ONLINE UPDATE: Commissioners cautious in granting ROT requests

by Miriah Hamrick
Monday, May 5, 2014

New Hanover County Commissioners considered requests to use room occupancy tax funds for fall 2014 renourishment projects at Carolina Beach and Kure Beach during a May 5 meeting.

Completion of both projects would drain $3.6 million from the ROT.

The board unanimously approved use of $1.863 million for the Carolina Beach project but declined to take action on Kure Beach’s request.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed the Carolina Beach project, offering $4.8 million pooled from leftover general construction funds and contributions from the federal government.

The N.C. Division of Water Resources pledged $727,000, leaving the ROT to cover the remaining $1.863 million.

The project carries a $7.4 million price tag.

Carolina Beach’s federal authorization is set to expire December 2014. The fall 2014 renourishment project is potentially the last opportunity to use federal funds to offset cost.

The corps also proposed acceleration of Kure Beach’s renourishment cycle, expediting federal and state money allocated for use in the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years to take advantage of equipment already mobilized on the island for Carolina Beach’s project.

Both beaches are on a three-year cycle and projects have traditionally occurred simultaneously. Carolina Beach and Kure Beach both received sand in 2013.

Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth told commissioners the beach strand was hit especially hard by winter storms.

Approval of Kure Beach’s request was not recommended by County Shore Protection Coordinator Layton Bedsole or County Manager Chris Coudriet.

Bedsole cited a lack of scientific support for pumping another pile of sand on Kure Beach.

Coudriet denied support because it could force the ROT to bear the bulk of 2016 renourishment projects for Carolina and Kure Beach.

“The two projects combined in [20]13 were $15 million. … Assuming no money for Carolina Beach because it’s not reauthorized and it’s unlikely that Congress will appropriate the same project twice [for Kure Beach], so potentially in three years the ROT could face 65 percent of a $15 million project plus 17.5 percent for Carolina Beach and Kure Beach,” Coudriet said.

School Bond Plan

New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley outlined needs in county schools in a step toward securing a Nov. bond referendum.

The bond would fund construction of an elementary school in Porters Neck and renovations to College Park Elementary, Blair Elementary and Wrightsville Beach Elementary, among other improvements.

The latest facility needs plan identified $390 million in needed improvements.

New Hanover County Board of Education Chairman Don Hayes said in an April 30 phone interview he expected the bond would be capped at $160 million.

A number was not established during the meeting. Coudriet said commissioners would have to agree on one.

“There is going to have to be a discussion about how much below $280 [million] that you’re willing to put as a question to the voters,” Coudriet said.

Markley said more in-depth information would be given to Coudriet for consideration on May 6.

Hayes said he was confident voters would support a bond in November.

“I hear very positive comments from people about the bond. They know the need. They know with our previous bonds, we’ve always done what we said we were going to do to the penny,” Hayes said.

Stay tuned for the full story in the May 8 issue of Lumina News. 

email miriah@luminanews.com

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