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Talking Trash; Recycling Changes Coming
Town Board Meeting September 2020
September 4, 2020

amlico County Manager Tim Buck and Public Services Director Garry Cooper were at Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss the County’s efforts to improve the recycling program and the town-county relationship. Town Manager Diane Miller gave updates on the Whittaker Point Restoration and Commissioners discussed the agenda for the the upcoming Quarterly Agenda Workshop on September 24.

town hall sign Commissioner Allen Price was the only one not present for the meeting. Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioner Charlie Overcash, and Commissioner Dianne Simmons wore masks at the meeting as did the County Manager and Public Services Director. All but one of the 12 audience members also wore masks.

Public Comments

Wear a Mask Missy Tenhet read a prepared statement about the importance of wearing masks, citing the recent Town Hall closures due to potential COVID-19 contacts. She asked that the Zoom meetings be reinstated so those with health issues could also attend and that Commissioners require staff to wear masks while interacting with the public. Some members of the audience applauded.

Prior to the start of the meeting, Tehnet offered disposable masks to those who did not have them. All declined. Her statement is in the links at the bottom of the page.

Friends of Whittaker Creek Dan Allen spoke on behalf of the Friends of Whittaker Creek. The FoWC fund was left with over $29k after the Dredging of Whittaker Creek. The Creek was dredged to a depth of 8 ft, and a width of 80 ft, except for a 500 ft span on either side of marker #3. Due to the density of the rock in that area – and the impending seasonal moratorium on dredging – that section was only dredged to a width of 50 ft. Though there is a buoy marking the spot, Allen said boats have still run aground there.

The first priority of the FoWC, Allen said, is to widen that 50 ft section to the full 80 ft.

FoWC filed for and received 501c3 status and is going to file for a matching funds grant. Only municipalities can file for the grant, and they’ve asked the town to file on their behalf. FoWC “would like to do all the work, but we would like you to consider having the town support us in submitting the application for us from the town.”

Later in the meeting, Town Manager Miller reported the Coast Guard will be retrieving markers 5a and 3a from the Whittaker Channel since they are no longer needed.

Thanks to the Public Works Department Dallas Spruill asked Manager Miller to thank the town’s workers for being so quick and thorough in picking up debris after the last storm.

Trash and Recycling Program Changes
Oriental has both trash and recycling pickup in the town for it’s residents. But those living outside town limits don’t have mandatory trash or recycling pickup. As a convenience and a courtesy, the town has allowed several large recycling bins to be deployed at the Oriental Recreation Park.

A man in a mask stands by a projector screen giving a report. Another man is seated nearby, also wearing a mask.
Pamlico County Public Services Director Garry Cooper discusses updates to the recycling program.

Town Manager Diane Miller introduced County Manager Buck and Public Services Director Cooper by explaining the town’s biggest issue with recycling services: lacking home pickup of trash, some residents in the county use it as a trash dump site. Contamination of the recycling with trash makes it unusable, resulting in the bins being hauled to the dump.

Miller said, “In a perfect world, it [the recycling bins at the rec park] should be staffed and everybody would be under a trash contract.”
She asked Buck if theCounty would consider this in this fiscal year or the next, citing concerns that the county’s trash would end up in Oriental’s public trash cans, increasing the tipping fees the town pays for trash disposal.

No mandatory trash pick-up in the county Buck said “there is not a desire from the full board of commissioners to look at a mandatory trash pickup program” at this time. Citing budgeting concerns for this year, he said it would be down the road and likely in the form of a convenience center that had both a trash and recycling drop-off. “I think if we get into the trash business, it will be through the convenience site like we talked about,” Buck said. “I think at some point we’ll have that discussion with the board, and get the funding identified and make it feasible, you’ll see us begin that program. It’s not on the radar right now, but we’ll continue to have those discussions.”

Rec Park recycling bins to be manned In July, the Pamlico Board of Commissioners voted to approve Public Services Director Cooper’s request to have manned recycling bins. At Tuesday’s meeting, Cooper explained how the new program would work. There are several sites throughout the county and each will have manned recycling containers one day a week. In Oriental, the manned bins will be brought in on Tuesdays, 7:30a – 6p, then hauled away. No trash or plastic grocery bags of any type will be allowed.

The County will use their existing workforce to man the bins and inspect the sites for the rest of the week when the site is bare. “I know that the first month that people are used to throwing trash out there, we’ll probably have to come out with pickup trucks and pickup trash off the ground,” Cooper said. “But hopefully by Nov or Dec the attitude will change.” He said he will be personally visiting the sites in the months following to look for illegal dumping.

Tons of trash Cooper said the County collected 464.77 tons of trash from the containers. The individual dumpster at the Oriental Recreation Park produced the largest portion at 136.61 tons. Underscoring the challenge of trash being mixed with recycling, Cooper clarified “that 136 tons doesn’t meant there’s a 136 tons of garbage in there, it means that once the [recycling] load is contaminated, we have to dump the whole load.”

The parks and rec field isn’t the only place some out of town residents without pickup have brought their trash. Miller addressed the issue of people depositing their household trash into the small public bins deployed in public places. For example, along the waterfront on Hodges Street. (It’s not an uncommon sight for people on the porch of The Bean to witness this.)

The increased weight of the trash increases the cost – called a tipping fee – to the town. Buck responded, “If you see issues like that happening, please do feed that back to us. Our intent is not to drive your cost up at all, it’s to try to make sure we’re being efficient in recycling.”

Make a report Commissioner Overcash spoke directly to the audience. “You’re the citizens of Oriental. If you see someone get out of the car with a bag of trash and put it in one of our common trash cans, and you feel like they’re imposing on the town, that’s our cost,” he said. “Get the license number and give it to Diane, and she’s done this multiple times, and she’ll send them a letter telling them we don’t appreciate them bringing their trash into town.” Miller added there is a town Ordinance against non-residents depositing household trash in public bins.

Advertising for the new program will begin this month. The program starts October 5 and will be evaluated at the end of this year.

A man in a mask stands by a projector screen giving a report. Another man is seated nearby, also wearing a mask.
County Manager Tim Buck makes his presentation wearing a mask. (He took it down partway and, when finished speaking, put it back on.)
County-Town working relationship
County Manager Buck said the County had “realized several months ago that they needed to do a better job in reaching out to the towns.” Part of his mission Tuesday night was to share information.

• The County received about $176k in CARES Act Funding. Approximately $33K of that went to Oriental.
• There is a storm shelter available at Pamlico Community College through October, in case of storms. Buck and Miller both advised to make storm evacuation plans to stay with family or friends instead of in the storm shelters due to COVID-19.
• Residents can sign up for Pamlico’s emergency alert system called CodeRED by calling 252-745-3133. The system sends out texts, emails, and phone calls in case of emergency situations.
• Property re-evaluation appeals are done for this year, but if residents want to appeal the valuations, they can appeal for next year.
• Census reporting is very low in the county. Buck and Miller both ask citizens to report – or if they need help reporting – to call or visit Town Hall.
• Grants are available for residents with homes damaged in Hurricane Florence and/or Matthew. Information can be found at rebuildnc.gov

Abandoned/Dilapidated Housing Ordinance
Commissioners asked County Manager Buck if the County building inspector and a representative from the health department could be available for the next Quarterly Agenda Workshop meeting on Sept 24.

Commissioners have asked the Planning Board to look into crafting an ordinance tackling abandoned and dilapidated housing. Commissioner Martin Barrow, a liaison to the Planning Board, said the board had several questions that needed input from the County’s building inspector and health department (Oriental has neither).

Public participation Commissioner David White encouraged the public to attend the meeting, saying Frank Roe had already sent a letter to the Planning Board. Jennifer Roe spoke up from the audience. “I think if the public is aware that the conversation is in reference to condemning homes and so forth and so forth, you might get a lot larger show out as in the past gone by.”

Not about appearance Commissioner Overcash said the ordinance is not intended to be about the appearance of the buildings, but of public health and the safety of the building. “There were a lot of misconceptions – that draft ordinance, we didn’t request it that way. Scott Davis our attorney gave us a watered down, structured to Oriental – he thought, his impressions – of one he’d worked on for New Bern. That was not put together by us. We had just used it as something to look at, not to go by. It is a work in progress.”

Commissioner Dianne Simmons said, “We started this off not ever with the idea of going after appearance or inhabited houses. We’re not going after homes that need to be renovated,” she said. “We’re thinking of abandoned, dilapidated – and that’s defined … as a house beyond repair. We’re not looking to get rid of or change some of the homes in Oriental that are historic.”

“When a property presents potential for injury or some other dangerous situation that needs to be mitigated, we need to look at the way we might be able to do that. That’s the threshold we’re looking at,” added Commissioner Barrow.

The Planning Board meeting is Wednesday, Sept 16 at 3p at Town Hall.

Whittaker Point Restoration 80% complete
Town Manager Diane Miller said the Whittaker Point Project is about 80% complete. So far, about $1.4 million has been spent and there are two more large invoices for the granite that have yet to come in.

Rock is in place and the large trucks are gone from the point. Plantings are supposed to go in this week. Interns from the NC Coastal Federation will install the plantings. Volunteers will be needed for the oyster placement phase. If residents would like to volunteer, they can send their name, phone number, and email address to manager@townoforiental.com.

The jetty extension for the point has been denied, though Manager Miller says she is continuing to look for other ways to get it approved. The jetty would add further protection to the creek.

Quarterly Agenda Workshop set, fee increases possible
Commissioners will discuss the following topics at this month’s quarterly agenda on September 24:

• Whittaker Point Restoration updates
• Road repairs – which roads to begin with and any potential fee increases. The Whittaker Point Restoration grant will cover repairs at Dolphin Point. Commissioner White said, “If we are talking about raising fees for this, then I think we want to bring it to the public’s attention sooner rather than later.”
• The costs of the trash and recycling programs in Oriental. Currently recycling costs less than trash, but that could change. There could be another potential increase in fees.

Ordinances, Funds, and Policies
CARES Act Funds Received Oriental received approximately $33K from the County from the CARES Act for COVID-19 reimbursements. Miller said the amount would cover expenses incurred for cleaning supplies, signs, extra cleaning services, Zoom meeting fees, and anything else related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act stipulates the money can be used for the cost of police salaries and anyone who was home because of COVID-19 – either waiting for a test, caring for someone else who had it, or who had it themselves – to be covered by these funds. These were also included.

Delinquent Water Fees Paid Delinquent water fees resulting from COVID-19 financial difficulties were anonymously paid by a town resident. As all outstanding COVID-19 related water fees have been brought up to date, language relating to those fees in Chapter K of the General Ordinance has been removed.

Whistleblower Policy Added A section on whistleblowing has been added to the town’s personnel policy, helping to bring the town up to date with state requirements.

Police Report
Officer Wichrowski gave the police report. He said incidents were down overall though arrests were up. One arrest was in a traffic stop for an individual who had warrants and is a registered sex offender. Other arrests pertained to a breaking and entering with individuals who knew each other. Officer Wichrowski said they pose no threat to the community.

Commissioner White asked about rumors of trailer theft in the community. Wichrowski said they were working on it with the County. Thefts predominately involved empty boat trailers and the officer asked residents to secure them by putting them in and enclosure or locking them down.

Wichrowski asked Commissioners to remember the upcoming 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, October 6 at 7p. Town Hall will be closed Monday, September 7 for Labor Day. The Planning Board meets Wednesday, September 16 at 3p at Town Hall. The Quarterly Agenda Workshop is Thursday, September 24 at 8a at Town Hall. The public is encourage to attend all meetings.

Related Information
Missy Tenhet’s COVID-19 Statement
September Agenda
• August Meeting Minutes
• CARES Act Revenue Fund
• Chapter K amendment to Water Fees
• Whistleblower Provision
Manager’s Report and Financials
Auxiliary Board Reports including the Planning Board questions on abandoned/dilapidated housing

Posted Friday September 4, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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