USACOE Federal Project
Having approved North Topsail Beach’s participation in the Federal Project, the Board of Aldermen continues to explore how precisely to pay the substantial costs involved. Working closely with our financial advisors at DEC Associates, the Board continues to explore the use of Municipal Service Districts, cost sharing town-wide, and revenue generation through parking fees and occupancy taxes. At a special meeting held November 23rd, the Board viewed a presentation by DEC where they provided multiple property tax scenarios in both numerical and graphic formats. Though no property tax increase can be implemented until the next budget cycle (July 2021), the Board will consider additional scenarios and come to a decision shortly so that a plan can be presented to the Local Government Commission.
Capital Improvement/Fire Station
While DEC Associates has been focused on the financing alternatives for the Federal Project, the additional capital requirements of North Topsail Beach, particularly the construction of a new fire station, remain an important part of their charge. This was reaffirmed by the Mayor and Aldermen at the November 23rd meeting as well.
The sandbag revetment repair project has been stalled. The project engineer worked with a specific contractor to design the placement of the sandbags in the revetment. Due to purchasing procedure requirements, the construction must go out for bid, which prompted the unnamed contractor to threaten to sue over the uncompensated use of his design. Our position is that we will not move forward until we receive assurances that the town will not be drawn into litigation and we have requested a “hold harmless” or written communication from the contractor and engineer. This has not been forthcoming.
The bids received for repairs to the town hall were significantly higher than expected. We reopened the insurance claim for the project with the carrier and joint underwriters, and their adjuster met at the facility yesterday to view the damage and scope of work. We have provided them with the bid specifications as well as the bid results from all those who submitted a proposal. We are awaiting their determination of coverage before taking the next step, approaching FEMA.
It should be noted that the bid provided for some “alternate” items intended as “mitigation.” We have been awarded a Golden Leaf grant to pay for items which will improve resiliency, such as a fortified roof, high wind rated windows, a foyer, and small retaining wall. Based on the costs and grant size we will likely proceed without the foyer.
This project is now on an indefinite hold due to FEMA’s insistence on conducting an Environmental and Biological assessment – even though we are not using an offshore borrow area for sand and are using mainland sand sources already approved for the recently completed Matthew project. I am working with Congressman Murphy’s office to encourage FEMA to expedite this review.
Infection rates in Onslow County have risen dramatically in recent weeks, as they have in many parts of the country. In a conference call on November 24, 2020, the County Manager informed us that they would be moving to once again close county buildings to the public effective December 1, 2020. We are naturally concerned for the health and well being of our employees and residents and are considering closing town hall to the public as we did at the onset of this pandemic.
According to the County Manager, the restoration of the Onslow County beach access and parking lot was to resume with the end of turtle season. As of now, no construction has taken place. I have inquired of the Assistant County Manager what the timetable is and am awaiting a response.
Corps of Engineers: ICW Crossing and Channel to Jacksonville Dredging Inlet Dredge
The Corps is expected to begin dredging any day now, and their contractor has begun staging equipment at the north end. This project is intended to improve navigation with “sand on the beach” simply a by-product of navigation work. The expected volume of sand to be placed is 250,000 cu yds. I have contacted the USACOE in an effort to get a firm start date and am awaiting a response.
Vendor meetings continue for the parking initiative. A formal proposal was received November 23rd from a local vendor which is intriguing as it eliminates the need for capital investment in parking kiosks, and includes parking enforcement. We are tentatively scheduling a meeting with our current 4X4 area parking contractor to investigate what options they can offer. We anticipate presenting the Board with a plan at the January meeting.
The North Carolina Beach, Inlet, and Waterway Association held their semi-annual conference earlier this month. Town representatives attended both in person and virtually and received much useful information from some top notch presenters from both government and the private sector. Perhaps the most significant benefit was having the opportunity to meet and initiate relationships with legislative assistants to Senators Burr and Tillis, as well as to renew our relationship with Congressman Rouzer. I hope that additional local legislators and officials will be available at future conferences.
Snowflakes (Christmas Decorations)
Decorations are now in place, but final wiring must be completed by Jones/Onslow. This pertains to all of the decorations south of the bridge, and a few north of the bridge where wiring is defective. A list of all those requiring attention has been given to JOEMC and hopefully work can be completed shortly.
The approval of revised North Topsail Beach flood maps did not include one panel which included portions of North Topsail and portions of Surf City. This was included in the Pender County map group, a group whose approval has been delayed by multiple challenges.
Staff has worked diligently to try to get this corrected, and on December 2nd FEMA will issue a Letter of Final Determination correcting the situation. However, FEMA mandates a six-month compliancy period, meaning that the maps will not be adopted until June 2, 2021.