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Town Board Meeting November 2018
Hurricane repairs underway, but they'll take a while
November 12, 2018

ovember’s Town Hall meeting focused on the ongoing debris pickup, repairs to South Avenue from Hurricane Florence, and a Special Use Permit for the old Steamer Building at Broad Street and Hodges Street. Owners of the Inn at Oriental wrote in with their concerns about the town’s emergency siren.

Post hurricane cleanup and repairs
Town Manager Diane Miller discussed the ongoing efforts to pick up debris in the Oriental’s town limits and the upcoming repairs to South Ave and the pier at Lou Mac Park.

town hall signDebris Pickup Town Manager Miller went through the process of the town’s bid for debris removal, explaining the reasons why Oriental eventually went with the county’s contracted service. She listed problems with the bidding process, restrictive daily haul-out amounts, the need for reimbursement through proper permitting, and the exodus of many contractors to Florida for higher wages.

As of the meeting Wednesday night, Miller said the trucks were not finished with their first pass. “Up until this week,” Miller said, “there are people still coming back to their second home for the first time and dragging things out to the street.” She said the Town wants to avoid rushing into a final pass while debris is still piling up.

The Town Manager asked that people call Town Hall to let them know of new or additional large piles of debris, or of any overhanging limbs that may have been broken by the debris trucks.

She also said that any damage done by the debris trucks needs to be reported to the county, as that is who holds the contract.

Residents who want to know how much debris has been picked up can go to the County Emergency Management Hurricane Florence Debris Update website to check. Miller said the amount of debris hauled away so far is more than twice what was hauled away during Irene.

South Ave & the Pier Repair Hurricane Florence caused extensive damage to South Ave and only left the pilings on the pier at Lou Mac Park. Town Manager Miller explained the process for repairs, saying “this is not going to be a quick, lay-down gravel, and put on – we’ve had this conversation before about asphalt. The gravel has to settle before, otherwise you end up with the waves that we have right now.”

The first step in repairing South Ave is to repair the sea wall and extend it. Both FEMA and the town insurance company have deemed this part of the repair to be the most immediate need, according to Miller. As a result, the Town does not have to go through the bidding process. They’ve hired Bobby Cahoon Marine Construction to do the work and materials are already at the construction site. Miller estimates it may take about two weeks once they begin.

The Town Manager said that once the wall is repaired, then they can begin to bring in equipment to work on the roads. The broken asphalt that was forced up by water has to be removed and the underlying structures must be inspected for water intrusion. The water lines also need to be inspected. During the repair, Miller says the Town is looking at repairing two fire hydrants – one at Vandemere and South Ave, the other at Freemason and South Ave – and their water lines while the South Ave is under construction.

Commissioner White asked for a timeline. “I’m trying to set the expectation; this is a month’s [long] project?” Miller replied that it is. She said she is absolutely unsure of the timeline. The repair must happen in phases and the work has to be bid out.

Several engineers as well as FEMA and the Town’s insurance adjusters have been out to the site. CAMA granted a permit on Thursday to have the pier repaired using the exact same footprint. Town staff have been on South Ave re-installing the wooden barriers along the wall near Lou Mac Park.

Special Use Permits (SUPs) for Restaurant-Bar and Short-term Rental

Restaurant/Bar in the Old Steamer Building Lamont Jones of New Bern has made a request and application for an SUP for 401 Broad St, former site of The Steamer. The application lists the business as a Restaurant/Bar. Jones calls it a lounge.

Patty Rosencrantz lives behind the proposed Lounge. She raised concerns about the prior business in the building, citing drug deals from the back porch, disturbances and fights, loud music, and damage to her fence and mailbox from patrons. “He says restaurant, I hope you mean it,” said Rosencrantz. “I do not want this being just a lounge.”

Kathy Morgan, a spokesperson with Jones, addressed the Town Board saying they were aware of the issues with the previous business. Morgan said their intent was to create a family place with karaoke and music, maybe jazz or poetry. Reading from a paper, she said “our lounge will have exceptional style and design while providing a level of comfort that will appeal to a more affluent customer base.”

Rosencrantz again challenged the lounge idea, saying she didn’t hear anything about a restaurant. Morgan replied they would not have a full menu, but instead would serve wings, oysters, steamers, and other casual comfort foods.

Commissioner Dammeyer raised questions about the amount of parking spaces available as a matter of compliance with the GMO. For restaurants, there must be 1 parking space “for every 100 square feet of gross floor area in the building plus 1 space for every 150 square feet of
outside dining area.” The current application does not comply with this because of the placement of water lines under and intended space. Dammeyer and others allowed that the applciation could move forward if either satellite parking were found or if the interior space of the dining area were reduced.

The commissioners agreed that there would be no parking allowed on the streets. In addition, the back porch of the structure would have to be demolished and not replaced, space found for dumpsters (which were not included on the original application), and the building, built in the early 1900s, would have to be brought up to code. With those conditions in place, the Commissioners voted unanimously to grant the application.

Jones stood up to thank the Board and addressed Rosencrantz directly. He said, “You will not have a problem. We are not opening a night club or anything like that.” He offered her his personal number as well.

Short-term Rental The owners of 807 Midyette Street are seeking an SUP to rent their home for short-term stays while they’re out of town. The Midyette Street house is their second residence.  Miller said there are no police records for that property and recommended a public hearing be set for the January Town Board meeting. At that time, residents may come to the meeting to present evidence as to why the town should or should not grant the SUP

Temporary Signs Ordinance
At October’s meeting, Commissioner Overcash brought up the possibility of changing the sign ordinance to exclude temporary signs on public property that were not political signs or event advertisements. His stance was that the Town Hall should avoid controversy. Other commissioners worried about regulating too much and having to define what was meant by ‘controversial’.

The Town Commissioners sent the recommendation to the Planning Board, as the ordinance is in the GMO. The Planning Board has delayed it until their November 19 meeting in order to familiarize themselves with the ordinance and the situation. They’ll take up the issue at their next meeting and, if they decide changes need to be made, they will forward their recommendation to the Town Board.

Street Closing Resolution Updated
The annual Boat Show has been moved to a new location on Hodges St, requiring a change to the Street Closing Resolutions. An additional line was added that allows the Town to “cancel any granted closures and events …. upon issuance of a Hurricane Watch or Tropical Storm Warning.” Commissioner White asked that it also be amended to include severe weather warnings and that the Town Manager be allowed to alter the resolution with minor changes, while more significant changes must still be approved by the Board. The resolution passed with all the additions.

Manager’s Report
  • Whittaker Point Land Transfer. The spit of land known as Whittaker Point was transferred to the Town of Oriental on Wednesday, November 3rd according to Town Manager Miller. The Town has secured several grants to repair the eroding point over the next several years. Links to information about the erosion of Whittaker Point are at the end of the article. The Town also received a Department of Environmental Quality grant for $200,000 for the Whittaker Point repair. The town is up to $1.2 million in grants to repair the point and there is an additional grant of $450,000 from Fish and Wildlife pending.
  • The sidewalks along Highway 55 through town is being redone to make the curbs ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. The curbs are being lowered to the roadway.
  • Delivery of the new police vehicle has been delayed. The company no longer makes the color originally chosen for the car. A new color, white, has been chosen. There is not yet a time frame for the delivery.
  • More than 2x the amount of flu shots were given out this year as last year. 
  • The Town is waiting on the delivery of the new speed limit signs that lower the speed limit to 35 mph. NC Department of Transportation finally agreed to lower the limit out to the Piggly Wiggly on Highway 55.
  • Manager Miller will be out of the country from late November to mid December. She has made a request that Deputy Finance Director Tammy Cox be given power to “execute documents necessary in place of the Manager for that period of time.” The Board agreed.
  • The 2015 -2016 financial audit has been completed. There has been an issue with the financial software the Town was using, resulting in reporting discrepancies. The Town has undertaken an audit to ensure the correct amounts before switching to more reliable software. Town Manager Miller reports that she has several questions for the auditor about the final numbers before reporting those numbers to the Board and to the State Treasurer, especially since the unrestricted unreserved fund ‘grew significantly’. She attributes the growth to ‘additional tax revenues from new properties and new method of sales and use tax as well as conservative fiscal spending with the unknown presented by software challenges.’

Emergency Siren
Commissioner David White said he had received a letter from the owners of the Inn at Oriental, before the hurricane, expressing concern about the noise from the siren; White says they would like it to be silenced. This is an issue that’s come up several times. White met with Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Murray.

Murray has also spoken with the owners. He says that the law requires him to have two forms of communication to get in contact with his 30 EMTs and Firefighters. Currently, their communication options are phones and the siren. There are two-way radio frequency pagers they could buy, but they are $600 each. The cheaper one-way pagers are not an option. The department does not have the budget to buy 30 two-way pagers at this time. Buying them in phases is also not a reasonable option, White says, because the technology could be phased out before the entire purchase is complete.

Commissioner White said that as a liability issue, he does not believe the Town should tell the fire department to take down the siren. Rather, the fire department should tell the Town when it is okay to take it down.

Dates to Know
The next Planning Board meeting is Monday, November 19 at 3p.
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, December 4 at 7p.

Related Information

Posted Monday November 12, 2018 by Allison DeWeese

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