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September 2023 Town Board Meeting
Birthdays, the Polar Plunge, and a Public Forum on Paving
September 8, 2023

hirteen members of the public attended the September Town Board meeting.

Present on the dais were Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioners David White, Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Frank Roe, and Sandy Winfrey.
town hall sign Also there were Town Manager Diane Miller, Deputy Finance Officer Tammy Cox, and Officer Bill Wichrowski.

Request for Grant writers and a Tree Trimming Fiasco
Carol Small asked the Town to look to its population of retired professionals to help write grants and figure out funding for large capital projects, like the road paving project.

Jennifer Roe said a tree that she had been cultivating to drape over the sidewalk had been cut by the Tree Board without direction from the Town Manager or Commissioners. The tree was on private property, but overhung public walkways.

Roe confronted Tree Board members as they were cutting. They told her there had been a complaint to their Board about the limbs overhanging the sidewalk and they were directed to cut the tree. The direction had come directly from the Tree Board, not from the Town – a departure from protocols, policies, and procedures, Roe argued.

She was able to stop the cutting, but the damage had been done, says Roe. The long branches that trailed down to the grass in the right-of-way had been cut back significantly.

Going forward, Roe asked that proper procedure for complaints be followed – and go through the Town Manager or Commissioners, not the volunteer boards – so as not to have private property damaged again in the future. Even if it does overhang public property.

A tree from the Roe property arches over the sidewalk. The limbs used to touch the grass next to the sidewalk until they were cut back by the Tree Board.
Town’s Comprehensive Plan goes to Harbor Waterfronts Committee
The Planning Board spent several months updating the town’s Foundational Documents: the CAMA Land Use Plan (used specifically for the town’s waterfront regulation compliance) and the Comprehensive Plan (for development all over the town). Both documents are often referred to when looking for grants.

The CAMA Land Use Plan was reworked and updated this year, and just received approval from the State. The Comprehensive Plan is next, with a public hearing and Commissioner approval before being sent to the State for review.

During the public hearing, Jennifer Roe said it was best practices to have a complete copy available for viewing, showing the strikeouts and edits from the previous copy.

Manager Diane Miller said the clean copy was uploaded to the site as it was more readable, but that the edited copy was always available at Town Hall if requested.

Jim Blackerby, Chair of the Harbor Waterfronts Committee, spoke to Commissioners about the language in the Plan. “ I wanted to make sure that everybody’s comfortable with the wording in the comprehensive plan as to ‘resilience to flooding’ and a number of issues that go along with it,” he said. “Habitat protection and critical infrastructure and critical asset identification, and how that fits in with our overall plans of getting help with grants.”

With that in mind, the plan was sent back to the Harbor Waterfronts Committee to look for places where such language could be added.

“Jim made a very good point,” said Manager Miller. “If you look at the language that’s coming in from grants, anything you can put in there about resiliency of your waterfront, habitat protection – those words ought to be in our long term planning because that’s exactly what the state and federal grants are going to be looking at. They’re more going towards environmental protection, and not developing a waterfront asset.”

The Board agreed and the plan will go through the Harbor Waterfronts Committee and the Planning Board again, before returning to Commissioners for approval at their October meeting.

Amendments, Appointments, and Special Requests
Fay Bond Day, September 29, 2023 Oriental resident Fay Bond will turn 100 on September 29. The Town has proclaimed the day as ‘Fay Bond Day’ in her honor.

Prior to then, Fay will compete in the National Senior Olympics in Shot Put, Discus, and the Long Jump.

Her friends and family have requested to have a parade that would take Ms. Bond form her home on Neuse Drive to Lou Mac Park on South Avenue. There, family and friends will celebrate her birthday with a block party. All are invited.

Budget Amendment for GMO Conversion Commissioners approved a budget for $14,750 to have the Eastern Carolina Council of Government (ECCOG) to bring the town’s General Management Ordinance (GMO) in line with the state’s updated development regulation statutes – Chapter 160D of the North Carolina General Statutes.

Required by law, the conversion from 160A (the previous statutes) to 160D could have been completed by the town Planning Board. However, it would still have required a line-by-line review by the town’s attorney, billed at $200 an hour, for the 203 page document. The decision was made to have the ECCOG take on the task at what is expected to be a less expensive time and money investment.

The $14,750 includes the document conversion, as well as two meetings with the ECCOG for any questions or discrepancies.

Jessie Aldridge asks for permission to use the Town’s beach in January 2024 for the Special Olympics’ Polar Plunge.

Polar Plunge Special Olympics Request Jessie Aldridge is the local coordinator for the Pamlico County Special Olympics. This is her second year requesting the use of John Bond Beach (also known as Minuscule Beach) for the January Polar Plunge Fundraiser.

Aldridge reported that last year’s Plunge raised a little over $5,000. With that money, the Pamlico County Special Olympics chapter were able to add basketball to their sports offerings. “It was the first time we’ve ever offered a sport other than just the Spring Games event.” In the coming months, the group is also adding Bocce Ball and a hiking club for their athletes.

“I am asking that we have permission to use the facility again this year for the Polar Plunge. That is where our fundraisers will raise $50, and once they’ve raised $50, they can jump in the river. In January.”

Permission to look for a new pickup truck for Public Works. A 2012 Ford Pickup truck, used daily by Public Works, is in the shop at the dealership and requires around $10,000 of work to repair, reported Manager Miller. “The truck’s not worth that much. It’s a 12 year old truck,” she said.

Town is looking at state contracts to see if they are able to get a deal on a newer used pickup. However state contracts will not allow trade-ins of other vehicles, though they do offer better deals than dealerships.

Commissioner Roe said a constituent asked how the truck had gotten in such shape.

“We do the oil changes. We do the brakes. We do the tires,” said Miller. “We do the basic maintenance that keeps it on our 13 miles of the road. And then in this environment, it gets wet and it gets salty.” Miller added, “I’m wondering if it wasn’t the eventual deterioration due to Florence.”

Commissioners gave Miller permission to look for another vehicle, and to use the Public Works Capital Reserve Fund for an excavator to purchase the work truck.

Commissioner Sandy Winfrey, who rarely speaks, offered that since both trucks were Ford products, the Town might want to look at a Chevrolet going forward.

Linwood Strickland appointed to the Planning Board Linwood Strickland was a part-time Oriental resident living in Raleigh. He has since made the switch, and is now a full-time Oriental resident who visits Raleigh.

The Planning Board has requested that he be appointed to replace member Tom Stone, who has retired from the Board. Strickland is an architect and developer with an understanding of planning and zoning laws as a result of his profession.

125 years of Oriental Mayor Sally Belangia asked if the town would donate $2,500 to the Town’s 125th Birthday Celebration on March 4, 2024.

Commissioners balk at donating money to charitable causes, however Commissioner Paula Bradford – on the board 25 years ago – received $2,000 in funding from the Board, setting a precedent.

Commissioners White and Overcash did not see any issue with the donation to a town event. Jennifer Roe, as a member of the public, disagreed with town funds being used that way, saying it would set a bad precedent, and that the town needed to follow ‘policy, procedure, or precedent.’

Commissioners listen as Town Manager Manager Diane Miller explains the state of the Public Works pickup truck.

Commissioner Frank Roe offered up $600 from the Tourism Board Reserve Fund towards the celebration. While some Commissioners agreed and others did not voice their opinion, the issue was left with Manager Miller telling Mayor Belangia “you direct the budget for the reserve restricted funds,” and that she and the Board get to decide how the funds are spent.

Mayor Belangia said she would let Commissioners know more about the celebration and the funds request at a later, unspecified date.

Whittaker & Pierce Creek Drainage Projects There are two separate dredging projects funded by grants – the town acts as administrator for both as private entities cannot be given public grants. The town takes a fee for their services, and distributes the funds, while incurring no liability in either project.

The Pierce Creek Funds have already been received and the Whittaker Creek Dredging Funds were just received.

Both projects will soon go to bid, and (hopefully) be completed before the annual moratorium next spring.

Commissioner’s Workshop cancelled in favor of Public Forum on Paving
Commissioners hold annual workshops to discuss major projects for the coming fiscal year. All agreed that paving was the most important issue facing the town.

In lieu of holding a meeting during the day at Town Hall, Commissioners moved to hold a public forum, likely at The Old Theater, in the early evening.

The main topic is how to fund road maintenance. Ideas like securing a bond – a government loan – or raising taxes at .01 or .10 cents on the dollar, have been floated.

Both have disadvantages – a bond must be repaid with interest. In the June Town Board Meeting, Manager Miller said the town would also have to spend $50-$60k to hire a firm to create the application, in addition to repaying the loan.

Raising taxes could work in the long run, but future Commissioner Boards could reallocate the revenue from the tax and apply it to something else if they so chose. If it were a temporary tax, future Boards could also decide to continue with it rather than cancel it after a period of time or the work was complete.

Commissioners want public input on these and other ideas before choosing how to proceed. The public forum will be announced for October.

Police Catch Sign Vandals
Officer Bill Wichrowski reported that he had spent a good part of August tracking down several street signs that had been stolen, and the boys who had taken them.

A tip from an overheard conversation led him to one of the boys’ mothers. From there, Wichrowski says he was able to find out the names of all involved, as well as recover the street signs.

The missing signs – 17 in all. Recovered by Officer Bill Wichrowski.

On the night of the theft, there were also several stop signs knocked down as well as several mailboxes damaged.

Wichrowski is to present his findings to the District Attorney and the Juvenile Counselors in the coming week, he said, but he does not yet know what they will be charged with. Wichrowski did not release any names, given their status as juveniles.

Wichrowski also credited Officer Blayney for a much of the police work done in August while he was investigating the vandalism.

Manager’s Report
Drainage has been halted for several months due to a complaint by a resident in July that the Town didn’t know what they were doing. Since then, the resident’s hired contractors have confirmed what Public Works and the Town’s hired contractor said about the repairs needed for drainage in the area.

Commissioner David White said he wanted the Board to empower Manager Miller to replace the culvert with the correct size and to move on from there. Commissioner Overcash agreed that it wasn’t fair to the other residents in the area for the work to be halted because of one complaint. The Town owns the right-of-way where the work is to be done.

From there, Public Works will move on and tackle drainage on Midyette Street. Commissioner Allen Price has volunteered to hand deliver notices about the work to residents on that street.

Manager Miller and Commissioners spoke with Senator Budd this month about the most recent flood maps not including data from the last 10 years. Years in which Hurricanes Irene and Florence dropped over 9 feet of water in Oriental – but that information is not available on the most recent maps. The result is inaccurate flood maps that have pulled more than 300 buildings out of the existing flood plain.

The Town was forced to accept the inaccurate maps, or residents wouldn’t have been able to get flood insurance. The Manager and Commissioners asked Senator Budd if something could be done about correcting that information.

When you don’t bring your trash to the curb Manager Miller announced that the trash haulers all have cameras on them. When there is a complaint about trash not picked up, the hauler checks their cameras and sends pictures of the trash bin – or lack of bin – to the Town for review.

Miller says there have been enough complaints of trash not being picked up – when in reality the bins are not at the roadside – that the Trash Hauler is going to begin charging the town for return visits. Trash bins are expected to be at the curb by 7a for pick up.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting is Tuesday, October 3 at 8a.

Related Information
September Meeting Agenda
August Meeting Minutes
• Public Hearing for Comprehensive Plan
• Resolution for Fay Bond Day
Budget Amendment
• Whittaker Creek Dredging Project Ordinance
• Public Works Truck Replacement
• Police Report
Manager’s Report
• Auxiliary Board Reports

Posted Friday September 8, 2023 by Allison DeWeese

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