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Town Board Meeting January 2018
Wider Shoulders On 55, Deeper Whittaker Creek Channel
January 4, 2018

he first Town Board Meeting of 2018 was brief. Members of the Board discussed Oriental’s roadways and waterways, specifically the widening of Highway 55 and the Whittaker Point project. Topics for the Quarterly Workshop Agenda were also selected.

town hall signMayor Sally Belangia and all Commissioners were in attendance including newly elected Eric Dammeyer and Dianne Simmons.

Town Hall Quarterly Workshop Agenda
Until several years ago the Board used to meet monthly to set the agenda for their Town Board meetings, resulting in two Town Board meetings a month. The Town Board now holds Quarterly Workshop Meetings to discuss long-term projects and goals for the town, cutting down on the number of meetings overall.

Fourteen topics were proposed. Commissioner David White asked that it be narrowed down to 4-5. Town Manager Miller said several of the topics could be removed; they were either already in process or were tied to other projects.

The Commissioners winnowed the topics down to:

  • #2: Coastal Resources Advisory Council
  • #13: Plan for Whittaker Creek Point and channel dredging
  • #14: Dog Park rules and regulations

The Whittaker Point update is, “an important point that we ought to focus on,” said Commissioner White.

Whittaker Point has two issues facing it: erosion of the spit of land known as Whittaker Point and the continued silting in of the Whittaker Point Channel.

Last year, White and other commissioners attended a presentation by Jim Blackerby, a geoscientist and resident of Oriental. He explained how the land blocked the sediments from the river. Now that the point has eroded, the sediments are able to fill in the channel. There has been discussion of deeding the land to the town in an effort to help preserve Whittaker Point and the protection it provides to the channel.

The Friends of Whittaker Creek secured a grant for the dredging of Whittaker Creek Channel. The grant, said Commissioner White, only covers two-thirds of the cost. “The other hundred and twenty has to come from somewhere.” The town currently serves as the administrator of the Whittaker Creek Dredging Grant funds.

The Board will discuss the details of the project, and its cost, at the Workshop on Thursday, January 25th at 4p.

Public Hearings
There will also be two public hearings at the Quarterly Workshop: a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a short-term rental at 309 High Street and a correction to the GMO (Growth Management Ordinance) Permissible Use Table and Definitions.

At the November Town Board Meeting, a resident raised concerns that a proposed GMO ban on Manufactured Homes other than Class A was not legal. The Town Board chose to pass the changes and research the matter after the fact; it was one item on a lengthier list of GMO changes that had to be passed as a whole in order to take effect. It turned out the resident was right – while towns could set minimum safety standards, they could not phrase their ordinance in such a way that would exclude classes of manufactured homes.

Town Manager Miller said at the December meeting that she discussed the matter with the School of Government in Chapel Hill. They devised a workaround to bring the GMO back into compliance while also maintaining minimum safety standards implied in Class A construction.

The corrections are marked in red on the GMO Changes file. A public hearing is necessary for any amendment, change, or correction to the GMO.

Wider shoulders for Highway 55
Town Hall was notified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in December that funds were available to widen 10.6 miles of Highway 55 from Bayboro to Oriental. The project would add two feet of pavement to both sides of the existing highway with the aim of making safer travel for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles alike. The Town Manager shared one caveat. She said that Pamlico County Manager Tim Buck told her that when DOT widened Highways 304 and 306, it paved over water lines. When one of those lines eventually burst, she said, it washed out the new road and was difficult to access for repairs.

To avoid that on Highway 55, the Town Board passed a resolution of support for widening Highway 55 that included a call for DOT to move, at its expense, any water lines before paving those wider shoulders. It was based on a similar resolution before the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners this week. (Because the project will cost more than $250,000, state law requires such resolutions to receive municipal support.) The town’s version, drawn up by Miller, also stipulated that the areas with existing curb and gutter be excluded from the widening.

Commissioner David White asked if the Town could add in a reduction to the speed limit to 35 mph. Miller said they could not. However she did say there were traffic counts going on in November and December, evidenced by the lines across Highway 55. “This will be more justification to lower the speed limit.”

Appointments to the Planning Board
There’ve been two vacancies on the Planning Board since the autumn resignations of Bonnie Knapp and current Town Commissioner Eric Dammeyer.

One candidate was Sandy Winfrey who, until December, served 4 years as a Town cCommissioner. In comments to the Town Board, Town Manager Diane Miller said, “my personal thought is it’s always good for us to have a general contractor who looks at the rules from a different point of view than the rest of us.” The Board unanimously approved the appointment.

Larry Langston was nominated for the second post. There are questions as to whether his prior employment will allow him to serve on the Planning Board. Miller did not say what that occupation was. Commissioner Charlie Overcash stated that Langston is currently employed as a magistrate. Miller said he will know soon if he is eligible to serve.

The Board decided to advertise the vacancies for other Committee and Board positions.

Closing Streets. And Docks. Bridge, Too
The Board voted to amend Oriental’s resolution for street closings and closing the bridge for The Croaker Festival fireworks display. Three events and their street or dock closings were added the official list: the Michelob Cup/Oar Race, The Oriental Car Show, and The Ol’ Front Porch music Festival.

Commissioner White said, “this allows the Town Manager to adjust it [street and dock closings during events] on the fly in case something comes up during one of the events.”

Banking Resolution Commissioner Dianne Simmons was assigned to be the third signatory for the Town Hall’s banking transactions. This resolution allows Town Manager Miller to make those changes at the Town’s banks.

Police Report
It was a fairly quiet month for Oriental, according to Officer Nic Blayney. “There was actually less theft, less breaking and enterings, and less trespassing than I would have imagined being this close to Christmas.”

Most of his public interactions were spent directing people to the Running of the Dragon on the 31st.

Officer Blayney he did write three citations for Town ordinance violations, specifically for boats docked at the Town Dock longer than necessary or for blocking the pump out stations.

Town Projects – Update
Sidewalk Repairs
Repairs will begin when the weather clears.

Dog Park
Lines are ready to be laid for a water fountain. Work will continue when temperatures are warmer.

Department of Insurance
The Department of Insurance has increased the rates for Wind and Hail insurance in Pamlico County by 25%. Town Manager Miller responded with a letter including citations and statistics showing Eastern Carolina has less wind and hail damage than counties in Western Carolina. Those counties are not receiving an increase in their rates.

Town Manager Miller, as well as the county and several individuals, wrote to the Department of Insurance against the increase. Her response at the end of the Manager’s Report.

There were no public comments given.

Upcoming Meetings

The Town Board Quarterly Workshop will be held Thursday, January 25th at 4p.

The next Town Board Meeting will be held Tuesday, February 6th at 7p.

Related Information

Posted Thursday January 4, 2018 by Allison DeWeese

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