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Carolina Beach And County To Help Kure Beach Fund Beach Nourishment Project

The Carolina Beach Town Council and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted last week to help fund the 2012 Kure Beach renourishment project after state funding was eliminated from the budget.

Managing Editor

KURE BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution Monday morning July 2, that will help neighboring Kure Beach to fund a beach nourishment project scheduled for later this year.
The resolution was adopted during a Monday morning emergency meeting. It states the Town of Carolina Beach has been fortunate to receive beach nourishment projects for almost 50 years and the Federal Funding Authorization for the Carolina Beach Project is set to expire in 2014. Officials with the Town, County, State and Federal government are seeking to have the 50-year project reauthorized.
The resolution states that Carolina Beach was fortunate to receive Federal funding of $4.4 million dollars and State funding of $1.18 million this year to "ensure that the Carolina Beach project is completed to at least a 66% template in what could be the last Federal or State funded cycle for the 50 year project."
The resolution says citizens, property owners, business owners and visitors significantly benefit from the storm damage protection that a healthy beach provides and, "A healthy beach strand provides secondary benefits such as jobs, economic stimulus, recreational opportunities and habitat for species that thrive along the coast."
Carolina Beach and Kure Beach have received simultaneous beach projects performed since 1997. The project was originally authorized as "Carolina Beach and Vicinity" which includes both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
The resolution states, "There are many advantages to renourishing all or portions of the Carolina Beach and Vicinity project with the most significant advantage to Carolina Beach being sand placed on the 3,000 linear feet of shoreline in Carolina Beach that is currently considered part of the Kure Beach project."
The Council agreed the Town is supportive of Kure Beach and New Hanover County's efforts to find a funding  solution that would allow the Town of Kure Beach to move forward with beach nourishment with two possible funding solutions.
The first solution listed in the resolution is for Kure Beach and New Hanover County to continue seeking additional Federal or State funding that would equate to at least 17.5% of the cost of the Kure Beach project. The additional 82.5% of the project cost could come from the Room Occupancy Tax fund if approved by the County Board of Commissioners. That Room tax fund (ROT) currently holds $37.5 million dollars generated from taxes on hotels, motels and vacation rentals. The second option listed in the resolution states, "The Town, County and Kure Beach could seek to change the designation of the current State and/or Federal funding to include a direct transfer of the Carolina Beach project funds allocated by the State to Kure Beach or a change in the designation of the Carolina Beach Federal or State Funds to be applied to the Carolina Beach and Vicinity project in the amount of 17.5% of the cost of Kure Beach project so long as there is no additional cost to the Town of Carolina Beach."
During the Monday July 2, meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Rick Catlin explained, "We received some Federal money for Carolina Beach, but not for Kure Beach. We received some State money for Carolina Beach, but none for Kure Beach. We have an interlocal agreement with all of the beach communities where the County agrees to pay up to 82.5% of the cost for renourishment. If there is no State or Federal contribution then the local beach communities have agreed to pay up to 17.5%. We agreed to sign that this year."
Catlin explained, "The beach communities did not expect this to happen so soon that we would not get the State funding. We do have contracts in place with the State of North Carolina where they've agreed to pay 75% of 35% of the project. That's about 26%. We really were hoping that would continue and it didn't. They decided to only match Federal dollars. So we have some work to do in the General Assembly next year to educate folks that local contributions - that money is just as good as Federal money."
Catlin explained, "It put Kure Beach into a bind. So the Ports, Waterway and Beach Commission, we made three resolutions. And I'm going to do this without specific dollar amounts. We do try when working with the Army Corp of Engineers not to advertise to the bidders what the budget is because that tends to be what the bids come in at. The commissioners do have those numbers."
He explained, "What we recommend... that the sand portion of the room tax be used to pay the remaining portion of the Carolina Beach project which is less than 82.5%." He said that portion is actually 27.6%.
He continued, "Also to honor our interlocal agreement we made a resolution for the Commissioners to approve the 82.5% for Kure Beach. And then in conversations with Kure Beach and Carolina Beach, we've made a resolution for the Commissioner's to agree to - I'll say loan, but it's economic funding that gets paid back - to Kure Beach so that we will have the money in place to be able to write the checks to the Army Corp of Engineers this month. It could be any day now."
Catlin explained that he, Commissioner Ted Davis and Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth recently had conversations with members of the State General Assembly, "To be able to have flexibility at reassigning that State contribution so that Kure Beach would not be on the hook for that 17.5%."
He explained, "Carolina Beach met today and agreed that if all of that works out that they would be willing to move that money to their friends and neighbors in Kure Beach which I think is an applaudable motion for the folks in Carolina Beach to do."
Catlin said, "That's not on our plate tonight. Our plate is to honor our interlocal agreement and make the contributions to Carolina and Kure Beach and then to fund/loan the remaining 17.5% to Kure Beach. Hopefully they will be able to pay that back in a very short period of time so we can get the projects moving."
He explained, "One advantage of doing both projects is the length and stability of a beach renourishment project is directly proportional to the physical length that is renourishment. And to get all of Pleasure Island renourishment and make it a very sustainable long lasting project and we don't want to miss that opportunity."
Commissioner Davis said, "When Rick and I got into this, we realized that in order for this to happen, the legislature had to approve it. That's the reason Rick and I went up to Raleigh and met with members of the House and Senate."
He said, "I'm not quiet sure where we are on that. I know it was passed by the Senate and it's in the house right now. So if it's passed before the house recesses, then we are on go. If it doesn't for whatever reason, of course we can take care of it when the General Assembly meets" in January.
Davis explained, "We will need to work out the terms and I want it to be just as favorable to the County and Kure Beach as possible. We are not here to make a lot of money off of our citizens in Kure Beach. I want to at least cover what the County would get if it was in the bank drawing interest."
Lambeth thanked the Board and said, "It's unfortunate that they didn't include 'and vicinity' when the federal and state people put this forward. We were caught off guard and we had to play catch-up and we really appreciate the effort that you and commissioner Catlin have put into this particularly with our people in Raleigh."
Davis noted time is short because in approximately two weeks checks have to be written to the Corp of Engineers.
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said, "I know you run a pretty tight margin at Kure Beach and that you set your budget and looking at future funding, it probably won't come back. I know you all try to not raise taxes... to keep things as low as possible at Kure Beach. My question for you is, what is your long-term solution to this problem. Because I think you are going to need to have some type of a contingency fund in place to cover your 17.5% down the road as well as repaying the loan back to the county."
Barfield said, "I'm just caught off guard as to how this could have gotten lost in the shuffle with our local delegation understanding that this is one beach that needed to be funded here locally and why we just found out about it pretty much at the last minute after we've all passed our budgets?"
Mayor Lambeth said, "I think we all kind of scratched our heads at that. It was in the Governor's budget as Carolina and Kure Beach but never "and Vicinity." We were told it was in the budget and then out of the budget. They kind of kicked us around a little bit up there and our legislators had to go to bat for us."
Lambeth said, "As far as the long-term commitment, we have set up a fund in our contingency fund so we hope this will never happen in the future." He said, "We hope the money we put away, I think $75,000 a year, will cover this by the time we have another beach renourishment."
He said another project is scheduled three years from now and everyone is waiting to find out about federal re-authorization of the Carolina Beach project.
Barfield explained, "What I see here is a continued shift from the state and federal government to the local level and the thing I want citizens to understand is when things are cut out of the state budget it's going to affect those here locally. Someone has to pay for these services and these goods we are getting whether it's the state government or the local government. So what you see locally is an increase in your property taxes or reduction in services to cover the things that are needed. We no sand on our beaches is so important here as it drives our tourism. When you think about who you are putting in certain places those cuts affect real people and real lives and someone has to pay for them."
The County is preparing to hire a new position to work on the issue and promote better coordination between the County and beach Towns."
Commissioner Jason Thompson said he spoke with people staying at Kure Beach earlier in the day and they noted how important the beaches are to the economy.
Commissioner Catlin said, "Just in case the President is watching, or anybody in Washington is watching this, these are storm protection projects that save FEMA millions and millions of dollars anytime we have a storm. We're paying all of that locally now."
He said, "We have almost no damage in New Hanover County due to our storm protection projects... also when the federal government partnered with us they signed project cooperation agreements with us where they agreed to pay a certain amount. Their contribution is required to meet at least a three to one benefit cost ratio.
That means for every dollar they spend on one of our beaches the entire nation benefits three dollars in economic growth."
He said, "The state also partnered to do this and all of the State of North Carolina receives benefits from tourism and economic growth here in New Hanover
County and again we are paying almost all of it locally. That's the big battle is to get the message out to the State and Federal Government and maybe we'll give up on the Federal Government, I don't know. We need to partner, and if we have partnership agreements they need to be honored. Right now we are taking a hit in New Hanover County.
We have a strong
fund for the sand portion of our room tax but it can not sustain these kind of impacts year after year."
Lambeth said a study conducted by the University of North Carolina showed a return on investment for each dollar spent equals $336.00"
The Board of Commissioners voted to loan Kure Beach the funding with the details worked out at a later meeting.
Mayor Lambeth explained after the meeting the Commissioners voted to give the Town an economic development loan and the Town Council will have to meet to decide upon a fair interest rate to pay back that money. He said, "1% on the loan seems right" and the Council may take up the issue at their July meeting if not sooner.
Lambeth said the County, "Will still front the money before that meeting in order to write a check to the Army Corp of Engineers to get the planning and bid process started."