Board addresses bridge issues, beautification

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen passed a series of resolutions concerning the Heide Trask Drawbridge at its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 12.

Those resolutions included one that would enter into an agreement with the United States Coast Guard to only open the bridge on the hour during the bridgework construction period. This will be a departure from the USCG’s normal schedule of opening every half hour.

Town manager Tim Owens said the agreement should help alleviate some traffic issues when the drawbridge is reduced to two lanes on Oct. 1 for bridgework contractor American Bridge to renovate the northern two lanes.

Another bridge resolution passed by the town supported an investigation by the North Carolina Department of Transportation into making the Airlie Road and Wrightsville Avenue intersection safer. With the number of vehicular and pedestrian accidents that have occurred at the intersection Owens said NCDOT and the City of Wilmington were both ready to address the issue following completion of the bridgework in spring 2014.

A public hearing concerning the speed limits on and around the drawbridge and on Salisbury Street was also set for the board’s Oct. 10 meeting. Owens said he heard from NCDOT that there would not need to be an extensive investigation to lower the speed limit on the drawbridge to 35 mph, because that was already something it wanted to change. However, Owens also said NCDOT would not consider lowering the bridge speed limit without the board also voting to lower the Salisbury Street speed limit to 35 mph to be consistent throughout the area.

The board also approved the purchase of a new fire truck for the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department from Pennsylvania-based fire engine manufacturer, KME, at a cost of $434,548. The town budgeted $525,000 for the purchase of the vehicle in the 2013-2014 budget.

Fire Chief Frank Smith said he was pleased with KME’s reputation, because the company has been in business since 1946 and manufactures all the fire engine’s parts, chassis, body and cab in house. Smith said he would need to travel to the factory three times — once to lay out the schematics of the truck with KME’s engineers, once in the middle of production and a final time at the end of production to test the vehicle.

WB Beautification

The conceptual budget for the downtown Wrightsville Beach beautification project spearheaded by the Wrightsville Beach Foundation would be around $1.7 million, said foundation representative Jim Smith. Josh Mihaly of Mihaly Land Design, who has completed all the work thus far pro bono, developed the concept plans that include a mini park at the North Lumina Avenue and Stone Street intersection and street side tree plantings along North Lumina Avenue.

Another aspect of the conceptual plans is to bury the power lines along the downtown portion of North Lumina Avenue. If those power lines were buried, Smith said the entire project’s conceptual budget would be around $1.7 million. The number would drop to around $1 million if the lines were not buried. Smith also said grant funding would be pursued for the project and that one possible grant would only require a 20 percent match in funds from the town. 

Owens said he would present the board with more definite plans and an overview of the impacts to the existing underground utilities in the area at the board’s Oct. 12 meeting.

One part of the town’s appearance that will receive a facelift this year is the holiday lighting system. Aldermen approved the expense supported with $4,000 from the Room Occupancy Tax fund that was approved by the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority and an additional $3,225 from the town’s general fund balance.

The updates will include the purchase of four new holiday pole lights with LED bulbs, the installation of LED bulbs on the other 15 pole lights, repair of electrical connections and replacing the blubs on the animated dolphin lights with blue LED bulbs.


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