May 10, 2016

MEMO TO: Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT: Hurricane Preparedness

With hurricane season approaching, I have scheduled time on the May 10 meeting agenda for the Board and the public to receive a presentation from Fire Chief Bill Walker about the Town’s Emergency Operations Plan.  Additionally, the Board will consider 3 items aimed at insuring the Town’s preparedness for any hurricane threats during the 2016 hurricane season.

Overview – Emergency Operations Plan

I have attached a copy of a Power Point presentation that Chief Walker will make to the Board at the May 10 meeting.  The presentation provides a good summary of the Town’s plan, and he will elaborate on the elements of the plan at the May 10 meeting and be available for questions. 

The Town is fortunate to have had a very good plan in place for several years, thanks largely to Chief Walker’s outstanding efforts in this area.  The Town’s plan has been in effect since 1987, and has been revised on six occasions, with the most recent revisions completed in 2012.  This plan has served the Town well through the hurricanes of the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.  Overall I have been very pleased with the Town’s plan and the Town staff’s efforts before, during, and after all of the hurricanes that have impacted us during my tenure with the Town.  

The responsibility for declaring a State of Emergency, ordering an evacuation, and establishing a curfew officially rests with the Mayor, who would issue a proclamation to that effect.  The actual practice used by the Mayor for previous hurricane events and the intended practice for future storm events is to operate as a team, with input from the other Board members, the Town Manager, the Town staff, the other Bogue Banks municipalities, and the County to assist the Mayor in making these decisions.  The Town is fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with the Carteret County Emergency Services Office and the other municipalities on Bogue Banks.  The typical evacuation decision process involves the use of a “control group” of County, municipal, and other officials that convenes in the days and hours prior to a storm’s arrival to review storm scenarios and gauge the threat posed.  Ideally, each Bogue Banks town will support the control group’s recommendation on evacuation, which is extremely helpful in public communication efforts and intergovernmental coordination.  This was the case for all hurricane events in the 2000s and 2010s, and we hope and expect that this cooperation will continue in the future.  However, if the Town determines that it is not in our residents’ best interest to proceed in the manner recommended by the “control group”, the Town has the legal authority and responsibility to our residents to act in whichever manner it deems best.  Such a situation would likely involve extenuating or very unique circumstances relative to Emerald Isle only.

The most frequent question asked during any hurricane threat is “when does the bridge close?”.  The Board and the public should note that there is no set wind speed at which the bridge closes.  For practical purposes, the Emerald Isle bridge is closed when the Town has declared a State of Emergency, issued an evacuation order, and has established restrictions on the public’s movement within, into, and out of Emerald Isle.  For example, the Town might enact a State of Emergency that requires everyone to evacuate by 6 pm.  After 6 pm, no one would be allowed back into Emerald Isle (on to the island via the Emerald Isle bridge) until such time that the State of Emergency is amended or rescinded.  The Town has typically allowed individuals to leave via the bridge after 6 pm (traveling at their own risk over the bridge) in the interest of promoting the individuals’ decision to evacuate.     

Once the State of Emergency, etc. is ordered, significant authority is vested in the Town Manager until the emergency situation is cleared.  As Town Manager, I accept and welcome that responsibility, however, I want to stress to the Board that my approach is very much a team-oriented approach, and I rely heavily on all of the department heads, and the Fire Chief and Police Chief in particular.  I also attempt to keep the Mayor and Board well-informed, and solicit input when relevant and practical without compromising the public’s safety.  I also consult with the County and the other Bogue Banks municipalities in an effort to make coordinated decisions.

The Town implements a 24-hour curfew during a State of Emergency after a mandatory evacuation is complete.  The Emerald Isle bridge is closed to the public during the curfew, as no one should be in the Town off of their private property (although, as noted above, the Town has typically allowed individuals to leave after the evacuation deadline in the interest of promoting their decision to evacuate).  After damage assessment is complete and any safety hazards are eliminated, a decision is made to amend or rescind the State of Emergency, and allow re-entry into Emerald Isle to either the general public or only those with official hurricane re-entry passes.  Depending on the extent of damage, the curfew may remain in effect on a full or limited basis.   

After the threat has passed, and it is deemed safe to end the curfew and allow re-entry to Emerald Isle, a proclamation is issued by the Mayor to rescind the State of Emergency.  Again, although this responsibility officially rests with the Mayor, recent practice has involved communication with the Board, Town Manager, Town staff, the other towns on Bogue Banks, and the County to make a group decision.  This practice worked well for the hurricanes in the 2000s, and ideally this approach will continue in the future.  The Board should note, however, that after Hurricane Irene in August 2011, the Town actually made a decision to allow re-entry into Emerald Isle earlier than the other Towns on Bogue Banks due to the fact that there was less impact to Emerald Isle, and essentially no reason for the Town to not allow the public to return several hours earlier than the other towns.  This example is somewhat of an anomaly, and generally speaking we would expect all 4 of the towns on Bogue Banks to allow re-entry at the same time.    

The Town continues to use the permanent hurricane re-entry passes assigned to each property owner in 2000.  These passes are permanent and should be transferred with the property upon sale.  Replacement or additional re-entry passes may be purchased by residents and property owners at a cost of $25 each.  The hurricane re-entry passes are only used in the event that there is major damage and/or unsafe conditions in the Town and there is a need to allow property owners only into the Town before conditions are safe enough to allow the general public into the Town.  A similar re-entry pass system is used by the other municipalities on Bogue Banks.  Fortunately, we have not had to utilize the re-entry passes for the hurricane events during the 2000s and 2010s, as none of these events caused significant damage that warranted limiting access to Emerald Isle property owners only.  In all of the events of the 2000s and the 2010s, the damage was relatively minor, and decisions were made to open the island to all persons at a particular time. 

For the past several years, the Town has entered into pre-positioned debris removal, storm water pump, and electric generator contracts in late spring / early summer so that the Town is prepared prior to hurricane impacts, can respond as quickly as possible after the storm, and to promote full reimbursement of storm-related expenses.  These pre-positioned contracts are only activated if the Town is impacted by a hurricane, and in most cases the costs associated with these contracts are reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The Town has utilized the debris contract and storm water pump contracts in the past, but has not had to activate the generator contract due to the quick return of electric power to the Town after recent hurricanes.  The Board will consider a new pre-positioned contract for debris removal at the May 10 meeting.  The Town previously executed (2-year) pre-positioned storm water pump and electric generator contracts in 2015, and these contracts remain in place for the 2016 hurricane season.  These pre-positioned contracts will save the Town valuable time and trouble if the need for these contracts arises this year. 

The Town also places a high priority on keeping our residents and property owners well-informed about hurricane threats, impacts, and other pertinent issues.  Regular updates are posted on the Town’s website before, during, and after hurricane events, and we also send the same updates to all subscribers to the Town’s email newsletter.  We also send Twitter messages with this same information, and also post information to Facebook.  All of this information is also provided to local and State media outlets.  With the implementation of the new Emerald Isle App later this month, we also plan to issue “push” notifications via the app to keep the public informed.

With the transfer of the 911 communications center from the Town to the County, particular emphasis is placed on making sure County personnel have the most up to date, correct information about Emerald Isle before, during, and after a hurricane.  We also make special arrangements to man the Police Department’s administrative phone line (354-2021) for extended hours before, during, and after a hurricane event.

For paper conservation reasons, I have not attached a copy of the Town’s Emergency Operations Plan.  Please let me know if you need a copy of the entire plan and I will make sure you receive it as soon as possible.  It is also available online at Emerald-Isle-EOP.pdf .

Chief Walker and I look forward to briefing the Board and the community on the Town’s plan at the May 10 meeting.

Resolution Authorizing Emergency Operations Agreement – Off-Island EOC

The Board of Commissioners is asked to approve the attached Resolution Authorizing Emergency Operations Agreement to formally re-establish a relationship with McNeill’s Golf Management, Inc. for the use of the Silver Creek Golf Club clubhouse building as an off-island emergency operations center (EOC).  The attached agreement is identical to an agreement first executed by the Town in 2012.  Fortunately, the Town has not had the need to utilize the Silver Creek Golf Club facility for previous hurricane events.

For Category I, Category II, and (some) Category III hurricanes, the Town’s emergency operations center is technically the Town Administration Building, but is essentially decentralized to the various Town departments located at the Town Government complex.  The Town would utilize the off-island EOC only if the Town is threatened and/or impacted by a Category III hurricane or larger and it becomes necessary to relocate all essential personnel from the island for safety reasons.  The Town’s emergency operations plan stipulates that a decision for essential personnel to evacuate the island for a Category III storm is a judgment call (may remain or may leave, depending on the circumstances of the particular storm), and stipulates that essential personnel will evacuate if the Town is threatened by a Category IV or V hurricane. 

Under the attached agreement, Town public safety personnel (Police, Fire, and EMS) and other essential personnel (Town Manager and certain employees in other Town departments) would relocate to the Silver Creek Golf Club clubhouse, located in Peletier just off of NC 58, along with the strategic relocation of key Town vehicles and equipment.  The golf clubhouse facility has ample room for Town staff inside the building, and there is significant parking available for Town vehicles and equipment.  The Town’s intent would be to remain at this facility during the storm, return to the island for damage assessment as soon as possible after the storm, and relocate all Town operations back to the island as soon as safe and feasible.  The attached agreement allows the Town to remain at the Silver Creek location as long as necessary, and Town staff would obviously be working to minimize the length of stay.

McNeill’s Golf Management, Inc. has again offered to make this facility available at no cost to the Town, however, the attached agreement does include a provision for the payment of rent if the duration of the Town’s stay exceeds 1 week.  In this event, it is very likely that FEMA would reimburse the Town for such rental expenses.  The Town greatly appreciates the community spirit of Eddie McNeill, the owner of the Silver Creek Golf Club, in making this facility available to the Town. 

The attached agreement stipulates that the Town will be responsible for any damages to the facility caused by the Town’s use, and also indemnifies McNeill’s Golf Management, Inc. from any claims arising out of the Town’s use of the facility. 

Fire Chief Walker and Asst Chief Askew previously completed a through review of potential off-island EOC locations in western Carteret County, and believe that the Silver Creek location best meets the Town’s needs in the event of a potentially catastrophic hurricane event.  The Silver Creek location is approximately 5.2 miles from the Emerald Isle side of the NC 58 bridge, and has an elevation of approximately 32 feet above sea level.  The clubhouse building appears to be sound construction, has ample room for Town staff, and also includes cooking and bathroom facilities.  We believe this location is a much better alternative than the previously identified Bogue Sound Elementary School on NC 24 near Broad Creek.  That location is approximately 8.8 miles from the Emerald Isle side of the NC 58 bridge and is at an elevation of approximately 21 feet above sea level.  In addition, it is a much larger building than needed by the Town and involves a larger public organization with more complex decision-making processes.

The attached agreement has an initial term of slightly more than 6 months, through November 30, 2016, in order to extend through the 2016 hurricane season.  The agreement will be evaluated on an annual basis thereafter, and extended with mutual consent.  It is important to note that the Silver Creek Golf Club clubhouse is not currently equipped with an emergency generator, however, the Town previously financed the installation of a transfer switch at the building to enable the connection of a portable generator.  If needed, the Town will relocate an existing portable generator to the Silver Creek facility, and will be able to provide electricity for basic needs only.

I recommend approval of the attached resolution.  I am thankful that we have not had the need to use an off-island EOC in the past, and I hope that we never need to utilize the Silver Creek location in the future, however, it is obviously prudent to have this arrangement in place prior to the actual need.

Resolution Authorizing Pre-Positioned Hurricane Debris Removal Contract

The Board of Commissioners is asked to approve the attached resolution authorizing the Town Manager to execute a pre-positioned disaster debris removal contract with Four Points Recycling, LLC / Rhem Insulation, Inc. (Joint Venture), Jacksonville, NC.  This contract would only be activated if a hurricane strikes and the Town needs outside assistance to remove storm debris. 

The Town is wise to enter into a pre-positioned contract for debris removal, as it fosters a quick response in the event that a storm does strike Emerald Isle.  It also allows us to resolve contractual issues up-front, without the stress of responding in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane.  The Town has entered into a pre-positioned contract for the past several years, and fortunately has only had to actually activate the contract twice.  The Town activated its contract with Tarheel Specialties, Linden, NC, in 2005 due to debris generated by Hurricane Ophelia, and activated its contract with Disaster Recovery Group and Tree Services, Arden, NC, in 2011 due to debris generated by Hurricane Irene.  The pre-positioned nature of the contract enabled these contractors to begin work almost immediately after the storm, and also saved Town staff valuable time to devote to other storm-related issues.  I am hopeful that we will not be impacted by a storm this year and will thus not activate the debris contract, however, I am pleased that we will be prepared ahead of time.  The proposed contract with Four Points / Rhem requires debris removal operations to begin with 48 hours of notice to proceed.  

Barry Johnson, the Town’s FEMA consultant and Artie Dunn, Public Works Director, coordinated the bid process for this pre-positioned contract.  We received bids from 7 firms, and Four Points / Rhem is determined to be the overall low bidder.  Unit price costs are as follows:

Kind of Debris Removal Cost

Construction and Demolition Debris Removal 
(disposal at CRSWMA facility in Tuscarora, NC)

$44.90 per ton

Construction and Demolition Debris Removal – Beach 
(disposal at CRSWMA facility in Tuscarora, NC)

$48.90 per ton

Vegetative Debris Removal
(disposal within 30 mile round trip)

$6.01 per cubic yard

Vegetative Debris Removal yard
(disposal within 30-50 mile round trip)

$7.09 per cubic yard

As noted in the attached letter from Barry Johnson, the Town’s FEMA consultant, the determination of Four Points / Rhem as the low bidder is based on an assumption of the amount of debris generated by a Category 2 storm, as calculated based on Federal guidance and outlined in the Town’s bid documents.  As noted on the bid tabulation, Four Points / Rhem is the low bidder for all four categories, and thus there is no question about the bid results.  Barry Johnson has completed a thorough evaluation of Four Points / Rhem, and is confident in their ability to complete the work in a timely and quality manner. 

The Board should note that the bid process was based on assumptions that the construction and demolition debris will be disposed of at the Coastal Environmental Partnership’s facility in Tuscarora, NC, however, if Carteret County establishes a closer facility in the aftermath of a storm this strategy and pricing will be re-evaluated.  The bid process also assumed that vegetative debris would either be disposed of at a County vegetative debris disposal facility located on NC 58 near Peletier or at a County location in the Newport area, hence the alternate bid prices for the disposal of vegetative debris.  The NC 58 location is obviously much more convenient for Emerald Isle, and we are hopeful that the County will make this site available this year if necessary.  All costs for hurricane debris removal should be eligible for FEMA reimbursement if Carteret County is declared a disaster area. 

In the past, there has been some question about whether NCDOT or the Town should be responsible for debris collection along NC 58.  This issue is resolved as a result of the attached Disaster-Related Debris Removal Agreement with NCDOT, and will allow the Town to collect debris along NC 58 and remain eligible for FEMA reimbursement.  The Town is likely better equipped than NCDOT for a more timely response, and will have greater flexibility to insure that customer service and community aesthetics goals are met. 

Unfortunately, the Board should again note that FEMA has indicated that the Town will not be reimbursed for collection of debris from private streets.  This ruling is completely illogical, in my opinion, as the residents on private streets are also Federal and State taxpayers and deserve the same level of service.  Our intention for private streets after future storms is to collect all debris in the same manner as the rest of the Town.  Depending on the nature of the storm and the volume of debris, Public Works may be directed to collect from private streets or the Town’s contractor will be dispatched to private streets at Town expense.  We may also take a “hybrid” approach by having Public Works collect the debris from the private streets, deposit the debris on public streets, and have the contractor collect from the public streets (which is reimbursable).  This “hybrid” approach was utilized after Hurricane Irene in 2011.  I feel strongly that we owe the same level of service to our citizens who live on private streets as we offer to all other residents. 

The attached resolution also authorizes the execution of a contract with Morton Trucking, Inc., Jacksonville, NC, as the Town’s second call contractor at specified unit prices.  Morton was the second overall lowest bidder in the Town’s recent bid process.  The contract with Morton would only be activated if Four Points / Rhem fails to perform under the contract.

A copy of Barry Johnson’s debris contract recommendation and the complete bid tabulation are attached for the Board’s information. 

I recommend approval of the attached resolution

Resolution Authorizing Disaster-Related Debris Removal Agreement with North Carolina Department of Transportation

The attached resolution authorizes the Town Manager to execute a formal agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)  that will enable the Town to remove hurricane debris along NC 58 and remain eligible for reimbursement from FEMA for such expenses. 

Technically, NCDOT is responsible for NC 58 because it is a State-maintained highway and is part of the Federal highway system.  In the past, there was some uncertainty as to whether or not the Town would be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for this expense.  Despite this uncertainty, the Town has historically collected NC 58 debris in an effort to complete all clean-up efforts in the most expedient manner, and, fortunately, the Town has received full reimbursement after past storms.  The attached memorandum of understanding simply formalizes this arrangement, and should remove any doubt about the Town’s eligibility for FEMA reimbursement for future debris removal activities. 

I recommend approval of the attached resolution.