MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Special Ceremony to Honor Commissioner Hoover and Commissioner Wootten – Dec 8

Town officials, staff, and the general public will honor the service of Commissioner Hoover and Commissioner Wootten at a special ceremony on Tuesday, December 8 at 4 pm.  The ceremony will be held at the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area.  Light refreshments will be served.

Commissioner Wootten has served as a Town Commissioner for 14 years total, including the last 12 consecutive years.  Commissioner Hoover has served as a Town Commissioner for 13 years total, including the last 9 consecutive years.  Commissioner Wootten is currently tied with Commissioner Messer as the longest serving elected official in the history of the Town of Emerald Isle.  After Commissioner Messer and Commissioner Wootten, Lenora Heverly served as Mayor and Commissioner for a total of 13 years, 7 months, and George Spell served as a Commissioner for 13 years, 4 months.  Commissioner Hoover is the 5th-longest serving elected official in the Town’s history.

I know the entire town joins me in thanking Commissioner Hoover and Commissioner Wootten for their exceptional service to the Town of Emerald Isle.

New Commissioners Sworn In at December 8 Meeting

Steve Finch and Candace Dooley will be sworn in as new Town Commissioners near the beginning of the Board’s December 8 regular meeting, and we will also schedule a brief reception at that meeting for the public to offer congratulations. 

Blue Star Memorial Ceremony – November 11 at 11 am – One Lane Detour

Town staff have assisted the EI Garden Club with the November 11 ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker located near the new Welcome Center.  The ceremony will begin at 11 am.  The eastbound lane of NC 58 will be closed during the ceremony, and eastbound traffic will use the westbound lane near the new Welcome Center.  Westbound traffic will be detoured down Bogue Inlet Drive to Canal Drive and over to Old Ferry Road.  We expect the detour to be in effect for less than one hour.

Annual Christmas Parade – November 28 at 3 pm

The 12th annual Christmas parade is coming together, and we appreciate the hard work of Don Wells, parade organizer, the Emerald Isle Business Association, and other volunteers to continue this great annual tradition.  The parade route will again begin near the Town Government complex and travel west on NC 58 to the Mangrove Drive intersection.

Update – The Rusty Pelican

The deadline for the owner of The Rusty Pelican to either make necessary repairs or demolish the structure is November 30.  The owner recently secured a demolition permit, and indicated to Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, that she intends to demolish the building and retain the septic system and parking lot.  Town staff will assist the owner in any way that we can be helpful in this process.

Update – 7405 Archers Creek Court

The deadline for the owner of this property to either make necessary repairs or demolish the structure is December 31.  The owner has been working with a real estate agent on the potential sale of the property, however, we are uncertain as to the status.  The Town has offered to make the EI Fire Department available to burn the structure as a training exercise, however, the owner must secure approval from the mortgage company before this process can proceed.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks

As part of the annual Crystal Coast Countdown events on New Year’s Eve, there will again be a fireworks show from the end of Bogue Inlet Pier.  Fireworks will begin at 9 pm this year in hopes of generating a bigger turnout for the fireworks.  Town staff are also working on a “Shamrock Drop” from the Fire Department’s ladder truck as part of the event.  The fireworks display is funded by the Crystal Coast Countdown organizers.

Electronic Message Sign(s)

With NCDOT’s recent communication indicating that the planned electronic message sign(s) can not be located on NC 58 right-of-way, we continue to consider alternative ideas.  Based on feedback from several individuals, the most likely scenario involves a revision to the Town’s sign ordinance to require non-profit events to use professionally made signs and/or banners for placement in the right-of-way, and/or the installation of attractive, Town-maintained and controlled posts set up specifically for approved banners.  I expect to present the relevant sign ordinance amendment and plan to the Board for consideration at the December or January Board meeting.

Retiree Health Insurance Program

I continue to consider various ideas to provide health insurance benefits to employees who retire with 20 or more years of service to the Town, and I hope to present a proposal to the Board at either the December, January, or February meeting.  I am attempting to provide a meaningful benefit to our dedicated, long-serving employees while building in appropriate cost-control and predictability mechanisms.

2016 Controlled Deer Hunt

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission recently completed the new deer population estimate, and again estimates a total population of 105 deer in the western area of Emerald Isle.  This compares with 105 in fall 2014 and 159 in fall 2013.  Although the population has remained stable, the NC WRC still recommends that the Town strive to remove 30- 50 deer with a controlled hunt in early 2016.  I have attached a copy of the recent letter from the NC WRC Regional Biologist, Evin Stanford.

We intend to duplicate our 2015 approach for the 2016 controlled hunt, and will again use EIPD personnel to remove deer only from Town right of ways, Town property, and wooded private properties that provide permission.  All hunting will be completed with bow and arrow, in the middle of the night, on weekdays only in January (and February, if necessary).  If the Board concurs with this approach, we will begin planning for the 2016 controlled hunt.

New Sidewalk Stubs

Based on positive feedback from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, we are planning to install 4 new sidewalk stubs near the entrance to Emerald Plantation Shopping Center and Old Ferry Road in order to provide for a safer route for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing NC 58 to access nearby retail establishments.  I hope to have these stubs installed before the St. Patrick’s Festival in March.  The new stubs (estimated cost of $6,600 or less) will be funded by funds in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Fund generated through donations and fundraising.

EI EMS, Inc. Audit Completed

I have attached a draft copy of the June 30, 2015 audit report for EI EMS, Inc. that was recently completed by Williams, Scarborough, Smith, and Gray CPAs.  As a result of higher than anticipated call service fees and lower expenditures, EI EMS, Inc. ended the fiscal year with an ending cash balance of $59,329.  I expect that the Joint EMS Committee will discuss the potential use of these funds for the purchase of a new quick-response vehicle in the coming months.

Joint EMS Committee

The Town’s 3 appointments to the Joint EMS Committee are Mayor Barber, Commissioner Wootten, and me.  With Commissioner Wootten’s departure, the Board will need to appoint a replacement to serve on the Joint EMS Committee.  I hope to convene the Joint EMS Committee soon thereafter to discuss the planned vehicle purchase and begin work on their FY 16-17 budget.

Update – Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground

I met recently on-site with SunLand Builders, Yardworks, and Task Contracting to discuss in-kind construction services for the new playground.  The support from these companies is outstanding and is greatly appreciated.

I expect to have SunLand Builders complete the roadway connection from the existing boat ramp parking lot to the new playground before Christmas, with much, if not all of the work being donated.  We then expect to order the playground equipment on or around February 1 with donations in hand at that time (approximately $45,000 in hand now).  Yardworks, Task Contracting, and Sewell Turf Grass will provide in-kind labor, donated materials, and Rotary grant funds to complete landscaping and parking area improvements in February or March.

The Town expects to learn the outcome of the grant request for the construction of an elevated wooden walkway from the playground to the boat ramp pier by February.  If the grant is awarded, grant funds would not be available until later in 2016, and this feature would be constructed in fall 2016.  If the grant funds are not awarded, this walkway will be delayed indefinitely

Depending on available funds in the future, we also hope to add a small, prefabricated unisex bathroom near the new playground equipment.  There is sufficient land available to accommodate this addition after the playground equipment is installed.

Bogue Inlet Drive Bicycle Path, Street Improvements?

After the installation of decorative lighting this winter and other minor expenses, the balance in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Fund Committee’s account will be approximately $30,000, with an additional $25,000 +/- expected from the 2016 marathon races.

There is some ongoing discussion about using these funds to construct a dedicated bicycle path spur from NC 58 to Bogue Inlet Pier, which would be a great addition to the Town’s bicycle path network.  If this idea is pursued, I’d like to also explore the potential for resurfacing Bogue Inlet Drive or potentially even redesigning the street layout for Bogue Inlet Drive to create a more attractive and functional street.  It would also be ideal to add new decorative lights, trees, and signage in this area also.  Please let me know your thoughts on this idea.

Donation Jar Pays Off Over Time

As noted in the attached letter from Ken Stone, Chairman of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, to Ronnie Ryan, owner of Highway 58 Bikes, the donation jar in place at their store has generated a total of $4,796 in recent years.  That’s a significant amount from a donation jar, and reflects the popularity of the Town’s bicycle path network.

New State Laws May Impact Town

Additional research is necessary before making any adjustments, however, 4 new State laws may have a significant impact on Town operations in the future:

  • A new law appears to prohibit a municipality from enforcing a local storm water ordinance that is more stringent than State regulation. For more than 15 years, the Town has enforced a storm water ordinance that requires all development, including single-family homes and duplexes (not required by State regulations) to control runoff from all impervious surfaces on site from the first 2 inches of rainfall.  The Town’s 2 inch standard is also greater than the State’s 1.5 inch standard.  The Town’s storm water ordinance may need to be amended to reflect these changes, or may even need to be completely repealed.  If the Town’s ordinance can not be more stringent than State regulations, there may be no point in having a Town storm water ordinance.
  • A new law appears to require the Town to formally notify adjacent property owners about  all new public construction projects.  The Town often notifies nearby property owners about construction projects anyway, but this new requirement will add another formal step to the construction process.
  • A new law requires all State and local government agencies to post financial data on a website, and we are awaiting guidance from the Local Government Commission regarding the level of detail required to be posted.  The Town has routinely posted summary budget information each month for many years, however, it’s not clear if the new law will require real-time reporting of all Town financial transactions.  This could result in additional workload and expense for the Town to comply.
  • There has long been authority for a municipality to collect an annual $5 motor vehicle fee for all registered vehicles in the Town.  The Town has never seriously considered this fee in the past because it would have only generated approximately $12,000 - $15,000 annually.  The General Assembly has adopted new legislation that increases this fee to $30 per motor vehicle annually, and the Board may wish to consider this potential revenue source in future budgets to augment the street resurfacing budget.  The $30 fee could generate anywhere from $72,000 - $90,000 in new revenue.  

Gradual Distribution of Topsoil in NC 58 Right of Way    

As time and funds permit, Town staff plan to gradually add topsoil to the sandy depressions along the wide NC 58 right of way between Coast Guard Road and the Welcome Center in an effort to promote the establishment of grass in these areas.  The establishment of grass will improve the aesthetics of this area and also make it easier to mow these areas in the future.  As discussed previously with the Board, our initial goal was to make the NC 58 right of way “look like a park”, and I believe we have achieved that goal.  Our new goal is to eventually make the NC 58 right of way “look like a golf course”.  I hope we will be able to achieve that goal over time.

12th Street Speed Concerns

EIPD continues to collect data on motor vehicle speeds on Ocean Drive near 12th Street.  Depending on the average speeds, maximum speeds, and frequency of speeding in this 25 mph zone, Town staff may install a 3-way STOP sign at this intersection in the coming weeks.

Additional Deck Safety Efforts

Town staff still plan to coordinate with the condominium complexes in Emerald Isle to develop a similar, voluntary deck inspection program for these rental units. This initiative will take additional effort due to the number of condo complexes and the need to get several HOA boards involved.

Additionally, Town staff are working with Planning Board member Jim Osika to potentially schedule a special training session offered by the North American Deck and Railing Association.  The intended audience for the training is licensed general contractors, home inspectors, rental property maintenance personnel, local government inspectors, and the general public.  We hope to schedule this training for December if there is sufficient interest.

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 Removed

A contractor for the Town recently removed these three soundside walkways from Sound Drive to Bogue Sound that were very old, in poor condition, and not built to acceptable standards originally.  Natural paths remain in place for people to access the Bogue Sound shoreline, and additional minor path clearing will likely be completed to insure a safe route.

New Sea Turtle Monument / Public Art Display

Based on a recommendation from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Town staff have ordered a new bronze sea turtle monument to be placed in the park-like area adjacent to the new Welcome Center.  New benches will also be added.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is also discussing ideas for the addition of public art in this area.  It is hoped that any new public art would clearly identify “Emerald Isle”, and become a popular photo location, with photos then posted on various social media sites, in turn helping to promote Emerald Isle as a tourism and retirement destination.

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, 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.

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 literally any day. 

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.

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.