Roundabout Construction

The contractor is nearing completion of significant sub-surface storm water management improvements, and the roundabout should begin taking shape in the coming weeks.  The contractor has also initiated work on the nearby Mallard Drive street improvements.

Barring unforeseen problems or weather issues, we expect all work to be complete by March 1.  Town staff will be installing bronze waterbird statues donated by Publix in February, and other landscaping improvements will also be completed.

The truck detour across the Publix property appears to be functioning well, with only limited truck traffic passing through Emerald Isle.

“Ins and Outs of Roundabouts” Class

In anticipation of the completion of the new NC 58 roundabout, the EIPD will be presenting this special class in February.  Classes are scheduled for February 5, 16, and 24.

NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive Intersection Improvements

NCDOT and its consulting engineers continue to evaluate potential intersection improvements for NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive.  Potential options under consideration include a mini-roundabout, full-size roundabout, and traffic / turning lane improvements.  The project will also likely involve the complete reconstruction of the NC 58 streetscape between the Welcome Center and the US Post Office. 

It appears unlikely that a mini-roundabout or full-size roundabout will be considered going forward, and NCDOT efforts will likely focus on traffic / turning lane, streetscape, and driveway improvements to promote more efficient traffic flow in this area.  I am scheduled to meet with NCDOT and its consulting engineers later in January to review their work to date.  I expect to schedule meetings with nearby business owners later this spring, and eventually schedule a formal NCDOT presentation to the Board and the community later this spring or summer.  Construction of the ultimately determined improvements would likely not occur until 2019 at the earliest, and possibly further in the future.    

Golf Cart Safety Classes

A total of 43 people attended special golf cart safety classes in December, and will be eligible for a $25 discount on the annual golf cart registration fee (reducing the fee from $100 to $75).  Additional classes are scheduled on January 13 and 19, and February 2 and 3.

Potential Fee Schedule Amendment – Rental Golf Carts

The Town is fortunate to enjoy a cooperative relationship with John’s Golf Cars and Coastline Golf Carts, the two main rental companies serving Emerald Isle.  The companies recently met with Town staff to discuss potential additional golf cart safety initiatives, and they requested consideration of an annual commercial / rental registration fee of $500 plus $75 per cart registered (as opposed to $100 per cart, as approved by the Board last year).  In recognition of the great cooperation with the golf cart companies, I may include a fee schedule amendment on the Board’s February 13 meeting agenda.

Coyote Trapping Program Continues

A total of 9 coyotes have been removed since December 1, and trapping efforts continue on Town-owned properties and three private properties who requested trapping services.  We will continue this effort through February 28.

New “Welcome to Emerald Isle” Sign

I hope to have this new sign installed prior to St. Patrick’s Festival weekend, or soon thereafter.  The new sign will be a wooden, sand-blasted sign that includes the Emerald Isle logo and “Nice Matters”.  The FY 17-18 budget includes a total of $15,000 for the new sign, lighting, and flagpole.

“Gateway” Area Flowers, Uplighting

I have tasked Parks and Recreation staff with planting new flowers and installation of “up-lighting” on selected trees in the NC 58 “Gateway” area near the bridge.  I hope to have these improvements completed no later than April or early May.  The FY 17-18 budget includes a total of $10,000 for these improvements.

Doe Drive Storm Water Improvements

Public Works staff recently completed the installation of two new catch basins and conveyances to the Town’s large storm water pump located mid-block on Doe Drive.  These improvements should resolve small-area flooding concerns on Doe Drive.  The storm water features are complete, with only street repair and minor clean-up work remaining. 

Sunset Lane Storm Water Improvements

Public Works staff will soon install two catch basins in the cul-de-sac on Sunset Lane, and utilize a small electrical pump to relay storm water to a Town easement in this area.  Pumped storm water would then be infiltrated into a grassy swale and, if necessary, overflow through a vegetated buffer and eventually into Bogue Sound.  We hope to complete this work by early February.

Wyndward Court Storm Water Improvements

After completion of the Sunset Lane improvements, Public Works staff will install a small electrical pump to relay storm water from the Wyndward Court cul-de-sac over to the Town’s large storm water pump on Island Circle.  We hope to complete this work by March.  

Police Department Equipped with NARCAN

Upon completion of officer training later in January, each Police patrol vehicle will be equipped with NARCAN (noxalone) kits.  NARCAN can be administered to an individual who has overdosed on opiates, is relatively inexpensive and easy to administer, and has routinely been used by law enforcement and emergency service providers to save lives in other communities.  I am pleased that EIPD will now have this capability in the future. 

Electric-Assist Bicycles

Town staff recently met with a company that markets electric-assist bicycles that is interested in establishing a business in Emerald Isle.  The bicycles are nearly identical to traditional bicycles, but have a small, quiet electric-assist motor that can be activated by the user.  Depending on the settings, the electric-assist bicycle could operate up to 20 mph or more.  The company would like to be able to market the bicycles for use on the Town’s extensive bicycle path network, however, Town rules prohibit motorized vehicles of any kind on the bicycle path.  Town staff directed company officials to present their ideas to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee later this month, and will await the Committee’s input.

Host Family Program – Summer Lifeguards

Town staff are already hard at work gearing up for the 2018 summer season, and will soon be recruiting seasonal lifeguards to serve at fixed lifeguard stands at the Town's regional beach access facilities and provide roving services on all-terrain vehicles along the Town's 12 miles of ocean beaches.  Ocean lifeguards are in high demand and short supply, and in an effort to enhance the Town's recruitment efforts, EIFD will soon be soliciting "host families" interested in providing free housing for the Town's lifeguards this summer.  This program is modeled after a similar program used by the Morehead City Marlins baseball team, and will be structured in such a way that the Town is merely the “connector” of the host family and the lifeguard.  

Request for Vending Opportunity at the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area

I have been approached by a local business owner about the possibility of leasing space at the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area for the installation of an ice vending machine.  The land is owned by the Town and leased to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, so any agreement would need to be approved by both parties.  Please let me know your thoughts on allowing vending opportunities at the boat launch facility.

Demolition of House Damaged by Fire on Heverly Court

The owner of this house recently executed a contract with SunLand Builders for the demolition of what remains of this house that was heavily damaged by a fire approximately one year ago.  I am hopeful that this work will be completed later this month. 

New Position to Assist Town Administration and Town Planner

I continue to work to identify sufficient funds in the FY 17-18 budget to add a new position to assist Town administrative staff and the Town Planner, and hope to present a recommendation to the Board at the February meeting.

Emerald Isle Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5K Races – March 10, 2018

Planning is underway for the 5th annual event, to be held on Saturday, March 10, which is earlier than usual this year due to calendar conflicts with the St. Patrick’s Festival, other marathons in our area, and the Easter holiday.  We hope to attract another big crowd in Emerald Isle this year!

Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Festival – March 17, 2018

The Town’s signature festival will be held for the 27th time on the actual St. Patrick’s Day holiday.  Parks and Recreation staff continue planning for another big crowd and great kickoff to the tourism season!