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Missing Machinery, Net House a Go
Town Board Meeting August 2022
August 4, 2022

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ugust’s Town Board Meeting proceeded without Mayor Sally Belangia – she was reported to be out with COVID. All five Commissioners were present, with Commissioner David White acting as Mayor Pro Tempore in Belangia’s absence.

town hall sign Commissioners Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Sandy Winfrey, and Frank Roe were in attendance, as was Town Manager Diane Miller and Officer Bill Wichrowski. Fourteen residents were also present.

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Fourteen residents were present for the August Meeting.
Machinery Sold, Budgeted Funds Reallocated
Background: During the budget cycle for the 2022 – 2023 fiscal year, Commissioners held several meetings to determine where to spend or save the town’s money. The purchase of a small excavator to help with drainage complications, water line replacement, and other tasks became a point of contention for Commissioners and some members of the public.

Commissioners argued over the pros and cons – the excavator only took one person to use, it could be available at any time, it had been used in the town before through contract work, it had low hours, and the town had cut a deal with the owner to pay off the note – approximately $66k – instead of paying full price for a new machine, or buying a used one with hundreds more hours.

Commissioners Price and Roe were against the purchase, arguing the work could be outsourced as it had been in years past. Also, the town did not need to take on the expense of maintenance and insurance, they said. Roe argued the Public Works department was already overtaxed and didn’t need the extra work.

It should be noted that during the budget cycle, Commissioner Frank Roe also voted against funding an open position on Public Works – one left vacant when a long-time employee left for better pay in another county. That money was reallocated and, as of now, the position no longer exists.

Commissioners voted in favor of the excavator purchase 3-2, with Commissioners White, Overcash, and Winfrey for, and Price and Roe against.

The public were also split on the decision. A flyer (created by Jennifer Roe) circulated through town decrying the purchase (along with a list of other issues) brought over 50 residents to the June meeting. Most residents present voiced their approval for the choice the Board had made along with approval for the purchase.

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Commissioner David White explains how the excavator funds will be distributed.

Calls not returned, money reallocated: “We were going to purchase an excavator,” said Commissioner David White, “[and] found out the man has since sold the piece of equipment on lease arrangement. The person who was leasing it is not making payments. And he can’t get his piece of equipment back. So we decided, based on the fact that he is not returning phone calls and is not really speaking openly on it – we’ve backed away from that piece of equipment.” In an email to the Board (included in the links below) White noted the equipment was sold about 3 months ago.

The email included a proposal to split the $66k for the excavator into a capital reserve account for public works, the depreciation fund for the water plant, drainage maintenance, and storm preparation.

“We had a capital reserve fund in 2018-19 set aside for an excavator that was approved unanimously by that Board,” said White. “So this just puts it back in with what previous Boards have approved.”

Commissioners unanimously approved the motion in two parts: to approve the move of funds into Public Works and the Water Fund capital outlay funds, and to approve the move of funds into a capital reserve account for the purchase of an excavator in about 4 years, and the purchase of a police car in roughly 6 years.

A capital reserve ordinance for the excavator and the police vehicle reserve accounts was subsequently passed by the Board as is required by law.

Rumors: At the end of the meeting, TownDock.net asked Commissioners about the excavator. “I had heard around town from a couple of different sources and rumors that the gentleman that was going to sell the excavator to the town was contacted anonymously and told that the town would not be purchasing it. Is there any merit to that at all?

“I’ve heard the same rumor,” Commissioner White responded, “but I do say the behavior has been weird in not returning phone calls, so something’s up.”

After asking for other questions or comments, White called on Commissioner Winfrey to end the meeting. Winfrey responded, “Am I being called to address the excavator situation?”

Town Manager Miller said “You can address whatever you like – it’s Commissioner Comments.”

Commissioner Roe said to Winfrey to “do his regular job” of adjourning the meeting.

“I think I’ll make a motion to adjourn,” Winfrey replied.

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Commissioner Frank Roe studies a slide projected on the wall with the budget allocation.
Net House Gets a Contractor
After six years of searching, the Net House finally has a contractor who can repair and restore the building near town dock #2 in Oriental’s harbor.

The bid came in at $75,795.72. The Board had estimated approximately $65k for the job.

“The price continued to rise as we A.) didn’t do anything, and B.) started to uncover the type of rot that was in there,” said Manager Miller.

Commissioner Sandy Winfrey, a contractor, said this bid is in line with what is to be expected, especially with a rise in cost of materials.

Commissioner White concurred, saying he’d asked other contractors about the price and they came back with similar numbers.

The funds for the project will come from the Harbor Waterfronts Committee Budget.

The Net House is being renovated as a town information center for visiting sailors. It will also have free WiFi, a front porch with a shade sail, and removable simple seating (in case of a hurricane).

Commissioners approved the bid.

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The Net House, awaiting restoration.
Appointments, Ordinances, and Plan Approvals
• In 2021, the Town of Oriental submitted a Water Supply Plan to the State as required by law. After clarifying and correcting any issues discovered by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the Town is required to approve a resolution adopting the water plan. Commissioners agreed to adopt the plan.
• The Eastern Carolina Council of Government has a yearly requirement for towns to have a Commissioner serve as part of their advisory board. In 2021, the Board elected Commissioner Allen Price to serve. The ECCG provides services to smaller municipalities like Oriental who do not have the funds or resources of larger entities. For example, the ECCG mapped the town’s storm water systems and prints any large maps the towns needs. Price was again elected to serve in the coming year.
• The Board Approved a resolution acknowledging the Oriental United Methodist Church’s 125th Anniversary.
Budget Amendment for the Police Capital Reserve. Funds for the one-time Cost of Living Adjustment for employees (except the Town Manager) of $500 were taken from the Police Capital Reserve. This is a total of $5,000. It reduces the fund from $10,000 to $5,000. The fund was chosen because the police have the newest vehicles. Town Manager Miller said that within two years, the Board will need to add an additional $5,000 to the reserve account to make sure there is enough to purchase vehicles in the future. The COLA was approved at the June 23rd meeting.

Police Report
There are two reports – a report for the month of June and one for July.

Officer Wichrowski reported both officers are now radar certified and able to write citations using the device. He reassured residents and the Board that officers would give warnings before writing citations, unless there were egregious incidences of speeding.

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Commissioners Allen Price and Charlie Overcash look over the Net House restoration bid.
Manager’s Report
Town Manger Diane Miller reported on what the town administration and departments completed during July. Below are some highlights.

• The town is still waiting on delivery of pipes for the project at Neuse Drive near John Bond (aka Minuscule) Beach. When they are delivered, the road connecting Ragan and South Ave will be closed to traffic as repairs are made.
• Commissioner Roe wanted to know how many of the town’s 735 water bills were paid online – Miller replied it was currently 50 people.
• There are reports of vehicles trailering boats to the Wildlife Boat Ramp speeding through the stop sign on Midyette Street. Town officers will be stationed in the area to patrol and write citations.
Public Works Department are now able to install short water taps in houses, which will save the town money as they do not have to outsource it.
Mosquito spraying continues on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 4 – 5a. The only time spraying does not occur is if winds are over 5mph or it is raining.

Commissioner Comments – Poor Drainage on Village Roads
Commissioner Roe referenced the Letter to the Editor from Bill Reid asking when the Village roads would be repaired.

Miller replied that the streets (like South Water Street) needed engineering and that contractors / pavers they’d spoken with would not touch the streets until the engineering reports were drawn up.

“The best recommendation is to curb and gutter, and then change the grade so it goes from he middle to both ends. And that’ going to be expensive,” said Miller. “So the Board decided that Windward, Mildred – and this isn’t the whole street, it’s portions of the street – Gilgo, Ragan were the priorities to happen first. So that is the bid that I’m working on with one of our contractors. It’s simply binder and asphalt.”

Paving of those roads will occur at the same time as the paving of Neuse Drive (across from the town beach), when repairs to that road are complete. Miller estimates “it will probably be in the October / November timeframe. And it’s not going to be a long thing – we’re not digging up road, we’re gong over top. Binder. Asphalt. Done.”

As for when engineering on Village roads can begin – they will have to see how much is left after paving. The town can use Powell Funds (a state fund set aside for infrastructure repairs) to hire an engineer, a cost in the range of $15,000 – $20,000. “I think there are a couple close that would want to do that [the engineering], knowing what the fix [for South Water Street] is.”

After engineering for the road is complete, the town will have to put out a request for proposals (RFP). That price will be at fair market value at that time.

Roe asks if there is anything else that can be done in the meantime. Miller replied that the town can use gravel and patching until then.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, September 6 at 8a.

Related Links
Public Responds to Anonymous Flyer at Town Board Meeting
July 2022 Town Meeting
Letters to the Editor: What’s The Plan, Town Board?
August Meeting Agenda
June Meeting Minutes
Water Use Plan
Eastern Carolina Council of Government
Police Reserve / COLA Budget Amendment
Excavator Capital Reserve
OUMC 125th Anniversary Proclamation
Net House Bid
Police Reports
Manager Report
Auxiliary Board Reports

Posted Thursday August 4, 2022 by Allison DeWeese


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