4/5/20: DARE CONTROL GROUP CONSIDERED IMPOSING CURFEWS, CLOSING BEACHES, DUCK MAYOR REPORTS. GOVERNOR COULD DO BOTH. DUCK POSTPONES 2020-21 BUDGET DISCUSSIONS UNTIL MID-MAY.

beachhires
Beaches in Southern Shores have been open and unpopulated during the COVID-19 emergency.

On April 1, the Dare County Control Group, which oversees and manages multi-jurisdictional emergencies and disasters, discussed imposing curfews on residents and closing the beaches, according to Duck Mayor Don Kingston, one of the group members.

But “there was no support for these actions at this time,” advised Mayor Kingston, one of the five town mayors on the Control Group, in a COVID-19 update that he gave at the April 1 Duck Town Council meeting, which was live-streamed.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Mr. Kingston observed, “said [such] actions may be taken.”

As The Beacon previously reported, we tried to watch the live stream of the Duck Town Council meeting in real time, but were foiled by technical difficulties: There was no sound.

A link to a video of the meeting, with audio restored, has been posted on the Town of Duck website, and we accessed it. The video is still far from perfect—beset by audio problems and an unfortunate tendency for the camera not to move to the next speaker after the previous speaker has finished. But Mayor Kingston’s voice rings out loud and clear.

We also appreciate hearing from Duck Fire Chief Donna Black and Duck Police Chief John Cueto about how they are managing, and what they are experiencing, during the COVID-19 emergency.

Neither Southern Shores Police Chief David Kole nor Fire Chief Ed Limbacher is on the Southern Shores Town Council’s meeting agenda this Tuesday. The meeting is primarily a rescheduling of the March 24 budget workshop meeting and does not include reports of town fire and police services during March.

Early in the Duck Council meeting, Mayor Kingston gave a welcome chronological review of the COVID-19 crisis in Dare County, starting on March 16 when the Control Group declared a countywide state of emergency in response to the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Governor Cooper declared a statewide emergency on March 10.

Mayor Kingston’s timeline also included actions taken by Currituck and Hyde counties and COVID-19 case counts on the state level.

The Dare County Control Group is comprised of nine members: Robert Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners; the mayors of the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Manteo; Dave Hallac, Superintendent of the National Park Service; and Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie.

[UPDATE 4/6/20: Today, The Beacon learned that Dare County Commissioner Danny Couch has been participating in the Control Group as a representative for Hatteras Island.] 

According to Mayor Kingston, the Control Group has a daily video conference at 8:30 a.m., which he said, as of April 1, lasted “about an hour and a half.” He described the discussions and debates among the members as “pretty intense.”

Of further interest to The Beacon was the Mayor’s report that on March 26, the Control Group “started monitoring airports and airstrips” because “we found that [nonresident] individuals were becoming very creative about coming into Dare County.”

Many of us have heard anecdotal accounts of nonresidents boating, flying, and otherwise gaining access to the Outer Banks, but this behavior by outliers has not been addressed officially by the Control Group.

Later in the meeting Town Manager Chris Layton asked the Town Council to postpone until mid-May all budget planning and discussions so that the Town will have a better idea of “when we can expect restrictions to lift.”

He described the COVID-19-related restrictions on access to the Outer Banks and on Dare County businesses as having a “drastic impact” on the fiscal year 2020-21 budget, and said he did not wish to make any assumptions.

“Even in mid-May, we may not know,” Mr. Layton said, later observing, as The Beacon has in regard to the Southern Shores Town Council’s budget decisions, “We have until June 30.”

The Duck Town Council unanimously approved the postponement, acknowledging that it may have to schedule several meetings after mid-May to get business done.

BULLETIN NO. 32

Bulletin No. 32 of the Dare County Emergency Management Bulletin appeared at 12:30 p.m. today: https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6087/1483.

Its intent seems to be to update COVID-19 data statewide, but it provides out-of-date statistics. As of 11 a.m. today, according to the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2,585 cases of COVID-19, across 89 of the state’s 100 counties, have been confirmed, and 31 people have died.

The bulletin also asks people to be patient during these unusually stressful and exhausting times.

ANN G. SJOERDSMA, 4/5/20

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