November 8, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - (Monthly Statistical Report)

Bogue Inlet Drive Bicycle Path

I plan to present a plan for the new bicycle path to the Board at the December 13 meeting.  Alesia Sanderson, Parks and Recreation Director, Ken Stone, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair, and I have been meeting to determine the best layout for the new bicycle path, and have also been considering the potential slight realignment of Bogue Inlet Drive as part of the project. 

The most likely scenario involves the construction of a new bicycle path along the western side of the Bogue Inlet Drive right-of-way, the removal of the existing small sidewalk on the east side, and a slight eastward shift in the vehicle travel lanes (all within the existing right-of-way).  Ideally, the improvements will also include a few new street lights and additional street trees.  I am currently working to determine the additional cost associated with this more comprehensive approach, and may recommend a budget amendment to the Board at the December 13 meeting.

Bogue Inlet Pier Work Set to Begin

Mike Stanley, owner of the Pier, expects to begin demolition and reconstruction of the pier house and first 200 ft. +/- of the pier (over the sandy beach) in the next few weeks, and work is expected to continue throughout the winter and spring.  It will likely be necessary to close the beach to driving in the general vicinity of the Pier during certain construction periods.  We will also make the beach strand available for the transport of construction materials if / when necessary. 

Beach Driving

The Town has issued 2,064 beach driving permits through October 31, 2016, and is on pace to issue more than 2,400 permits this season.  With the pleasant warm weather in recent weeks, there have been more conflicts reported between beach drivers and other beach visitors, and additional Police Department personnel have been assigned to the beach strand. 

Additionally, the vehicle ramp at The Point continues to accumulate significant sand over the wooden Hatteras ramp (ultimately a good problem to have, compared to where we were at one time!), and several drivers have gotten stuck on the ramp in recent weeks.  Public Works has now cleared sand from that area 6 times in the past 6 weeks, and it is a challenge to keep up with the accumulation.  Public Works is planning to remove the wooden Hatteras ramp sometime in December and reinstall it at a higher elevation, with the hope that it will make it easier for vehicles to traverse the ramp.  Efforts will be made to schedule this work on low-demand days so as not to prevent access to The Point for a significant duration.

Planning Board Vacancy

Planning Board member Tom Minnick recently resigned due to plans to move to Cape Cod to be closer to family.  We will schedule a new Board appointment for this vacancy on the December 13 meeting agenda.

Itinerant Merchants, Satellite Merchants

I continue to consider alternative approaches to the Town’s regulation of itinerant merchants and satellite merchants (i.e., mobile vendors), and continue to focus on the following three options:

Option 1 – Maintain current system whereby they are not allowed in EI, except for oceanfront commercial and condo parcels, and must simply register with the Town.

Option 2 – Allow mobile vendors anywhere in Emerald Isle that is zoned commercial or mixed use, on private property only……provided the vendor is an Emerald Isle resident or business and has the permission of the private commercial property owner.  There would be no other restrictions, and the private commercial property owners and the market itself would regulate such activities.  Non-EI residents or vendors would be prohibited, and no vendors would be allowed on public right of ways or the beach strand.  The mobile vendor would still be required to register with the Town, and no fee would be charged.

Option 3 – Allow mobile vendors anywhere in Emerald Isle that is zoned commercial or mixed use, on private property only……provided the vendor has the permission of the private commercial property owner and secures a permit from the Town.  The vendor could be from anywhere, and this approach would not be limited to EI residents or businesses.  The amount of the annual permit fee would be several hundred dollars ($500?) and would be roughly equal to the average property tax bill paid by a brick and mortar business in EI.  There would be no other restrictions, and the private commercial property owners and the market itself would regulate such activities. No vendors would be allowed on public right of ways or the beach strand, and only one (or perhaps two or three?)  vendor(s) could operate at a particular location at any one time.

Ideally, I am seeking to eliminate or reduce the Town’s involvement in this issue, and would transfer the decision making process to the private Emerald Isle commercial property owner and the mobile vendor.  Please let me know which of these options you may prefer.  Any formal changes would be presented to the Board for formal consideration this winter, and would be implemented for summer 2017.

Town Dumpster Service

Unless the Board feels strongly otherwise, I plan to include a 1-year contract extension with Waste Industries on the Board’s December 13 meeting agenda.  I simply have not had an opportunity to devote sufficient time to soliciting new bids for this contract, and will need to delay until 2017.  I do not have any significant concerns with the quality of Waste Industries’ service, and the pricing would remain the same as the current contract. 

CVS Aesthetic Improvements, Better Traffic Flow

I continue to consider potential improvements at this location.  Thus far, I have received generally favorable feedback from CVS.  Despite numerous attempts to speak with the building owner, I have been unable to generate a return call with any definitive feedback.

The proposed new sidewalk and island would be constructed entirely within the Old Ferry Road right-of-way, and would not harm ingress, egress, or parking availability at the CVS in any negative manner.  I would very much like to proceed with these improvements prior to the 2017 tourism season, and may present a formal recommendation to the Board at the December 13 meeting.  In the meantime, I will continue efforts to reach the building owner. 

Beach Access Walkway Replacements

Town staff will soon solicit informal bids for the reconstruction of existing beach access walkways at Georgia Street, Hubert Street, and Sea Crest.  We hope to award a contract in January, and have the contractor(s) begin work sometime soon thereafter.  Our goal is to have all walkways completed and open to the public before April 1, if not sooner. 

Post-Matthew Beach Profile Survey Reveals Minimal Gains

Detailed beach profile surveys were completed in the days immediately after Hurricane Matthew’s visit, and the Town recently received the survey results.  Overall, there was no erosion of the beach in Emerald Isle (there was some isolated dune erosion, but of no serious consequence), and there were actually very minimal gains in the total volume of sand on the beach. 

Golf Cart Ordinance Amendment

We are planning to present a simple amendment to the Town’s golf cart ordinance to the Board at the December 13 meeting to require all golf carts to display stickers on the dashboard with the most common regulations (not allowed on NC 58, Coast Guard Road, bike paths, must be 18, etc.).

Golf Cart Program to be Transferred Entirely to the Police Department

Beginning December 1, the entire golf cart registration process will be managed by the Emerald Isle Police Department.  Individuals interested in registering a new golf cart or renewing an existing registration will now visit the EI Police Station and coordinate with EIPD personnel rather than visiting the Town Administration Building.  It is my hope that this transfer will result in a more efficient process for the customer, and also relieve workload burdens on Town Administration staff.  We are also working to further streamline the registration process and also accept online credit card payments in the future.

2017 Crystal Coast Music Festival in Emerald Isle?

We are currently working with Carteret County Tourism Development Authority staff to identify a feasible location for a major concert event in Emerald Isle in June 2017.  The inaugural Crystal Coast Music Festival was held in June 2016 in Atlantic Beach, with rock band “Third Eye Blind” as the headline act.  Town staff recently met with TDA staff and concert promoters to review potential concert venues, and we will continue to pursue this potential opportunity with vigor.  We hope to secure a quality performer with broad appeal in an attempt to lure a big crowd to Emerald Isle.

Disc Golf Course Planned for EI Woods Park

A local resident has designed a new 9-hole disc golf course to be installed in Emerald Isle Woods Park (away from existing trails), and is currently soliciting sponsors to fund the installation of equipment.  To date, sponsors have been identified for 5 of the 9 holes, and he continues to work to secure funding for the remaining 4 holes.  Town staff support this effort, and will assist in any way helpful in the installation of the new course equipment.  The new course should be another nice amenity in Emerald Isle, and I am hopeful that the new course will be open to the public sometime early in 2017.

FEMA Reimbursement for Hurricane Matthew

Finance Director Laura Rotchford is coordinating the reimbursement of Town overtime expenses and other minor expenses associated with Hurricane Matthew.  I expect the total amount of the Town’s reimbursement to be somewhere in the $10,000 - $15,000 range.  

New Police Chief Selection

As you know, Assistant Police Chief Tony Reese is serving as the Interim Police Chief.  I expect to maintain this arrangement for the next several weeks, and have full confidence in Interim Chief Reese’s ability to lead the Police Department until I can determine the appropriate course of action for the future.

Nies v. Emerald Isle

Oral arguments before the NC Supreme Court have been scheduled for December 14.  I plan to attend the Court session in Raleigh.  A final decision is expected sometime in early 2017.

Osprey Ridge Storm Water Pump Station

SunLand Builders is making good progress on the construction of this project.  All clearing work is complete, and grading work is approximately half complete.  SunLand remains on track to finish the project by late December or early January. 

New Small Storm Water Relay Pump - Bogue Court

Public Works is waiting for the water table to subside on Bogue Court in order to proceed with the installation of the new small storm water relay pump in this location, but hopes to proceed with installation in the near future.  The new system will discharge water into the dune field at The Point, and should effectively resolve standing water issues on Bogue Court. 

Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan Update

The Steering Committee has provided most of its input into the development of the new plan, and is scheduled to meet again on November 30 to review a draft version of the complete plan.  I am hopeful that the Committee will soon complete its work, and we will then schedule a special joint meeting of the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners to review the draft plan sometime in January. 

Committee Chair Normile, Town Planner Josh Edmondson, and I recently met with the owners of several large mobile home / RV park tracts to discuss the plan, consider their concerns, and will attempt to incorporate their input into the draft plan. 

Conceptual Design Work – NC 58 Corridor, Village East, Village West

I previously solicited assistance from students at the NC State College of Design to develop conceptual renderings of the proposed “village” concepts and streetscape improvements contemplated for the NC 58 Corridor, Village East, and Village West areas.  Unfortunately, I was unable to secure assistance from NC State, and I now plan to solicit assistance from qualified design firms to develop conceptual renderings to better communicate the vision for these areas.  I hope to present a recommendation to the Board sometime in early or mid-2017, after the Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan process is complete.

Comprehensive Update / Simplification of Unified Development Ordinance

This continues to become a higher priority for me, and I am now fully convinced that we need to embark on a process to update and simplify the UDO in the coming months.  I expect to begin work on this initiative sometime in early or mid-2017, after the Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan process is complete. 

Deer Population Estimate

We are still awaiting the new deer population estimate from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and expect to have this information in the coming days.  We will present this information to the Board when it is received, and make a decision in November regarding a controlled deer hunt in January / February 2017. 

Coyote Management Program

I have emailed information about the Coyote Management Program to many residents, and will include this information in the late November edition of Emerald Tidings newsletter.  The Police Department has arranged for trapping services from a licensed trapper, and has coordinated with other Town staff to identify trapping locations at EI Woods Park, the Town Government complex, and the Public Boating Access Area.  Trapping will begin at these locations soon after December 1.

Condominium Deck Inspection Program

I have tasked Town Planner Josh Edmonson with developing a voluntary condominium deck inspection program for the Town’s 9 condominium complexes, in order to complement the program managed by the EI vacation rental agencies.  Condominium complexes will require a somewhat different approach than the vacation rental agencies’ program, but the new program will likely embrace the same basic principles.  I hope to have this new program implemented by April 1.

Lee Street Sound Access

The Town removed aging and deteriorating walkways at three sound access locations on Sound Drive last year due to safety concerns.  Town staff converted the walkways to sand paths, and in most locations the sand path is easily navigated.  There is, however, a steep slope at the water’s edge at the Lee Street access, and we have awarded a contract to B&P Services, Cedar Point, NC for the construction of steps at that location to make it easier and safer to access the water.  I hope to have this work completed before Christmas.

Coastal Awnings, Keller Williams Signs

We expect the Keller Williams sign to come down by the December 31, 2016 deadline, based on communications with the sign owner and sign tenant.  Town staff took a similar flexible approach with the Coastal Awnings sign, and extended an offer for a December 31 deadline to the owner and sign tenant several months ago.  The sign tenant does not want to remove the sign, and has filed an appeal of Town staff’s decision with the Board of Adjustment.  The Board of Adjustment will consider this appeal at its meeting on December 14 at 9 am.

As you know, the Town’s sign ordinance allows existing off-premises signs to remain in place in perpetuity.  However, the Town’s sign ordinance requires that all businesses advertised on any sign in Emerald Isle actually have a fixed location in and operate in Emerald Isle.  Neither of these businesses meet this criteria.

Old Ferry Road - Behind CVS       

I am planning to task Public Works with removing damaged asphalt in the Old Ferry Road right-of-way behind CVS sometime this winter.  The asphalt to be removed is in poor condition, looks unsightly, and is not located within the main vehicle travel lanes.  Our approach will be to remove the asphalt to create a neater condition, and then plant grass in this area.

In the alternative, I plan to approach the adjacent property owners to determine any interest in permanently closing the road, thus conveying the property to the adjacent owners.  The Town has no need for the road, and it dead ends at NC 58.  NCDOT regulations do not allow a connection to NC 58.  If the adjacent owners are interested in this approach, I will present the appropriate Board actions at an upcoming meeting.  If they are not, then we will simply make the improvements described above and continue to maintain the road.

Bogue Inlet Navigation Dredging – Wait Until Spring?

We are still awaiting feedback from the US Army Corps of Engineers on future dredging plans.  At this point, I am inclined to have them wait until spring to complete any new dredging work, in order to preserve the limited dredging funds available.  We still expect the navigation aids  in the connecting channel to be moved to a more central alignment at some point before the 2017 tourism season.

Cape Emerald Pipe Expansion / Replacement

I still have not been able to devote time to this project, but still hope to solicit informal quotes for this work sometime soon.  I remain hopeful that the budgeted amount will be sufficient to award a contract sometime this winter.  Permit authorization is still necessary, but we don’t anticipate any hurdles.

NC 58 Traffic Improvements

We are still awaiting word as to whether or not the Town’s requested NC 58 traffic improvement projects will be included in the “division” version of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and we hope to learn our fate sometime soon.  I remain hopeful that the Emerald Isle projects will ultimately be included in the final plan.   

Customer Satisfaction Survey

I am planning to work with the Board, staff, and a professional survey designer to develop a “customer satisfaction survey” for Town services and programs.  I hope to begin work on the survey sometime this winter and release it to the public sometime in the spring or summer 2017.

Beach Wheelchair Donated

The “Emerald Isle Beach Patrol”, an informal group of part-time residents in the general vicinity of Bogue Inlet Pier, recently donated a brand new beach wheelchair to the EI Fire Department.  The EIFD regularly loans out special wheelchairs with large rubber wheels to enable handicapped individuals to enjoy the beach, and the program is very popular.  Each wheelchair costs approximately $2,500, and we greatly appreciate the generosity of the “Emerald Isle Beach Patrol”!

Beach Access Mat - Improve Wheelchair Access?

I am planning to investigate the possibility of adding a special beach mat to one of the Town’s handicapped beach access locations to test out the effectiveness of these products.  The cost of these mats has come down considerably in recent years, and there may be some benefit to these mats in certain locations in Emerald Isle.

Fire Department Exploring Grant Opportunity for Additional Personnel

In an effort to transition from 2-man to 3-man crews on each Fire Engine, the Fire Department is currently exploring a Federal grant opportunity that would provide significant funding for additional firefighter personnel.  The SAFER grant program generally covers salaries and benefits for personnel for the first two years, after which the Town would need to fund the new positions.  I expect to present information about this grant program to the Board of Commissioners at the 2017 budget planning workshop, or perhaps at a regular Board meeting. The Fire Department is currently considering a grant application for either 3 or 6 new personnel.

Community Center Exercise Equipment

The FY 16-17 budget includes $4,800 for the replacement of an existing treadmill.  There have been recent problems, however, with two of the three elliptical machines, and Town staff will likely use these funds to replace the elliptical machines and defer replacement of the treadmill until the next budget cycle.