Memo-10-13-2015- Item 17

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

New Guard Rails Planned for NC 58 Bridge

NCDOT is planning to install new, tubular steel guardrails on the NC 58 bridge in 2016, likely in the fall after the prime tourism season.  These railings will be similar to those in place on the Atlantic Beach – Morehead City bridge.  The current concrete railings are approximately 28 inches high, and the new steel railings will extend an additional 26 inches, resulting in a total guard rail height of 54 inches.  The attached photo shows a simulated view with the new guard rails in place. 

New Mandatory Deck Inspection Program Implemented by EI Vacation Rental Agencies

I have attached information regarding the new mandatory deck inspection program implemented by the 7 Emerald Isle vacation rental agencies earlier this month.  The new program will require all vacation rentals managed by these companies to have decks inspected annually by a licensed general contractor or a licensed engineer, and will hopefully reduce the potential for future deck failures in Emerald Isle.  I applaud the vacation rental agencies’ efforts to promote deck safety, and Town staff stand ready to assist in any way that we can be helpful on this initiative.

Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground – Significant In-Kind Contributions

Yardworks Owner Jimmy Farrington recently informed the volunteer fundraising committee that he has secured a $5,000 grant from Rotary (combined from Swansboro Rotary and Rotary International) for the new playground, and has also secured an additional $10,000 of in-kind contributions (combined) from Yardworks, SunLand Builders, Task Contracting, and Sewell Turf Grass.  These funds and in-kind contributions should be extremely helpful in completing planned landscaping and site improvements.

To date, the committee has raised nearly $45,000 in cash contributions.  The committee hopes to add to this amount in the coming months, and we then expect to order the playground equipment in February.  The project is on track for a May 2016 opening date.

Candidate Forum Scheduled for Tuesday, October 20

The Emerald Isle Business Association has scheduled a Town Commissioner Candidate’s Forum for Tuesday, October 20 in the Community Center.  The event will begin at 6 pm, with candidate comments and responses beginning at 6:30 pm.  There are a total of 7 candidates vying for 3 seats on the Board of Commissioners.

Town Beach Access Walkway Inspections

Jim Osika recently completed an inspection of all Town walkways, and Parks Maintenance staff will be working this winter to correct deficiencies and implement suggestions to improve the safety of Town walkways.  We will also be incorporating more stainless steel fasteners in future new walkway construction specifications.

Planned Beach Access Walkway Replacements

The FY 15-16 budget includes $50,000 for beach access walkway replacements, and Town staff will soon be soliciting bids for 18th  Street, Bryan Street, and Nina Street.  Our goal is to have all new walkways completed by the St. Patrick’s Festival in March.

Old Soundside Walkways at Lee, Piney, and Ridge to Be Removed

As discussed previously with the Board, and also as a result of the recent inspections, Town staff will soon be removing the old soundside walkways at Lee Street, Piney Street, and Ridge Road.  These walkways are very old, in poor condition, and were not built to acceptable standards originally.  Natural paths will remain in place for people to access the Bogue Sound shoreline.

Beach Profile Flattened, Minor Dune Escarpments in Limited Areas

As a result of the significant storm from October 2 – 5, the dry sand beach profile is flattened, however, it appears that sand is directly offshore and we expect it to weld back onto the beach (barring any additional storms).  There are 5 locations, each approximately 0.1 – 0.2 miles long, where minor dune escarpments have formed, with some large escarpments near Wyndtree Drive where the dune field is very large and wide.

Coast Guard Road Repairs Completed

Onslow Grading & Paving completed the necessary repairs on October 8 and 9.  The previous failures (pavement “slid” off to the side) were caused by too much water content in the adhesive material used to bind the new pavement to the old.

Eastern Ocean Regional Access Repairs Completed

SunLand Builders completed necessary repairs to the new parking lot in September.  Flowable concrete was used to fill an old septic field line, and the paver blocks were reset near the southwest corner of the parking lot.

Electronic Message Sign

NCDOT has informed the Town that it will not be possible to install new electronic community information signs in the NC 58 right of way.  As such, we are contemplating other options, and I will be seeking the Board’s input in the coming weeks.  Potential options include:

  • Abandon the idea of electronic message sign(s), and adjust the Town’s sign ordinance to allow only professionally fabricated “real estate-type” signs for community events (i.e, prohibit banners and homemade signs altogether).  We would then re-allocate the $10,000 budgeted for the electronic sign for another beneficial project.
  • Install new electronic signs at the Town Government complex (two-sided), along Coast Guard Road near the NC 58 intersection (one-sided), and at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access (two-sided).  Estimated cost of this approach is likely in the $17,500 range.
  • Install fixed poles (with fasteners) at the NC 58 / Coast Guard Road intersection, across from Emerald Plantation, at the Town Government complex, and at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access, and require all banners to be a certain size and professionally fabricated.  Community groups would be required to request placement of their banners by the Town.

Land Use Plan Update – Proposed Steering Committee

We are planning to initiate a new Land Use Plan update in early 2016, and have begun efforts to identify a quality planning consultant to lead this effort.  If the Board concurs, I am recommending that the Board of Commissioners appoint a Steering Committee for this effort that includes all 7 members of the Planning Board, along with an additional 8 - 10 individuals representing various perspectives in our community (vacation rental company owners, retail business owners, part-time residents, and other full-time residents, etc.).

I plan to present recommendations to the Board in January or February to begin this process.  It has been 12 years since the Town’s last Land Use Plan was completed, and although I suspect most of the policies are still valid, it will be helpful to secure new community input, reconsider current policies, and identify new goals for the future. 

Blue Star Memorial Ceremony Planned

The new Blue Star Memorial Highway designation for NC 58 is planned for November 11 (Veterans Day) at 11 am.  The new memorial will be installed near the new Welcome Center just prior to Veterans Day, and will be unveiled at the ceremony.  The Emerald Isle Garden Club has invited many State and local officials to attend.

New Sea Turtle Monument

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is planning to install a new sea turtle monument under the large oak tree at the new Welcome Center.  New benches will also be added near the cornhole courts.

New Gates Ordered for Beach Vehicle Ramps    

Town staff have ordered 3 new steel gates for the Ocean Drive dog-leg ramp, Black Skimmer ramp, and The Point ramp, and we expect to install them in December.  The new gates are similar to the new gates installed at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access earlier this year (photo attached), and should greatly improve the aesthetic appearance of the ramps.  We will also be working on other ways to improve the appearance at the ramps.

I also hope to eventually install similar gates at the Western Ocean Regional Access, EI Woods Park, Doe Drive ramp, and 16th St. ramp in the future.

NC 58 Corridor Study

NCDOT staff and Down East Regional Planning Organization staff are currently reviewing traffic counts and accident data for the 4 signalized intersections in Emerald Isle, and will soon identify options to improve traffic flow at these locations.  Potential improvements may include the installation of traffic circles, additional turn lanes, longer turn lanes, signal timing adjustments, and other improvements.  I expect to share these options with the Board of Commissioners in the next 3 – 4 months.

Downtown Street Trees

I believe the Town may be able to secure funding from NCDOT for the installation of street trees along NC 58 between the new Welcome Center and the Town Government complex.  I have considered the idea of installing additional crape myrtles all through this area to continue the attractive look between the NC 58 bridge and the new Welcome Center.  I envision planting 1 or 2 trees (at most) in front of each business through the “downtown” area, and we would be extremely careful not to block any businesses or signs. 

I have been walking door to door talking to business owners, and have talked with nearly 50% of the business owners in this area thus far.  The response has been very positive, and I hope to talk with others in the next few weeks.  Ideally, this project would create a consistent, attractive look all through the “downtown” without harming visibility of any existing businesses.

Decorative Lighting Installation Planned

Carteret Craven Electric Cooperative is currently working to secure necessary NCDOT permits for this project, which will result in additional decorative lights (modern style) installed along the NC 58 bike path and sidewalk (both sides of road) between the new Welcome Center and the Town Government complex.  Installation is expected to occur later this fall or winter.

Potential Project Ideas Being Considered by Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

After the installation of decorative lighting this fall / winter, the balance in the Committee’s account will be approximately $40,000, with an additional $25,000 +/- expected from the 2016 marathon races.  Potential project ideas being considered include a new beach access walkway adjacent to the vehicle ramp at The Point and the construction of a bicycle path extension along Bogue Inlet Drive leading to Bogue Inlet Pier.  Any project recommendations will be formally presented to the Board of Commissioners before proceeding.

New Yard Debris Collection Truck in Service

The new truck was placed in service on October 9, and a new employee is currently being trained to operate the truck.  We expect to be at full capability sometime in the next week.  The rental truck was returned on October 8.

Deer Population

NC Wildlife Resources Commission staff and EIPD staff have completed field work for the new deer population survey, and we are awaiting a report and recommendations from NC WRC.  Depending on the updated deer population estimate, we may proceed with another controlled hunt this winter.

Full Staffing

With the recent hiring of two new Parks Maintenance Workers and a new Public Works Equipment Operator, all 55 full-time positions with the Town of Emerald Isle are filled.

Rescue Tubes

As a result of the outstanding community support, we now have funding and plans for 107 total rescue tube locations.  Town staff removed the existing rescue tubes in advance of Hurricane Joaquin, and we will be working to have all 107 locations installed in spring 2016.  I have attached a list of the locations and sponsors.

Beach Driving Permits

A total of 754 paid beach driving permits have been issued through September 30 (compared to 685 through September 30, 2014).  A total of 496 fee permits have been issued (compared to 441 last year).

Nies v. Emerald Isle

The North Carolina Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in this case on August 24.  A decision by the 3-judge panel is expected sometime in October.

Expanded Use of New Town Logo

As you may have noticed, we are beginning to expand the use of the new Town logo.  In addition to clothing, letterhead, website, and other publications, we will soon be adding the logo to Town vehicles and signs over time.

Retiree Health Insurance

With the sales tax issue now behind us (thankfully without harming the Town’s budget), I plan to further investigate a fiscally responsible health insurance program for Town employees who retire after 20 or more years of service to the Town.  A recommendation may be presented to the Board in early 2016.

Rusty Pelican Status

The owner of the Rusty Pelican has until November 29 to make necessary structural and electrical repairs to the building.  The owner has represented to the Town that she intends to complete such repairs.  The building may not be occupied until noted deficiencies have been corrected.  It does not appear that any work has yet begun.

7405 Archers Creek Court – Nuisance Concerns

Town staff and the County building inspector conducted a formal hearing with the owner of this structure on October 2.  The owner has been ordered to repair or demolish the structure within the next 90 days (December 31 deadline), and he indicated he will be seeking to sell the property in the meantime.  The owner appears to be planning sell it with the idea that it would be demolished, and requested that the EIFD consider using the structure for a Fire training exercise.  Town staff are currently investigating the logistics and legalities of a Fire training exercise, and I am hopeful that we can work through these issues and assist the owner.  The most likely impediment is the mortgage company.

2016 – Vendors at WORA, EORA?

Town staff plan to reach out to local business owners this fall, and then draft a recommended set of regulations and develop a selection process that would enable mobile vendors to operate at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access and Western Ocean Regional Access during the 2016 tourism season.  At this point, I expect that the process will limit this opportunity to businesses with a “brick and mortar” presence in Emerald Isle only.  I hope to present recommendations to the Board in the next few months.

Rezoning Request

The owner of the vacant lot directly adjacent to Flip-Flops Mini-Mart (west side) is requesting that the property be rezoned from Business to Residential.  The rezoning request will be presented to the Planning Board on October 26, and will likely appear on the Board of Commissioners’ November 10 meeting agenda.

Village West Rezonings

I have tasked Town Planner Josh Edmondson with proceeding with the rezoning of most, if not all, of the properties included in the Village West land use plan area to the Village West zoning classification.  These properties are all currently zoned Business, but are projected for Village West.  Village West is a much more flexible and lucrative zoning district, and is intended to promote quality new and re-development in this area.

To date, two properties (The Islander and Transportation Impact) have already been rezoned to Village West, and we hope to also rezone the go-kart track, batting cage, Water Boggan, Lighthouse Mini-Golf, Artisan Marble, Bert’s Surf Shop, Island Self-Storage, Emerald Oasis Car Wash, Wilco gas station, and nearby vacant properties to Village West in the coming months.  Town staff are in the process of reaching out to affected property owners, and will soon discuss the rezonings with the Planning Board.

Police Department Implements “R U Ok?” Program

This new program, which enables property owners to schedule automated phone calls to check on their well-being, has been implemented by the EIPD.  If the call is made, and an unacceptable response is received, EIPD will be dispatched to the scene.  Interested residents should contact the EIPD to learn more and sign up.

Online Survey – JLUS

Work is continuing on the Cherry Point Regional Joint Land Use Study, a cooperative planning effort between the Marine Corps and surrounding local governments, and the steering committee is seeking community input via on online survey.  The survey is posted on the Town’s website at www.emeraldisle-nc.org under “Latest News”.

Online Survey – Carteret County Economic Development Survey

The Carteret County Economic Development Strategic Planning Committee is seeking community input on our county’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities as they relate to the local economy and our ability to stimulate job creation and economic prosperity.  The survey is posted on the Town’s website at www.emeraldisle-nc.org under “Latest News”.