MEMO TO: Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners
FROM: Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager
SUBJECT: Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report
NC Court of Appeals Ruling - Nies v. Emerald Isle
On November 17, the NC Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision in the Town’s favor in this case. The ruling affirms the public’s right to use the dry-sand, public trust beach area on all North Carolina beaches, thus I am very pleased with the ruling. A copy of the ruling is attached. It is uncertain at this time whether or not the plaintiffs plan to seek an appeal to the NC Supreme Court or, possibly, to the US Supreme Court.
NADRA Deck Evaluation Class – December 10, 8 am
The North American Deck and Railing Association will present a special deck evaluation class on Thursday, December 10 at 8 am in the Town Board Meeting Room. The class is expected to last for approximately 4 hours. The Town is partnering with Carteret County, Simpson Stong-Tie (fastener company), and Cox Industries (treated lumber) to offer this class as a public service at no charge. We are hopeful that this class will expand everyone’s collective knowledge about best practices for deck construction and maintenance in Emerald Isle.
As of December 4, a total of 58 contractors, inspectors, vacation rental maintenance personnel, and others had signed up for the class. We can accommodate up to 100 people in the class, and will allow members of the general public to attend until we reach the limit. Participants may register at: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=z6g7a5bab&oeidk=a07ebu255nd92195ce4 .
New Fall Music and Food Festival - on the Beach?
Based on input from the Town’s Economic Development Steering Committee in 2014 and ideas expressed during the 2015 campaign for Town Commissioner, we are considering the possible creation of a fall music and food festival on the beach strand in the future.
Preliminary ideas include renting a stage to be placed at the Western Ocean Regional Access near the top of the dune, facing the ocean, with the crowd enjoying the music from the beach strand. The music festival would be held in late September, when the air and water temperatures are still very warm, in an effort to lure a large crowd to Emerald Isle for the entire weekend. The parking lot at the Western Ocean Regional Access would be used to host various food vendors and food trucks, and public parking would be located on the NC 58 right of way. It is expected that visitors would arrive via the beach strand and via the street, and visitors could pass freely between the beach strand and the parking lot.
Beach music is an obvious theme for the event, along with other popular genres. Alcohol would be permitted, but would be monitored by law enforcement. It will be necessary to determine the best mechanism to fund the musical entertainment (charge a fee for vendors to set up and/or use a beer tent area to generate sufficient funds to pay for the stage rental and music acts? contributions from sponsors?). With the proper planning (and the luck of good weather!) this could become a second signature event (along with the St. Patrick’s Festival) for Emerald Isle each fall.
Please let me know your thoughts on this idea.
Storm Water Issues – November 19 Rainfall Event
The Town received approximately 6 – 7 inches of rain in a matter of a few hours during the afternoon of November 19, causing several nuisance flooding concerns, primarily in eastern Emerald Isle and in areas along Coast Guard Road. Public Works staff worked tirelessly to address the worst problem areas that evening and through the following weekend, and by November 21 most problems were resolved.
The Town’s fixed pumps at Deer Horn Drive, Conch Court, Spinnakers Reach (2 pumps), and Lands End (multiple private pumps connected to Town system) worked very well, and cleared those areas that evening. The pump at Island Circle took about a day to fully clear water from the road surface on Coast Guard Road and Island Circle. Town staff worked with Lands End representatives to modulate the flow from the two neighborhoods (The Point and Lands End) to maximize pump effectiveness, and will continue to evaluate the best mix of pumps (Lands End actually has 2 diesel pumps and 2 electric pumps, and relied primarily on 1 powerful diesel pump during this event) to maximize effectiveness in the future. The older fixed pump at Doe Drive was working throughout and after the event, but it was later discovered that a large piece of concrete inside the pump station severely restricted the outflow. Portable pumps were used to clear that area on November 23.
The Osprey Ridge neighborhood was perhaps the worst-impacted area in Emerald Isle, and Public Works deployed several portable pumps to clear that area by discharging in Emerald Isle Woods Park. I believe the Town should begin planning for the installation of a new fixed pump station in Osprey Ridge in the near future, and I plan to discuss this potential project with the Board during the FY 16-17 budget process that will begin in February.
The Emerald Isle Woods emergency discharge was activated for approximately 3 days, and worked exactly as intended. I am also currently working with Town staff, the Cape Emerald Homeowners Association, and State officials to reduce pond-level fluctuation in Cape Emerald, which receives storm water from a major Town drainage pipe in Ocean Oaks.
Budget Planning Workshop – Friday, February 19?
It is hard to believe, but it’s almost time to start the FY 16-17 budget process. I am suggesting Friday, February 19 (likely from 8 am – early afternoon) for the Board’s annual budget planning workshop. Please let me know if this date is acceptable to you.
Vendors at Eastern Ocean Regional Access, Western Ocean Regional Access
We have invited Emerald Isle food establishments to a special meeting on Wednesday, December 16 at 10 am to discuss the possibility of allowing food vendors to set up at both of the Town’s regional access facilities during summer 2016. I hope to use the December 16 meeting to determine the level of interest by EI food establishments in this opportunity, solicit their input, and then present a formal plan to the Board of Commissioners at either the January or February Board meeting. Following Board approval, we would seek proposals from interested vendors this spring, and be ready to offer this service no later than May.
Land Use Plan Consultant Selection Process
The Town received submissions from 5 consulting firms interested in assisting with the Town’s upcoming Land Use Plan update. A subcommittee of Commissioner Messer, Planning Board Chairman Ken Sullivan, Town Planner Josh Edmondson, and me will meet on December 11 to review the submissions and invite 1 or more firms to interview for the project. I expect to have a contract recommendation on the Board’s January 12 meeting agenda.
Essentials of Municipal Government Course
New Commissioners Dooley and Finch and I will attend this course presented by the UNC School of Government on January 8 and 9 in Hickory, NC. This course includes a wealth of information about local government in North Carolina, and I look forward to attending with the two new Commissioners.
“Downtown” Trees and Lighting
The new trees will be installed along NC 58 beginning the week of December 7, and the installation of the new decorative lights is expected to also begin that week. I expect the trees to be completed before Christmas, while the light installation will likely extend into January.
Fire Prevention Month a Big Success
The Emerald Isle Fire Department hosted a total of 395 kids and 125 adults at Fire Station 1 during Fire Prevention Month in October. Children from White Oak Elementary, Morehead City Primary, Bogue Sound Elementary, Gramercy School, and the Emerald Isle Community Center participated in the program this year. EIFD does a great job!
3-Way STOP Signs - 12th St. / Ocean Dr.
Chief Waters and I have reviewed speed data for motorists on Ocean Drive in multiple locations and timeframes over the past 6 months, and the data indicates frequent speeding in this area. In an effort to slow traffic down in this area, I am planning to install new 3-way STOP signs at the intersection of 12th St. / Ocean Dr. in the coming weeks.
Welcome Center Visits Up During First Two Months of Operation in EI
A total of 2,177 people visited the new Welcome Center in Emerald Isle in September and October 2015. This is significantly higher than the total of 817 visitors at the old mainland location during September and October 2014, and is encouraging. I suspect that some of these visitors were simply curious about the new building, and I am looking forward to seeing a full year comparison next fall.
New Sidewalk Stubs
New sidewalk stubs near the entrance to Emerald Plantation Shopping Center and Old Ferry Road will be constructed in January, and should provide a safer route for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing NC 58 to access nearby retail establishments. The $3,300 cost is being funded by revenues in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Fund.
New Beach Vehicle Ramp Gates
We have ordered 3 new steel gates for the Ocean Drive dog-leg ramp, Black Skimmer ramp, and The Point ramp, and we expect them to be installed later in December or January. 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.
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. I hope to have a contract award on the Board’s January or February meeting agenda. In light of recent deck issues, we will be soliciting bids using all stainless steel fasteners and bolts, which may increase the cost slightly.
Update – The Rusty Pelican
The deadline for the owner of The Rusty Pelican to either make necessary repairs or demolish the structure was December 4, and no progress has occurred. Town staff will continue to work with the owner over the next several weeks, and if no progress occurs the Board will be asked to consider Town-initiated demolition at the January Board meeting.
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. Although we are not certain, it does not appear that much progress is occurring on this property. If no progress occurs over the next several weeks, the Board will also be asked to consider Town-initiated demolition at the January Board meeting.
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 planning 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.
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 the 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 Emerald Isle Police Department continues to plan for the 2016 controlled hunt, which will begin in early January. EIPD personnel will 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). Due to EIPD’s efficiency, the 2015 controlled hunt was complete (quota met) by late January, and I am hopeful that the 2016 hunt will also be complete by late January. Based on the recommendation of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, a total of 30 – 50 deer will be removed. All deer meat will be donated to the Hope Mission in Morehead City to feed the hungry in our county.
Expanded Use of New Logo
Decals with the new Town logo have been installed on all Public Works and Parks and Recreation vehicles, and will also soon be added (in a complementary manner) to Police and Fire vehicles. The new logo will also be added to the Town Planner truck soon.
The new logo has also been added at both “Welcome to Emerald Isle” signs, and will also soon be added to the signs at the Town Government complex.
Update – Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground
I am working with SunLand Builders to have the driveway connection installed in December or January, with much of the cost donated by SunLand Builders. Yardworks and Task Contracting have arranged for the donation of attractive brick pavers to construct the new parking spaces, and that work will occur after the driveway connection is completed.
We are currently evaluating playground equipment proposals, and will present a contract recommendation to the Board at either the January or February meeting. The playground equipment will be funded entirely by donations for the project. A combination of Rotary grant funds and contributions by Yardworks will fund the landscaping improvements.
We remain on track to open the playground on May 25, 2016, the late Senator Preston’s birthday.
Beach Patrol / Lifeguard Program Improvements
Emerald Isle Fire Department personnel are working on various improvements to the Town’s beach patrol / lifeguard program for 2016, and I hope to finalize these improvements later in December. We expect to begin recruitment efforts in early 2016.
We are currently researching the applicable laws, potential equipment, and other issues associated with the Town possibly utilizing drones in the future. We are still early in our research, but drones may eventually be helpful to Town staff to monitor beach erosion and inlet migration, identify rip currents, monitor crowds at public events, photograph construction projects, assess Fire scenes, and even deliver floatation devices to distressed swimmers, among many other potential applications. I hope to eventually present a recommendation to the Board for the purchase of a Town drone at some point in the next year.
I have contracted with Playa Graphics, an Emerald Isle graphic arts firm (Brad Styron), to produce a 3 – 5 minute promotional video about Emerald Isle that will highlight all of the great things about our community. I expect to showcase the attractiveness of Emerald Isle to potential future permanent residents (families and retirees), second homeowners, and visitors. The video will initially be utilized on the Town’s website, Facebook, and Twitter applications, and could potentially become a television commercial for Emerald Isle.
The Emerald Isle “App”
I am currently considering the development of a smartphone “app” that could be used by our residents and visitors to learn about the Town, request Town services, report problems, identify local businesses, and more. I hope to implement the “app” sometime in 2016.
Unified Development Ordinance Review
I continue to review the Town’s UDO (that regulates new construction and development in Emerald Isle) in an effort to create a much simpler, user-friendly document. I hope to complete this review in the next few months and present it to the Planning Board and ultimately the Board of Commissioners for review and approval sometime in 2016.
Emerald Isle Logo T-Shirts ON SALE Soon
T-shirts with the new Town logo (including Nice Matters!) will soon be on sale at the Town Administration Building and the new Welcome Center. The 100% cotton beefy-Ts will be available for $15 each.