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Grant Needed for Hodges Repair, Budget Agenda Set
January 2022 Town Board Meeting
January 6, 2022

n the first Town Board Meeting of 2022, Commissioners discussed repairs to the Net House (near the public bathrooms and town dock #2), set the agenda for the upcoming budget workshop, and empowered the Town Manager to go after a USDA grant to help pay for the repairs needed on Hodges Street where the sidewalk is separating from the sea wall.

Mayor Sally Belangia was absent. Commissioner David White presided as Mayor Pro Tempore in her place. Commissioners Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Sandy Winfrey, and Frank Roe were present as were 10 members of the public.

Public Comments
Three members of the public were signed up to speak, including former Commissioner Martin Barrow who relinquished his seat on the board when he moved outside town limits.

town hall sign Gail Wallace was first to speak. She addressed her comments to the board, referencing a letter she sent to Mayor Belangia after the December Town meeting (linked below). She spoke to the selection process of Mayor Pro Tempore, citing differences in the procedure from 2019 when there was no second nomination (unlike at the December meeting). Wallace also said she thought the December meeting draft minutes posted on the town website lacked detail, and that she found the process unprofessional.

Former Commissioner Martin Barrow was next to speak, but declined to do so.

Debbie Slook asked for an update on the break-ins she’d heard about on Ragan Road. Town Manager Diane Miller replied that the officer scheduled to be at the meeting was absent due to a medical appointment. Miller said she would get an update from him and share it when the officer was again available.

The net house on the harbor. It will need more work than previously thought.
Net House needs work and Wall St. needs rocks
Two issues on the agenda – the Net House Repairs and the need for more rock/rip rap along the breakwater – were combined as funding was likely to come from the same place.

Net House Repairs Repairs to the Net House have been in play since 2018 when it was derailed by Hurricane Florence. The issue was taken up again in January of 2021, with plans to remove the gum tree and begin renovations.

Town Manager Miller said that Commissioner Sandy Winfrey had begun work on the building only to discover that the damage was more extensive than expected. Both Winfrey and Miller suggested hiring a contractor who could do the necessary full-time work on the building.

Pete’s Tree Service is donating ‘actual sized lumber’ – “when 2×4s were actually 2×4,” Miller said, which will help cut repair costs. Commissioner Winfrey will donate his time as well to restore or replicate the decorative pieces on the building.

Commissioner Roe said he and Commissioner White went to see it together and he thinks it needs to be restored as a historically significant building and the money should be spent restoring it.

Commissioner White said the Harbor Waterfronts Committee said the Net House was their number one priority. White also said that, in speaking with contractors on site, there is an estimate of $38,000 to $50,000 given everything that needs to happen.

Miller said that there was $61,000 in funds for Harbor Waterfronts – they had expected to use that money for other projects that did not materialize this year.

Rock at the end of Wall St. Miller informed the board that the end of Wall St. along the waterfront is in need of more rock. Miller said Dan Allen of the Harbor Waterfront Advisory Committee had kayaked out and “noticed significant erosion going on.”

As there is already a residence going in there and they are ordering rock as well, Miller said “there is potential to hook onto their contract, thus savings us [the cost] of mobilization, staging, all of those things, if you would so choose to do that.”

“Here is where I think we combine the rock with the net house construction,” said White. He then made a motion for Manager Miller to have the authority to look at bids for both projects and to not exceed $61,000 in the cost for both of those items.

Commissioner Roe interjected with his own motion – prewritten and passed out while he spoke – also authorizing Manager Miller to take action on the Net House.

Overcash asked Roe if he wanted to add the rock to his motion, Roe agreed. The Board agreed unanimously to empower Manager Miller to act on both those issues up to a combined amount of $61,000.

Commissioner Sandy Winfrey looks over the USDA grant information while Commissioner Frank Roe listens to Town Manager Diane Miller.
Looking to USDA to help fund Hodges Street repair
In March of 2018, the town received a grant to conduct a Resilience Need and Evaluation Assessment (RENA) engineering study on the flooding that occurs on Hodges Street. In a presentation to the board at the January 2022 meeting, Manager Miller said that 2018 engineering estimate came in at approximately $769,000, “not including the sea wall.”

At the December meeting, Miller reported the sea wall at Hodges Street is separating and causing buckling and instability along the road.

Miller used the 2018 RENA study estimate as reason to secure grants to help fund the repairs. Including the sea wall, she said, “we’re looking at well over a million dollars.” Miller asked the board for authorization to start the process of applying for a grant from the USDA – the same organization that helped fund the Whittaker Point Restoration Project.

Miller said this particular grant – the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program – has a construction timeline of 2-3 years – one she is not comfortable with given the rapid deterioration of the Hodges Street sea wall.

“If we get to a point where we cannot make this [WFPO] process move quickly enough to fix the problem, they [the USDA] can choose to switch it to the Emergency Watershed Protection [fund]. This is the best way to get the project fully funded.”

The board unanimously agreed and Town Manager Miller is beginning the application process to apply for the grant.

Meeting schedule and Budget Workshop Agenda
2022 Meeting Schedule and Times Six months ago, Town Board Meeting times were changed from 7p in the evenings to 8a in the mornings for a trial period of six months. Commissioners request public feedback to determine if 8a meeting times should be made permanent or if the Board should return to 7p meeting times.

Commissioner Roe asked that board meetings not be scheduled directly after holidays “in order to allow the staff time to get [meeting] information out so we have time to read it” before the meetings.

The 2022 meeting schedule will be discussed in February when more information has been gathered regarding meeting times.

Quarterly Workshop Agenda The fiscal year for the town begins every July 1. Budget meetings are set for the first half of the calendar year to determine how the town will budget its funds and whether or not to raise taxes. The first step in the process is the Budget Workshop – when the auxiliary boards present their plans for the year and make funding requests, and Commissioners discuss what town projects need attention.

At January’s meeting, Town Manager Miller asked Commissioners for the project topics they wanted to include in this year’s workshop. Commissioner Roe passed out a list of topics he wanted to include for discussion. The board agreed with the list and it was approved for the Quarterly Workshop.

The Quarterly Workshop topics are:
• Improve communication
• Progress report on key projects, including road repairs
• Include photos of work progress
• Include a public works water plant report to the town meetings
• Discuss retention of town meeting recordings

Claudine Fields makes a presentation to town Commissioners for a new Mardi Gras parade. Gail Wallace listens in.
New event coming to Town
Claudine Fields is the event manager for the Old Theater and requests, on their behalf, street closures for a Mardi Gras themed parade. The parade would follow the same routes as others.

The board granted the street closures and asked that The Old Theater contact businesses along the parade route and informed them of the closure.

The Mardi Gras parade is scheduled to take place Saturday, February 26, 1-2p.

Police Report
The police report is in the links below and contains information on from the radar on Broad St.

There was no officer present – he was absent for a medical appointment. Town Manager Miller said she would secure a statement from the officer regarding the break-ins on Ragan Rd. That statement will be posted when received.

Manager’s Report
Drainage Update – Ragan Road drainage is working, says Miller. “It’s more running through the ditches than across the street, so we’re making progress.” Miller says other blockages have been identified and Public Works is “shooting elevation and making sure that the drainage is running to the lowest point, and that the lowest point is where it’s supposed to be.”
CycleNC will be here in 2023. Miller says the first discussions are happening now to determine “where to house both RVs and tent campers for the events.” The date has not yet been settled due to a conflict with Easter.
Not all Short-term rentals accounted for Miller reports AirBnB, the company that organizes nightly rentals in private homes, is not sending the correct information to town about rentals as mandated by state law. Miller reports the town is only receiving a check and is not confident about their reporting. Oriental has a ‘Heads-in-Bed’ Occupancy Tax that is used to help fund tourism.

Miller is looking into a software company called GovOS Short Term Rentals that does a daily check with online rental companies to determine which renters are accurately reporting their occupancy taxes. “We are at a point where once we can prove that somebody is not doing what they’re supposed to do, you [the board] can revoke SUPS [special use permits] for short term rentals because we are not getting the occupancy tax that we should be getting.” Miller said they are waiting to see what the service would cost on an annual basis.

Commissioner Comments
Commissioner Charlie Overcash invited Commissioner Roe to attend a Parks and Recreation meeting to see the extent of the work they’ve done with the Town’s recreational areas. Roe accepted.

Commissioner Roe told the board that Bill Sabiston, who lives along South Ave, told him that he was very pleased to see the work on Ragan Rd. Roe said Bill “wanted to compliment everybody, thank you for doing it, and please make sure that the Public Work people know that citizens noticed it.”

Commissioner Roe also passed out an article from the North Carolina School of Government titled “Full & Accurate” Minutes: A Primer. The document is a supplement to the Budget Workshop topic of Town Record Retention and is included in the links below.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, February 1st at 8a. Town Hall will be closed February 14th. The Town Quarterly Workshop is Thursday, January 27 at 8a. The Budget Retreat is March 4 at 8a.

Related Links
January Meeting Agenda
December 2021 Meeting Minutes
2022 Meeting Schedule
USDA Grant Guidance
Mardi Gras Parade Request
Net House renovation
Police Report
Manager’s Report
• Auxiliary Board Reports
“Full and Accurate” Minutes: A Primer

Posted Thursday January 6, 2022 by Allison DeWeese

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