Mum was mostly the word from the four Southern Shores Town Council members who attended tonight’s meeting as they let Town Manager Cliff Ogburn speak for the Town in the beach nourishment project dispute involving the sand shortfall in the northern beaches and made few statements of their own. They did not discuss the problem as a Dec. 1 Town special announcement represented they would.
The bottom line according to the Town Manager: “We’ve got some work to do, and we’re going to do it.”
In a Nov. 30 project update meeting, Ken Willson, a principal with Coastal Protection Engineering (CPE) who has served as project manager, acknowledged that dredging contractor Weeks Marine had “over-filled” the Southern Shores beaches south of about 4th Avenue and had run out of sand to fulfill the design goal in the north of creating a “sufficiently useable beach.”
The problem on the northern beaches first came to light publicly on Nov. 25 when Southern Shores residents raised concerns on the Nextdoor social media site. Five days later, Mr. Willson revealed that, although the northern beaches should have received 22 cubic yards of sand per linear foot, they only received 13 cubic yards per linear foot.
(For more information about the beach nourishment project controversy, see The Beacon, 11/28/22, 11/30/22, and 12/1/22.)
Mr. Ogburn did not recap tonight what had been learned at the Nov. 30 meeting. He said only that the fill project had started on Oct. 7 and concluded on Nov. 22 and had nine days of “downtime.” Otherwise, he referred broadly to the task of remedying the shortfall.
“I wish I could stand here, and we would be in a celebratory mood and fashion, but unfortunately, we’re not,” he said in brief remarks, which came after two property owners spoke in public comments about the sand shortfall.
Tom Peabody of Sixth Avenue criticized both the reasoning behind the Town Council’s belated decision to include the stable northern beaches in the nourishment project—after it devised the novel “sufficiently useable beach” goal—and its inclusion of properties north of 3rd Avenue that are “13 lots deep” in the MSD-2 tax district.
(After surveying the Southern Shores coastline in 2017, CPE divided it into three sections: the northern, the central, and the southern. The northern section was defined as the oceanfront north of 3rd Avenue.)
Mr. Peabody cited a lack of need for the beach fill in the northern section and a lack of benefit to northern section property owners in MSD-2.
Mr. Peabody had previously requested that his property be excluded from MSD-2—as was his right under the N.C. MSD statute–and been denied by the Town Council.
In her public comments, Debbie Newberry of North Dogwood Trail asked that the Town Council resolve the sand shortfall by adding more to satisfy the contract, without doing further damage to the beaches from heavy equipment and without asking property owners to pay more in taxes.
“I understand completely the accountability that the Town has to the taxpayers and to those in the MSDs,” Mr. Ogburn said, acknowledging Mr. Peabody’s and Ms. Newberry’s comments, “but at this time . . . we’ve got questions that we need to get answered.
“It’s a complicated process,” he continued. “There’s a lot of contracts associated with this. There are a lot of missing pieces, and so we’ve got some work to do, and I want to promise you that I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure we get what we should have gotten, and that there’s a remedy to this.”
Mr. Ogburn concluded by saying that he will meet with representatives from Weeks Marine and CPE this week “so we can start those discussions.”
“I wish I had more that I could report and say,” he said, “but it’s been less than a week since a lot of this was put out there.
“We’ve got some work to do, and we’re going to do it.”
In response to a question by Councilman Mark Batenic about whether Dare County, which is the actual contracting party with Weeks Marine and CPE, is “behind the town”—a question to which we hope he knew the answer—Mr. Ogburn replied that he has had conversations with Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten, and “They have said they’ll stand with us and work with us for a result.”
In the few remarks she made, Mayor Morey reiterated: “We have the county in agreement with us; we are working through the issues; it is complicated, and we’re not going to be satisfied until we’re satisfied.
“That’s kind of where we are.”
No one was specific about any relevant facts.
In his brief comments, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal raised the issue of when the Town—including the Mayor and members of the Town Council—knew about the sand shortfall.
Mr. Neal thanked Mr. Ogburn for his effort “over the last three weeks—getting the information that we’ve been asking for—pretty much rapid-fire, getting it from the contractor and the engineer back to us in a timely manner. . . .”
Could it be that Mr. Neal meant the last three days, not weeks? We did not ask, because we did not have time after the meeting adjourned and the Council went into a closed session with the Town Attorney, and will give him the benefit of the doubt.
“There’s a lot of fact-finding,” the Mayor Pro Tem said. “[Mr. Ogburn has] been digging hard.”
Both Mr. Neal and Mayor Morey referred to the voluminous amount of data involved in the project, but did not elaborate upon the nature of the data that are of concern in determining how Weeks Marine incorrectly distributed the sand on the Southern Shores oceanfront.
In brief discussions after the meeting, The Beacon learned from Town officials that Dare County has not made final payment to the contracting parties and that the unpaid amount is substantial.
Town Councilwoman Paula Sherlock did not attend the meeting because of “family medical issues,” the Mayor announced.
To be continued.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/6/22
One thought on “12/6/22: TOWN MANAGER, NOT TOWN COUNCIL, SPEAKS OUT ON BEACH NOURISHMENT DISPUTE: ‘WE HAVE WORK TO DO,’ HE SAID.”
If the summer residents were here in SS I would guess there would be more of an uproar than I saw of the town council meeting last night.
Beach at Dolphin is amazing, beach at 12th shows little change, in fact the “ditch” at the break line is back. That can’t be avoided, it’s the land angle to the sea that creates the cut. The winter storms should take care of the rest. I’d not be surprised to see most of it washed out.
Looks like the town is in for a good row, I hope we, and the county, pursue a continuance in the spring
Just more two cents
Hope you are all well
telephone / telegraph: inquire