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Road Repair Plans, Speed Detection, and an Upcoming SUP
October 2021 Town Board Meeting
October 5, 2021

A
t the October Town Board Meeting, Commissioners heard about plans to repair the failing road at Neuse Drive, set a public hearing for a Special Use Permit for a hunting/fishing lodge (a nightly rental) on Broad Street, and discussed the many ways the town is using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Present were Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioners David White, Charlie Overcash, Alan Price, Dianne Simmons, and Sandy Winfrey.

Two requests from the public
Frank Roe spoke to the Board about the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Roe asked that the town consider using ARPA funds to help businesses impacted by COVID – including hospitality and tourist industries. (Frank Roe is also a candidate for Commissioner in the upcoming municipal elections in November.)

town hall sign Town Manager Diane Miller responded that Roe was correct that wider uses were allowed. “The only ones that are allowed without justification are water, sewer, and broadband,” Manager Miller explained. “Tourism, hospitality, those kinds of things, you have to be able to prove a reduction in revenue in the previous 3 years due to COVID, and we absolutely cannot do that. I can prove the opposite; while everyone else was crashing, our occupancy numbers were up, our tax revenue was up. We collected 106% last year. All those other uses have to be justified by a decrease in revenue, which we cannot prove.”

Miller addressed the use of ARPA funds for businesses. “That is absolutely allowed. You have to put a program in place with an application process and qualifications, and an administrator.” She said she is not in a place to do that, and had been advised by the League of Municipalities that this sort of program was better handled at the county level and above.

The Board of Commissioners have already approved money from ARPA to go towards water, sewer, and drainage projects (which do not have to be justified by a revenue loss). The Town of Oriental has already received $137,000 of ARPA money in a first disbursement. A second disbursement of $137,000 is expected next fiscal year.

Bonnie Crosser spoke to Board about rethinking the Monday pick up of Green Waste and Cardboard. “Citizens are dumping their green waste on the easements.” Crosser said there is already a drainage problem and the town is short staffed. She asked that the Board reconsider reinstating a policy that residents call for green waste and cardboard pick up “so we can manage their expectations, instead of having two to three staff members drive around on Monday and pick up cardboard and green waste.”

Allies of Cherry Point’s Tomorrow
Former Commissioner Chris Mele is the Pamlico County representative on the Allies of Cherry Point’s Tomorrow board. She spoke to Commissioners about the needs and priorities of Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. Mele outlined the work done at Cherry Point, the types of workers employed there, and how Cherry Point impacts the surrounding economy. Mele also discussed some of the upcoming projects such as replacing the last of the WWII era buildings at Cherry Point. “Over the next 15 years, we can expect over $1.5 billion in new construction.”

As a representative for Allies of Cherry Point’s Tomorrow, she asked for support in the following areas: encroachment and responsible development around Cherry Point and training areas, transportation access, and promoting understanding and education “of the value the military brings to North Carolina.”

Her presentation did not require the Board to agree or consent to any particular item, but rather was an informative presentation about the value of Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.

Request to set a Public Hearing for an SUP for 901 Broad Street
Manager Miller asked the Board to set a public hearing for their November meeting to grant a Special Use Permit to make 901 Broad Street (formerly Oriental Medical Center) into a hunting/fishing lodge with individual rooms. The large area behind the structure will be graveled for trailers and campers.

Samuel Brewington is the property owner. The property will effectively operate as a hotel as there will be no food served on site, nor will the owners live on site, though Miller said they are in the process of retiring and moving to town. The Board agreed to set a public hearing for the November meeting. The Planning Board will discuss the project at their meeting on Wednesday, October 20, at 3p in the large Board Room at Town Hall.

Personnel Policy Change
Prior to the meeting, at the September Town Board Workshop, Commissioner Charlie Overcash asked that there be an addition to the personnel policy that if a staff member receives an initial certification paid for by the town, they owe the town a year of service. If they chose to leave the town’s employ before the year is up, the staff member must reimburse the town for the cost of the course, lodging, meals, and travel (if applicable).

Staff will not owe for any continuing education courses paid for by the Town of Oriental, only initial certifications.

Commissioners unanimously agreed.

Oriental Citizen needed for Coastal Regional Solid Waste Management Authority Board Position
The Coastal Regional Solid Waste Management Authority (CRSWMA) runs the landfill in Tuscarora, just west of New Bern. CRSWMA has asked that a representative for Oriental be part of their Advisory Board.

Oriental resident and town recycling coordinator Joe Valinoti, is already on the board as a representative of Pamlico County. Commissioners have asked that the position be publicized to Oriental residents interested in waste management. If interested, contact Town Hall.

Road Repair at Neuse Drive and Ragan Road
Town Manager Diane Miller reported to the Board about her conversation with engineers regarding the condition and possible avenues of repair of Neuse Road across from Minuscule Beach (also called John Bond Beach).

According to the engineers, Miller said, the road is crumbling due to inappropriate substrate and the drainage culvert underneath moving and breaking. Engineers are proposing two 42” reinforced concrete pipes along with drainage headwalls to hold the pipes in place.

The engineers also discussed adding bulkheads to the sides of the creek that run under the road. If the Town chooses to go in that direction, it will require a CAMA permit from the Department of Environmental Quality.

Manager Miller said she has requested quotes and “it is likely to be a very expensive fix.” The Town can overspend their portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), meaning they can spend the second part of the $137,000 they are expecting to receive next year on this project and apply that disbursement when it comes in. “The only thing out of this project that I can get paid for by ARPA is the culvert replacement, which is going to be significant.”

Commissioner David White said “my only fear with spending forward with the federal government, having worked with them for 39 years, is that they sometimes take things away and then all of a sudden decide it’s an unfunded mandate.”

When the road is repaired, it will be unusable for an unknown amount of time, said Miller. Bay River Sewer System will also be involved as they will go in to repair their lines under the road when it is uncovered. (There is a lift station at the side of Neuse Drive.) Miller said Bay River will bear the cost of any movement or repair of their lines.

Commissioner White said the Board should see what the project cost estimate is before deciding whether to overspend the ARPA monies.

Premium Pay for Town Workers during COVID
At the September Workshop, Commissioners agreed that town staff who were present and working during COVID, who Town Manager Miller defined as “the people who kept the water running, the people who processed payments and permits and all the things when everything else was closed down,” should receive compensation for being essential workers and keeping the town government running and accessible during the COVID shut down.

Miller said there were eight workers, herself not included, that were eligible. Commissioner Overcash said that he and other Commissioners had spoken about it and agreed on a figure of $1,200 per worker. A resolution for the staff payment is forthcoming.

Police Report
Officer Nick Blayney stated that the Oriental Police Department was nearing completion of their grant for computers and software. This grant allowed the department to purchase laptops and software connecting dispatchers in Pamlico County to Oriental’s officers, as well as giving them the ability to write reports electronically, mark their time and calls electronically, and stay in contact with Pamlico County’s departments.

Officer Blayney also remarked on the new speed detection device they had received. It will be out on the streets and let drivers know their speed versus how fast they should be going. The speed detection device also collects data on peak drive times and speeds in the areas where it is deployed.

Officer Wichrowski is also now in possession of his new police vehicle. The old vehicle will be deployed elsewhere in the town.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, November 9 at 8a. It has been moved due to the municipal elections. The next Planning Board meeting is Wednesday, October 20 at 3p.

Related Information
October Agenda
September Meeting & September Workshop Minutes
SUP Request for 901 Broad St.
Certification Training Policy Change
Coastal Regional Solid Waste Management Authority Request
• Neuse Drive Repair Updates and Plans
American Rescue Plan Act Guidelines for Staff Payments
Police Report
Manager’s Report

Posted Tuesday October 5, 2021 by Allison DeWeese


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