The Town Council approved last night, by a 3-2 vote, the Town’s proposed $7,450,846 FY 2019-20 operating budget, without amendment, with members dividing on the transfer of $1 million from reserve monies set aside for emergencies to fund a sidewalk on South Dogwood Trail.

As expected, the simple majority of Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilmen Christopher Nason and Jim Conners, who voted at the Council’s April 23 budget work session to appropriate $1 million from the Town’s undesignated fund balance for this infrastructure project, again voted last night in favor of the appropriation. Councilmen Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald, who explained that they do not oppose a walkway on South Dogwood Trail, just the way it is being funded, voted against it.

Mr. Newberry also objected to the budget lacking a “provision for addressing the cut-through traffic.” He pointed out that besides having a “dramatic effect on South Dogwood Trail,” in terms of its aesthetics and environment, the sidewalk is “not the total answer” for problems on the road, such as speeding and other traffic violations routinely committed and routinely observed by Mr. Newberry, who regularly walks on South Dogwood.

There will be a public hearing at the Council’s July meeting to discuss the design of the proposed walkway, which now is envisioned as a five-foot-wide concrete sidewalk identical to the one recently built on East Dogwood Trail. Both Councilmen Newberry and McDonald expressed an interest in a narrower walkway of between three and four feet, a concept that Mayor Bennett said had not been foreclosed.

The Town Council’s next meeting was originally scheduled July 9, when the Republican primary runoff election for the third district U.S. Congressional seat will occur. The Pitts Center is a polling place. Town Manager Peter Rascoe did not announce an alternate date last night.

In other developments during the Town Council meeting, which lasted until past 9 p.m., the Council unanimously approved Town-sanctioned citizens’ advisory committees to study ways in which the cut-through traffic can be curtailed and whether and how to establish a Dare County branch library in Southern Shores. Each committee is to have seven members. Tommy Karole will chair the traffic committee, and Michael Fletcher will chair the library committee.

After considerable discussion, the Council also voted unanimously to refer a Town Code Amendment regulating special events in residential districts to the Planning Board for its review and recommendation and to the Town Attorney and Town Planning Director for revision of its terms, which it specifically requested. (See The Beacon, 5/29/19 for background.) The Planning Board will take up this ordinance at its June 17 meeting.

The Council renewed the Town Attorney’s legal services contract with the increased fee schedule requested by Ben Gallop’s firm, Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland of Nags Head—it is actually the firm, not Mr. Gallop, who represents the Town—and agreed to extend the contract of Deel Engineering, PLLC, for a year.

Both Mr. Newberry and Mr. McDonald expressed disappointment with being presented with renewal of the engineering company’s contract “at the last minute”—the contract expires June 30—so that the Council could not solicit other proposals without putting ongoing projects that require engineering oversight at a disadvantage. (See The Beacon, 6/4/19.)

The Beacon will report further about last night’s Town Council meeting later in the week.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/5/19

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