Jan. 21 workshop speaker Ken Willson of APTIM Coastal Planning and Engineering of N.C., has submitted a report to the Town detailing his analysis of what he believes constitutes “sufficient useable beach” on the 3.9-mile-long Southern Shores coastline. Doug and Andrew Carter of DEC Associates in Charlotte, however, have not filed any documents in advance of their presentation next Tuesday about financial planning for possible beach nourishment in Southern Shores.
The Town Council’s Jan. 21 workshop session will convene at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center. According to the agenda, the first item of business will be the search and hiring process for the next town manager. Mr. Willson and the Carters will speak after the conclusion of that business, after which a public forum on a “potential” beach nourishment project in town will be held.
The Town has posted Mr. Willson’s latest report, along with two previous reports filed by APTIM, in the workshop meeting packet.
According to the agenda, the Carters will be showing a power-point presentation, just as they did at the Town Council’s Feb. 26, 2019 special planning meeting, when the issue of financing beach nourishment first arose publicly.
The meeting packet also contains voluminous materials from the three highly recommended, experienced, and qualified search firms that have applied to assist the Town with its search for the next town manager. Southern Shores has been without a permanent, full-time town manager since mid-August 2019, when Peter Rascoe went on two weeks’ leave before his Sept. 1, 2019 retirement.
One of the search firms, The Mercer Group—which is headquartered in Georgia and has an office in Raleigh—assisted the Manteo Board of Commissioners with its recent successful search to find a successor to longtime City Manager Kermit Skinner. (See pp. 63-66 of the town manager meeting-packet materials.)
As The Beacon reported 12/11/19, after learning of further delay by the Town Council last December in selecting a search firm: “Manteo underwent a rigorous search process to hire its current manager earlier this year, after 30-year Town Manager Kermit Skinner retired. Mayor Bobby Owens would likely be pleased to share his wisdom with the Town Council.”
The first reference listed on the application that The Mercer Group submitted to Town Human Resources Director Bonnie Swain last November is, in fact, Mayor Owens.
Despite having ample information on-hand from each of the three consultants, the Town Council decided to hear from Hartwell Wright, a human resources consultant with the N.C. League of Municipalities (NCLM), before choosing a consultant. He will speak at the Jan. 21 workshop.
As Mayor Tom Bennett explained at the Town Council’s regular December meeting, Mr. Wright will inform the elected officials “what he recommends we look for in a manager based on his history and experience.”
The Mercer Group lists in its application about 60 executive searches that it has performed for government clients, most of them to fill vacancies for city, town, or county manager—and that’s just in North Carolina. Its experts have managed dozens more searches nationwide.
We wonder how Mr. Wright’s track record compares with The Mercer Group’s record or with the other two applicants’.
The Mercer Group’s fee would be $17,500, which is comparable to what Developmental Associates, LLC, of Chapel Hill, and N-Focus of Kannapolis would charge.
BEACH NOURISHMENT FINANCING?
The Beacon will examine the latest APTIM report in more detail in a blog post over the weekend. It addresses adding sand to a 19,712-foot-long oceanfront, an increase of about 4,000 feet over previous recommendations for nourishment. It also recalculates project costs, which have previously been estimated at $14 to $16 million, depending on how much sand is added to the beaches.
We have reported about beach nourishment in Southern Shores on the following dates: 2/28/19, 3/31/19, 4/3/19, and 9/17/19.
In our 2/28/19 report about last February’s Town Council planning session, we reported: “[T]he father-son financial-adviser team of Doug and Andrew Carter, of DEC Associates in Charlotte, explained to the Town Council the various complicated methods available for beach-nourishment funding.
“Popular among them are special obligation bonds, which permit a town to set up ‘municipal service districts’ and to levy different tax rates within the MSDs, Andrew Carter explained, so that, for example, people who own oceanfront property would pay more than other property owners do for the sand fill/replenishment.
“Once a beach town embarks upon a nourishment plan, said Mr. Carter, whose firm specializes in N.C. shoreline protection financial planning, it commits to ‘long-term planning’ for future periodic maintenance and beach operating costs.
“He echoed Mr. Willson’s earlier assertion that beach nourishment is ‘an exercise in adaptive management. . . . It is never seen as a one-time event.’
“The Carters said their fees would be $35-$40,000 for developing a financial plan and setting up a ‘beach fund’ for the earmarked funds; and $30,000 for working on finding the financing, which is typically for five years.”
The Town Council voted 3-2 on Oct. 1, 2019 to hire and pay $35,000 now to DEC Associates to ensure, as the Mayor said, that a financial consultant would be on board in the event the Town were to go forward with a beach nourishment project. Former Councilmen Gary McDonald and Fred Newberry dissented.
All of the Dare County beach towns that have done beach nourishment—Duck, Southern Shores (for the Pelican Watch beaches), Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head—have used DEC Associates.
The Beacon is eager to see how the appropriated $35,000, which came from the Town’s unassigned fund balance, has been spent so far.
The following is the power-point presentation given by the Carters on Feb. 26, 2019 at the Council’s special planning meeting:
While the landscape on the south end of Dogwood Trail is being decimated, the landscape on the north end of the wooded trail is blooming (see above). Both trends strike The Beacon as disturbing.
The old growth on South Dogwood Trail that has been destroyed will never be replaced. On the north end, however, more flowers, seduced by the unseasonable warmth, may soon burst forth. Temperatures today through Thursday are forecasted to be in the mid- to high-60s.
The sidewalk construction is well under way. The Beacon has heard from one homeowner that an eight-foot-tall camellia bush in his South Dogwood Trail yard was removed, contrary to sidewalk-design plans he had seen and without any notice to him. Upon complaining to the Town, the homeowner was referred to “Town Engineer” Joe Anlauf, who was less than sympathetic.
In its motion to approve the plans for the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, the Town Council specifically designated the “Town Manager” to do construction oversight. That person now would be Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett. The Beacon believes that Mr. Haskett should be receiving, investigating, and resolving all homeowner complaints. No homeowner should have to speak directly with Mr. Anlauf, whose public demeanor is often brusque.
The Beacon would like to hear from any South Dogwood Trail homeowners who have concerns or complaints about the sidewalk construction project. Please write to us at email@example.com. If you have contacted the Town about your concern(s), please include the names of the people with whom you spoke and how they handled the matter.
The Beacon would advise anyone who has an issue with the sidewalk construction to contact all members of the Town Council at their collective email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Anlauf is a working partner of the engineering firm with which the Town has independently contracted. He does not represent Southern Shores homeowners.
PUBLIC FORUM ON BEACH NOURISHMENT ALSO SCHEDULED JAN. 21
The Town announced yesterday that a public forum on a potential beach nourishment project in Southern Shores will be held at the Council’s Jan. 21 workshop meeting, which starts at 9 a.m., immediately after two presentations:
The first by Ken Willson, of APTIM Coastal Planning and Engineering of N.C., about the modifications that the Council requested to its “Beach Management Plan,” and the second by financial consultant, DEC Associates, Inc., which has advised other Dare County beach towns about how to distribute the tax-increase burden on property owners to pay for their nourishment projects.
The Beacon will preview these two presentations as much as is possible based on documents posted on the Town website.
We are very disappointed that the Town Council is asking property owners either to give up/rearrange a busy week-day morning of work, child care, and other activities in order to comment in an important public forum, whose time will not be determined until just before it begins, or else to inform themselves by reading documents online before Jan. 21 and sending written comments to the Town. We will try to ease your burden with an assessment/analysis beforehand.
At the very least, the Town Council should indicate in its Jan. 21 agenda whether it will be making any decisions at its so-called workshop. Workshops are commonly understood to be for study and discussion, not for votes on major decisions.
A month ago when Joshua Smaltz of Bay Disposal & Recycling appeared before the Southern Shores Town Council, he was seeking a rate increase for the curbside recycling his company provides under a three-year Town contract signed in 2018. Mr. Smaltz was concerned about escalating processing fees, which had increased six-fold in just 18 months: from $20 per ton to $120 per ton of collected material.
Tuesday night, Bay Disposal’s Outer Banks Site Manager had an even bleaker message for the Council: His trucks can no longer take Southern Shores’—or any other Outer Banks towns’—curbside recyclables to the Virginia disposal site (owned by TFC Recycling) that Bay Disposal has been using.
Further, if Virginia’s environmental agency does not modify the company’s permitting, Bay Disposal will not be able to continue to use Wheelabrator, the waste-energy plant in Virginia to which it has transported loads since TFC (Tidewater Fibre Corp.) stopped accepting its material Dec. 10 because it no longer has a buyer for it. (For background, see The Beacon, 12/7/19, 1/3/20.) Wheelabrator purportedly charges $65 per ton of material processed.
The Beacon wonders how much longer publicly funded curbside recycling will be available in Southern Shores and whether it even makes sense to continue efforts to amend the contract with Bay Disposal. The option of encouraging residents to drop off their recyclables at the Kitty Hawk/Dare County-operated recycling center, or of setting up a Southern Shores-based or Southern Shores/Duck-based recycling center is beginning to look much more sensible and environmentally and fiscally responsible.
The grass-roots, community-based approach to recycling may be the answer to the current crisis brought on by the declining worldwide market for U.S. recyclables. Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head already operate recycling centers; Kitty Hawk’s center is a joint effort with the county. Southern Shores should follow their lead. (See below.)
In contrast to Mr. Smaltz’s news, Michael Fletcher, chairperson of the potential Southern Shores branch library committee, gave the Council a promising report, revealing that TowneBank has agreed to rent to Dare County library space at 6 Juniper Trail for $1.00 per year for 10 years. Mr. Fletcher showed a design plan for what would be a 2,000-square-foot library in a building on Juniper Trail that once housed law offices.
What Mr. Fletcher described as a “modest zoning change” would be required for the library to operate in the chosen location, in addition to “modifications” to the current structure. For the modest change, TowneBank would have to apply to the Town for a zoning variance, and a hearing would have to be held before the Board of Adjustment.
The committee, also represented Tuesday by Lilias Morrison, sought the Town Council’s backing for its planned efforts to go before the Duck and Kitty Hawk town councils to present its library proposal and then to the Dare County Board of Commissioners. Its intent is to present the proposal to the Commissioners for their approval in time to include funding for the new library branch in Dare’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget.
The Town Council unanimously approved the committee’s report, which is not yet on the Town website, and its presentations before the various governmental boards. Neither Mr. Fletcher nor Ms. Morrison mentioned any cost figures.
NEW FIRE STATION
In other significant announcements, A.R. Chesson Construction Co.’s project manager for the new SSVFD fire station informed the Council, somewhat reluctantly, that the construction, originally scheduled for completion this month, has been delayed by at least five months.
According to Chesson’s Greg Evans, “We’re [now] looking at a May finish,” which he clarified, upon questioning by the Council, as the “mid to end” of the month.
Mr. Evans vaguely referred to “issues with drawings and calculations,” lack of needed materials, and other impediments to progress. He also mentioned “engineering issues that we’re still battling out.” The station’s truss, he noted, just arrived Tuesday, finally enabling the crew to start working on enclosing the offices in the 14,376-square foot station and doing other interior jobs.
No one on the Council sought to pin Mr. Evans down on precisely what the problems have been, and Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett did not comment. The Beacon would characterize this matter as “to be continued” . . . probably into the summer.
PLANNING BOARD APPOINTMENTS
The Town Council also made its appointments to the Planning Board—which turned out to number three because the Council unanimously voted to elevate First Alternate Tony DiBernardo to a regular Board membership, and Second Alternate Michael Basilone unexpectedly resigned last Sunday, according to Mr. Haskett, who also serves as Planning Director. (Thank you, Mr. Haskett, for remembering the public.)
Mr. DiBernardo succeeds Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey, who was reappointed to a three-year Planning Board term last July and resigned in November after her Town Council election. Both of the alternates’ terms expire June 30, 2021.
The Council named Lynda Burek first alternate, by a vote of 3-2, with Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilman Leo Holland dissenting; and Robert McClendon second alternate, by unanimous vote.
Ms. Morey nominated both Mr. DiBernardo and Ms. Burek, and Councilman Matt Neal nominated Mr. McClendon.
Several Council members—including the Mayor who said he had met with him—spoke highly of Mr. McClendon, whom Ms. Morey described as a “low-impact development specialist” with the Coastal Studies Institute in Wanchese. Mr. McClendon has a master’s degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina State University.
Ms. Burek, who was a candidate for Town Council in 2015, has served the SSCA in different capacities, including as treasurer and interim president. She described herself in her Planning Board application as a “senior federal executive career employee.”
Despite these three appointments, the current absence of a Planning Board chairperson, and issues in Town that the Board could take up (e.g., the problem of stormwater runoff), Mr. Haskett announced that the Planning Board will not meet this month.
The Town Council tabled its appointments to the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Committee until February, upon motion by Mayor Pro Tem Morey who said the “newer Council members” need more time to select “good” appointees. Councilman Holland was serving on the Council when the current committee members were appointed.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT RECYCLING? LOOK TO THE GRASS ROOTS
Despite being advised last April that the Town’s curbside recyclables were likely ending up in landfills, neither the Town Council nor former Town Manager Peter Rascoe took any action to investigate or mitigate the situation. As a result, Southern Shores now faces a crisis that it could have anticipated and addressed with calm deliberation, rather than with a sense of urgency driven by Bay Disposal.
The Beacon believes, however, that it can still be proactive, as well as thoughtfully methodical, in protecting the interests of Town residents.
After Mr. Smaltz received notice last month that TFC would no longer accept its recycling because TFC no longer has a buyer for it and cannot store the material until such time as it may have a buyer, he sought out another disposal site: Wheelabrator.
Tuesday Mr. Smaltz reported to the Town Council that, if Bay Disposal receives the permit modification it needs to continue using Wheelabrator, it would be able to offer curbside recycling to the Town at a monthly cost of $6.59 per home—an increase of $1.17 over the monthly per-home contract rate.
The next closest recycling plant, which Mr. Smaltz did not identify by name or location in either the meeting-packet materials or at the meeting, would charge “upwards” of $150/ton of processed material. Southern Shores would have to pay a monthly fee of $8.12 per home, if this plant were used—an increase of $2.70 over the contract rate.
Councilman Holland asked Mr. Smaltz if he was confident that he would get the necessary amended permitting from the State of Virginia. He replied that he was “99 percent confident” and that the modification would likely occur by the end of this week.
The problem with Wheelabrator, as The Beacon understands, is that Bay Disposal’s use of its facility may be short-term. The recycling contractor soon could be stuck again for a disposal site. The outlook for single-stream curbside recycling locally and nationwide is rather grim.
With China, the principal recycling buyer, imposing bans and restrictions on imports from the United States, and other countries refusing to buy the product—because of the degree of contamination contained in single-stream recycling—the worldwide recycling market is in great turmoil. Curbside recycling has become—and may become in Southern Shores—a casualty of this turmoil.
Can Southern Shores hang in and wait out the “storm”? Will the storm ever pass? Mr. Smaltz was not optimistic that the market would change any time soon.
The Beacon would like to see Southern Shores reach out to Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head to learn how they handle their recycling centers, and, in the case of Kitty Hawk, which has partnered with Dare County, to investigate a possible collaboration.
Dare County also operates a main recycling center in Manteo and disposal sites in Buxton, Rodanthe, and Stumpy Point.
Among the Dare County beach towns, only Duck and Southern Shores do not have staffed recycling centers of their own. Duck, like Southern Shores, offers publicly funded curbside recycling, but Duck’s residential curbside recycling contract is with TFC, with whom Southern Shores did business before former Town Manager Peter Rascoe switched to Bay Disposal in 2018 to save money.
A longtime diehard recycler, I do not support private recycling subscriptions, in which Ms. Morey and Mr. Neal have shown interest and which reportedly cost $12.45 monthly for residents in towns south of Southern Shores. I believe if curbside recycling is privatized, many people will simply stop recycling. Subscription-rate recycling is often referred to as “voluntary” recycling. There also is no guarantee that Bay Disposal will be able to continue offering recycling by subscription.
Southern Shores has long been known as a town of volunteers. The Beacon believes that there would be many residents who would volunteer to keep clean recycling going in the community. Local businesses, too, can help by collecting recyclables (see above photo) and sponsoring drop-off recycling events in their parking lots.
Someone (the SSCA, perhaps?) needs to start the conversation in Southern Shores. The Town needs to get up to speed. How do we save recycling from ending when publicly funded curbside collection ends—sooner or later?
$475,000 FEMA REIMBURSEMENT FOR DORIAN CLEANUP: The Town Council unanimously approved a FY 2019-20 budget amendment of $475,000 to cover costs incurred during the cleanup after Hurricane Dorian. The Town expects to be reimbursed for these costs by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
This budget amendment was part of the Council’s consent agenda and was not publicly explained at the meeting until new Town Council members Elizabeth Morey and Matt Neal emphasized some points. Ms. Morey clearly stated the amount involved, for the record, and Mr. Neal asked: “Are we realizing the income from that [FEMA reimbursement] this fiscal year?”
Thank you, Councilman Neal. This is a basic question that should have been answered at the meeting without you having to ask. It is a matter of public information.
Finance Officer Bonnie Swain responded to Mr. Neal by saying, “Ideally, yes. Realistically, probably not.” She also noted that Ms. Morey had asked her the same question in a meeting just the previous day, but Ms. Morey did not see the need to enlighten the public on Ms. Swain’s answer. Please fill us in, Mayor Pro Tem.
Ms. Swain also said that FEMA reimbursement for costs related to Hurricane Matthew took two years. The $475,000 “receivable” that the Town is due from FEMA is actually more than a “bookkeeping matter,” as Mayor Bennett called it. It is money out of the public coffers that cannot be used for other worthwhile projects or for recovery after other natural disasters that may occur, until it is reimbursed.
RED FLAG: The Beacon does not believe it is too early to raise a red flag about the many non-public meetings and/or email and telephone conversations that the Mayor, the Town Council, and Town staff members are obviously having. Throughout Tuesday’s session, reference was made to such private meetings. It was even more clear last month that the “new” Town Council had been huddling in November.
The Beacon would remind elected officials that they serve a constituency and that the public has a right to know the details of the Town’s business. They can violate the spirit of the state open-meeting laws, without violating their letter. The charge of a lack of transparency will arise, as it did five years ago, if they repeatedly keep the public out of the loop by giving scant reports on what they have decided behind the scenes.
The reason former Town Councilmen Gary McDonald and Fred Newberry often did not agree to conduct the Town’s business privately between public meetings was because they wanted to be sure to include the public in their deliberations and decision-making.
In settling in to their offices and roles, The Beacon would ask the new Council members to keep this in mind.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THE TOWN COUNCIL’S WORKSHOP SESSION ON TUESDAY, JAN. 21, 9 a.m., AT THE PITTSCENTER: The Council will finally get down to brass tasks on beach nourishment and how much a project would cost Southern Shores property taxpayers. Neither the Council nor the Interim Town Manager reported on any communications they may have had since Dec. 3, 2019, or are having with Dare County; Ken Willson, the coastal engineering consultant; or financial consultant DEC Associates, about beach nourishment.
The Town Council will continue discussing Bay Disposal’s request for a fee increase for its curbside recycling and make important appointments to the Planning Board and the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee at its Jan. 7 meeting, according to the agenda released by the Town earlier this week.
SSVFD Fire Chief Ed Limbacher is also scheduled to give an update on the construction of the new fire station, which was originally targeted for completion in January 2020.
Next Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Kern Pitts Center. There will be two opportunities for public comment.
Followup on a possible town beach-nourishment project will occur at the Council’s mid-monthly workshop session, which is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 21, also in the Pitts Center.
The selection of a consultant to manage the search for a new town manager has been delayed until Jan. 21. The Town’s negotiations with Bay Disposal (see below) readily illustrate the need for an astute critical thinker and problem solver in the job.
The “new” Town Council decided at its inaugural Dec. 3 meeting to reinstate third-Tuesday-of-the-month workshop sessions, which a previous Council had suspended.
The suspension led to a stockpiling of business on first-Tuesday regular-meeting agendas and considerably longer night meetings.
According to the meeting packet, Bay Disposal has provided the recycling volume data that the Town Council requested at its Dec. 3 meeting in order to assess the curbside collector’s request for a monthly rate increase of $1.98 per home. The Town is currently paying a monthly fee of $5.42 per home for 2,394 homes.
A timeline provided by Joshua Smaltz, Bay Disposal’s Outer Banks Site Manager, shows that since the Council meeting Mr. Smaltz and the Town have continued their discussions and widened their focus—addressing for the first time the use of alternate recycling disposal sites.
Mr. Smaltz told the Town Council in December that Bay Disposal’s request for a rate increase is an attempt to offset some of the increased processing costs that the Powell’s Point-based company is absorbing.
When Bay Disposal signed its three-year contract with Southern Shores in June 2018, it was purportedly paying $20 per ton for processing the recyclables it picks up curbside and transports to Virginia for disposal. That rate increased to $65 per ton in November 2018; to $110 per ton last October; and then to $120 per ton on Dec. 1, according to the timeline.
Mr. Smaltz reports that the total number of tons collected in Southern Shores in fiscal year 2018-19 was 559.58.
A week after last month’s Town Council meeting, the Virginia recycling plant used by Bay Disposal informed the company that it would no longer accept its loads because it does not have “an outlet for the material,” the timeline states. Bay Disposal has lost its main disposal site for those 560 tons of recyclables.
As The Beacon detailed in a report 12/7/19, outlets have dried up for U.S. recycling because of contamination in the product. Overseas buyers are either declining to purchase U.S. recyclables or returning them to the States for disposal in landfills.
The suggestion that Southern Shores’ recyclables were ending up in a landfill was raised by Town Councilman Gary McDonald at the 2019 budget workshop last April, but neither the Town Council nor anyone on the Town staff took any investigatory action.
Bay Disposal first approached Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett on Oct. 10 about a meeting to discuss an increase in the monthly per-home service rate that it charges, according to Mr. Smaltz’s timeline.
Mr. Smaltz subsequently met with Town staff on Oct. 23, at which time he asked for a monthly rate increase from $5.42 per home to $7.40 per home.
Notes in the meeting packet indicate that the Town and Bay Disposal are currently evaluating their revised options, in light of the disposal-site issue. There is no indication that the Town has investigated the possibility of refusing Bay’s request for a rate increase and hiring a competitor.
Mr. Smaltz told the Council last month that a rejection of the rate-increase request would force his company to cancel the contract, and, therefore, be in breach.
(See The Beacon’s report 12/7/19 for background on the Town’s recycling contract and on contamination.)
Before its arrangement with Bay Disposal, the Town had a contract with a recycling company out of Hampton Roads, Va.—which is where all recyclables collected in Southern Shores, heretofore, have been transported.
According to former Town Manager Peter Rascoe and Finance Director Bonnie Swain, whom The Beacon interviewed about the fiscal year 2018-19 budget, residents frequently complained about this recycling company. In switching to Bay Disposal, Mr. Rascoe purportedly sought to improve customer service, but he principally touted the company’s lower costs and the savings the Town would reap.
Mr. Rascoe negotiated the contract with Bay Disposal, which took effect in July 2018, and signed it. The Town Council had no involvement.
The Beacon trusts that the Town is keeping property owners’ interests foremost in mind and not just trying to accommodate Bay Disposal, which took a risk when it did not insist upon an escalation clause in the contract.
PLANNING BOARD AND CIIP COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS
The packet for next Tuesday’s meeting contains the same four applications for the Planning Board/Board of Adjustment seat left vacant by now-Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey’s resignation last November that were included in last month’s meeting packet. The applicants are Tony DiBernardo, who currently serves as the Board’s first alternate, and homeowners Lynda Burek, George Berry, and Robert McClendon.
Ms. Morey was serving as chairperson of the Planning Board/Board of Adjustment at the time of her election to the Town Council. She began a new three-year term on the Board in July. Whoever is appointed as her successor will serve out her unexpired term. The Board will have to elect a new chairperson.
(Please see The Beacon’s original report on the applicants 11/29/19.)
If Board First Alternate Mr. DiBernardo, a longtime homeowner who is eminently qualified to serve, is passed over for this appointment, the Town Council would owe homeowners and residents an explanation as to why. Such an action would break with custom and protocol and interfere with the administration of good government, which depends on rules and established procedures, not on the whims of elected officials.
Political bias and/or personal favoritism have no place in the Planning Board appointment process, but the Council’s failure to appoint Mr. DiBernardo last month suggests that they may be at work. The Beacon hopes that is not the case.
The Planning Board/Board of Adjustment represents the present and future interests of the entire town, not the politics or preferences of the Town Council. Any compromise of the integrity and independent-mindedness of the Board also makes challenges to its composition when it sits as the Board of Adjustment all that more likely.
There is no indication in the meeting packet who will be appointed to the CIIP Committee, which Councilmen Jim Conners and Matt Neal will co-chair. Mr. Haskett announced at the committee’s Dec. 19 meeting that Mr. Neal would replace Mayor Tom Bennett as a co-chair.
If the Town Council observes the same appointment process as it did when it established the CIIP Committee, each Council member will nominate one committee member, and all five appointees will serve two-year terms. The composition of this group, too, should be above political reproach.
The CIIP Committee will likely meet next in February.
FEMA REIMBURSEMENT: According to a report by Mr. Haskett that is included in the packet, the Town expects to be reimbursed $475,000 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses it incurred during the cleanup after Hurricane Dorian. In the meanwhile, the Town will pay these expenses out of the Undesignated Fund Balance–subject to Town Council approval.
Late-Breaking Notice . . . The Town announced today that the Exploratory Committee for a Potential Branch Library will hold a meeting on Mon., Jan. 6, at 5:30 p.m., in an upstairs room at the Pitts Center. This meeting is open to the public.
The citizens’ Exploratory Committee on Addressing Cut-Through Traffic focused at its Dec. 16 meeting on implementing a no-left-turn at the U.S. Hwy. 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection on weekends this summer. The no-left turn solution to the heavy cut-through traffic on the town’s residential roads, chairperson Tommy Karole said, drew consensus support at the public forum that the committee held in November.
About 20 people attended last week’s meeting, including every member of the Town Council except Mayor Tom Bennett. Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey and Councilman Matt Neal are the committee’s Council sponsors.
The committee has six homeowner members, including Mr. Karole. The others are Linda Lauby of High Dune Loop; Jim Monroe of Ocean Boulevard; Bill Timberlane of South Dogwood Trail; David Watson of Hickory Trail; and Victoria Green of Hillcrest Drive.
The discussion among the committee and the public was wide-ranging and familiar to those who have participated in previous brainstorming sessions about the cut-through traffic problem. It focused on the how-to of preventing east-bound motorists on Hwy. 158 from turning left on to South Dogwood Trail and what effects that deterrence would have on the traffic flow elsewhere in town.
The group debated whether the left turn on to Juniper Trail from Hwy. 158 also should be blocked and whether north-bound motorists should be prevented from turning left on to Porpoise Run and Dolphin Run off of N.C. Hwy. 12 (Duck Road) and, if so, how. Those who supported preventing diversion on to the latter streets suggested blocking their entrances with barrels or other barriers—effectively dead-ending them—or making the roads one-way during the times of the heaviest weekend traffic flow.
The group also recognized that Google and WAZE, two GPS navigation services that direct motorists off of the thoroughfare and on to South Dogwood Trail, would have to be brought on board. This may take a Town Code ordinance, Mr. Karole said.
There seemed to be consensus among attendees, including the Town Council members, for a test of the no-left-turn plan next summer. The simplest way to run it, Councilman Neal said, would be to block only the turn on to South Dogwood Trail and none of the other jump-off streets, including Juniper. The fallout from the no-left-turn could be measured in terms of the traffic burden—vehicle counting would occur—on other residential streets. The Town could then make revisions.
Mr. Karole made clear to The Beacon that his committee is not single-shooting on a longer test run of the no-left-turn option that was implemented successfully June 23-24, 2018. He said his committee intends to present two or three permanent solutions to the cut-through traffic problem to the Town Council for it to consider. While he is willing to work on designing a test and calculating its costs, he is committed to achieving a permanent solution.
Mr. Karole expects to talk and/or meet soon with representatives of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, Town Police Chief David Kole, Town Fire Chief Ed Limbacher, and Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett about implementation of the no-left-turn. The two Town Council co-sponsors will be involved in those discussions.
Ms. Morey said she had met with Chief Kole, and he wished to convey the message: “I will be as supportive as I can.”
Ms. Morey also mentioned that Chief Kole has had an unfilled position for some time, and that hiring someone for this position might be a factor in how supportive he can be.
Homeowner Doug Boulter brought up the proposed Mid-Currituck County Bridge during the discussion about the no-left-turn option, provoking a lively response. Some people are cynical; others are hopeful.
Regardless of one’s outlook, however, the bridge is years away. Its construction alone is expected to take two years. No one expressed a desire to delay taking action now to improve summer traffic conditions in town.
According to the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, the bridge is “in development” and the targeted start date for construction is spring 2022. It is designed as a 7-mile-long, two-lane toll road that would traverse the Currituck Sound, connecting Aydlett, in mainland Currituck County, to Corolla on the northern Outer Banks.
Earlier this year the Federal Highway Administration approved the $500 million bridge.
Local residents, hunters, and fishermen have sued N.C. DOT, claiming the bridge, and the traffic that crosses it, would bring substantial harm to an environmentally sensitive area and various wildlife habitats. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the plainitiffs in this litigation.
The SSCA Boat Club’s next breakfast GAM will feature an update on the Mid-Currituck Bridge Project by Rodger Rochelle, chief engineer of Innovation Delivery for the N.C. Turnpike Authority, and Jennifer Harris, senior project manager at HNTB Corp.
The event will be held Jan. 9, at 8:30 a.m., at the Duck Woods Country Club, and is open only to SSCA and Boat Club members. If you would like to attend, please RSVP George Berry at email@example.com. The cost is $8.
A section of Chicahauk Trail that was repaved just 10 years ago is already showing “alligator cracking,” civil engineer Joe Anlauf told the Town’s capital infrastructure improvement committee last Wednesday, dropping a bombshell at the end of a lengthy meeting about the latest street projects.
“We’re starting to see failures in asphalt,” Mr. Anlauf said, referring to the 10-year-old pavement of Chicahauk Trail west of the street’s intersection with Trinitie Trail.
It is fortunate for taxpayers that newly elected Town Councilman Matt Neal, a builder with strong analytical skills, will be replacing Mayor Tom Bennett as a co-chairperson of the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee. Mr. Neal is well-qualified to deal with determining why roads are failing and addressing stormwater problems, which also came up at the committee meeting.
Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett announced Mr. Neal’s appointment, as well as current committee Co-Chair/Councilman Jim Conners’s reappointment, effective in 2020.
(Please note: The Beacon will publish a report on the cut-through traffic committee’s meeting last week tomorrow.)
“Alligator” or “crocodile” cracking is so-named because the cracks resemble the scales on an alligator’s back. They are longitudinal cracks that become connected by transverse cracks, creating a geometric pattern that looks like reptilian scales.
Also known, perhaps misleadingly, as “fatigue” cracking, such asphalt concrete breakdown occurs when the pavement is carrying a traffic load that the supporting structure cannot hold up, The Beacon has learned in independent research.
Mr. Anlauf, who is referred to as the Town Engineer even though the Town’s contract is not with his engineering company, attributed the cracking to a change in the asphalt mix standard “mandated” by the U.S. government.
In the late 1990s to early 2000s, he explained to the five members of the seven-member CIIP Committee who attended the meeting, the U.S. government “switched” from the “Marshall Mix,” which produced “very sturdy asphalt,” he said, to the “Superpave” system, which is “prone to cracking and fracturing.”
The Marshall asphalt-mix design method, The Beacon has learned, was developed around 1939 by Bruce Marshall of the Mississippi Highway Dept. and later refined by the U.S. Army. For the engineers in our readership, we will note that, according to a Maryland asphalt company, the Marshall method “seeks to select the asphalt binder content at a desired density that satisfies minimum stability and range of flow values.” We will not attempt to translate that for the non-engineers.
The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has adopted Superpave, as have the vast majority of other state transportation departments.
Southern Shores’ original roads, which were built without a base, lasted 35 to 40 years or more. Those that have been repaved using the much-studied Superpave system—which came out of a research program established by Congress in 1987 to improve the performance and durability of the nation’s highways—may have to be redone, or significantly repaired, after just 10 years, Mr. Anlauf suggested.
Committee Co-Chairs Bennett and Conners, along with three committee members appointed by the Town Council, greeted this distressing financial news with calm acceptance. No one asked Mr. Anlauf any questions.
The Beacon begs to differ. We may not be road engineers, but we recognize an absurd proposition when we hear one. The question that immediately came to our minds was: What did the Town Engineer and the asphalt design contractor do wrong?
The Superpave system has been in use nationwide for 20 years. If its application were creating roads that deteriorate after just 10 years, the federal government undoubtedly would know and would have taken corrective action.
THE SUPERPAVE SYSTEM
At the risk of losing all readers except those with engineering credentials, we delve into some Superpave history.
The purpose of the $150 million Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP), which Congress established in 1987, was to find a way to build better-performing and longer-lasting roads.
In 1991, Congress authorized the Federal Highway Administration, an agency within the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, to initiate full-scale implementation of Superpave and other SHRP research results. After 10 years of testing, studying early failures, and making recommendations for revisions, the FHA issued its “Superpave Mixture Design Guide” at:
Superpave stands for Superior Performing Asphalt Pavement System. It includes, according to HMA Contracting Corp., an asphalt paving contractor in upstate New York, “a performance-based asphalt binder specification, a mix design analysis system, many new test procedures, and new equipment.” It is not a product, but rather a process.
“HMA,” The Beacon has learned, stands for hot-mix asphalt. Superpave changed the design methods and procedures for HMA. Most important for the Town’s purposes, the Superpave mix design method takes into account traffic loading and environmental conditions—but only if the HMA contractor knows what it’s doing.
To use the Superpave system effectively, the asphalt technician or contractor has to be able to assess accurately the type and amount of traffic to which a pavement will be subjected, as well as the specific environmental conditions—including high and low temperatures—that the pavement will be expected to perform under.
In other words, engineers and road contractors have to adjust the Superpave system for their geographic areas.
Asphalt is a petroleum-based glue or “binder” that mixes with hard aggregate particles, such as sand, gravel, or crushed stone, to create asphalt concrete. According to HMA Contracting, the Superpave mix design method consists of seven steps, the first two of which are aggregate selection and asphalt binder selection.
Just in doing some cursory research online about the Superpave system, The Beacon easily could see how error or lack of skill or knowledge on the part of a contractor could result in an inferior pavement product.
The members of the CIIP Committee and Mr. Haskett must investigate how town contractors achieved such poor results with the Superpave system. There must be oversight and accountability. They can start with contacting the NCDOT, which approves all road projects.
The Beacon also asks: What has been the experience of engineers rebuilding roads in nearby beach towns?
TOWN’S ENGINEERING CONTRACT
The Town’s engineering contract is with Deel Engineering, PLLC, which works with Anlauf Engineering, PLLC, as a subcontracting “project partner” on all Southern Shores street projects. Typically at CIIP meetings, Mr. Anlauf leads the discussion, as he did last week, and Andy Deel sits beside him.
The Town had a three-year contract with Deel Engineering, which expired June 30, 2019. At its June 4 meeting, the Town Council, pursuant to a motion by Councilman Conners, extended Deel’s contract for one year. The motion passed 3-2, with a strong dissent by former Councilmen Gary McDonald and Fred Newberry, who thought the contract should go through a bidding process.
Even former Councilman Christopher Nason, who voted with the Bennett-Conners bloc, thought that other qualified engineering firms should be considered. But former Town Manager Peter Rascoe did not offer the Council any alternatives—nor did the Council ask for them in a timely fashion—and the Deel contract was set to expire in 26 days. Because he did not consider it acceptable for the Town to be without an engineering contract, Mr. Newberry felt compromised.
Ironically, the contract extension was not signed by the Town until Aug. 20, when Acting Town Manager Haskett signed it. Deel’s president did not sign until Aug. 30. So much for urgency.
The Beacon trusts that the new Town Council will not let consideration of the Town’s engineering contract go until June and will start the process of considering other firms a few months ahead. Mr. Haskett should help in this effort, as well.
UPDATE ON SOUTH AND EAST DOGWOOD, HILLCREST DRIVE, DEWBERRY LANE, AND OTHER STREET PROJECTS
The Town Council has prioritized capital infrastructure improvements projects, ranking them in descending order, with the top four being:
East Dogwood Trail, from Duck Road (N.C. Hwy. 12) east to Ocean Boulevard
Hillcrest Drive, from its intersection with Hickory Trail to the SSCA tennis courts
Sea Oats Trail, from 11th Avenue north to Duck Road
By previous agreement, the Council has decided to appropriate for the annual capital improvements budget five cents out of every 22 cents per $100 of property value—which is the current tax rate—that the Town collects in real-estate taxes. In FY 2019-20, that amount is $662,340.
According to Mr. Anlauf, the FY 2019-20 budget will not cover all four priority projects. It may take two budget cycles to complete them, he said.
Former Councilman Gary McDonald tried for years to increase the capital improvements budget by changing the tax calculation, but the three-person majority blocked him. Newly elected Councilwoman/Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey—a more appealing messenger, apparently—may have better luck.
During a public-comment period, she suggested undertaking the “useful exercise” of looking at how many miles of the Town’s 37.6 miles of roadway have been rebuilt, over how much time, and then computing: “How long will it take at the rate we’re going to get to the end?”
The answer to this question, Ms. Morey said, might lead the Town Council to “consider that the annual budget is insufficient.”
This idea, she said, had been suggested to her by CIIP Committee member Glenn Riggin.
Mr. Anlauf is to do this calculation and present his result at the next CIIP Committee, which will likely be in February.
Updating what is going on now:
SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL SIDEWALK: As The Beacon reported 12/18/19, Mr. Anlauf informed the CIIP Committee that the tree and stump removal on the east side of South Dogwood Trail has been done, and that “no additional tree removal is to occur.”
Pink flags currently attached to trees and bushes, which have raised concerns for property owners, mark “sensitive areas,” Mr. Anlauf explained, not future removals.
The suggestion by Mr. Anlauf that some flags may designate where tree roots may be located raise a red flag for The Beacon. Damage to roots may result in tree deaths, a concern we red-flagged before the Town Council when we argued that the Town Engineer may have underestimated the number of trees that will be lost.
The Beacon advises all South Dogwood Trail homeowners to keep an eye on the pink flags to ensure that no further tree removal occurs.
Also, as earlier reported, the sidewalk construction is to start after Jan. 1 and will occur along the entire route, with work taking place at multiple locations. Crews will work first on the “easier sections with minimal grading,” according to Mr. Anlauf.
DEWBERRY LANE: Although it is fourth in priority, the CIIP Committee spent considerable time discussing design possibilities for Dewberry Lane, a 230-linear-foot-long lane off of Bayberry Trail. There are only three houses fronting on Dewberry, which ends in a Y, branching off to the driveways of two of the houses.
According to the Town’s “Guiding Standards for Use in Engineer Design of Necessary Street Rebuilds,” which were adopted in 2014, cul-de-sacs or other NCDOT-recognized turn-around areas must be installed in all locations where the roadway has no outlet, in order to “facilitate the maneuvering” of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.
Mr. Anlauf sought an amendment to the standards for Dewberry Lane because “they are going to be difficult to adhere to.”
Constructing a cul-de-sac on Dewberry—one look at this picturesque lane reveals this suggestion to be ludicrous—“calls for a lot of removal of trees,” Mr. Anlauf said, but he said he felt he had no choice but to do so, under the standards.
Mr. Anlauf presented as an alternative to a cul-de-sac a “hammerhead turn-around,” which essentially is a fire-access driveway that serves no more than two dwellings. It would use the Y-configuration that is already in place.
Not only is Dewberry Lane unique because of its length, it has unique stormwater mitigation issues because of runoff from Bayberry Trail. Existing stormwater infrastructure is already quite extensive.
Mayor Bennett led the committee’s critique of the engineer’s Dewberry Lane rebuild design plans, showing both practicality and a concern for aesthetics. He pointed out that the standards allow the Town to investigate “other design options” in “locations where adequate area [for a cul-de-sac] is not available” and the “need for a larger turn-around area is necessary.” (Standard 5)
The Beacon would dispute the need for a larger turn-around area on Dewberry Lane, but we certainly welcome the Mayor’s flexibility.
By consensus, the committee agreed with the Mayor’s directive to Mr. Anlauf to proceed with the hammerhead turn-around and to get the “maximum” stormwater mitigation he can manage while removing a “minimum” number of trees.
“Do the best you can do with it,” Mayor Bennett said. “. . . give people something they’re reasonably comfortable with.”
EAST DOGWOOD TRAIL: According to Mr. Anlauf, the contract for stormwater and other improvements on East Dogwood Trail, between Duck Road and Ocean Boulevard, “went out to bid” last Tuesday, with bids scheduled to be opened Jan. 23.
The contractor should start work two weeks after that, he said. The contract completion date is May 1, but this “may be pushing it.”
HILLCREST DRIVE (the cut-through route portion): The survey work on this 3700-linear-foot-plus-long section of Hillcrest Drive is done, said Mr. Anlauf, who further reported that he would start the design work after Jan. 1.
The Town Engineer anticipates that the job will be bid upon this spring, and the work will occur during the summer, which would disrupt the heavy weekend cut-through traffic—sending it to Sea Oats Trail and Wax Myrtle, off of Hickory Trail, if the Town takes no action to prevent it.
Much of the discussion that the CIIP Committee had with Mr. Anlauf about the Hillcrest Drive rebuild concerned the width of the new street. The engineer reported that its width currently varies between 16 and 20 feet, except at the top of the hill, in an area that we called in 1972 “Lookout Point.”
You could park on the roadside at Lookout Point and view the Currituck Sound and the ocean simultaneously. Unfortunately, tree growth has eliminated this glorious panorama.
Mayor Bennett suggested that, in the interest of public safety, Hillcrest Drive be 20-feet-wide, except at Lookout Point, where he thought 22 or 24 feet would be more appropriate.
“If you narrow [Lookout Point] too much, you’ll endanger the public,” he said, noting that many people walk and bike on Hillcrest Drive.
Mr. Riggin brought up the possibility of a sidewalk down Hillcrest Drive that would originate at East Dogwood Trail. If a sidewalk were to be constructed, he observed, the road should be 18-feet-wide.
Mr. Conners, who said he was “told not to bring up” a town-wide walking system, which he endorses, suggested that the committee keep “focused” on the roadway and not anticipate a sidewalk.
SEA OATS TRAIL: The survey work on Sea Oats Trail has not been done yet.
*Committee member Al Ewerling pointed out that the Juniper Trail Bridge is “bouncing more,” as the “road is sinking more.” No action was taken.
*The Mayor suggested widening the eastbound lanes on East Dogwood Trail at the Hwy. 12 traffic light in order to reduce the tightness of the right turn. He suggested obtaining a foot or two from the median to the north of the lanes and asked if this work could be incorporated into the East Dogwood Trail project contract. Mr. Anlauf advised that such a change would cost about $2400 and could be put into the East Dogwood project “by addendum.”
*Mr. Haskett brought up stormwater problems that affect several homeowners around 245 Sea Oats Trail. Committee members are aware of this flooding, as well as stormwater problems elsewhere in Town—some of it caused by street improvements, such as curbing—and suggested that when Councilman Neal comes on board, a comprehensive approach to such problems should be devised. No action was taken otherwise.
The tree and stump removal on the east side of South Dogwood Trail is done, Town Engineer Joe Anlauf told the Southern Shores capital improvements committee today. Although many trees are currently “pink-flagged,” he said, “No additional tree removal is to occur.”
Mr. Anlauf also reported that construction work will begin after Jan. 1 and will occur along the entire length of the proposed sidewalk.
Crews will “jump around and work at multiple locations,” he said, explaining that “easier sections with minimal grading,” such as the terrain near the cemetery, will be tackled first.
Members of the public have raised concerns about the number of additional trees on South Dogwood Trail that have been pink-flagged, Mr. Anlauf told the Town’s Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee (CIIP), which is chaired by Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilman Jim Conners.
Mr. Anlauf told the committee that he called the tree contractor, Albemarle Landscapes and Tree Services, to find out why and learned that the flags designate “sensitive areas” on the route that require special attention. They may designate where tree roots and water meters are, for example, he said.
The Town Engineer updated the CIIP committee on the status of all pending infrastructure projects, including South Dogwood Trail; East Dogwood Trail, from Hwy. 12 to Ocean Boulevard; Dewberry Lane; and sections of Hillcrest Drive and Sea Oats Trail. He also addressed the budgets for these improvements.
The committee decided by consensus to dispense with the now-standard cul de sac at the end of Dewberry, which is an unusually short side road off of Bayberry Trail. Only three houses front on the lane.
The Beacon will report in full on today’s CIIP Committee meeting, as well as on Monday’s Cut-Through Traffic Committee meeting on Friday or Saturday. The traffic committee discussed implementation of the no-left-turn option at South Dogwood Trail this summer.