The Town Council will meet Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center for its regular monthly meeting. The Council’s agenda and meeting materials should be posted on the Town website later today. We will publish a preview of that meeting over the weekend.
(9/30 UPDATE: The Oct. 4 meeting agenda and materials were posted on the Town website late yesterday. See https://mccmeetings.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/soshoresnc-pubu/MEET-Packet-1c431a287a554b44a46b5b80c993864c.pdf.)
In the meanwhile, we offer the following report on the Town Council’s Sept. 20 workshop session about the first quarter of the Town budget in fiscal year 2022-23 and planned and anticipated capital improvements. We were unable to cover this meeting last week, so we are catching up. The meeting highlights included:
*A highly favorable report by Town Finance Director Bonnie Swain regarding the Town’s revenues and expenses for July-September 2022. Ms. Swain reported that the Town’s shared revenues with the other Dare County towns in FY 2021-22, which will be accounted for this month, increased 2% because of the beach-nourishment tax levy.
Among the expenses that have increased in the budget during the first quarter is overtime pay for police officers. According to Ms. Swain, the police department is “five officers out,” with three vacancies and two officers on leave.
The Town Council will consider at its meeting next Tuesday a budget amendment of $10,000 to pay for new financial reporting software ($5,000) and advertising and medical testing ($4,500) for the three vacant police officer positions.
Ms. Swain also reported:
1) The interest revenue for the Town in FY 22-23 is projected to be $225,000, a considerable increase from the $15,265 that the Town received in FY 21-22. In the pandemic year of FY 20-21, the Town only received $1,351 in interest income.
2) The Town’s unassigned fund balance, which the Town Council has resolved must maintain a minimum reserve of $3 million for emergencies, is projected to be $6.5 million at the end of FY 21-22. The Town’s auditor will provide an accounting of the fund balance in her fiscal 21-22 year-end report to the Town Council at its Tuesday meeting.
For more financial details about the Town’s quarterly budget report, please see the meeting materials at https://mccmeetings.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/soshoresnc-pubu/MEET-Packet-48b27117a02a46218d05052e56f22eab.pdf.
*Town Manager Cliff Ogburn, who proposed a five-year capital improvement plan, instead of the customary 10-year plan, discussed the major capital improvements that are currently under consideration, or in the works, and sought prioritization from the Town Council of each. The $3.5 million “surplus” in the unassigned fund balance may be used for capital project expenses.
TRINITIE BRIDGE: A top priority is replacement of the Juniper Trail/Trinitie Trail culvert at the Trinitie Trail Bridge. Civil engineer Andrew Phillips of Kimley-Horn, a planning, engineering, and surveying firm based in Raleigh, outlined for the Council three construction options for the bridge replacement. The Town Council selected a cored slab design, which Mr. Phillips described as involving concrete units that are pre-cast in Chesapeake, Va., rather than on-site, and are “very durable in a corrosive environment.”
Relative to the other two design methods—flat slab and pre-cast arch—the cored slab would be “very quick” and “painless,” he said.
Regardless of which design is used, Southern Shores residents can expect the bridge to be closed for between six months and a year, Mr. Phillips said. The acquisition of permits before construction can begin will probably take the same amount of time, he said.
The new bridge would have a life expectancy of 50 to 75 years, the engineer said, provided it is regularly maintained.
To view Mr. Phillips’s presentation, which had a number of helpful representational photos to illustrate proposed changes, please see: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Town-of-Southern-Shores-Conceptual-Bridge-Replacement-Presentation-NC.pdf.
The Kimley-Horn engineer said that the construction would raise the roadway one to two feet on the south end of the bridge and about three feet on the north end, so that drivers will be able to see oncoming traffic. Nearby driveways also would be raised, thereby improving the sight lines for drivers exiting on them.
As we understand it, the construction would increase the width of the canal under the bridge.
We leave the many engineering details to the experts. If you are such an expert, we suggest you view the meeting videotape and listen to Mr. Phillips’s explanation of the project. As the project progresses, we will expand upon our reporting.
The cored slab design replacement of the bridge/culvert would cost between $800,000 and $1.265 million, Mr. Phillips said.
SIDEWALK ON DUCK ROAD FROM TRIANGLE PARK TO EAST DOGWOOD TRAIL: The Town Council has previously indicated that construction of a sidewalk on the east side of Duck Road from Triangle Park, at the Duck Road split, to East Dogwood Trail is a high priority for the Town. At the Sept. 20 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal expressed an interest in focusing on this “more dangerous stretch” of roadway and delaying construction of a sidewalk in the dunes on Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, or elsewhere.
Construction of the Duck Road sidewalk is estimated to cost $180,000. The Town Manager plans to seek a grant of up to $100,000 from the Dare County Tourism Bureau and funding from other sources to finance it.
RENOVATION OF THE PUBLIC WORKS BUILDING: The Town has already budgeted $150,000 in FY 22-23 to renovate the public works building, which is located on Pintail Trail behind the fire station. Both the Pitts Center and the Town Hall also need improvements and renovations, but the Town Council did not pursue this budgetary expense at the meeting. A previous Town Council received extensive design plans for options to renovate the town buildings, but that Council, as well as subsequent ones, have placed any action on the back burner.
GINGUITE TRAIL STORMWATER PROJECT: Already in the works is a stormwater drainage improvement project on Ginguite Trail, whose estimated cost will be established by construction bids that the Town receives. As of Sept. 20, the project was out for bid. (9/30 Update: The Town has received two bids. The Council will discuss these bids and the awarding of a contract at its meeting next week. Town staff is recommending that the Council approve a bid from Envirotech Unlimited Construction Services of $38,599.69, which is the lower of the two bids.)
CHICAHAUK SIDEWALK IMPROVEMENT: Mr. Ogburn brought up improving some of the sidewalks in Chicahauk so that they are removed from the edge of the roadway. No one on the Town Council commented on this construction or use of funds. There is no line item in the adopted FY 22-23 budget for such construction.
STREET MAINTENANCE: The Town still has $1 million in the FY 22-23 budget for street pavement work because the construction that was done in August and September was paid for by monies from the last fiscal year budget. Members of the Town Council—only four of whom attended the Sept. 20 meeting, with Councilman Mark Batenic absent again—agreed to work with the Town Manager to determine how to “move forward” with street maintenance now, as Mr. Ogburn said.
In an email after the meeting, Mr. Ogburn told The Beacon that he would like to “look at the streets scheduled for paving this year and the next couple of years to see where we need to adjust the 10-year plan. There were some lessons learned after the first year of the plan, and I want to make sure we incorporate those before moving forward.”
Mr. Ogburn also would like to “revisit” stormwater plans for the Town, he said at the Sept. 20 meeting, including what he called “one-off projects.” Members of the Town Council, only two of whom can meet without the open-meeting law applying, also agreed to assist in this effort.
Mr. Ogburn clarified with The Beacon that “It has been several years since the town revisited three plans that were put together back when we were experiencing so much rain and high water tables. Several of the projects in those reports were addressed, but I would like to have staff meet with a couple of Council members to see what we need to do to make sure we are keeping a focus on stormwater projects and that we have a plan to address issues that we can start to apply funding/grants, too.”
PLANNING BOARD UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES NEW SIGN REGULATIONS
The Town Planning Board unanimously recommended approval, with some changes, the latest version of Zoning Text Amendment 21-08, which rewrites the Town’s regulations on signs, at its Sept. 19 meeting.
The Beacon neither attended this meeting nor viewed the videotape of it, except to confirm that the Board spent most of its nearly two-hour meeting discussing provisions of ZTA 21-08, which has now been under consideration by the Town for more than a year, and also that it approved a version of ZTA 21-08.
A chief area of interest and debate has been the time-place-manner regulation of temporary yard signs, including those for political candidates.
We aspire to review the version of ZTA 21-08 recommended by the Planning Board before the Town Council’s Tuesday meeting, during which a public hearing will be held on the measure and the Council will vote on its possible enactment.
The Planning Board decided to carry over until its next regular meeting, which is on Oct. 17, a discussion of commercial design standards. We detected from our brief review of the Board’s meeting videotape that it may be uncertain as to which commercial buildings it may regulate. Although existing buildings were not subject to Town design standards, they may be demolished, renovated or improved.
We trust that by the Board’s next meeting, it will have clarified the scope of its discussion about commercial design standards. We compliment the Board for being proactive in its vision.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/29/22