The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen retreat on Saturday, Jan. 11 will begin an hour earlier at 8 a.m., giving members the day to tackle important issues facing the town.
The discussion and direction by the board is divided into five sections, featuring a total of 16 items, ranging from live streaming of board meetings and consideration of studying the purchase of water from CFPUA during off-peak times to a 2013-14 budget review and a potential town operations audit.
Town Manager Tim Owens said current board members, former board members, discussions and town staff generated retreat topics.
Two big issues discussed during the 2013 retreat were the lack of Harbor Island guest parking and the allotment of parking passes per owner as side effects of the Harbor Island parking district enacted in 2012.
Owens said it is hard to say what topic will provide the most discussion during the retreat.
“Sometimes you get bogged down on the easy things and sail through the tougher decisions,” Owens said.
Mayor Bill Blair requested to move the meeting up an hour and called the agenda ambitious.
Within budget and personnel, Blair said he wants to hear input from fellow board members about a town operations audit.
“Some number of years ago the board set aside X amount of dollars to bring in a company that comes and does what’s called an operational audit, which basically is an efficiency study; it has a pay component to it.” Citing his former tenure as an alderman, Blair said, “… It was funded my last year and it was taken out of the budget the next year.”
A total of $50,000 was set aside in the budget for the audit at that time, he said, adding that it reveals what the town is doing well and how it could improve.
“It’s a little bit of looking behind closed doors, because you’re not exactly sure what you might find,” Blair said. “But you may also find out that we’re doing a pretty good job.”
He said he is also looking forward to discussing a few retreat items, like a merit pay discussion for FY 2013-14, including figures from the mid-term budget. He and other members received a copy of the budget figures on Monday, Jan. 6.
To kick off the meeting, board members will talk about live streaming of meetings, initiated in 2013, and new outreach opportunities, like disseminating information using social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter.
The board will provide direction about whether to continue live streaming meetings after hearing challenges and changes that have occurred since the initiative began.
“I don’t think there’s any objection to what it cost today, but I think there’s some question on the board, they want to know … what is the use of it? Is it getting a lot of hits? Are there a lot of people looking at it?” Blair said.
Some items that were not included in the retreat agenda, due to time allowance, were discussions about Wrightsville Beach School overcrowding, a dune maintenance program, beach renourishment and future local funding options among others.
“Those were items that I felt like we could take a little time on and obviously can’t do it all in one day,” Owens said. “Those are the items we will bring back at some point.”
The Heide Trask Drawbridge construction work is also absent from the retreat agenda.
“The bridge will hopefully be done here in a few months, so it’s not a concern at this point,” Owens said. “… It looks like they’re moving along. It looks like they’re making good progress.”