I am finding that I have more time than I expected to have before taking a long-planned leave. I can report to you that the only actions the Town Council took at its workshop session yesterday were to delay for another two weeks the selection of a search consultant to assist with the hiring of a new town manager and to request that DEC Associates, whom the Council hired in October as a beach nourishment financial consultant, deliver figures on the tax-increase impact a potential project would have on property owners in various “municipal service districts.” This was information the Council expected to receive from DEC Associates at the workshop.
Both of these actions were unanimous decisions.
Former Town Manager Peter Rascoe gave notice of his intent to retire Sept. 1, 2019 in mid-July, and Town staff identified the three search firms the Council is now considering in early September. The Council suggested it would choose a firm at its Feb. 4 meeting.
It was clear from public comments heard yesterday and at previous public forums that the most serious beach erosion in Southern Shores is at the northern end, from Third Avenue to the Duck town line. The beach and dunes are generally healthy elsewhere, especially in what might be considered a central area around Porpoise Run and Trout Run. (The Pelican Watch area is already in a nourishment program.)
I believe Councilman Matt Neal suggested yesterday that if the town goes ahead with a $15-$16 million beach nourishment project and obtains special obligation bonds to pay for it, the municipal service districts (MSDs) that must be set up could partition the oceanfront into three areas: north, central, and south. MSDs enable towns to assess property owners different tax-rate increases according to the districts in which their property is located.
I will pick up with this next week. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you would take photographs of the Southern Shores beaches and send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the date and time of day of the photograph and indicate whether the photograph depicts the beach at high or low tide or somewhere in between. You may obtain tide times for Southern Shores at tideschart.com.
The Beacon is on hiatus for a week. We will return next week with news and opinion about a potential beach nourishment project in town and its financing, the search for a new town manager, and options for recycling.
We will cover today’s Town Council workshop in detail next week. The only actions the Council took were to delay for another two weeks the selection of a search consultant to assist with the hiring of a new town manager and to request that DEC Associates, whom the Council hired in October as a beach nourishment financial consultant, deliver figures on the tax-increase impact a potential project would have on property owners in various “municipal service districts.” This was information the Council expected to receive from DEC Associates at the workshop.
Former Town Manager Peter Rascoe gave notice of his intent to retire on Sept. 1, 2019 in mid-July. Town staff identified the three search firms the Council is considering now in early September.
Because there was some confusion today about Dare County’s anticipated funding contribution in a beach nourishment project, we reproduce below an excerpt from an article we wrote Nov. 9, 2019, after Dare County Manager Bobby Outten and Dare County Commission Chairman Bob Woodard appeared before the Town Council on Nov. 6, 2019 to speak about the county’s funding. I spoke with Mr. Outten by telephone on Nov. 8 to clarify some of the points he made at the Council meeting, which was held the day after the municipal election. The Dare County officials appeared at the invitation of the Town Council.
THE BEACON, 11/9/19:
$7.5 million is currently available in BNF for project(s)
Currently, Mr. Outten explained, there is $7.5 million in the Dare County Beach Nourishment Fund (BNF) that has not been allocated for other purposes, such as paying debt service and covering maintenance of the projects that have been completed. Part or all of this money is available to be given to a town for its beach-nourishment project.
As The Beacon explained yesterday (11/8/19), the county’s occupancy tax is 6 percent. One-third of the occupancy taxes collected is set aside for beach nourishment. This amount is often referred to as “2 percent,” but it’s actually one-third of the 6 percent. These “2 percent” monies can be used for no other purpose, but to “put sand on our beaches,” Mr. Outten said, and to maintain that sand fill.
The county puts a premium on maintaining beach nourishment, thereby protecting its investment, and anticipates, for planning purposes, that maintenance will occur every five years. In a given beach town, however, maintenance may not be necessary that frequently. Nags Head performed maintenance just this year of its 2011 beach nourishment project.
[UPDATE: On Monday (1/20/20), Mr. Outten informed Chicahauk homeowner Craig Albert that none of the three towns that did beach nourishment in 2017, in addition to Southern Shores at Pelican Watch–Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills–had committed to doing renourishment in 2022-23. Mr. Outten told The Beacon in a Dec. 11 meeting that Kill Devil Hills had expressed an interest in delaying its maintenance.]
The occupancy tax money comes into the county as it is collected, according to Mr. Outten, so the BNF “grows and grows, then we spend it down.” What this means is that the unallocated amount can be expected to increase.
Formula for determining how much each town should pay for nourishment
As Mr. Outten explained at the Wednesday Town Council meeting, Dare County paid about 50 percent of the costs for Nags Head’s 2011 nourishment project, which was the first one on the Outer Banks. According to online reporting by the Town of Nags Head, the project’s total cost was $37 million.
When Kill Devil Hills, Duck, and Kitty Hawk subsequently came to the county to ask about funding for nourishment of their beaches, Mr. Outten said he had to figure out “how to fairly allocate county funds” among them. The BNF had insufficient funds to support a 50-50 split for each town, as was done in Nags Head.
What the County Manager eventually did was ask: “How much did Nags Head tax its taxpayers” in order to pay its share of the beach nourishment project? Mr. Outten said he looked at how much Nags Head “spent out of its coffers,” and divided that number by its tax base, to arrive at a tax rate paid by “everybody” in town. It was about 7.85 cents, as he recalled, or 0.0785 per $100 of property valuation. [Today, DEC Associates of Charlotte reported a figure of 7.82 cents.]
When each of the three towns applied that formula—i.e., multiplied their tax bases by the 7.85 factor—it could afford a nourishment project, Mr. Outten said. The county then made up the difference in the costs of each town’s project . . .
Because its tax base is so large, however, when Kill Devil Hills applied the 7.85-factor formula, it “got virtually none of the occupancy-tax money”—because it could afford to do without it—“and that didn’t seem fair,” Mr. Outten said.
KDH and the county negotiated, arriving at a 5.2 factor instead, Mr. Outten said, so “they had skin in the game at some level, and we put some skin in, too, to make it fair.”
Of course, like Nags Head, the three towns didn’t actually apply the 0.0785 tax rate to every taxpayer because they used municipal service districts to tax oceanfront and oceanside property owners at a higher rate than other property owners.
DEC Associates provided no information today that The Beacon had not already learned from the power-point presentation it gave at the Town Council planning session Feb. 26, 2019 or from County Manager Outten’s talk on Nov. 6. In fact, in stating that the county will contribute a guaranteed 50 percent to a town’s beach nourishment project, it erred.
Tomorrow’s Town Council workshop meeting, which convenes at 9 a.m. in the Kern Pitts Center, will present property owners and residents with their first opportunity to address the recycling crisis that has unfolded during the past three months.
As a Bay Disposal & Recycling representative made clear at the Council’s Jan. 7 meeting, the recyclables that residents have been putting out curbside for pickup since Dec. 10 have not been recycled; they have been taken to a waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth, Va., where they have been incinerated.
That the Town has not informed the public on the Town website and/or in the Town newsletter about this significant development is more than an oversight. The Town has failed to fully disclose the situation and once again fueled public concerns about a lack of transparency in governmental affairs.
According to a Beacon source, Mayor Tom Bennett informed SSCA members gathered Jan. 13 for the civic association’s general membership meeting that the Town is not planning to do anything to save the recycling program in Southern Shores, which was the first municipality on the Outer Banks to offer curbside recycling.
Although the Town Council has not yet voted on renegotiating its “recycling” contract with Bay Disposal, Mayor Bennett indicated that the Town will continue to offer curbside pickup of garbage and other items that the collector will transport to Wheelabrator in Portsmouth for incineration. Trash burning at energy plants has been implicated in both climate change and air pollution.
Mayor Bennett reportedly cited a lack of staff resources and funding for the reasons why the Town is not trying to save recycling in Southern Shores.
Is this what the other Town Council members want? Or has this inaction been decreed by mayoral fiat? What about the public’s opinion? What does the Southern Shores public want? And why hasn’t the Town reached out to the public through its website or newsletter?
The latest Town newsletter, issued Jan. 17, showed graphics of which items are recyclable, and which are not, without informing the public that Bay Disposal no longer takes Southern Shores’ curbside loads to a recycling processing center!
Mayor Bennett reportedly mentioned the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center at 4190 Bob Perry Road in Kitty Hawk as an option for Southern Shores recyclables. The Beacon has done the same, but is now concerned that the collector for this center is also Bay Disposal, which is hauling recyclables to Wheelabrator, not to a recycling processing center. [UPDATE: It is, indeed. See below.]
KITTY HAWK/DARE COUNTY RECYCLING CENTER
According to the Kitty Hawk town website, Outer Banks Hauling handles Kitty Hawk’s subscription curbside recycling. Outer Banks Hauling is another name for Bay Disposal. The Beacon tried to reach Kitty Hawk Public Works Director Willie Midgett and Dare County Sanitation and Recycle Supervisor David Overton by telephone this morning, but was unsuccessful—perhaps because of the holiday. [UDATE below.]
The recycling center separates glass and corrugated cardboard from the rest of the recycling it accepts, which is commingled in a single stream. Lavelle Jenkins, the very friendly and helpful part-time employee who assisted me, said that the county picks up the glass and the cardboard, and that the single-stream recyclables end up at Bay Disposal’s site in Currituck County.
[UPDATE 2 p.m.:] Mr. Midgett confirmed in a telephone call what Mr. Jenkins had said. Kitty Hawk will continue to have Bay Disposal pick up its single-stream recycling “as long as it does not go to a landfill,” Mr. Midgett said.
According to the Kitty Hawk Public Works Director, Dare County crushes the glass it collects and reuses it in road projects. The County bundles the cardboard it collects, he said, and sells it.
Kitty Hawk’s curbside recycling is strictly subscription-only, for which Bay Disposal charges $12.45 per month. Mr. Midgett said that town residents were given the option of “mandatory recycling,” but “it did not fly.”
In contrast to Kitty Hawk, the Town of Duck has a contract for residential and commercial curbside recycling with TFC Recycling, the Hampton Roads-based company with which Southern Shores previously did business. It is TFC Recycling that has refused to accept loads from Bay Disposal for processing at its recycling plant.
If the Town ceases to do business with Bay Disposal, there will be ample funds available to dedicate to searching for a solution to the recycling crisis. In FY 2019-20, the Town allocated $156,200 for “recycling collection,” just as it had done in FY 2018-19, the first year of its contract with Bay Disposal In FY 2017-28, the budgeted amount for collection was $139,849; in FY 2016-17, it was $134,594. (Former Town Manager Peter Rascoe touted a costs saving when he switched collection companies.)
Options exist for continued recycling in Southern Shores, and they should not be solely up to the “grass roots” to research and explore.
The calls The Beacon made today, along with calls to the Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Nags Head town managers, and the N.C. and Va. departments of environmental quality, can be easily made by Town staff without undue expense. What’s more, Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett is more likely to get a callback from these governmental employees than a blogger/reporter is.
The curiosity of coastal-engineering consultant Ken Willson’s latest report to the Town Council is that, in seeking to define what constitutes “sufficient useable beach” in Southern Shores, he ignores the adjectival qualifier, “sufficient.” He also uses data from surveys done in May 2019, making no effort to collect new measurements or to compare last May’s data with historic data.
We now know what Mr. Willson, who is vice president of APTIM Coastal Planning & Engineering, has calculated to be the average beach widths in May 2019 of the Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills shorelines, but nothing about their sufficiency. We also do not know, because he does not tell us, how the May 2019 data compare with widths now or with widths at any other time in Southern Shores’ history.
By unanimous decision Dec. 3, the new Town Council approved a cumbersome motion by Mayor Tom Bennett which, when revised, essentially instructed Mr. Willson to modify the methodology that APTIM had used to evaluate beach conditions in Southern Shores for its December 2018 Beach Management Plan and Vulnerability Assessment.
The Beach Management Plan was preceded by APTIM’s baseline assement of the Southern Shores beaches in 2018 and updated in May 2019. (See below.) Mr. Willson presented the results of the update to the Town Council on Sept. 10, 2019.
After two property owners on Seventh Avenue persistently and publicly complained about their narrowed oceanfront being left out of Mr. Willson’s December 2018/May 2019 recommendations for beach nourishment in Southern Shores, the Mayor asked APTIM to re-evaluate. (Mr. Willson’s recommendations came less than two years after he told the Town Council that the Southern Shores oceanfront was “stable” and “in good shape.”
The Town Council’s request eventually took the form of a reformulated goal for the Beach Management Plan that reads as follows, with the italicized wording being new:
Maintain a healthy beach that provides sufficient useable beach and supports valuable shorebird and sea turtle nesting habitat.
Notably, no effort was made by the Town Council to define what constitutes “sufficient.”
AVERAGE BEACH WIDTHS COMPUTED BY APTIM AS OF MAY 2019
According to the new report, which was submitted Jan. 14, Mr. Willson examined May 2019 beach-width conditions on the Southern Shores coastline and along the entire Kitty Hawk-Kill Devil Hills shoreline that was nourished in 2017, and came up with average beach widths.
But he never assesses the sufficiency of these averages, nor does he detail where along the many miles of this shoreline, ranging from the northern limit of Southern Shores to East Baum Street in Kill Devil Hills, does he derive his measurements. Addresses of the so-called “profile stations” would have been very helpful.
Mr. Willson concludes that the “average useable beach width” along the Southern Shores coastline south of Third Avenue last May was 84 feet. He says that the average useable beach width last May in the area south of Southern Shores that was renourished in 2017 was 103 feet.
Are 103 feet necessary for a beach width to be “sufficient”? Of course not. A beach of 40 feet could be sufficient, if it is used seasonally by few beachgoers. In contrast, a beach of 150 feet might be considered insufficient if it is mobbed with people. But in using the methodology that he used, Mr. Willson implicitly suggests that Southern Shores beaches must be 103 feet to be “sufficient.” Nonsense.
Figure 3 in Mr. Willson’s report, which is identified as “Addendum A” to the Town’s Beach Management Plan, purports to show the beach widths at a number of profile stations, only several of which are identified in the report. One of them is at Skyline Road, which had a beach width last May of about 100 feet.
The lowest width along the examined shoreline appears to be in the southern end of renourished Kill Devil Hills, where the beach last May was 50 feet.
Mr. Willson reports that the average useable beach width from Fifth Avenue in Southern Shores north to the Duck line last May was 57 feet.
How wide are the beaches now? We do not know. The shoreline ebbs and flows, accretes and erodes. As Dr. Katherine Brodie, an oceanographer at the Duck Research Pier who lives in Southern Shores, said at a September 2019 Council meeting: APTIM’s “data are limited.”
We do not have the benefit of long-term data. This is a glaring omission.
APTIM RECALCULATES COST ESTIMATES FOR ‘OPTIONS’
After computing averages for beach widths along the Southern Shores-to-Kill Devil Hills coastline as of last May—widths that he says “may meet the Town’s desired criteria [sic] of ‘sufficient’”—Mr. Willson then considers cost ramifications of revisions that would be based on them.
He looks at expanding the potential beach nourishment project in Southern Shores from 15,000 feet of oceanfront shoreline, as he recommended in 2018-19, to 19,712 feet. The latter would be the Town’s entire oceanfront.
He then adjusts the beach-fill options he recommended to the Town Council last September by adding two more.
In what he calls “Option 4,” Mr. Willson proposes to place a “design volume density” of 30 cubic yards of sand per foot along the 19,712-foot oceanfront, even though he states that the beach south of Third Avenue “had sufficient useable beach as of May 2019.”
Option 4 is an update of what was previously termed Option 1, which would have placed 36 cy/ft. of sand volume on the beaches south of Third Avenue to the Kitty Hawk line. Mr. Willson estimates the total cost of Option 4 to be $14,755,600, as compared with Option 1’s $13,974,200.
So-called Option 5, Mr. Willson writes, “is essentially the same beach fill configuration in Option 1 [36 cy/ft.] from Third Avenue south,” but it also includes placing 30 cy/ft of beach fill from Third Avenue north to the Duck line. The cost for this option is estimated to be $16,196,500.
APTIM CALLED SOUTHERN SHORES BEACHES STABLE IN 2018
The Beacon is well aware how tedious and cumbersome it is for property owners to sort through, and make sense of, Mr. Willson’s data compilation and manipulation and his various reports of the past three years. We would like to have independent experts, such as oceanographers from the Duck Research Pier, study his Southern Shores reports and recommendations as a whole and in the context of the coastal environment—starting decades ago—and give us their opinions on his conclusions.
We are hopeful that Dr. Brodie and her oceanography colleague, Dr. Nicholas Cohn, who also lives in Southern Shores, will attend Tuesday’s workshop and speak in the public forum. Property owners would benefit from their expertise.
Mr. Willson first appeared on the Southern Shores scene as a presenter at the beach nourishment forum that the Town held in the ballroom of the Hilton Garden Inn on Jan. 17, 2017. Because Mayor Bennett turned this special forum-conference into a regular Council meeting and allowed public comments to be heard before the assembled experts spoke, many of the hundreds of people who came to listen to the experts left before the program started.
A floodgate of Pelican Watch homeowners, who had already complained in a private meeting with the Mayor and in Town Council meetings, delayed for more than an hour the start of the forum that everyone had come to hear. I still hear from people that they no longer attend public meetings because of what occurred at this forum.
Allow me to tell those of you who avoid meetings that Mr. Willson has changed his tune during the past two years.
Subsequent to the forum, the Town Council, with former Town Manager Peter Rascoe’s guidance, authorized Mr. Willson, then a “project manager” for APTIM, to do a baseline assessment of the Southern Shores beaches in 2017.
APTIM, which is based in Wilmington, has nearly cornered the market on conducting beach-profile surveys and doing beach-nourishment project planning and execution for Outer Banks towns. APTIM has been a contractor of Southern Shores, Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills. Only Nags Head has hired a different coastal engineering firm.
Mr. Willson presented his 2017 beach assessment to the Town Council at its March 6, 2018 meeting, informing members that the Southern Shores “shoreline is looking fairly stable” and there is “no big rush” to “jump” on beach nourishment.
“I think time is on your side,” he concluded. Check out the tape. He said it.
The results of APTIM’s 2017 surveys of 22 beach profiles, which are locations along the Southern Shores shoreline spaced 1,000 feet apart from each other, showed 1) the shoreline is “stable,” having lost only 0.4 feet (that’s five inches) between 2006 and 2017; and 2) the volume of sand in the system had actually increased during the same time period.
“The shoreline is looking pretty stable,” Mr. Willson said. “We’re not seeing any hot spots right now. The long-term averages and the short-term averages [for shoreline changes] look to be pretty stable, pretty manageable.”
But, he continued, cautiously . . . we do see some areas along the shoreline that have less sand volume than others, some houses that are closer to the stable line of vegetation than other houses. He, therefore, recommended to the Council that it authorize APTIM to conduct a “vulnerability assessment of the oceanfront structures” and to determine the “minimum cross-section of [sand] volume” that should be maintained to protect the shoreline from storm damage.
And, just so the Town Council would have the information it needs, he said, he would provide a “five-year plan” for “what a project would look like” when he conducted the vulnerability assessment and the volume determination.
Not that the Town needs to implement that five-year plan, you understand.
And this is how the Beach Management Plan that APTIM submitted in December 2018 and that the Town Council authorized updating in May 2019 came to be.
At the Town Council’s Feb. 26, 2019 special planning session, at which Mr. Willson first presented his three recommended options for beach nourishment in Southern Shores, the now-vice president of APTIM told the four members in attendance (former Councilman Christopher Nason was absent):
“The dune system in Southern Shores is in pretty good shape.” It is “fairly intact,” he said, providing protection against storms and erosion.
But, somehow, time is no longer on our side.
You can read all about the short beach-nourishment journey in Southern Shores from the Town’s coastal engineering consultant’s acknowledgment of stability on our oceanfront less than three years ago to what now appears may be an ill-advised leap by the Town Council into investing in a project, on The Beacon:
2/28/19 (the special planning session);
3/31/19 (an editorial opposing beach nourishment as unnecessary);
4/4/19 (public forum, Rascoe’s urging of “pulling the trigger”);
9/17/19 (questions by oceanographers about APTIM’s “limited” data); and
The Nags Head Board of Commissioners is expected to consider next month whether to renegotiate its residential recycling contract with Bay Disposal & Recycling, with whom Southern Shores also does business, after learning that the hauler is taking the town’s recyclables to a waste-to-energy plant rather than to a recycling plant, as the town’s contract requires, according to a Jan. 14 report by The Outer Banks Voice.
The Voice’s Michelle Wagner reports that the Powell’s Point-based collector, which also collects Southern Shores’ curbside recycling and has requested a rate increase from the Town for its services, notified the Town of Nags Head on Jan. 7 that “all its recyclables were being transported to Wheelabrator, a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, Va. to be generated as renewable electricity for a utility and used for steam at the U.S. Navy shipyard in Norfolk.”
Bay Disposal’s Outer Banks Site Manager Joshua Smaltz, also advised the Southern Shores Town Council at its Jan. 7 meeting that it is currently taking all of Southern Shores’ curbside recycling to Wheelabrator, a company with waste-to-energy facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom.
According to a timeline prepared by Mr. Smaltz, which was included in the Jan. 7 meeting packet, the Bay Disposal employee informed “the Town” on Dec. 10, 2019 that TFC’s recycling center in Hampton Roads would no longer accept Bay Disposal’s loads. On Dec. 16, Mr. Smaltz writes, he proposed to the Town that its recycling be reused “at the energy plant.”
Both Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett and Mayor Tom Bennett, thus, knew weeks before the Council’s meeting earlier this month that Bay Disposal was taking Southern Shores recyclables to Wheelabrator (“the energy plant”), which is mentioned in the Jan. 7 meeting packet, along with a notation about its costs. (Comments by Mayor Bennett at the Council meeting confirm his knowledge.)
Mr. Smaltz did not publicly elaborate, however, at the Council meeting upon the nature of Wheelabrator’s operations, nor did Mr. Haskett or Mayor Bennett explain the nature of Wheelabrator’s operations—and none of the other Town Council members asked.
Wheelabrator converts residential waste to useable energy by burning it. It does not recycle material.
(For background on the recycling crisis in Southern Shores, see The Beacon’s reports of 12/7/19 and 1/9/20.)
Bay Disposal reportedly breached its contract with Nags Head when it transported its recyclables to Wheelabrator, without advising the town.
Under Nags Head’s current contract, The Voice reports, “Town Manager Cliff Ogburn said that no more than 10 percent of the weight of recycled materials collected in Nags Head could end up in [a] landfill or be incinerated without permission from the town.”
According to The Voice: “While sending Nags Head’s recyclables to Wheelabrator is permissible under the town’s 30-year agreement with the Albemarle Solid Waste Management Authority, Ogburn said a consideration just as important is whether the commissioners and the community want to continue the recycling program based on this new information.
“Some in the community, Ogburn told the Voice, may support recycling, but are ‘not as agreeable to this form of use.’”
Some in Southern Shores also may not agree with having their recyclables incinerated at Wheelabrator, but they have not been adequately informed by the Town Manager, Mayor, and Town Council of the circumstances.
The Beacon believes it is long past time for Interim Town Manager Haskett to step up in this crisis and show leadership. He is quoted by The Voice as saying that Southern Shores “is currently waiting to hear back from Bay Disposal about state requirements regarding the route by which recyclables get to Wheelabrator, which will, in turn, impact rates. ‘Either way, we are looking at a rate increase,’ he noted.”
Such passivity is unacceptable. Bay Disposal does not run Southern Shores, and Mr. Haskett does not need the Town Council’s permission to contact Mr. Ogburn and the town managers of other nearby beach towns to start a dialogue on how the towns can work together to ensure that Outer Bankers can continue to recycle, curbside or otherwise.
Recycle, not incinerate.
Southern Shores should not be in the position of waiting to hear what Bay Disposal has to say and then seeking to accommodate it. We should take action for our own good now.
Which single-stream recycling centers in Virginia and North Carolina are closest to Dare County? What would it cost each beach municipality that currently has a contract with Bay Disposal to transport its recyclables to these centers? Can the towns collaborate and pool their resources to keep costs down? What other options exist for the Dare County beach towns to work together for the betterment of all?
Creative problem-solving about the recycling crisis has yet to occur in Southern Shores, and it is long overdue.
Jan. 21 workshop speaker Ken Willson of APTIM Coastal Planning and Engineering of N.C., has submitted a report to the Town detailing his analysis of what he believes constitutes “sufficient useable beach” on the 3.7-mile-long Southern Shores coastline. Doug and Andrew Carter of DEC Associates in Charlotte, however, have not filed any documents in advance of their presentation next Tuesday about financial planning for possible beach nourishment in Southern Shores.
The Town Council’s Jan. 21 workshop session will convene at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center. According to the agenda, the first item of business will be the search and hiring process for the next town manager. Mr. Willson and the Carters will speak after the conclusion of that business, after which a public forum on a “potential” beach nourishment project in town will be held.
The Town has posted Mr. Willson’s latest report, along with two previous reports filed by APTIM, in the workshop meeting packet.
According to the agenda, the Carters will be showing a power-point presentation, just as they did at the Town Council’s Feb. 26, 2019 special planning meeting, when the issue of financing beach nourishment first arose publicly.
The meeting packet also contains voluminous materials from the three highly recommended, experienced, and qualified search firms that have applied to assist the Town with its search for the next town manager. Southern Shores has been without a permanent, full-time town manager since mid-August 2019, when Peter Rascoe went on two weeks’ leave before his Sept. 1, 2019 retirement.
One of the search firms, The Mercer Group—which is headquartered in Georgia and has an office in Raleigh—assisted the Manteo Board of Commissioners with its recent successful search to find a successor to longtime City Manager Kermit Skinner. (See pp. 63-66 of the town manager meeting-packet materials.)
As The Beacon reported 12/11/19, after learning of further delay by the Town Council last December in selecting a search firm: “Manteo underwent a rigorous search process to hire its current manager earlier this year, after 30-year Town Manager Kermit Skinner retired. Mayor Bobby Owens would likely be pleased to share his wisdom with the Town Council.”
The first reference listed on the application that The Mercer Group submitted to Town Human Resources Director Bonnie Swain last November is, in fact, Mayor Owens.
Despite having ample information on-hand from each of the three consultants, the Town Council decided to hear from Hartwell Wright, a human resources consultant with the N.C. League of Municipalities (NCLM), before choosing a consultant. He will speak at the Jan. 21 workshop.
As Mayor Tom Bennett explained at the Town Council’s regular December meeting, Mr. Wright will inform the elected officials “what he recommends we look for in a manager based on his history and experience.”
The Mercer Group lists in its application about 60 executive searches that it has performed for government clients, most of them to fill vacancies for city, town, or county manager—and that’s just in North Carolina. Its experts have managed dozens more searches nationwide.
We wonder how Mr. Wright’s track record compares with The Mercer Group’s record or with the other two applicants’.
The Mercer Group’s fee would be $17,500, which is comparable to what Developmental Associates, LLC, of Chapel Hill, and N-Focus of Kannapolis would charge.
BEACH NOURISHMENT FINANCING?
The Beacon will examine the latest APTIM report in more detail in a blog post over the weekend. It addresses adding sand to a 19,712-foot-long oceanfront, an increase of about 4,000 feet over previous recommendations for nourishment. It also recalculates project costs, which have previously been estimated at $14 to $16 million, depending on how much sand is added to the beaches.
We have reported about beach nourishment in Southern Shores on the following dates: 2/28/19, 3/31/19, 4/3/19, and 9/17/19.
In our 2/28/19 report about last February’s Town Council planning session, we reported: “[T]he father-son financial-adviser team of Doug and Andrew Carter, of DEC Associates in Charlotte, explained to the Town Council the various complicated methods available for beach-nourishment funding.
“Popular among them are special obligation bonds, which permit a town to set up ‘municipal service districts’ and to levy different tax rates within the MSDs, Andrew Carter explained, so that, for example, people who own oceanfront property would pay more than other property owners do for the sand fill/replenishment.
“Once a beach town embarks upon a nourishment plan, said Mr. Carter, whose firm specializes in N.C. shoreline protection financial planning, it commits to ‘long-term planning’ for future periodic maintenance and beach operating costs.
“He echoed Mr. Willson’s earlier assertion that beach nourishment is ‘an exercise in adaptive management. . . . It is never seen as a one-time event.’
“The Carters said their fees would be $35-$40,000 for developing a financial plan and setting up a ‘beach fund’ for the earmarked funds; and $30,000 for working on finding the financing, which is typically for five years.”
The Town Council voted 3-2 on Oct. 1, 2019 to hire and pay $35,000 now to DEC Associates to ensure, as the Mayor said, that a financial consultant would be on board in the event the Town were to go forward with a beach nourishment project. Former Councilmen Gary McDonald and Fred Newberry dissented.
All of the Dare County beach towns that have done beach nourishment—Duck, Southern Shores (for the Pelican Watch beaches), Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head—have used DEC Associates.
The Beacon is eager to see how the appropriated $35,000, which came from the Town’s unassigned fund balance, has been spent so far.
The following is the power-point presentation given by the Carters on Feb. 26, 2019 at the Council’s special planning meeting:
While the landscape on the south end of Dogwood Trail is being decimated, the landscape on the north end of the wooded trail is blooming (see above). Both trends strike The Beacon as disturbing.
The old growth on South Dogwood Trail that has been destroyed will never be replaced. On the north end, however, more flowers, seduced by the unseasonable warmth, may soon burst forth. Temperatures today through Thursday are forecasted to be in the mid- to high-60s.
The sidewalk construction is well under way. The Beacon has heard from one homeowner that an eight-foot-tall camellia bush in his South Dogwood Trail yard was removed, contrary to sidewalk-design plans he had seen and without any notice to him. Upon complaining to the Town, the homeowner was referred to “Town Engineer” Joe Anlauf, who was less than sympathetic.
In its motion to approve the plans for the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, the Town Council specifically designated the “Town Manager” to do construction oversight. That person now would be Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett. The Beacon believes that Mr. Haskett should be receiving, investigating, and resolving all homeowner complaints. No homeowner should have to speak directly with Mr. Anlauf, whose public demeanor is often brusque.
The Beacon would like to hear from any South Dogwood Trail homeowners who have concerns or complaints about the sidewalk construction project. Please write to us at email@example.com. If you have contacted the Town about your concern(s), please include the names of the people with whom you spoke and how they handled the matter.
The Beacon would advise anyone who has an issue with the sidewalk construction to contact all members of the Town Council at their collective email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Anlauf is a working partner of the engineering firm with which the Town has independently contracted. He does not represent Southern Shores homeowners.
PUBLIC FORUM ON BEACH NOURISHMENT ALSO SCHEDULED JAN. 21
The Town announced yesterday that a public forum on a potential beach nourishment project in Southern Shores will be held at the Council’s Jan. 21 workshop meeting, which starts at 9 a.m., immediately after two presentations:
The first by Ken Willson, of APTIM Coastal Planning and Engineering of N.C., about the modifications that the Council requested to its “Beach Management Plan,” and the second by financial consultant, DEC Associates, Inc., which has advised other Dare County beach towns about how to distribute the tax-increase burden on property owners to pay for their nourishment projects.
The Beacon will preview these two presentations as much as is possible based on documents posted on the Town website.
We are very disappointed that the Town Council is asking property owners either to give up/rearrange a busy week-day morning of work, child care, and other activities in order to comment in an important public forum, whose time will not be determined until just before it begins, or else to inform themselves by reading documents online before Jan. 21 and sending written comments to the Town. We will try to ease your burden with an assessment/analysis beforehand.
At the very least, the Town Council should indicate in its Jan. 21 agenda whether it will be making any decisions at its so-called workshop. Workshops are commonly understood to be for study and discussion, not for votes on major decisions.