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Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis Gives "State of the Town" Address

Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis delivered the first ever "State of the Town" address prior to the Council's Tuesday April 9, meeting outlining the current position of the Town and future goals.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis delivered the first "State of the Town" address prior to the Council's April 9th, regular meeting.
Mayor Lewis outlined the current status of the Town, its amenities and future plans including improving infrastructure.
Mayor Lewis explained, "Speaking for all of us on the board I want to thank the staff of Carolina Beach for their dedication and efforts to serve our citizens. We currently have a staff of 93 great people who work hard to provide outstanding services to our community every day. Those services include Water, Sewer, Storm water, Streets, Solid Waste, Police protection, Fire Services, Public Works, Planning, Zoning and Inspections, Parks and Recreation, and the internal services that support these efforts in your behalf."
He explained, "When I talk about our great staff, they are only part of the story that makes “Carolina Beach such a special place to live”.  We are also blessed with huge numbers of citizens who volunteer and are actively involved in our local government on wide range of committees. In all more than 100 residents are involved in one of our active town committees.  Beyond the limits of official town committees we also have a large number of community organizations that provide a unique value to our town in adding to both quality of life and economic growth."
He explained, "I am talking about:  The Island Women, The Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce, The Carolina Beach Downtown Initiative, The Carolina Beach Inlet Association, The Pleasure Island Athletic League, Step Up For Soldiers, The Senior Center, The Ft Fisher Historical Society, Got-Em-on-live-bait Club just to name a few."
Lewis thanked his wife Kim for her continued support saying elected office isn't easy and requires sacrifice and time away from full time careers.
A host of area elected leaders including those from New Hanover County, Kure Beach and the City of Wilmington attended the meeting for the address.
Lewis explained, "For our visitors tonight let me tell you just a little about Carolina Beach.  Based on the most recent census Carolina Beach currently has about 5,700 year round residents and another 20,-30,000 good friends who visit the Beach on any given day during the warmer months.  We are blessed with a very high quality of life with a long beautiful strand of beach enhanced by a downtown area we refer to as the Boardwalk.  We have 30 public beach accesses, three Town parks, a 761 acre State Park and a beautiful state boat ramp facility."
He said, "Carolina Beach is connected to the Intra Coastal Waterway through our Yacht Basin.  As part of Pleasure Island we are also lucky to enjoy a history center, museum, aquarium, public library, as well as many shops for locals and visitors to enjoy.  Carolina Beach has a long history of attracting quality of life seekers to our treasures.  Our Harbor provides boaters opportunities to enjoy the waterway, ocean, or Cape Fear River in minutes.  Boaters traveling the waterway from Florida to Canada are beginning to stop to enjoy the friendly shores of Carolina Beach especially now with our new mooring field is operational."
Lewis talked about the Town's "Positive Financial Picture" and recent accomplishments.
Lewis said the Town's General Fund and Tourism Fund total $10.8 million with an unrestricted savings of 52%. He said unemployment is around 9% and Room Occupancy Tax revenues are up over previous years.
He said, "One thing I think is a real telling point about how good the Council here is and what the staff has contributed is our Town expenditures are down from previous years. So we've reduced the cost of government in Carolina Beach."
He said, "Our Town debt is approximately 6% of legally allowed debt margin. That means we're really not handling debt basically. We are dealing with this on the tax dollars that come in every year. In 2012 the Council cut over $500,000 in spending out of our current year's budget. It was tough, creative and took a lot of meetings but we got it done. Those cuts really allowed our residents to experience something unique... and that was a tax rate below revenue neutral while everybody else was at revenue neutral or above" on the property tax rate.
Lewis said the Council reduced the cost of funding debt for land purchased years ago for an Aquarium Pier project that never materialized. The Town renegotiated the loans and worked to make a hotel on the property profitable.
Lewis said, "At one time that cost us $250,000 annually just to support the debt load, taxes and insurance. If you look at that today, we've reduced that number so it’s almost a break-even for the Town. Most of that I attribute to the innovative planning of Mayor Pro-tem Steve Shuttleworth and I really appreciate his efforts."
Lewis said after listening to citizens, they want the Town's top priority to improve water and sewer infrastructure. He said, "Instead of kicking the can down the street... Council took action developing a strategic water and sewer upgrade plan. We are already in the process of implementation. We are installing automated meters and automating our billing process. This will bring more accuracy to the billing" and resolve a previous water loss issue.
Lewis said the next phase is to replace aging metal water lines with PVC plastic pipe to improve water quality.
He said, "Our future is bright here in Carolina Beach.  We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to."