request to tap into Room Occupancy Tax funds to pay for a beach renourishment
project has prompted concern from Wrightsville Beach town officials.
ROT funds would
supplement federal and state funds for a fall 2014 renourishment project before
the beach’s federal authorization expires December 31, 2014.
“I don’t have a
problem with the fact that there’s federal funding for a one-time deal that’s available
for Carolina Beach, and I don’t know if I actually have a problem with the fact
that they’re requesting money from the county… but see, we don’t have a clue.
We have been left out of the process,” said Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair
during an April 24 phone interview.
Town Manager Michael Cramer said town officials learned in February 2014 the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers has $4.8 million to fund the project, pooled from $2.1
million in leftover general construction funds and $2.7 million the
corps requested from the federal government. The N.C. Division of Water
Resources pledged $727,000.
$1.8 million from ROT funds would round out the project’s price tag.
An April 18
letter from Cramer to New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet contained an
official request to access the ROT funds.
conversations with the corps over the past several weeks, it was explained to
us, the county and Kure Beach that some sort of decision from the communities
needed to be made within the next week so they could make their timelines for
using the federal funds and get the project rolling by the end of September,”
Cramer said during an April 24 phone interview.
commissioners will vote on the request during a May 5 meeting following a
presentation on numbers prepared by county shore protection coordinator Layton
Bedsole and county finance director Lisa Wurtzbacher.
Mayor Blair is
concerned that Wrightsville Beach was not included in the conversation.
“As beach towns
go, we have all been a group and then all of a sudden we’re not part of that
discussion and I think we need to be because … Wrightsville Beach contributes
about 50 percent of ROT dollars every year,” Blair said.
Cramer said he
has discussed the request with Kure Beach town officials.
conversations with multiple council members in Kure Beach and as long as it
doesn’t negatively impact them, which it doesn’t, they don’t have an issue with
us utilizing the resources,” Cramer said. “I haven’t heard anything from
Cramer said the
focus has been on getting approval from county commissioners, who will decide
whether to dedicate resources.
Blair said that
approach does not follow established procedures for requesting access to the
ROT fund, like securing as a recommendation from the Wilmington-New Hanover County
Port, Waterway and Beach Commission first.
The project was
on the agenda for last Port Waterway and Beach Commission meeting.
During the April
9 meeting, members discussed the project but determined they did not have
enough information to make an informed vote.
although I understand the math and numbers, never actually went and got a
recommendation from the ports and waterways commission. … Our concern is, has
the process been circumvented or is there a new process for asking for money?
Because it’s always been handled a certain way,” Blair said.
Blair said he
hopes Wrightsville will be kept in the loop in the future.
Stay tuned for the full story in the May 1 issue of Lumina News.