- Published on Wednesday, 07 November 2012 12:17
- Written by Super User
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers recently opened bids from contractors to conduct a beach nourishment project in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach later this winter. It appears Weeks Marine of Louisiana was the lowest bidder.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers informed local governments last week that bids were opened and they have an apparent low bidder to conduct a beach nourishment project this winter.
Robert Keistler with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Wilmington District explained November 2, they, "had a successful bid opening yesterday on the above referenced solicitation package. Weeks Marine Inc, of Covington La. is the apparent low bidder with a bid of $26,256,300.00... We anticipate awarding this contract next week, with work starting this month. As we receive additional information (schedule, order of work, etc.) I will be passing that information forward to all interested parties."
The project will pump 680,000 cubic yards of sand on to Carolina Beach likely from the North End Pier south to the Carolina Beach Lake. It will also pump 432,000 cubic yards on to Kure Beach from the southern beach in Carolina Beach to an area north of the Kure Beach Pier. A final section is south of that pier. The project also includes "Wilmington Harbor Inner Ocean Bar Dredging with Beach Disposal at Bald Head Island" pumping 1,830,000 cubic yards of sand.
The Town of Carolina Beach may have to start banking away as much as $650,000 a year in order to fund periodic beach nourishment projects. How to generate that revenue is the expensive question.
The Town Council discussed the issue at their September 11, meeting and will discuss it again on November 13, at their monthly regular meeting. The Council will also discuss holding public workshops and hearings with property owners.
The Council recently voted to eliminate discounts for annual Freeman Park vehicle passes to drive on the beach. Rather than buying them earlier in the year for $60 before they increase to $100, all annual passes are now $100. Council directed Town Manager Tim Owens to allocate the anticipated revenues of $400,000 towards beach nourishment and inlet dredging.
Town Manager Tim Owens said in September, "At this point there is an interlocal agreement between all of the beach towns and the county that says in the event that there is no federal or state funding the Room Occupancy Tax (ROT) funds would pick up 82.5% of the project and the Town would pick up 17.5% of the project."
The Towns of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach traditionally receive beach nourishment projects at the same time. The project is called, "Carolina Beach and vicinity." Both projects are combined into one to save on mobilization and permitting costs.
Projects have historically been paid for by federal, state and local funds. Locally the County and the three beach Town’s of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach have a Room Occupancy Tax on all hotels, motels and vacation rentals. Over the years that fund has grown to $40,165,475 with another $711,189.00 generated from a room tax in the unincorporated area of the county.
The United States Congress has authorized a beach nourishment project for the Town of Carolina Beach. It is estimated that this project will cost approximately $7,700,000. Congress has authorized the Federal Government to spend $4,400,000 on this project. The balance of $3,300,000 will be shared between the State of North Carolina and New Hanover County. New Hanover County's portion will be approximately $2,120,000 and will be paid from the Room Occupancy Tax (ROT) funds and the State of North Carolina's share will be $1,180,000. The existing permit for this project expires in 2014.
The Federal government has authorized a beach nourishment project for the Town of Kure Beach; however, no funding is being provided from either the Federal or state governments. Therefore, the entire cost of this project would come from local funds. The Town of Carolina Breach has agreed to transfer the state's portion of the Carolina Beach nourishment of $1,180,000 to Kure Beach if the nourishment project at Kure Beach proceeds. The estimated cost of this project is $6,400,000 and would also be funded by room occupancy tax revenues.
Part of the Carolina Beach portion of the project is done under the Kure Beach project.
In order to reduce the overall costs, the United States Army Corp of Engineers bid both projects as one.
Earlier this year the County Board of Commissioners agreed to pay for unexpected costs above the original project amount. A new arrangement required the county sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the United States Army Corp of Engineers which will expose the county to additional liability. Because of changes in the contract language, the State of North Carolina was not willing to continue to be the signatory on that Memorandum of Agreement.
Owens also informed Council the rock-wall on the northern end of the beach along Carolina Beach Avenue North must be maintained by the Town. He said, "Basically I found out recently it's a Town responsibility to maintain that revetment. I think we have in the past done that. The Army Corp of Engineers installed it" in the 1970's and he's trying to figure out the details of that requirement, "trying to do it in concert with this project as well."
Since the time the rock-wall was installed, the State adopted coastal regulations prohibiting hardened structures along the coast.
Owens said he's approached the Division of Coastal Management who expressed concern because it's not a permitted structure under current regulations and, "They even had concern about maintenance of it."
Owens said currently the Town has hired a firm to research a 40-year cost projection to forecast the amount of money the Town will need to fund future nourishment projects.
He said, "Around about $500,000 is what the Town would have to put aside" to guarantee 66% coverage for the beach. He said the Kure Beach portion of the Carolina Beach project would increase that amount by roughly $150,000. He said, "You're looking anywhere from $635,000 to $650,000" a year.
Those numbers depend on how much federal and state funding both Town's receive for future projects.
Owens said an increase in the ROT tax of 1% would generate around $230,000. He said some legislators have cautioned against seeking to change the ROT rates because the Convention and Visitors Bureau may seek to get a larger share of those revenues for tourism promotion. Any such change must be done by the State Legislature.
Owens said currently there's a bill in the legislature to study the idea of permitting a municipality to levy an additional sales tax for such projects. He's not aware of the status of that study.
Owens said property taxes are decided by the Council and could serve as a source of revenue for the entire Town or owners in specific areas.
An additional county 1% sales tax could generate $600,000. Raising the property tax rate by three cent per $100 of property valuation could generate $490,000. Owens said that's the easiest option to utilize. Another option is raising taxes higher in municipal service districts tiered higher for oceanfront properties and less for landward districts in Town.
The Council voted unanimously in September to send a letter to state legislators to explore "other revenue streams available."