This is the third in a series of bi-weekly reports from Town Manager Dave Gilbride. These reports will serve to inform both the Board of Aldermen and the general public on the progress of town projects.
USACOE Federal Project
At a special meeting held at the North End Firehouse on Saturday, October 31, 2020, the Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to support the US Army Corps of Engineer’s “Federal Project” with Surf City.
The difficulty facing the governing body in North Topsail Beach all along has been how to finance our participation in the project. Working with our financial consultant, DEC Associates, the Board has been able to review several scenarios intended to show possible paths forward on the project. It was clear from the beginning that participation in this project would inevitably require an increase in property taxes. What remains now for the Board is to determine how and where to implement a property tax increase and how to develop any alternate sources of revenue to reduce the impact of any increase on the property owners.
Certain aspects of the Project Partnership Agreement which were deemed troublesome for the town, but which could not be changed in the PPA, were addressed by the town attorney. He is satisfied that by providing written memorialization of discussions with the Corps, in conjunction with the Corps of Engineers attorney, the town can be adequately protected going forward.
Capital Improvement/Fire Station
Once we have worked our way through the Local Government Commission on the handling of the outstanding USDA loan and the financing of the Federal Project, we will turn our attention to the remaining capital issues in town, specifically the replacement of the south fire station.
The project engineer has assembled a bid package that would comply with North Carolina purchasing regulations; however, he previously alerted us to some pending litigation with a contractor who assisted in preparing his design. Our attorney has insisted we receive indemnification from the engineering firm before placing the repair out to bid.
A bid opening was conducted Thursday, November 5 @ 2:00 PM. Bid results are being analyzed and a determination will be made shortly.
Agreements for the project are being finalized, and every effort is being made to secure FEMA approval to start this project with the opening of the sea turtle environmental window this month. This project will restore the dunes lost with Hurricane Florence from approximately the Myrtle Drive beach crossing north to the Topsail Reef Condominiums. A second phase will restore the engineered beach in Phase 5 during the 2020 – 2021 sand nourishment window.
My comments on annexation may have been misleading; annexation, should it occur, would be voluntary and apply only to specific properties. The town has no authority to simply annex any town, property, or district. While we would like to remove the restriction from our charter in the event there is ever a serious request from a property owner, or if we should purchase property on the mainland for storage use. There are no plans to annex anything.
According to the Onslow County manager, completion of the County beach access project has been delayed by their inability to work on the beach side of the structure until the sea turtle nesting season is complete in Mid-November. They indicate that they are prepared to proceed immediately to finish the building, parking lot, and access at that time.
Corps of Engineers: ICW Crossing and Channel to Jacksonville Dredging
Originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 environmental window, the dredge contractor was unable to complete the contract with the Corps. The contract remains open and active, with the contractor obligated to complete the project during the 2020-2021 environmental window. The volume of sand to be placed on the north end as a result of this dredging is 250,000 cu yds. We have not yet received an update on the schedule.
Each year the town decorates for the holiday season by placing lighted snowflakes on the power poles throughout North Topsail Beach. This year Jones Onslow conducted a project to replace the power poles from the high rise bridge south to Surf City. In doing so, they removed the hardware and connections required to support and power the snowflakes. The DPW is working to install new supports and wiring and has coordinated with JOEMC to have the actual hookups to power completed. This will take some time, and the installation of the snowflakes in that area will likely be delayed.
The submission of a comprehensive plan for paid parking has been delayed by the need for a final determination regarding NTB’s participation in the Federal Project. Participation in the project requires parking be available in close proximity to beach accesses in the project area.
This means that we will have to identify and prepare side street parking in certain areas, utilizing the town’s right-of-way and possibly removing landscaping, fencing, decorative railroad ties, etc., placed by homeowners in the right-of-way. These areas will have to be identified and included in any paid parking plan, which can then be submitted to the Board for approval.