2/29/20: DARE’S 2020 PROPERTY REVALUATIONS: SOUTHERN SHORES AVERAGES AN INCREASE OF 20 PERCENT OVER LAST YEAR’S VALUES; PLUS HOW ‘REVENUE-NEUTRAL’ TAX RATES WORK AND DECIDING WHETHER TO APPEAL

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The Beacon is hearing from homeowners in the Southern Shores woods that their 2020 revaluations are running about 25 to 35 percent above last year’s property values.

Southern Shores is abuzz with talk of the new, higher-valued property assessments sent by Dare County to property owners last week, and so is The Beacon.

Since the County’s Feb. 25 mailing of the revaluation notices, The Beacon has heard from Southern Shores property owners about increases in value ranging from 1 percent (a vacant lot on Duck Road) to 36 percent (a developed property in the woods). We have not interviewed, nor have we been contacted by, anyone whose property declined in assessed value or increased precipitously.

According to the Dare County Assessor’s Office, the total assessed value for taxable real-estate parcels in Southern Shores increased 20 percent over last year’s total value. In 2019, 2,945 real-estate parcels in Southern Shores were assessed a total value of $1,314,249,700. This year, 2,943 parcels were assessed a total of $1,574,737,000.

Until this year, Dare routinely observed the state-law requirement of counties that they conduct countywide property revaluations at least every eight years—the last one having occurred in 2013. This time the County opted to go with a seven-year cycle, which the law permits it to do.

Taxpayers have 21 days after the date of the revaluation notice—i.e., until March 17—to note an appeal of any reassessed property value by mail, online, or in person. According to the County, hearings of “informal appeals” before certified real-estate appraisers on staff will begin March 10.

If you disagree with the result at the informal appeal level, you have the right to appeal to the Dare County Board of Equalization and Review, which is a five-member citizens’ committee appointed by the Dare County commissioners. The County will mail property tax bills in July.

The County has determined that there are three reasons for appealing a new assessment. They are:

  • The assessed value is significantly higher or lower than the actual fair market value of the property.
  • The assessed value is based on inaccurate data.
  • The assessed value is not equitable when compared with similar properties.

HOW THE REVALUATION AFFECTS COUNTY AND TOWN TAX RATES

In deciding whether to appeal a higher property value, taxpayers often wonder how much more they will have to pay in property tax, i.e., what will happen to the county and town tax rates as a result of the revaluation.

Local governments in North Carolina are required by state law to establish “revenue-neutral” property tax rates during the year in which a general reappraisal of property occurs, but they are not required to adopt them.

According to the law (specifically, N.C. General Statutes sec. 159-11(e), the revenue-neutral rate, abbreviated as RNTR is “the rate that is estimated to produce revenue for the next fiscal year equal to the revenue that would have been produced for the next fiscal year by the current tax rate if no reappraisal had occurred.”

Because of revenue-neutral rates, Town taxpayers may not see much of an increase in their tax bills for 2020. But you cannot assume that your tax liability this year will be the same as last year. That’s not how revenue neutrality works.

The RNTR refers to the aggregate tax burden for a jurisdiction (county or town), not the tax burden for individual taxpayers. If a taxpayer’s real property appreciated in value more than the county’s or town’s real property in the aggregate, then that taxpayer will pay more if the RNTR is adopted.

A taxpayer’s bill also will increase if “that taxpayer’s proportion of real property to personal property is greater than that for the jurisdiction as a whole,” according to the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government. (We defer to the School of Government for an excellent explanation of the RNTR and how it affects individual taxpayers. See: https://canons.sog.unc.edu/the-revenue-neutral-tax-rate/.)

Further, the state statute requires only that a local government budget officer “include in the budget, for comparison purposes, a statement of the revenue-neutral property tax rate for the budget.” The local government must calculate and publish this rate, but it need not actually adopt it for the next fiscal year.

Dare County’s RNTR will be established by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, but the rate will be known before then. The same is true of the Town of Southern Shores’ RNTR.

The first of two fiscal year 2020-21 budget workshop sessions to be held by the Southern Shores Town Council is scheduled for March 24, 9 a.m., in the Pitts Center. The second one will be April 21, at the same time and place.

APPEALS OF PROPERTY REVALUATIONS

The conventional wisdom has long been that in order to argue effectively on appeal that your property has been valued incorrectly—typically, much too high—you have to have comparable property sales to bolster your case. That means contacting a real-estate agent and asking him or her to run down “comps” for you.

For your convenience, Dare County has made available online the comp data that it considered in its revaluation. It now provides “Comparable Sales Search” links for either vacant or improved residential properties. See https://www.darenc.com/departments/tax-department/2020-revaluation.

As an advocate who has argued successful appeals, I would advise that these links are a good place to start, but you should do more research. Contact your own agent for a comp search—it might turn up other comps in your favor—and tell that person all of the factors that you believe distinguish your property from others that the County considered in comparison.

Location—for example, whether it is oceanfront/soundfront/canalfront or not—is not everything. Nor are the year of construction and the square footage of the house. There are lots of apples and oranges in comparable sales. Think in particular about the condition of your house vis-à-vis the condition of comp-sale houses. In the event of a sale, is your house likely to be torn down and replaced and, therefore, be of lesser value than the County considers it? That’s important.

Generally speaking, what is different about your house and real property? To argue that your house has been significantly over-valued, you should be able to identify variables that make your house less desirable than the comparable sales in the same general area. The same is true of the land on which it sits.

The County has aerial photographs of the exteriors of residences; it does not know about the sagging foundation, the cracked walls, the outdated plumbing, the circa-1975 kitchen, etc., etc., and other drawbacks of your house’s interior.

How many bedrooms and bathrooms does your house have in comparison to the comps? Is the number a hindrance or a help in the event of a sale?

The County also does not know about any sale encumbrances or restrictive covenants that may be in your property deeds.

I am a big believer in arguing an appeal in person, not by mail or online. When you make your case only in writing, you are making it before a theoretical decision-maker, an unknown quantity, a non-person, if you will. When you sit across the desk from an appeal examiner/appraiser, you know whom you are addressing and, in fairly short order, you will know something about the way that person thinks. His or her questions alone will give you an idea of which factors will be dispositive of your appeal and which factors will not. You will know what to emphasize.

(Of course, you need a good argument, to begin with. If you think you can just wing it and hope for the best, you should stay home.)

A favorable interpersonal dynamic also may come into play in disposition of your appeal, if you actually speak with someone. It will never have an influence, if you just download your documents online and contact no one personally.

Of course, if you are prone to losing your cool, you may lose points in an in-person appeal. I have seen people storm angrily out of appeal hearings—which is a sure way to lose. Courtesy is vitally important. If you know that you are likely to come across poorly, ask a spouse or other household member to handle the appeal.

MORE DATA FROM DARE COUNTY’S REVALUATION

You may be interested to know that Wanchese, which is a “census-designated place” on Roanoke Island, not an incorporated town, and Mashoes, an area that The Beacon believes is near Manns Harbor and has only 51 property parcels, had the highest percentage increases in total assessed value at 47 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

According to the County, the total assessed value of properties in Duck increased 16 percent from 2019 to 2020, and the total value in Kitty Hawk increased 27 percent.

In 2019, Duck had 2,749 parcels assessed at a total value of $1,568,779,000; in 2020, it had the same number of parcels assessed at $1,821,595,800. In Kitty Hawk, the 2019 numbers were 3,629 parcels at $1,074,521,500, and the 2020 numbers were 3,633 parcels at $1,363,586,700.

Countywide, according to the Dare County Assessor’s Office, the percentage of change from 2019 values, was as follows:

1) A decrease: 5 percent of all parcels

2) 0-30 percent increase: 49 percent of all parcels

3) 30-40 percent: 18 percent of all parcels

4) 40-50 percent increase: 12 percent

5) More than 50 percent increase: 16 percent

The County also looked at single family residences by area and land type, the latter of which it separated into four categories:

  • Non-influence
  • Sound/canal
  • Ocean influence
  • Oceanfront

In the area it designated as “northern beach”—which it distinguished from Hatteras Island, Roanoke Island, and Mainland—the overall percentage change in value for “non-influence” property was 36 percent; for sound/canal property was 24 percent; for ocean-influence property was 22 percent; and for oceanfront was 29 percent.

We will endeavor to read more about the County’s revaluation process in the coming weeks and report on salient details. You may access its 195-page, how-to report here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=5859.

For general information about the revaluation, see https://www.darenc.com/departments/tax-department/2020-revaluation.

COMING TOMORROW: A report on last Thursday’s meeting between the Town’s exploratory committee on cut-through traffic and representatives from the N.C. Dept. of Transportation.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: The Town Council meets for its regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wed., March 4, in the Pitts Center. You may access the agenda and meeting packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-03-04.pdf.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/29/20

 

2/20/20: JOB AD FOR NEW TOWN MANAGER PLACED, SEARCH OPEN FOR APPLICATIONS . . . APPROVED TIMELINE HAS NEW HIRE REPORTING IN JUNE; AND SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE PAY STUDY REPORT AND HOW MUCH SOUTHERN SHORES AWARDS IN SALARIES/BENEFITS

PeterRascoe2Advertisements for Southern Shores’ vacant town manager position were to be placed in strategic venues yesterday and today—officially launching a hiring search that has been delayed for months—according to consultant Ellis Hankins of The Mercer Group, who presented his search process and timeline to the Town Council at its Tuesday morning workshop.

The Town Council unanimously approved both Mr. Hankins’s ad copy, which Town Finance Officer/Human Resources Director Bonnie Swain had previously critiqued, and his search timeline, which, if adhered to, would have the Council interviewing candidate “semifinalists” in early May and a new manager on the job in mid- to late-June.

Former Town Manager Peter Rascoe gave notice in the middle of last July of his Sept. 1 retirement. (He is pictured above in his Town office.) Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett has been serving in the position since Mr. Rascoe went on leave last August.

Mr. Hankins also met Monday with Mayor Tom Bennett and each member of the Town Council, except Matt Neal, who was unavailable. The consultant, a senior vice president with The Mercer Group, encouraged members of the community as well as others who have an interest in or opinions about the town manager search to contact him at ellis.hankins@gmail.com.

Tuesday’s workshop also featured the presentation of a pay study report prepared by management analysts for the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC). David Hill, who conducted the study with colleague Bob Carter, told the Council that his report was based on workforce data that he received July 2, 2019, two weeks before Mr. Rascoe gave notice.

He came “on site” last summer, Mr. Hill said, meeting with Town employees and their supervisors in order to develop classifications for their jobs. He failed to mention if Mr. Rascoe was involved in this process.

Mr. Hill’s agreement with the Town is not included among the service contracts posted on the Town’s website, and neither Mr. Rascoe nor Mr. Haskett ever mentioned his pay study in a town manager’s report at a Council meeting. Former Councilmen Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald, who served until early December, told The Beacon they were unaware of it.

The Town contracted with The Mercer Group, after considering proposals from three North Carolina search firms that were submitted last fall. According to the proposal that Mr. Hankins submitted to the Town, his firm’s fee for its services is $17,500 plus incidental expenses of up to $3,500.

Although Southern Shores has had outside help before in identifying town-manager candidates, it has never hired a professional search firm.

THE BEACON’S QUICK TAKE

The Beacon gives high marks to Mr. Hankins and The Mercer Group, which does business nationally and has offices in 12 states, including one in Raleigh. The Mercer Group has performed dozens of executive searches for public entities, including recently assisting Manteo with finding a highly qualified successor to its longtime town manager, who retired. Emerald Isle is another of the firm’s clients.

Mr. Hankins’s presentation was very polished and professional.

We find little value, however, in the flawed pay study conducted by Mr. Hill and Mr. Carter. Mr. Hill presented results to the Council that The Beacon would characterize as both meaningless and irrelevant. Council members appeared to us during his talk to be either indifferent or confused or both. We could readily empathize.

The PTRC study concludes, without citing any comparable job-market hard data—such as the position-grade salaries paid by Duck and Kitty Hawk to their employees—that the Town needs to invest $70,444.79 into adjusting its salaries and benefits upwards in order to be competitive in the marketplace. The methodology that enables PTRC to get to this recommendation–which is based on apposite comparisons to other towns and inherently unreliable self-reporting (you tell what you do, thus defining your own job description)–simply does not hold up.

This conclusion is reached even though the study shows that Southern Shores has the highest average salary among all Dare County towns (Manteo, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, and Duck), as well as in comparison with 13 other local governments, including those of Dare and Currituck counties and in coastal towns such as New Bern, Beaufort, and Wilmington.

Southern Shores’ average salary—a figure that The Beacon views as insignificant, because it is derived from taking into account disparate jobs (different departments, different skills) performed by people with disparate levels of experience—is purportedly $62,622. The $70,000-plus increase in salary funding recommended by PTRC would bring the average salary in Town to $63,314, another meaningless value.

While it would make sense to derive an average salary from among police officers with less than five years of experience, for example–or from another group with comparable job qualifications and traits–it makes no sense, mathematical or otherwise, to compute an average salary for an entire town staff.

According to public records obtained by The Beacon last year, Southern Shores has about 25 full-time employees working across four departments: administration, police, public works, and code enforcement.

Ms. Swain told the Town Council that municipal pay studies, which form the basis for staff position pay grades and salary ranges, typically are performed every three to five years, but Southern Shores has not done one since 2013. Mr. Rascoe, who was hired in June 2010, would be the person primarily responsible for the time gap.

Tuesday’s workshop meeting was videotaped in two segments, the first of which addresses the pay study report, and the second of which consists of Mr. Hankins’s presentation and a public hearing on the town manager search process/timeline.

You may access the first segment here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KX4_ECIZKs&feature=youtu.be

Segment two is accessible here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBMDzF1Pq7Q&feature=youtu.be

The Beacon will discuss the segments further in reverse order.

THE TOWN MANAGER’S ROLE & JOB DESCRIPTION & THE SEARCH TIMELINE: WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO MAKE YOUR VIEWS KNOWN; EMAIL ELLIS.HANKINS@GMAIL.COM

Mr. Hankins described the search for the Town’s next town manager as a “great challenge” and a “great opportunity” and expressed his commitment to assisting the Town Council with finding a “competent professional” who is a “good fit.”

He also referred to the town manager as the Town’s “chief executive officer . . . on a daily basis.”

The town manager, he said, is “the person in charge of town government”—subject to the Town Council’s “supervision.” Not control or command, but supervision.

The Beacon believes this is an important point to understand. The town manager does not work for the Town Council. He or she works for the Town.

Only two people spoke during the public hearing Tuesday for the town manager search, and I was one of them. I started by emphasizing that Southern Shores has a council-manager form of government and noted that the manager’s powers and duties are set out in state law, specifically in N.C. General Statutes section 160A-148. A council may not modify these powers, except perhaps to add to them.

Under state law, a North Carolina municipality may choose to have a mayor-council form of government or a council-manager form of government. In a mayor-council government, the power and authority to govern and make decisions are vested in these individuals, who may hire an “administrator”—not a manager—if they choose and delegate to that person specific duties and powers, which they may modify or even completely eliminate.

The administrator in a mayor-council government serves at the discretion and pleasure of the ruling board, which can delegate to him or her any of its own power or duty, as long as it is not a power or duty that state law requires the board to exercise.

Unlike “administrators,” town managers have a lot of independence and autonomy and should not be viewed, nor should they act, simply as instruments for carrying out the Mayor’s or the Town Council’s orders. They are high-level professional managers, CEOs.

The council in a council-manager form of government is required by state law (NCGS sec. 160A-147(a)) to appoint a manager “solely on the basis of the manager’s executive and administrative qualifications.” The statute also states that the manager need not be a resident of the municipality or of North Carolina at the time of his or her appointment.  

I gave a fairly exhaustive description of the experience, qualifications, style of management, and personal characteristics that I consider prerequisites for an excellent town manager/CEO. In addition to what may be rather obvious attributes, I asked for a manager who follows up on Town business (the CodeWright project and the land-use plan revision, for example) and fosters a give-and-take with the public, informing “stakeholders,” and observing an “open-door policy.”

Please share your thoughts with Mr. Hankins about the town manager you would like to see in Southern Shores. Email him at ellis.hankins@gmail.com. “Half of the folks in Manteo” have his email address, he said, and they used it during that town’s search.

FROM PLACING JOB AD TO HIRING NEW TOWN MANAGER

Among the job-ad placement venues mentioned by Mr. Hankins Tuesday were the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, the N.C. League of Municipalities (NCLM), and the International City/County Management Assn. (ICMA), a Washington D.C.-based association that represents professionals in local government management.

Mr. Hankins, who is an attorney with a master’s degree in regional planning, served as executive director of the NCLM from 1997-2014. He currently is Town Attorney for Spring Lake, N.C. and an adjunct faculty member at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, N.C. State University, and Duke University. He teaches public law and ethics, state and local government, and intergovernmental relations.

Mr. Hankins’s CV is extensive. You may view it, as well as the rest of The Mercer Group’s proposal, on pp. 34-74 of the packet at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Manager-Search-Firm-Packet.pdf.

During the recruitment period, Mr. Hankins told the Council, he will be reaching out to “folks in coastal communities, in particular,” for town manager candidates—in Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, as well as in North Carolina.

He also outlined the following upcoming events in the search process:

From now until March 2: preparation of a color recruitment brochure/position profile, dissemination of which will start about March 2

March 3-April 8: phone conversations with strong job applicants and preliminary reference and background checks

April 6: beginning of the first review of applications (the so-called “soft application deadline”)

April 16: a closed meeting with the Town Council to discuss the “strongest candidates,” about whom Council will have received written information; and selection of five to seven semifinalists to interview

April 30: completion of reference and background checks on selected semifinalists

May 1: interviews by Council with semifinalists (Mr. Hankins will help with standardized interview questions)

May 8: second interviews by Council with select semifinalists, if desired (possibly in a more social setting, with spouses present, Mr. Hankins suggested)

Early- to mid-May: vote by Council in open meeting to appoint new town manager

Mid- to late-June: arrival of new town manager; transition

Mr. Hankins said he would help the Town Council to negotiate the new town manager’s employment contract, including suggesting a salary range. (The Beacon would like to see Mr. Hankins’s pay study of the position!)

The Mercer Group consultant also advised that he would “recruit, recruit, recruit,” and keep the Council informed of the search progress.

“We may get as many as 40 to 50 applicants,” he said, adding that the “best-qualified” applicants often apply toward the end of the application process, after they have done their “due diligence” about the job and Southern Shores.

CRITIQUING THE PAY STUDY AND THE TOWN’S PAY HISTORY, ESPECIALLY WITH TOWN MANAGER RASCOE, IN MORE DETAIL

In critical public comments that I made before Mr. Hill’s presentation, I observed that the PTRC study, as included in the workshop meeting packet, lacks a listing of the positions currently held by Town staff and the pay grades and salaries for each. This constitutes an omission of key data.

Upon an inquiry about the same from Councilman Neal, Mr. Hill explained that such a list does exist, and that Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett possesses it.

Councilman Leo Holland also expressed an interest in seeing this list, so that he can compare and contrast it with Mr. Hill’s recommended changes in pay grade and salary range—which are included in the study. Mr. Haskett said he would get this information to the Council.

It came out during the Town Council’s discussion that the Town’s current pay-scale plan is available on the Town website. But this is true only if the position-based pay scale in FY 2019-20 is the same as the pay scale that was in effect in FY 2018-19. A pay scale for the current fiscal year has not been posted.

The Beacon only discovered links to FY 2018-19, FY 2017-18, and FY 2016-17 pay scales on the Town website under the category of “Financial Documents.” The two pay scales for fiscal years 2018-19 and 2017-18 are dated 7/1/2018 and are identical. They show pay grades numbering from 10 through 26 and figures next to each job classification denoted as “hiring rate,” “minimum,” and “maximum.”

See FY 2018-19: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/FY-18-19-Pay-Scale.pdf

The FY 2016-17 pay scale is different, however. It is dated 7/1/2016 and has similar pay grades and job classifications, but the salary numbers (hiring, minimum, maximum) vary from those in the next two fiscal years.

The FY 2016-17 pay scale also includes this noteworthy addition to the positions in grades 10 through 26: a “contract position” in grade “C,” classified as “Town Manager,” with a contract rate of $141,934.

FY 2016-17: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/FY-16-17-Pay-Scale.pdf

Mr. Rascoe’s salary history with the Town was unusual and controversial. Within three years of his appointment, he had received a 20-percent pay increase.

Under his initial 2010 contract, which was for three years, Mr. Rascoe earned a base salary of $109,500. A year later, in open session, Mayor Hal Denny and the Town Council increased his base salary to $120,000 (roughly a 10 percent raise). A year after that in an open session on Aug. 21, 2012—before the initial contract had expired—Mayor Denny and the Council increased Mr. Rascoe’s base salary to $128,000 (about 7 percent).

Shortly before Mr. Rascoe’s contract was to expire in 2013—and less than six months before Mayor Denny left office—the Mayor and Town Council extended Mr. Rascoe’s term of employment five years, through June 30, 2018, and increased his salary to $131,800 (about 3 percent). These actions were taken in closed session.

A year later, in a closed session presided over by Mayor Pro Tem Jodi Hess, because Mayor Tom Bennett was absent, the Town Council extended the term of Mr. Rascoe’s contract nine years, through June 30, 2023.

In FY 2019-20, according to public records, Town Manager Peter Rascoe earned a total salary of $163,940. When benefits were added to his salary, Mr. Rascoe’s compensation was $214,902—the highest salary-benefit package for any town manager in Dare County.

See Mr. Rascoe’s contract and addenda at: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Binder1-Town-Manager.pdf

According to Mr. Hill, Mr. Rascoe’s salary was included in his pay study, even though its history clearly shows preferential treatment, and Mr. Rascoe’s position is outside of the established Town pay scale.

The pay study also does not consider the variable of benefits, which should be evaluated when base salaries are assigned. Southern Shores gives its employees very generous benefits.

The Beacon obtained FY 2019-20 salary-benefit totals from other nearby beach towns and learned that the town manager of Kill Devil Hills receives a salary-benefit package of $199,017; Duck’s town manager earns a package of $191,347; and Nags Head’s town manager receives $179,451.

Kitty Hawk’s town manager has a FY 2019-20 base salary of $108,201.60, to which health insurance, 401(k) and retirement benefits, and FICA would be added. We did not obtain a package figure for this position, but would estimate that the amount is between $130,000 and $150,000.

Comparisons of other position-based salary-benefits packages, as well as base salaries, also can be readily made.

COMPARING SOUTHERN SHORES WITH OTHER NEARBY BEACH TOWNS

Among the five beach towns, Southern Shores has the lowest annual revenue, a factor that The Beacon believes should be weighed in the establishment of salary ranges for position-pay grades.

In FY 2018-19, when The Beacon last compiled annual revenues for all of the towns, the totals were:

Southern Shores: $6,200,846

Kitty Hawk: $9,703,157

Duck: $10,928,892

Nags Head: $19,715,579

Kill Devil Hills: $19,877,121

Southern Shores FY 2019-20 revenue was budgeted at $6,220,846. Town records reveal that total salaries consume roughly 29 percent of this amount; and salaries with benefits consume 39 percent. That’s a hefty amount going into just paying people to run the government.

When the Town Council decides the pay grades and minimum, midpoint, and maximum salaries for staff positions, The Beacon hopes it will consider how much of the Town’s annual revenue is being spent on salaries and benefits, and compare those percentages with other towns, especially Kitty Hawk and Duck, which have annual revenues most comparable to our own.

Mr. Hill was correct about one thing: There is no “coastal market” for jobs. The best comparison towns for Southern Shores are those “from Duck to Manteo.” These towns constitute what Mr. Hill called the “actual competitive market” for Southern Shores.

The Town of Duck discloses, and makes readily accessible, on its website the salaries and benefits it pays every staff position, and the salary grades and ranges for each position title. Duck’s website is the gold standard for Dare County town websites.

The Beacon could not readily access the same information for Kitty Hawk online, but Town Clerk Lynn Morris will provide whatever the Town Council needs to know.

Other criticisms of the PTRC study can be made, but we will stop here and refer you to the videotape.

PLANNING BOARD ELECTIONS: The Planning Board elected current vice-chairperson Andy Ward to serve as chairperson for the remainder of the current fiscal year, and new member Don Sowder to serve as vice-chairperson, at its Tuesday evening meeting.

THE TOWN’S BRANCH LIBRARY EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE will meet Feb. 27, at 1 p.m., in an upstairs room in the PittsCenter. The meeting is open to the public.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/20/20

 

2/16/19: SSCA SPONSORS FREE WEBINAR FEB. 19 ON MANAGING PONDS, OTHER WATERS, AT PITTS CENTER

circlepond2
A view today from the foot bridge across Circle (Drive) Pond that enables people to cross from Circle Drive to Periwinkle Place without using Ocean Boulevard. The Kitty Hawk Land Co. owns the large J-shaped Circle Pond.

This just in . . .

The Southern Shores Civic Association (SSCA) will sponsor and participate in a Webinar titled “Proactive Management Plan for Maintaining Healthy Waterbodies/Ponds,” Wed., Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. in the Pitts Center. The educational Webinar is free and open to the public. Homeowners who live on ponds and other waterways in Southern Shores are encouraged to attend.

The Webinar will be hosted by SOLitude, a company that specializes in pond and lake management. Aquatic specialists will discuss such topics as nuisance aquatic weeds, toxic algae blooms, shoreline erosion, and sediment buildup and flooding.

The SSCA will start the program at 1:30 p.m. with a welcome and some background information. The civic association has established a project to develop policies and procedures to improve and maintain the quality of water in our ponds. It is currently working with the Dare County Soil and Water Conservation District to gather information on what can and should be done.

The Webinar will last one hour. You need not register to attend.

For more about SOLitude, which services clients nationwide, the Webinar, and the speakers, see https://www.solitudelakemanagement.com/solitude-webinar-proactive-pond-management-better-value?hsCtaTracking=866b4222-06e9-4e21-b29f-c8f72c79c5e4%7C881f4a84-7066-4195-8f6b-5ae80cfa87c2.

If you would like to know who owns the various ponds in Southern Shores, please refer back to The Beacon’s 10/17/2019 column, “Council Candidates on Water Woes . . . And Who Owns the Ponds in Southern Shores? Good Question!” The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/16/20

 

 

2/16/20: UPCOMING MEETINGS TUESDAY AND LATER IN FEBRUARY. TOWN COUNCIL TO MEET MARCH 4, DAY AFTER PRIMARY, HOLD WORKSHOP/BUDGET SESSION ON MARCH 24 (Correction)

In a 2/10/20 post, The Beacon reported an incorrect date for the Town Council’s regular meeting in March. The Council will meet on March 4, the day after the primary, not on the primary date. Further, it will hold its March workshop meeting, which is usually on the third Tuesday of the month, on March 24, which is the fourth Tuesday.

The March 24 workshop meeting is one of two budget work sessions scheduled by the Town Council. The other will occur on April 21, according to the meeting schedule approved by the Council in December. Workshop meetings are scheduled at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center, whereas regular meetings convene at 5:30 p.m in the Pitts Center.

We apologize for the errors.

Last year the Town Council elected to meet in the Pitts Center on the days of the Republican primary runoff and the general election for North Carolina’s third U.S. congressional district seat, which became vacant with the death last February of longtime Congressman Walter Jones.

The Beacon thought the displacement of the polls for these elections into the hallway outside the main meeting room in the Pitts Center, so that the Council could meet, was a mistake. We think all elections, regardless of the number of names on the ballot and the interest among the electorate, should take precedence over a Council meeting. As you will recall, Republican Dr. Greg Murphy won the congressional election.

Upcoming Town meetings this month include the following:

TUESDAY, FEB. 18: 

Town Council Workshop Meeting, 9 a.m., Pitts Center (Pay Study, Town Manager Search)

On the Council’s workshop agenda are the presentation of a Town staff pay study report, authored by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (Southern Shores is in the Albemarle region), and a public hearing about the search for a new town manager.

If you know how bell curves are supposed to be used, you may be interested to see how they were used by management analysts with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council who conducted the pay study. In their cover letter to the study, David Hill, who will be present Tuesday, and his colleague, Bob Carter, thank Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett and Town staff for their hospitality and cooperation throughout the study process.

The Town never disclosed this pay study, which involved questionnaires, interviews, and meetings with employees, to the public. At no time did Mr. Haskett mention it in his monthly town manager’s report.

A proposed timeline for the town manager search process, which is included in the meeting packet for Tuesday’s workshop, along with the pay study report, projects a new town manager starting work in mid- to late-June. The first job advertisements are proposed to be placed on Feb. 19-20.

The timeline describes in much more detail than the Town’s brief notice the purpose of Tuesday’s public hearing. It reads as follows:

“Council Meeting & Public Hearing to Discuss & Approve Search Timeline & Job Ad, & Discuss the Town Manager Job Responsibilities, Search Process & Desired Background, Qualifications, Experience & Characteristics.”

The Town has contracted with the highly accomplished The Mercer Group, a national company with an office in Raleigh, to handle the search. Senior Vice President Ellis Hankins of The Mercer Group will attend the workshop.

You may access the workshop meeting agenda and packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-02-18.pdf.

Planning Board Meeting, 5:30 p.m., Pitts Center (Election of Officers, Flood Maps)

According to the public notice for the Planning Board’s meeting, the Board will elect new officers and begin discussing the process of updating the Town’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance and adopting the new Dare County flood maps.

Last July, the Planning Board elected now-Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey chairperson and Andy Ward vice-chairperson. Ms. Morey resigned her office last November after her election to the Town Council, and the Planning Board has not met since. The Council appointed former Planning Board alternate Tony DiBernardo to complete Ms. Morey’s unexpired three-year term, which started July 1, 2019.

The Planning Board elects new officers every fiscal year, so the officers chosen Tuesday will be subject to re-election after June 30.

The Beacon expects Mr. Ward to be elected the new Board chairperson. The next Board member in seniority is David Neal, who is in his second full regular-membership term. The other three Board members are in their first terms, two of them (Mr. DiBernardo and Ed Lawler, whose term expires June 30) having been appointed to complete other members’ unexpired three-year terms. Board member Don Sowder was appointed by the Town Council to a full term last July.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 26

Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee, 2 p.m., Pitts Center

The newly reconstituted seven-person CIIP Committee–which includes four members who have served since 2017 and were reappointed by the Council–will meet presumably to discuss current road-construction projects and budgeting for FY 2020-21. The public notice of the meeting does not indicate the nature of the committee’s business, and an agenda has not been posted on the Town website yet.

Current priority construction projects concern the single block of East Dogwood Trail that is east of Duck Road (stormwater improvements); Hillcrest Drive, from the Hickory Trail intersection north to the SSCA tennis courts; Sea Oats Trail from Eleventh Avenue north to Duck Road; and Dewberry Lane.

Councilman Jim Conners, a longtime member who served on the committee before 2017 when it was known as the Capital Improvement Committee, and Councilman Matt Neal, who is new to the committee, co-chair the CIIP Committee.

THURSDAY, FEB. 27

Exploratory Committee to Address Cut-Through Traffic, 2 p.m., Pitts Center

The six-member Cut-Through Traffic committee, which is advised by Council members Neal and Morey, will meet with representatives from the N.C. Dept. of Transportation to discuss implementation of the no-left turn “option” during weekends this summer, as well as other ideas for curbing vacationer traffic through the Town’s residential areas.

***

A NOTE ABOUT ADVERTISEMENTS ON THE BEACON: Recently, a reader commented to me how much he dislikes the advertisements that appear on The Beacon, thinking that I chose them and profit from them. No. The ads are placed by WordPress, which hosts The Beacon’s website, and are not visible to me.

The Beacon is strictly a no-profit, voluntary publication. I do not accept ads and regret that you may be subjected to ads that are intrusive, offensive, misleading, etc.  I would have to change The Beacon’s platform –and get into more website technology than I wish to manage now–for it to be otherwise and do not foresee doing that any time soon.

Thank you.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/16/20

 

 

2/14/20: RECYCLING: THE TOWN’S WHEELABRATOR OPTION IS VERY SHORT-TERM, DEQ SAYS. RECYCLING PLASTICS, PAPER, AND GLASS IN THE ‘NEW NORMAL’: WILL SOUTHERN SHORES BE A LEADER, AS IT HAS IN THE PAST, OR A BYSTANDER?

Curbsiderecycling
First on the Outer Banks to offer curbside recycling, Southern Shores gave homeowners blue bins like this one for their recyclables, free of charge. The Beacon’s recollection is we only disposed of aluminum cans, newspapers, and glass bottles. Does anyone remember?

The “temporary exemption” granted by the State Division of Waste Management to Southern Shores and other Dare County towns, enabling them to contract with Bay Disposal & Recycling to transport their recyclables to an incinerator in Virginia, is in effect only “through the end of March,” according to a spokesperson for the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

This exemption, according to Sandy Skolochenko, a community development specialist with DEQ’s Dept. of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (“DEACS”), is viewed by the State as a “short-term solution.”

Asked by The Beacon if an extension of the extension is likely, Ms. Skolochenko said that “It may come to that if something else doesn’t materialize.”

N.C. law prohibits the disposal of plastics and aluminum cans in landfills, as well as in incinerators, Ms. Skolochenko said. (The Beacon published the actual wording of the statutes in its 2/10/20 report.) Enforcement of this ban can be rather lax, however, because it is through N.C. landfill and incinerator operators, who “should not accept these products,” she explained.

On Feb. 4, the Southern Shores Town Council unanimously approved amending the Town’s contract with Bay Disposal to give the Powells Point-based curbside recycling collector/hauler a per-home rate increase of $1.17 until June 30, in order for it to absorb its increased costs for transporting the Town’s recyclables to Wheelabrator, a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, Va. Wheelabrator burns the waste it receives, using it, in part, to generate renewable electricity for a utility.

The Council also approved giving Bay Disposal 20 more days than the current contract allows for it to “cure” any breach in the service arrangement, increasing the number from 10 days to 30 days.

Although the current contract runs through June 30, 2021, Council members agreed, in response to Councilman Matt Neal’s inquiry, that they would reevaluate the contract at the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year and possibly terminate it. (See The Beacon, 2/10/20.)

“We have been working very closely with Dare County, Currituck County, and local jurisidictions” Ms. Skolochenko told The Beacon, to come up with “long-term, mid-term, and short-term solutions . . . so recycling can go to market.” Unfortunately, Southern Shores has not been a party to these discussions. It has not actively pursued solutions with other towns, the county, or the DEQ.

Contrary to anecdotal reports heard at Town Council meetings, U.S. and overseas markets do exist for recyclables. The picture is not as bleak as some have implied

For all you need to know about recycling in North Carolina, see: https://deq.nc.gov/conservation/recycling.

To find recycling buyers in North Carolina, see: www.p2pays.org/dmrm/start.aspx.

For information about the Dept. of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service, see: https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/environmental-assistance-customer-service/about-deacs

The Beacon’s impression from accessing DEQ’s materials and speaking with Ms. Skolochenko is that the recycling industry in North Carolina is doing fine in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill and areas west of the Triangle.

In the east, Greenville, Jacksonville, and Wilmington each has a material recovery facility (MRF), which is the industry name for a recycling processing center. See https://deq.nc.gov/conservation/recycling/material-recovery-facilities.

One of the long-term solutions cited by Ms. Skolochenko, who deals with public recycling programs, recycling market development, and state grants to support local recycling, is the construction of a new MRF in Northeastern North Carolina. But this would take more than a year to achieve, she said.

“Also on the table,” she noted, is a revised arrangement with TFC Recycling in Virginia, which refused as of Dec. 12, 2019, to accept any further recyclables from Bay Disposal. TFC could agree to accept Dare County recyclables at an increased cost that the towns served by Bay Disposal would have the option of supporting, she said.

“Just throwing your hands up and canceling recycling is not going to be a popular option,” she said, urging Dare County residents to communicate their concerns to their local government and to the county.

Ms. Skolochenko described the TFC solution as short-term, a “four to six-month thing,” until a long-term solution is identified.

According to the DEACS specialist, recycling grant money is available through the State for local governments, including grants of up to $80,000 for transporting recyclables to recycling centers.

There also are national organizations, she added, that could provide grant funding to “partner on a solution.”

In response to The Beacon’s suggestions about transporting Southern Shores’ and other Dare County towns’ recyclables to a Northern Virginia recycling center or an MRF in Raleigh, Durham, or elsewhere in North Carolina, Ms. Skolochenko acknowledged that those options are possible, but cost calculations have not been done.

THE ‘WRAP’ ON NATIONWIDE PLASTICS RECYCLING

Do you remember the photograph of the three recycling bins in front of Food Lion, in the Marketplace, that The Beacon recently posted?

We have learned from the media contact for the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP), a national initiative designed to make plastic film a commonly recycled material, that each participating retailer with a WRAP plastic-film drop-off bin—such as you see in front of our local supermarkets—manages the deposited recyclables itself.

Managers at the Harris Teeter in Kitty Hawk informed The Beacon that the company transports the plastics deposited in the bins in front of its store to its corporate headquarters in Matthews, N.C., where they are recycled. Matthews is in Mecklenberg County near Charlotte. According to Harris Teeter headquarters, the plastics are sent to Trex Co., Inc., which recycles them in decking products.

See Harris Teeter at https://www.harristeeter.com/recycling-packaging.

According to employees at the Food Lion, the recyclables deposited in bins in front of their store are picked up by Bay Disposal, which is transporting all of its loads to Wheelabrator to be incinerated. (The Beacon will confirm this with Food Lion’s manager as soon as possible.)

WRAP is a nationwide public awareness and outreach program sponsored by America’s Plastic Makers®, which is a trademark of the American Chemistry Council.

Currently, there are a reported 18,000 drop-off locations for plastic film in the United States and Canada. You may access a directory of these locations and learn more about WRAP at https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/recycling-bags-and-wraps/wrap-consumer-content/.

According to plasticfilmrecycling.org, which is the website for WRAP, plastic “film” is soft, flexible polyethylene (PE) packaging. It includes grocery, bread, zip-top, and dry cleaning bags, as well as wrap that is used around many products, such as napkins, bathroom tissue, diapers, and plastic plates. If this film is clean and dry, it may be recycled into other useful products.

Among the products recycled from plastic that plasticfilmrecycling.org cites are composite lumber used to make decks, benches, and playground sets, and small pellets that can be made into new bags, pallets, containers, crates, and pipe.

MIXED PAPER IS THE PRIMARY PROBLEM

While you may have been led to believe that plastic is the biggest problem in the struggling recycling industry, Ms. Skolochenko says the real elephant in the room is mixed paper. The vast majority of recyclables marketed in the United States and Canada are fiber products used to make paper.

Plummeting mixed-paper values have been key to the current economic struggles in the recycling industry. It is paper that moves the price of whatever a recycling processor can pay or needs to charge a municipality for its service, industry sources say.

There is a U.S. market for mixed paper, DEACS’s Ms. Skolochenko said, but it has to be “very clean to be attractive to a buyer.”

What is mixed paper? It is any paper product that is not corrugated cardboard or newspaper, such as a telephone book, a magazine, mail, office paper, and paperboard packaging. (Corrugated cardboard has three layers of paper: the inside and outside liners and fluting with a ruffled shape that is between the two liners.)

According to online industry sources, the recycling import restrictions imposed in January 2018 by China heavily affected the mixed-paper market.

Resource Recycling, Inc., which has reported on the recycling industry for nearly 30 years, reports that mixed-paper prices fell from levels “that once topped $100 per ton to zero or negative values in some regions of North America.” (See https://www.resource-recycling.com/recycling.)

According to a November 2019 Resource Recycling article, mixed paper has two main end markets in the United States: Recycled paperboard claims 39 percent of the market share, and another 37 percent goes into containerboard. The tissue market takes 19 percent, and the remaining 5 percent goes into construction applications and other paper product grades.

Because of China’s withdrawal, the recycling market for mixed paper is changing and could rebound, those in the industry say. India has become the current largest buyer of U.S. recovered fiber.

According to Shailesh Gothal of Gemini Corporation, who spoke at the 2019 Resource Recycling Conference and Trade Show in New Orleans last year, India has about 700 paper mills, 65 percent of which are dependent on imported recovered fiber.

The Gemini Corporation is a global broker of recyclables. Mr. Gothal said India is poised to become an even stronger market for recovered fiber from the United States.

According to Ms. Skolochenko, the emphasis in the States is on improving the mixed paper product, which starts with the consumer ensuring that the paper he or she tosses into curbside recycling is clean.

It is “easier to find a buyer,” she said, with a “better, higher quality product.”

Ms. Skolochenko confirmed what The Beacon reported 2/3/20 about Dare County’s recycling operations, saying: “Dare County has told us that they have some buyers for paper and cardboard” in Virginia. N.C. buyers also exist. (See the link to buyers, above.)

EXPANSION OF GLASS RECYCLING ON THE OUTER BANKS

The Beacon has previously reported upon Dare County’s glass recycling program, which is unique in the state because the county has had its own glass crusher since 2008. The glass it crushes is available for free pickup in Manteo by businesses and the general public. (Call ahead.)

Dare County’s recycling program is separate from the programs run by Southern Shores, Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head, although the county does operate a joint-venture recycling center with Kitty Hawk.

According to David Overton, the county’s Sanitation and Recycle Supervisor, crushed glass has “multiple uses” and “endless possibilities,” including in road and sidewalk construction, driveway surfaces, and landscaping projects, as well as in candles, lamps, stained-glass windows, jewelry, and other art objects.

The Beacon has recently read the suggestion that crushed glass may be used as sediment in beach-nourishment projects.

In light of the struggles in the local recycling industry and state legal requirements, the Outer Banks Restaurant Assn. launched an initiative earlier this month to investigate the possibility of recycling all of the glass bottles generated by their members by crushing them. Each restaurant would have incentive to do so because of its ABC permitting.

N.C. law requires holders of certain Alcohol Beverage Commission (ABC) on-premise permits—those who serve wine, mixed drinks, and/or malt beverages—to recycle those beverage containers that can be recycled. Permit holders must implement a recycling program that meets the minimum standards set by the ABC and submit that plan to the ABC as part of their annual permit renewals. (N.C. General Statutes 18B-1006.1)

Many of the beverage containers used by restaurants are made of glass. Glass is also the heaviest material that is placed in single-stream recycling. The Beacon also has learned that the county’s glass crusher is only infrequently used.

According to an informed source with contacts in the OBRA, who prefers to remain anonymous, the association invited the mayors of all of the towns mentioned above to its regular monthly meeting at 3 p.m., Feb. 4, to discuss a recycling initiative.

Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon and Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary Perry attended the meeting, and Kill Devil Hills Mayor Ben Sproul sent a representative, while Duck Mayor Don Kingston sent his regrets, The Beacon’s source said. Southern Shores Mayor Tom Bennett did not participate.

Coastal Provisions Chef and Proprietor, Daniel Lewis, who is president of the OBRA, declined to comment for this article because the OBRA’s initiative is in an early stage.

The Beacon hopes Southern Shores will join the other beach towns in actively supporting an expanded glass recycling program.

In concluding, Ms. Skolochenko described the current state of the recycling industry, both domestically and globally, as the “new normal.”

“All recyclers are concerned about moving their recyclables and what they get paid for them,” she said. “. . . We have to evaluate how to manage increased costs.”

In doing that evaluation, she added, “We need to step back and look at how recyclables are collected.” And we need to be progressive and collaborative in our thinking.

UPCOMING TOWN MEETINGS ON TUES., FEB. 18:

The Town Council will hold its monthly workshop meeting, at 9 a.m., in the Pitts Center. On the agenda are the presentation of a Town staff pay study report, authored by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (Southern Shores is in the Albemarle region), about which The Beacon has never heard mention; and a public hearing about the search for a new town manager.

You may access the workshop meeting agenda and packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-02-18.pdf.

The Planning Board will meet at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center to elect new officers and to begin discussing the process of updating the Town’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance and adopting the new flood maps.

The Beacon will return soon with an analysis and commentary about the pay study report.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/14/20

 

2/13/20: MARCH 3 PRIMARY: EARLY VOTING STARTS TODAY; FIND OUT WHO’S RUNNING IN YOUR PARTY’S PRIMARY BESIDES THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES (IF YOU DON’T KNOW); LINKS TO SAMPLE BALLOTS PROVIDED

primarysigns
Land at the Duck Road split is a popular location for political campaign signs.

“One-stop” early voting for North Carolina’s March 3 primary, in which candidates for the U.S. presidency, the U.S. Senate, and the N.C. governor and lieutenant governor, will be vying for their party’s nomination, starts today at 8 a.m. and runs weekdays through Feb. 29.

Voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at three locations: the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall, the Dare County Board of Elections Office in Manteo, and Fessenden Annex in Bauton. There will be no voting on the weekends of Feb. 15-16 and Feb. 22-23, and polls will close at 3 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 29.

Besides the top N.C. executive positions, there are candidates running for N.C. Attorney General, N.C. Secretary of State, N.C. Treasurer, and other state offices, but your opportunity to vote for any of them depends on your political party affiliation or, if you are unaffiliated, on which primary you choose. Some party candidates in the November election—such as incumbent N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat—have already been declared because they have no primary opposition. (See sample ballots below.)

ON THE LOCAL LEVEL, Republicans—and unaffiliated voters who choose to vote in the Republican primary—will have the opportunity to vote for either Rob Rollason of Kill Devil Hills or incumbent Bobby Hanig of Powells Point in District 6 of the N.C. House of Representatives and for either Paul Wright or incumbent Steve House in District 3 of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

District 3 represents Duck, Southern Shores, and Kitty Hawk. Mr. House lives in Southern Shores, and Mr. Wright lives in Kitty Hawk.

The Democratic candidate for District 6 of the N.C. House is Tommy Fulcher of Southern Shores. Mr. Fulcher is the husband of Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey, who was elected to the Southern Shores Town Council last November. Mr. Fulcher and Ms. Morey are political consultants who have worked on local Democrats’ campaigns.

Democrat Kathy McCullough-Testa of Southern Shores will face the winner of the GOP primary for the District 3-Dare County Board seat in November.

Three other seats on the seven-member county Board of Commissioners are up for election this year, but only one is being contested.

Board chairman and District 2 Republican Robert Woodard will face Democrat Amanda Hooper Walters of Kill Devil Hills in November. Neither faces primary opposition.

Both District 1 commissioner Wally Overman of Manteo, a Republican, and District 4 commissioner Danny Couch of Buxton, a Democrat, are running unopposed.

Democrat Tess Judge of Kitty Hawk will challenge Republican State Senator Bob Steinburg of Edenton in November for his N.C. Senate seat. Mrs. Judge previously ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for Mr. Hanig’s House seat.

There will be partisan races for seats on the Dare County Board of Education this year, but no primaries.

N.C. HAS SEMI-CLOSED PRIMARY

North Carolina has a semi-closed primary system. Voters who have declared a party affiliation may vote only in their party’s primary. Unaffiliated voters may vote in a particular party’s primary only if the party authorizes them to do so. The Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties have given unaffiliated voters permission to vote in their primaries, but the Green and Constitution parties have not.

The deadline for changing party affiliation for the primary election has passed. It was Feb. 7.

You may register to vote during the one-stop early voting period in a process known as same-day registration. You must meet legal requirements for voting eligibility and have proof of county residency.

You will not be required to show a photo ID for the primary. A lower federal court ruling has prevented North Carolina’s photo ID law from taking effect.

For more information about the early voting schedule, see: https://www.darenc.com/departments/elections/one-stop-absentee-early-voting

For more information about the primary election, see: https://www.darenc.com/departments/elections/election-information/-curm-3/-cury-2020

SAMPLE BALLOTS:

Democratic: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6008

Republican: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6014

Libertarian: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6012

Green: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6010

Constitution: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6006

The Southern Shores Town Council’s regular monthly meeting will be held Wed., March 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/13/20

2/10/20: TOWN COUNCIL: APPROVES CURBSIDE ‘RECYCLING’ RATE INCREASE, REVISED CONTRACT, WITH SCANT EXPLANATION; WILL HAVE NEW PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS OUT THIS MONTH TO FACTOR INTO PROJECTED BEACH NOURISHMENT TAXES; AND THE NEW CIIP COMMITTEE LOOKS A LOT LIKE THE OLD

foodlion
Are separated recyclables placed in receptacles like these in front of Food Lion in the Marketplace ending up in Bay Disposal’s transport to a Portsmouth incinerator? They are if they just end up in bins behind the store. The Beacon aims to find out.

The Town Council’s unanimous approval Feb. 4 of a $16,780 budget amendment that would give Bay Disposal & Recycling a per-home rate increase for its curbside recycling pickup until June 30— even though it is taking the Town’s recyclables to an incinerator, not a recycling center—is what the most recycling-savvy member of the Council, Matt Neal, called a “stopgap” measure.

While Mr. Neal joined in giving Bay Disposal what Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett called a “slightly increased rate” and in authorizing Mr. Haskett, Town Attorney Ben Gallop, and Bay Disposal manager Joshua Smaltz to amend the existing service contract—in particular, specifying that the current arrangement is only temporary—he also made a point of clarifying that he approved these changes only on condition that the Council “reevaluate” the contract “at the end of the [2019-20] fiscal year.”

This reevaluation would occur a year before the expiration of the Town’s recycling contract with Bay Disposal, which runs until June 30, 2021.

With that understanding agreed upon, Mr. Neal voted to approve the “stopgap,” which permits Bay Disposal to continue to take Southern Shores’ recyclables to Wheelabrator, a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, where they are incinerated, not recycled.

Mr. Haskett, who did not state the precise amount of the rate increase, characterized this potentially months-long temporary arrangement as in effect “until another option is available or the market improves,” or, in light of Mr. Neal’s term, until June 30.

The Beacon went to press with a Town Council meeting story last Friday around 2 p.m. without having the advantage of seeing the meeting videotape because it had not been posted online—an extremely unusual delay, especially considering that the meeting lasted only one hour and eight minutes.

The videotape apparently was posted not long after The Beacon’s blog appeared. We were able to view it today and have concerns about some of what we heard.

THE BEACON’S CONCERNS

We are troubled first by Mr. Haskett’s failure to state for the public record—and the Town Council’s failure to state in its motion—the amount of the per-home rate increase that the Council gave Bay Disposal. This rate—assuming it is $1.17, and not another rate that the Council discussed behind the scenes—has only been recorded in written background materials for the Council’s Jan. 7 meeting, not discussed openly at a public forum.

Equally troubling was Mr. Haskett’s reference, without any elaboration, to the possibility that Bay Disposal could take Southern Shores’ recyclables to an actual “recycling plant in Northern Virginia.” At no time, did we ever hear the Town Council seriously take up this possibility in public. (Last week I was in Alexandria, Va., a NOVA city that is a model for viable and efficient recycling, as well as other green programs.)

The Beacon is left to surmise, based upon what we read in the January written background materials, that this transport would cost an additional $2.70 per home.

Is this increased cost any worse than burning recyclables for the foreseeable future? More to the point of problem-solving, is this increased cost one that other towns, such as Nags Head, might be interested in sharing? Could towns negotiate this cost?

In The Beacon’s view, the government on display at the Feb. 4 meeting was perfunctory and lacking in transparency and accountability. No one sought to inform the public by spelling out both the terms of the revised contract and the thinking behind these terms.

The Beacon would like to know why Mr. Haskett told the Town Council—and it readily agreed—that the termination provision of the Town’s contract with Bay Disposal would be rewritten to favor Bay Disposal. Please correct me if I’m wrong, astute readers. Mr. Haskett proposed changing 10 days to 30 days in the following terms:

“If . . . either party shall be in breach of any provision of this Agreement, the other party may suspend or terminate its performance hereunder until such breach has been corrected; provided, however, that no termination shall be effective unless and until the complaining party has given written notice of such breach to the other party and the other party has failed to cure such breach within at least ten (10) days thereafter. In the event any such breach remains uncured for a period of ten (10) days, the complaining party may terminate this Agreement by giving the other party written notice of such termination; which shall become effective upon receipt of such notice.”

As we read the change, the Town would be giving Bay Disposal 30 days to fix a breach. Why should we give it that much time? What’s the rationale for this change? Mr. Haskett did not explain it. Why 30 days? Why not 15?

We were further troubled by the fact that Town Attorney Ben Gallop said nothing when Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey asked about the Town’s “statutory obligation” in regard to recycling. Mr. Haskett told her that he would have to research the question, but Mr. Gallop should know the answer or at least be able to discuss it.

Here again, we wonder: What does Ms. Morey know about state recycling law? And when did she learn? Who’s meeting with whom? How much government is happening behind closed doors, and why?

In a council-manager form of government such as Southern Shores has, the town manager is the chief administrator, not the mayor or anyone else on the council.

N.C. law states that the manager “shall direct and supervise the administration of all departments,” including public works, and is subject only to the “general direction and control of the council,” not to specific order of the mayor or anyone else.

During public comment, Rod McCaughey, immediate past president of the Southern Shores Civic Assn., said that the SSCA “would like to advocate for as responsible a recycling program as we can find to do.” He noted that the Council’s actions “do not preclude us looking at other alternatives.”

How are decisions being made?

Rather than “statutory obligation,” it is our civic responsibility that should be foremost in the minds of elected officials. North Carolina has long been committed to recycling and waste reduction, and its municipalities are expected to effectuate that commitment.

RECYCLING OPTIONS

N.C. statute (N.C.G.S. 130A-309.10) makes it unlawful for a “person” to “knowingly dispose” of many types of solid waste in landfills, including aluminum cans and “recyclable rigid plastic containers.” The same statute prohibits a “person” from “knowingly” disposing of aluminum cans by incineration in an incinerator for which a permit is required.

As we noted in an earlier post, the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is temporarily permitting Bay Disposal to transport aluminum cans and other single-stream recyclables to Wheelabrator’s incinerator, a decision that it will revisit in three months. This permission is being referred to as a waiver.

N.C.G.S. 130A-309.09B encourages, but does not require, local governments to separate “marketable plastics, glass, metal, and all grades of paper for recycling.” The same law directs local governments to participate in joint waste reduction and solid waste management programs, “to the maximum extent practicable.”

Mr. Haskett reported that the N.C. DEQ had met with “local jurisdictions” recently because the Department, and some “nonprofits” and other “interest groups,” want to “help out” the Outer Banks.

The DEQ, Mr. Haskett said, “is trying to bring a new recycling plant to Northeastern North Carolina.”

This is wonderful news that The Beacon had already heard, but not publicized because we did not have sufficient facts to do so.

The bad news is that Mr. Haskett was not among the people who met with N.C. DEQ because, as he said, he was not “notified.” The reason he was not notified is that–as The Beacon has learned in its reporting–Southern Shores has not reached out to the N.C. DEQ or to Dare County or to anyone else to explore other options. The Town has not taken any initiative.

The Beacon has been reaching out to people in the know and will be filing a more complete investigatory report as soon as possible.

We were pleased to hear Mr. Neal asking questions of Mr. Smaltz at the meeting about who is picking up the recyclables at various town recycling centers on the beach. If Bay Disposal is picking them up—regardless of whether they are segregated or not—they are ending up at Wheelabrator.

After interviewing responsible public officials, The Beacon previously reported that the glass and cardboard recyclables at the Dare County-Kitty Hawk Recycling Center are picked up by Dare County and that Bay Disposal collects its single-stream recycling. We also reported that the county disposes of all of its recyclables by means other than Bay Disposal’s transport. We did not query the public works directors at Kill Devil Hills or Nags Head.

We have since learned from Dare County Public Works Director Shanna Fullmer that Bay Disposal actually collects the county’s plastics, which means they are being burned. The Beacon has a standing appointment to meet with Ms. Fullmer to discuss the county’s recycling operations. We are especially interested in its glass crushing program.

BEACH NOURISHMENT FOLLOWUP: PREMATURE CALCULATIONS

N.C. law requires counties to conduct county-wide property revaluations at least every eight years; but they can choose to do them more frequently. Dare County’s last revaluation was in 2013; the 2005 revaluation, which sought to catch assessments up with the real-estate market bubble, stimulated a lot of taxpayer appeals.

Dare County decided to move up the eight-year cycle and do a revaluation this year. You will be receiving assessments for the Jan. 1, 2020 market value of your real property later this month. There have been rumors that this year’s revaluation will look a lot like 2005’s.

See https://www.darenc.com/departments/tax-department/2020-revaluation.

The 2020 revaluation came up for the first time in the Town’s discussions about beach nourishment at last week’s Town Council meeting. We trust that Mr. Haskett was not surprised when he contacted the Dare County Assessor’s Office about property values in Southern Shores and learned that the new assessments would be out soon.

The Town Council tasked Mr. Haskett and financial consultant, DEC Associates, Inc., with doing some beach-nourishment funding calculations according to Town property values and potential municipal service districts. (See The Beacon’s reports of the Council’s Jan. 21 workshop.) Because of the revaluation, Mr. Haskett reported last week that he and DEC will not have the tax-rate increases and MSDs requested until the Council’s March 4 regular meeting or its March 24 workshop, which is also a budget work session.

The Beacon will be interested to see how the Interim Town Manager and the Town Council cope with the expected property assessment appeals filed by Town property owners. My own experience has been that appeals are often successful, and they don’t happen quickly.

Mr. Haskett also sought to correct erroneous calculations that DEC Associates presented at the Jan. 21 workshop.

The Charlotte-based financial consultant had assumed in all of its financial models for a beach-nourishment project that Dare County would be contributing 50 percent of Southern Shores’ costs even though Dare County Manager Bobby Outten had informed the Town that the county’s contribution would be limited to $7.5 million–which may or may not constitute 50 percent.

Apparently, Andrew and Doug Carter of DEC did not touch base with Mr. Outten before they came to the Southern Shores workshop.

The explanation that Mr. Haskett offered last week was that “DEC’s models are correct, should negotiations be successful.”

In other words, if Dare County agrees to cover 50 percent of the Town’s debt service—in future negotiations—then DEC’s models would be correct. But inasmuch as it has not yet agreed to do that, DEC’s assumption that it would does not make its premature erroneous calculations correct.

That the Town Council is willing to accept such slipshod work from a consultant is a disappointment to The Beacon.

DEC Associates promotes a one-size-fits-all financing package of special obligation bonds and municipal service districts. As Chicahauk homeowner and former judge Craig Albert pointed out in public comments, the Town Council is not even considering general obligation bonds, which require voters’ approval through a referendum.

Mr. Albert criticized the Council for letting five people decide the funding method for any potential beach nourishment project, rather than 2,500.

AND FINALLY . . . the new Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee looks a lot like the old CIIP Committee.

Mayor Tom Bennett reappointed Glenn Riggin, the same person he appointed in 2017, and Councilman Leo Holland reappointed Jim Kranda, whom he appointed in 2017, at the end of his last term in office.

Councilman Jim Conners appointed Andy McConaughy, whom former Councilman Chris Nason had appointed in 2017.

Thank goodness for the addition of Ms. Morey and Mr. Neal to the Town Council. They appointed new people–and thus, new voices and new perspectives to the committee– which is what The Beacon believes a town government should do. Cronyism should be discouraged.

Ms. Morey named Lori McGraw, and Mr. Neal named Dan Osman.

Mr. Conners continues as a co-chairperson of the committee. He will be joined by new co-chair, Councilman Neal, who replaces Mayor Bennett.

The CIIP Committee will meet Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. in the Pitts Center. If you live on Hillcrest Drive north of Hickory Trail, you may be interested in attending. Mr. Haskett announced that preliminary plans for the Hillcrest Drive repaving project have been finalized, and that the Town will be meeting with adjacent property owners soon.

Mr. Haskett also announced that the East Dogwood Trail construction project—on the east side of Hwy. 12 (Duck Road)—would be starting soon. RPC Construction Co. was the low bidder at $222,170. This project is expected to be done by May 1.

THE SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL SIDEWALK is “about 20 percent complete,” Mr. Haskett said, and has a projected completion date of June 1.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/10/20; revised 2/11/20