We would like to hear what Town Manager Cliff Ogburn says at Town Council meeting. His words are too often inaudible on videotapes and during Zoom sessions.

The Town Council met in emergency session last Monday for 10 minutes in order to approve contracts for debris monitoring and to cancel its regular 5:30 p.m. meeting on Aug. 4. The Council postponed all remaining business on the regular-meeting agenda until its Aug. 18 workshop meeting at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center.

(The Beacon earlier reported that the Town Council would meet Aug. 4, not Aug. 3, in emergency session. We misread the Town’s notice and apologize for this error.)

The Beacon previewed on 8/2/20 the Aug. 4 agenda that was postponed and will do so again, along with additional business items for the workshop. Today we wish only to point out again that the You Tube videotape of the emergency meeting is—like so many other Town Council meeting videotapes and Zoom sessions before it—deficient because Town staff and Council members do not give enough thought to whether they are audible or not.

The Town’s meeting videotapes during the pandemic have played like bad home movies from the 1970s when everyone had to ask: “What happened to the sound?”

This time, the placement of the tables at which the Council members have become accustomed to sitting behind actually resulted in obscuring the camera’s view of two of the Council members. Both Councilmen Leo Holland and Matt Neal appear headless on the videotape.

Now, we’re talking about bad still photos from the 1960s when annoying relatives deliberately took shots of people’s feet because they thought it was funny.

The problem is a matter of simple physics. The stationary camera at the front of the Pitts Center meeting room cannot shoot through the two solid computer monitors hanging in front of it. (You know, they are the screens that display graphics and other data for meetings.)

The two monitors appear as two large black rectangular objects on the videotape. They are always there, but this time one large black rectangular object obliterated Mr. Holland’s head; and the other obliterated Mr. Neal’s head.

The object obliterating Mr. Neal’s head also wiped out the one audience member present, who was identified as a journalist, but not by name. She could not be seen at all.

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn continues to speak during Town Council meetings with his back to the camera. We do not know precisely how the sound system works, but we know we have to strain to hear what Mr. Ogburn says and are fortunate to pick up 50 percent of his words.

If the Southern Shores public needs to hear anyone, it is Mr. Ogburn. He should be easily visible and audible in every videotape and Zoom session.

But Mr. Ogburn’s 50 percent is plentiful, compared to the number of audible words spoken by Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett, who, since the new Town Manager’s arrival, has moved off-camera altogether.

Please, Mr. Haskett, if the camera is going to stay where it is, position yourself in front of it, near where Town Councilman Jim Conners sits, so we can see and possibly hear you. You are the second person that the Southern Shores public wants to hear.

To accommodate the public, the rest of the meeting room must be altered along with position of the Town Council members and their tables. That means, in particular, that the lectern before which people stand when they make public comments and the microphone into which they speak must be moved on-camera.

Disembodied, nearly inaudible voices by people who often don’t identify themselves don’t cut it for an open meeting. And that is what we too often have.

Please, Council and staff, play to the audience, not to each other.

TACO BELL OPENS:  A reader contacted us today to report that the traffic heading into the new Taco Bell at the Southern Shores Marketplace last night was backed up into U.S. Hwy. 158. We received no other details.

Unlike the drive-through fast-food restaurants across the highway in Kitty Hawk, the Taco Bell cannot be accessed by a side street. It does not take much of a drive-through line for traffic to back up into the busy thoroughfare.

The Beacon reported on the history of Taco Bell’s arrival—which necessitated a change in town law to allow drive-through businesses on small lots—on 7/15/20.

The former site of Nu-Quality ice cream and the current site of Taco Bell—5415 N. Croatan Hwy.— is only 18,260 square feet, or 0.42 acres.

In 2017 when “5415 OBX-LLC,” the limited liability company of ice-cream proprietor Spiro Giannakopoulos, bought the lot, the Southern Shores Town Code prohibited drive-through businesses on lots smaller than 2.5 acres.

Having attended all of the Town Planning Board and Town Council meetings about amending the Town Code to permit a Nu-Quality ice cream shop on the site, we can tell you that the only town official concerned about traffic problems in the foreseeable future was former Councilman Fred Newberry. Everyone else was pro-ice cream and uninterested in traffic, which, of course, was the reason the law existed as it did.

Former Councilman Christopher Nason was the architect for the Nu-Quality building.

Mr. Giannakopoulos talked about becoming a member of the Southern Shores community, but Nu-Quality was in business here less than two years.

Mr. Giannakopoulos’s LLC bought the lot three years ago for $275,000. It sold the property in June to Restaurant Property Investors IV, LLC, of Virginia Beach, for $1.2 million.

That’s a lot of cones.

LOCAL COVID-19 UPDATE: Dare County reported yesterday that seven people tested positive locally for COVID-19, all of them nonresidents who have transferred to isolation in their home counties.

They are two men between the ages of 25 and 49; one man ages 50 to 64; and four women between the ages of 50 and 64.

The Dare County health department had not reported any new COVID-19 cases today as of 6 p.m.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/9/20



  1. The problem with the audio during should be an easy fix . Is there no college student they could ask to help Council set up the room correctly ? This makes them look very unprofessional . Even a church communication director could help them set up! Geez !


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