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Board Finalizes Budget, Looks at Dilapidated Properties Ordinance
Town Board Meeting July 2020
July 7, 2020

uly’s Town Board Meeting was held June 25, to avoid the July 4 holiday. It coincided with the last of the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget meetings. With the drop in tourism dollars due to the coronavirus pandemic, the coming year’s budget is focused on maintaining town assets.

Commissioners and Town Manager Diane Miller discussed several budget amendments, the increasing cost of recycling, and the expected reimbursement of FEMA funds from previous years’ hurricanes.

Commissioner Martin Barrow and Mayor Sally Belangia were both absent for this meeting.

town hall sign Commissioner David White served as mayor pro tempore in Mayor Belangia’s absence. The remaining commissioners, David White, Charlie Overcash, Alan Price, and Dianne Simmons, heard public comments and approved the final budget for the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year.

Public Comments:
Jennifer Roe, who also spoke during June’s Town Board meeting, once again addressed the board regarding the budget. She said that she was not trying to personally attack Town Manager Diane Miller at the last meeting and praised her for the work she’s done securing grants to repair and restore Oriental’s waterways. Roe said she was concerned with the matter of the town’s money; “is the board being a good steward of the community’s money?”

Manager Miller answered Roe, saying she did not take it as an attack, but felt there was misinformation and wanted to clarify. Manager Miller included several responses to Roe’s comments in her Manager’s report, available in the links at the end of the article.

Fireworks are good to go for July 3
With the cancellation of Croaker Festival this year, private citizens worked to keep the annual fireworks celebration, and have it set off from the bridge. With the current COVID-19 restrictions in place, it is the only event happening on the July 4 weekend.

The Oriental Bridge will be closed on Friday from 3p-11p.

Projects on Whittaker Creek
Whittaker Creek Dredging project is finished. The Whittaker Creek dredge was completed in May. The Friends of Whittaker Creek secured a two-thirds matching grant for the project; residents and businesses helped raise just over 1/3 of the grant cost – $115,344. The rest of the funds – $218,744 came from a grant.

However, the project came in under budget. The overage amount – $29,904 – has gone into and account for the Friends of Whittaker Creek. The funds are to be used as seed money for the future dredging of Whittaker Creek. A spokesperson for Friends of Whittaker Creek said donors will be receiving a letter from the Friends of Whittaker Association about the fund and future dredging efforts.

Whittaker Point Restoration Project Crews continue to drop marble along the outside of the point. Town Manager Miller says the project is farther along than she thought it would be. Marble will snake along the outside of the point and curve around the edge. A 25 ft jetty is planned for the end of the point, to further protect the creek.

Final amendments for the 2020-2021 FY budget
There were several budget amendments – moving monies from one line item to another in order to balance the budget.

South Water Street Survey One in particular included a $1,000 expense to the Powell Fund (a state fund for small municipalities for upkeep to roads and sidewalks).

This $1,000 went to survey South Water Street after a resident complained about the right of way. South Water Street has a large pothole at the junction of Main Street that hold water whenever it rains or floods. There are plans to repair the road at the same time road repairs are made to White Farm Rd after the Whittaker Point Restoration is complete.

One of the plans for South Water Street is to install curb and gutter and make it a one-way street.

Resident Keith Smith was in the audience and asked why the funds were spent on the survey. Manager Miller said that during her tenure as Town Manager, there were no records to prove the road was in the correct spot. Smith said that the record existed before her tenure, and that the road had been surveyed before at a cost of $1,500 because of complaints from the same resident. Smith is a resident of South Water Street and has been advocating for the repair of the South Water Street pothole for years.

Expenses incurred by the town due to COVID-19 will be reimbursed either by FEMA or by a grant obtained by Pamlico County. FEMA will pay for some expenses as it does in any emergency, however there are some costs it will not pay for such as extra cleaning supplies for public facilities, signs to close docks & parks, and fees to use the Zoom platform for government business. Those costs can be reimbursed through the county’s grant.

Capital Improvements Plan
Public Works director Drew Cox presented the Public Works capital improvement plan to the board. It is a record of all equipment in the water plant. Beyond the equipment, it also includes water meters, fire hydrants, and valves as well as service records, including replacement dates.

Manager Miller said some valves date back to 1975 but cannot be accessed because they are under the streets. Those are replaced when the streets need repair as was done with South Ave.

Wait on FEMA reimbursement delays Capital Reserve Ordinance amendment
The Board chose to wait on the remainder of FEMA reimbursements from Hurricane Florence before approving a transfer of funds from one project to another. Capital Reserve Funds had been created on a yearly basis to collect money to replace the generator at Town Hall. The generator failed during Hurricane Florence and the FEMA and insurance funds paid for a new one.

As a generator fund is no longer needed, a resolution to move the money from the generator fund to another public works fund – one to purchase a multi-terrain skid steer loader.

Not all FEMA monies have come in yet; it can take up to three years for full reimbursement. Town Manager Diane Miller said she fully expects to receive all outstanding FEMA funds. The Board chose to wait on the amendment until all funds were received.

Water Bill gets a new look
Residents will see a new water bill this coming month. The new bill has more information and is now letter sized instead of postcard sized. The switch in format was made by the company printing the bills and not Town Hall. An example of the new bill is in the links below.

Hurricane Preparedeness
Hurricane season officially began June 1. Town Hall has prepared a Hurricane Prep Package. Inside is a list of cards with emergency phone numbers, an emergency supply kit checklist, an NC hurricane guide, forms for your car or home if you are evacuating. The package can be picked up at Town Hall or downloaded below.

Because of COVID-19, Intern Captain Deal said the state is looking to open more evacuation shelters. Those extra shelters have not been announced yet.

Office Nic Blayney added that when taking inventory of home items for insurance purposes, make sure to get the serial numbers as well. In the case of looting during the hurricane, police will have a better chance of tracking down stolen property if it is pawned.

Prohibition of Discrimination in the Workplace
In order to remain in compliance with state government and to continue to receive government funds, the board adopted a resolution for Title VI prohibiting discrimination in the programs and services. Manager Miller said Town Hall contracts already contain this wording, the adoption of the ordinance was a formality.

Parrothead Regatta is Coming
The Neuse Yacht Racing Association will be in town on June 25-26. They have made a request to reserve town dock one and to be able to raft up there. The Board said they could have town dock 2, but no rafting would be allowed. They can also tie up to the bulkhead if necessary.

Manager Miller said she was told that most in the regatta prefer to pay for a slip so as to have access to electricity and water. The Commodore for the Neuse Yacht Racing Association said their members will be practicing social distancing.

Planning Board will take up ordinance on dilapidated houses
Town Commissioners are asking the Planning Board to look at ordinances for dilapidated homes. “We’re really interested in vacant and uninhabitable homes. Homes that are a danger – and I’m sure everyone has one in mind – homes that have critters living in them and couldn’t possibly be up to anyone’s code and have been allowed to deteriorate,” said Commissioner Dianne Simmons. “We are interested in are the homes that are in danger, the homes that allow property values to decrease.”

Commissioner David White said they are talking “about going after public safety and not appearance.”

The Planning Board will have some time to come up with an ordinance. Manager Miller said the current state legislation for land use has been repealed and the new law will not go into effect until January of 2021.

The session law governing the new rules is a 120 page document showing the old and new language, and is included in the links below.

Street Assessments coming in 2020
Manager Miller said she was approached by engineers at JM Teague Engineering to help with any other projects the town might have. JM Teague did the design and engineering of South Avenue (destroyed in Hurricane Florence) for free.

She received a quote from the firm to do an assessment on the town’s streets and it came in much less than expected: $13,642. Miller also said she had been trying to contact a different engineering firm for several months and they were not communicating with her.

The Board agreed to go ahead with the JM Teague proposal and will make a budget amendment after July 1 showing them going with the new firm.

Trash and Recycling Costs
At the June meeting, it was announced that recycling fees are going up $1.95 per bin. In order to keep Oriental’s recycling program, the town subsidizes the recycling pickup. At the June Town Board meeting, members of the audience asked Commissioners to limit households to one recycling bin each and to see if there were other ways to handle the recycling issue.

At this meeting, Manager Miller reported only 5 households have an extra bin, and only one business has extra bins.

Manager Miller laid out some options for the Board, and reminded them they didn’t have to make any choices until the recycling costs were greater than the trash and tipping fees.

In one of those options, the town can get rid of recycling altogether. But the tipping fees will increase because of the additional weight of the recycling added to the existing trash. Also, if the town gets rid of the recycling program, they can never get it back with this company. Most companies are now refusing recycling services because there is no place for it.

Another problem with recycling is the large containers at the Recreation Center off Straight Rd near the fire station. Those are paid for by the county. The county does not have trash pickup and county residents often use the recycle roll-offs as a trash dump site. If the town gets rid of those large bins, then they are afraid the uncollected trash will end up elsewhere including overflowing the town trash bins.

Commissioner David White said that County Manager Tim Buck wished to speak to the Board about what the county is doing with trash and recycling. He expects County Manager Buck may be at the August Town Board Meeting.

Another additional trash cost is that for green waste. Miller said the cost was originally only four to six thousand dollars, but has increased as more people are using it. The upside is that the town no longer has issues with residents burning green waste and the ditches and drainage systems have remained clear.

The board declined to make any changes at this time.

Police Report
Officer Blayney said numbers for June were premature as the month had not ended at the time of the meeting. There was not a lot of movement in town, though the department had been cross-training with fire and EMS.

Manager’s Report
Emergency Management Team is meeting this coming month to discuss upcoming hurricane preparations and look at what worked and what didn’t from the prior year.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, August 4 at 7p. The Planning Board meets July 17, 3p in the large board room at Town Hall.

Related Information
July Meeting Agenda
Public Works Capital Improvement Plan
Capital Reserve Ordinance
New Water Bills
Title VI Non-Discrimination Policy
Whittaker Creek Dredging Reimbursement Close-Out
Budget Amendment
Parrothead Regatta Information
Session Law 2019 on Land Use (including dilapidated property)
Town Board Meeting Calendar
NC Executive Order 147
Manager’s Report including Financials
Auxiliary Board Reports

Town Hall Hurricane Preparedness Information
If Evacuating Your Home
Oriental SmartCard
Emergency Supply Kit Checklist
Emergency Information for Pet Owners (ASPCA)
Emergency Information for Seniors (FEMA)
NC Hurricane Guide

Posted Tuesday July 7, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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