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March Town Board Meeting
Boat lifts approved, Audit accepted
March 9, 2023

P
ublic comments about the state of S. Water Street, a presentation from the Town’s auditor, and a CAMA permit for boat lifts at Oriental Harbor Marina were among the topics at the March Town Board Meeting.

town hall sign Fifteen members of the public were present. Also in attendance were Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioners David White, Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Sandy Winfrey, and Frank Roe. Also in attendance were Town Manager Diane Miller, Deputy Finance Director Tammy Cox, and Officer Nic Blayney.

Residents Request Repairs to S. Water Street
Three residents spoke during the public comment period. All spoke to the rugged condition of S. Water Street.

Darlene Marquart lives at the corner of S. Water and Main Street. She said the road holds water for days after it rains. Marquart said she’d seen pedestrians trying to navigate the flooded crossing between S. Water and Main Street without getting wet. “When it rains and you’re walking down Main Street, you cannot cross to S. Water Street without getting water up to your shin.”

To illustrate her point, Marquart used her iPad to show pictures of S. Water when it was dry, when it was wet, and after when it held water after the rest of the town had dried. “This water stays there for quite some time.” She said there had only been about half an inch of rain when she had taken the pictures.

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Darlene Marquart shows Commissioner Charlie Overcash pictures of a flooded S. Water Street during public comments.

Keith Smith, also a resident of S. Water Street, took a turn at the podium. At the February meeting, he’d said he planned to continue to show up and speak at meetings until something was done about the road. “When they [visitors] go wander merely a block away from the town dock, from the harbor and down our street, it does not make for a positive experience. I know there are things we can do to make it right, and I hope we can make it happen.”

Carla Fisher lives on S. Water Street near the waterfront, and she asked that Commissioners “please don’t forget the other end [of the street]. We flood, too, and it all gulley washes right on down.”

CAMA Land Use Plan Public Hearing
Commissioners reviewed the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) Land Use Plan (LUP) presented by the Planning Board. The CAMA LUP is a living document required by law explaining how the town uses and is in compliance with regulations from the Coastal Area Management Act.

It sets out the town’s vision for the town, as well as goals and concerns for the waterfront and environment. The CAMA LUP is also one of two documents referred to when making a change to the town’s General Management Ordinances (GMO); any changes must comply with the CAMA Land Use Plan and the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.

Commissioners unanimously approved the document as it was written. It will now be sent to the district planner in Morehead City to be accepted, or returned for revisions. Commissioners Charlie Overcash, Frank Roe, and David White commended the Planning Board for their work.

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Deputy Finance Officer Tammy Cox queues up the CAMA Land Use Plan slides for the public hearing.
CAMA permit for boat lifts at Oriental Harbor Marina Village
In January, Calvin Fidler – representing homeowners on S. Water Street overlooking Oriental Harbor Marina – came to Commissioners with concerns on the building of boat lifts in the slips. At that meeting, Fidler said they did not outright oppose the lifts, but that they were unsure of what was going in there and wished to see any plans before permits were granted. Fidler said the residents were concerned with lifts spoiling their view of the marina and harbor – reasons for which they purchased their homes.

At the March meeting, Town Manager Diane Miller presented a proposal and plans from JMH Marine Construction, to install 5 boat lifts at the marina. Miller said the town had not yet been sent a CAMA permit for the project, but wished to publish the plans as requested by Fidler. Miller reiterated that the plan is for a boat life and not a travel lift.

The Town is one of two property owners adjacent to the Marina, and as such has a right to make comment to CAMA on the proposed installation – once the permit approval process begins.

Commissioner Roe said he had the same exact one and it did not detract from the view. He welcomed Commissioners and others to come see it.

Commissioner David White said “the pilings are 7 feet above the finger dock, so you’ll have trawlers in that same marina that are 15 – 20 feet high, that are higher than the boat lift, so this is not obtrusive.” He added that Commissioners should give Town Manager Miller permission to sign the CAMA plan (if and when it is sent to the Town) saying they have no objection to the construction.

The motion was made and all Commissioners agreed.

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The boat lift at Commissioner Frank Roe’s house. There are plans to install similar ones at Oriental Harbor Marina.
Town Budget Audit
Town Auditor Gregory Redman presented the audit report to Commissioners. He began by stating that the Town has no debts.

The Local Government Commission is part of the NC Department of the Treasury, and (among other duties) reviews local municipal budget audits for performance and compliance with state and federal regulations.

Redman said they require the unrestricted fund balance of a town the relative size of Oriental to be 63% of its operating budget. Oriental’s unrestricted fund balance of $718,724 is at 86%. The Town “is in good financial position.”

The Town did spend more this year than they took in in revenues – about $20,000 more. But that amount also included appropriations of over $120,000. The $20k wasn’t too bad taken into account that the Town estimated it would overspend by nearly $300k this year, said Redman.

The Town’s Enterprise Fund, meant to make money, “last [fiscal] year, your revenues didn’t cover expenses,” he said. This year’s report shows an operating loss of approximately $17,800. That amount, however, includes a depreciation of amount of $43,000. Redman said, “the Local Government Commission looks at that, they back that out, so … you actually have an excess of revenues over expenses of $26k.”

Oriental’s Property Tax collection is at 97%.

Commissioner Roe asked Redman if the Town’s “internal checks and balances are strong and you’re satisfied they’re good.” Redman said they were.

Redman said the only thing to report was that the audit was delayed. However, it was not a fault of the Town, but of the banking software, said Redman. It has since been fixed.

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Town Auditor Gregory Redman presents the audit report to Commissioners.
Oriental In-Water Boat Show
Sam Myers spoke as the representative for The Rotary Club and the Boat Show itself.

Myers said this year’s show had attracted a lot of attention, including a large boating dealer from Smithfield, NC and interested brokers beyond the show’s regular attendees. He also commended Tourism Board Chair Marsha Paplham for her help in promoting the show through her advertising efforts for the town.

Myers also suggested the Board pay attention to attracting not only the sailors, but the “center console boats” and fishing in the area as Oriental becomes a more popular place for those activities as well.

Manager’s Report
Town Manager Diane Miller said there wasn’t much to report in this meeting – most of it had been taken care of during the Budget Retreat.

However, she said all of the Public Works staff would be out on Monday, March 13 to attend Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Training in New Bern. Miller said it was the most economical choice; in any other instance there would be travel and overnight costs involved.

Commissioners also went into closed session to discuss the Town Manager’s performance review. They returned after nearly an hour of discussion. “Diane got a very good appraisal, and we’re going to hold her raise and / or performance bonus discussion during the budget cycle,” said Commissioner White.

Commissioner Comments
Exploring the options Commissioner Frank Roe said he’d contacted the University of North Carolina Greensboro who have “expressed very preliminary interest in looking at how we advertise, promote our town, and if there’s anything better. Before Charlie [Overcash] and I proceed down this road – I want to make sure we have agreement [from the Board].” Roe said he didn’t yet know if there would be any cost involved.

“Commissioner Roe and I have been pursuing different ways of communicating with the town… this is just one of the steps. We have no commitments, no promises, we’re just gathering information,” said Commissioner Overcash. “Unless someone has an objection, we’d like to go forward and explore this avenue.”

Commissioner White asked what problem they were trying to solve by investigating the issue. Commissioner Roe replied that he didn’t think there was a problem, but he wanted to see “is there a more efficient thing to do than we do.”

Overcash said they were looking at social media and how it can be used better. “We may not want to change anything. We’re just looking at possibilities.”

Possible fewer hours open to the public at Town Hall During the budget cycle, Commissioners discussed limiting the number of hours Town Hall was open to the public. The discussion stemmed from the Town Manager asking Commissioners to direct her on which project took precedence so she could focus on that alongside her daily duties, rather than trying to manage day-to-day work and three major projects.

That discussion bore out several possibilities, but Commissioners decided staff should be in the office 5 days a week and look at cutting hours available to the public.

Commissioner Overcash said he wished for them to continue to pursue that discussion, so staff could maximize the uninterrupted time.

• Representative Keith Kidwell will be at Brantley’s Village Restaurant on Saturday, March 11 for a GOP County Convention. Commissioner Frank Roe said Commissioners should try to speak to Kidwell at the meeting about getting more funding for town roads. Other Commissioners agreed.

Auxiliary Boards
Tourism Board Chair Marsha Paplham presented the 2022-23 Fiscal Year budget request for the Tourism Board. She said the Tourism Board is creating a visitor card to find out where people are hearing about Oriental.

Commissioners discussed branching out the tourism advertising to include fishing and fishing guides as another draw for the town.

• The Tree Board celebrates Arbor Day on April 8, and will plant a tree at the Net House by town dock #2 and the public restrooms. The tree is to honor the memory of Dick Creighton, a former Tree Board member who passed away in 2021.

• Jim Blackerby of the Harbor Waterfronts Committee reports they will have a work day in town, doing maintenance on various town waterfront properties. He also reports the attempts to move the Osprey nest did not go to plan: Blackerby says that while the nest was moved away from the residences, it was never reinstalled at Whittaker Point – a job done by CAMA, not the town. As a result, two “very angry Osprey” are now building a nest on a boat lift near their old nesting site.

• Julie Rahm of the Planning Board explained their next project: revising the town’s Comprehensive Plan. To do that, the Planning Board would like the input of residents and visitors via a survey. Hard copies are available at the Town Hall and is online at TownDock.net (as well as in the links below). A notice about the survey went out with all the water bills this month.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, April 4 at 8a. The quarterly town budget meeting originally scheduled for March 30 has been cancelled. The first budget meeting is scheduled for April 12 at 9a.

Related Information
Planning Board Survey on the future direction of Oriental
March Agenda
February Meeting Minutes
CAMA LUP Public Hearing Documents
Oriental Town Hall Audit 2021-22
Budget Amendments
Boat Lift Plans
Tourism Board Finances
Arbor Day Proclamation – Tree Board
Police Report
Manager’s Report
Auxiliary Board Reports

Posted Thursday March 9, 2023 by Allison DeWeese


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