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Carolina Beach Council Seeking Ways To Keep Town Garage

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach was informed earlier this year they have to vacate land leased from the U.S. Army in the 1970's. They can continue using the land for a wastewater treatment plant, a storage building and some limited outdoor storage. Other uses including a green house, office trailer, town garage and dumpsters must be removed by the end of the year. The dumpsters can remain until March. The existing Town garage must be relocated or the Town can hire commercial garages for maintenance on police, fire and public works vehicles. The Town Council met Tuesday November 27, and discussed ways to maintain their existing "fleet" maintenance department and continue to save money.
Mayor Protem Steve Shuttleworth said, "That December 31, date is looming" and right now the suggestion is to close the existing garage and keep the employees in other positions or go separate ways. He said, "We will not be fixing automobiles and doing fleet maintenance out of that site after December 31st."
Shuttleworth said they discussed getting multiple bids for vehicle mainteance but the former Town Manager got one quote from a local garage.
He said, "The single source that we talked to came in at a number per hour - and per oil change and specific functions - more expensive than what we are getting those services delivered by in-house employees."
He said the Town gets favorable pricing on parts for substantially less than a local garage due to a government contract.
He explained, "Unless the Town of Carolina Beach's name is on that invoice, the price goes up. To facilitate going to a third party vendor, it may benefit us to keep a fleet manager on staff" to coordinate repairs, deliver vehicles, maintain price advantage and other issues.
He said there is room for a metal structure behind Town Hall that could house a single bay garage area. However, building code requires restroom facilities.
Councilman Bob Lewis said contracting the service would cost around $75,000 a year for oil changes, tires and other issues for their 65 or more vehicles.
The Town's current garage personnel perform around 300 oil changes per year.
Bob Campbell, in charge of the existing fleet garage said the Town can buy a quart of oil right now for $1.69. He said buying it commercially the price goes up to around $6.00 a quart. Parts are also much cheaper than if purchased from a third party.
Campbell said he got a quote for a three-bay metal building at 40' foot by 80' foot which would be an improvement over what they currently have with room left over for storage.
That would cost between $40,000 and $50,000. But that does not include the cost of the concrete pad to construct the building upon. Overall it's estimated at around $70,000.
Campbell said contracting vehicle maintenance service is costly. He said, "I don't think you can get the service that we are giving for what you are paying us."
Campbell said the current cost is around $50 per hour verses $70 or more with an outside contractor.
He said the U.S. Army may be more flexible than currently anticipated once they meet with officials the following day and fully explain the situation in person about the need to maintain the current garage.
Shuttleworth pointed out that Campbell is on call and can respond quickly.
Campbell said some companies charge $95 an hour just to drive down and diagnose a problem.
Shuttleworth said now that Council has more information they can examine the cost in more detail to make an educated decision.
Councilman Bob Lewis said a new building could be financed and lessen the blow of that expense.
Shuttleworth said Council would meet with Army officials the following morning and will know more details about how flexible they are willing to be if they will allow the existing garage to remain in place.
In October the Council voted to move their Operations Department (Public Works) to an 8,000 square foot space in the Federal Point Shopping Center with outdoor storage. That move is almost complete with a new fence to store equipment, storage sheds and other materials.
The lease is $3,500 per month for six months with three six-month options for an total of two-years leaving the Town the flexibility to vacate the center should the Council decide upon a more permanent location elsewhere.
Heavier equipment will park in the rear of the center. There's enough room for parking over 30 town vehicles. Employees will be based in the Police Training Room at Town Hall.
In the 1970’s the Town leased land from the U.S. Army to construct a wastewater treatment plant.
Earlier this year the Town was notified they are in violation of the lease terms by using the land for uses not permitted in the lease. They were given until the end of this year to comply.
The Town’s "Operations Yard" is located off Dow Road on U.S. Army land. The "buffer zone" is land taken by the military in the 1950’s for the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU) across the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County.
The port is the largest of it’s kind in the world dealing in storage and transportation of explosive munitions.
The buffer zone serves as a "blast zone" in the event of an incident. That zone covers the largest area of land west of Dow Road in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher.
Cindy B. Turner, Savannah District, Deputy Chief, Real Estate Division for the Army Corp of Engineers wrote to the Town, "Pursuant to Condition No. 6 of the subject lease, compliance inspections of the leased premises were conducted on November 7, 2011 with a follow-up inspection on March 22, 2012, by my staff and Mr. Michael Fuller of Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point. Both inspections identified deficiencies regarding the use of the leased premises. During the follow-up inspection the recent construction of a water retention pond to collect contaminated water runoff adjacent to the dumpsters was noted."
Turner explained the 1972 lease states, "The area will be used for construction and operation of a sewage treatment facility and necessary appurtenances and the construction and maintenance of a 40' x 100' storage building and fenced outside storage area." She explained, "A review of our files shows multiple requests by the Town of Carolina Beach and subsequent denials for permission to relocate the town's public works area, utilities equipment, parking area, supplies and materials to this lease site."
The Town was given until the end of June to present a plan for compliance to remove items stored for auction, multiple storage buildings, FEMA trailer, marine vessels, generators, undercarriage water station, maintenance shop and multiple dumpsters and retention pond. That must be finished by the end of the year with an extension to March for removing the dumpsters.