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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local County Manager Opposes Funding Boardwalk Improvements

County Manager Opposes Funding Boardwalk Improvements

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The Town of Carolina Beach asked for the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners to help fund $500,000 towards improvements at the Boardwalk earlier this year.
Last week County Manager Chris Coudriet sent a memo to the Board of Commissioners opposing the funding request saying its needed for a park project in the northern part of the county.
Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis outlined various improvements that could be made to the Boardwalk area during his "State of Town" address earlier this year.
Lewis said on Tuesday May 28, the Town has requested $500,000 for park-oriented improvements at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk as part of a larger plan to make improvements in the area including replacing the aging wooden boardwalk. Specifically, funding for a unique Children's Park at the base of the wooden boardwalk on the landside along the public walkway.
On May 24, County Manager Chris Coudriet wrote to the Board of Commissioners, "This is an unsolicited memo from me; however, I thought it appropriate to offer an administrative opinion in light of staff's park planning and expected recommendations to the Board on June 3, 2013."
He explained, "On April 18, 2013, you received a letter from Mayor Bob Lewis of the Town of Carolina Beach requesting that the county transfer $500,000 from the parks bond to the Town of Carolina Beach's proposed boardwalk project. On April 28, 2013, Interim Town Manager Bruce Shell sent an email in support of this request. Related to this recent request, the county received a request from the Town of Carolina Beach in August 2012 supplemented with additional information in September 2012 requesting $500,000 from the parks bond, for multiple projects, one of which was a proposed boardwalk project. County management denied the request at that time because of identified park development needs in the unincorporated county which exceeded available bond proceeds."
Coudriet explained, "Mayor Lewis' request proposes that the county redirect $500,000 of park bonds to the Town of Carolina Beach. He further proposes that these funds be replenished at some future date with liquidated funds when county assets are sold. The funds that Mayor Lewis is requesting be redirected are the same funds that county staff has indicated it would like to be redirected to the development of the Northern Regional Park (Castle Hayne Park)."
He explained, "County staff will be bringing before you an official request at your meeting on June 3, 2013, which is the continuation of an agenda item from earlier this year. The county anticipated that it would be able to combine these funds with 2013 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) funding; however, we recently received notice that we did not receive PARTF funding for 2013. Therefore, these bonds are critical to the success of the Northern Regional Park."
Coudriet wrote, "For the following reasons, I do not recommend granting the Town of Carolina Beach's request."
Those reasons included:
1. The $500,000 in bonds is needed in order to complete the Phase 1 expansion of the existing Northern Regional Park.
2. Waiting until county-owned property is liquidated in order to generate funding for the Phase 1 expansion of the Northern Regional Park will delay the project.
3. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk Project, unlike the Northern Regional Park, is only in its conceptual stage. The Northern Regional Park is already an existing park and in use. The Phase 1 expansion funding model has already been finalized using parks bond funds and a previously approved grant.
4. The debt management policy, which was adopted by the Board on May 6, 2013, provides that proceeds from the sale of fixed assets be used to fund items on the county's capital improvement list
5. It appears that the Carolina Beach Boardwalk will serve as an amenity to existing local attractions. The Northern Regional Park will serve as a destination to those competing in a wide range of athletic activities which will have a direct economic impact on the county.
6. The Northern Regional Park will provide the county with much needed field capacity to support local athletic organizations.
Coudriet explained, "For the reasons stated above, I respectfully request that you not proceed with the Town of Carolina Beach's request and instead fully consider the county staff plan at the June 3, 2013 meeting."
Mayor Bob Lewis urged the Board of Commissioners to reconsider the Manager's position.
 He explained, "This project when completed will not only add to the quality of life for county residents in the southern part of New Hanover County but it will also promote economic development resulting in increased sales tax revenue for New Hanover County.  This is a strategic project which has a return on investment for all the taxpayers of New Hanover County.  Carolina Beach property owners contribute around 8% of the property taxes in New Hanover County annually and like any other area of the county we appreciate all the services and value that the County provides to us as residents. However, being designated only $200,000.00 from the parks bond issue represents less than .05% of the total aggregated funds raised from the parks bond and the other $34.8 Million has been invested elsewhere.  When you speak of the Southern part of New Hanover County most residents on Carolina Beach and some of those south of Monkey Junction feel as though they have little voice or representation at the County level.  If you have not noticed this area of the County is starting to experience another growth spurt and the new families and individuals who move into our area are looking to New Hanover County to provide them the same benefit as other areas of the county as it relates to parks for recreation."
Lewis explained, "Our strategic plan for the County's participation in the Revitalization of the Historic Carolina Beach Wooden Boardwalk and the New Children's Park was to focus all the funding provided by the county to build a unique Children's Park at the base of the wooden boardwalk on the land side. My thought was to make this a Carolina Beach and New Hanover County Park and name it as such.  The project goal is to provide all county residents with an unique beachfront experience."
He explained, "We are currently evaluating a wide range of Park Options to make this a totally unique venue from others offered in our County those options include building a 1. Children's "SPLASH PARK" themed with music and special lighting, 2. A Aquatic Themed Children's Playground or 3. A year-round historic looking "Carrousel and or Ferris Wheel".  All of these options would provide free access to all New Hanover County residents. The park would be focused on families and the Town of Carolina Beach would take care of all the annual management and maintenance of the park out of our own town budget saving the County any annual costs normally associated with managing and maintaining a park."
The request for funding focuses on a 2006 voter approved $35.5 million parks and green space bond. The County and the City of Wilmington got the largest shares of that funding while the three beach Towns each received $200,000.
Since that time New Hanover County has approved $500,000 for an oceanfront park in neighboring Kure Beach.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said Tuesday May 26, "It's unfortunate if the County would turns their backs on Carolina Beach" and, "They don't seem to want to work on grants to help Carolina Beach like they did for Kure Beach" on their oceanfront park.
He explained, "We will continue to make the case to the County Board of Commissioners and I encourage citizens to call each Commissioner and ask why they are not willing to help Carolina Beach with an important economic development that will help further improve the economy and send more tax dollars to the County."
He said, "It would be unfortunate if the County turned a cold shoulder to Carolina Beach. We need this help to continue revitalization efforts in the downtown area."
Shuttleworth said the Council has an ample reserve fund that could be used to fund the request if not from the parks bond funding.
Lewis said, "I must admit, I am not someone who has worked in the public sector but as a private corporate industry executive this project and New Hanover County participation is a no brainer.  The project supports year-round economic growth within Carolina Beach and New Hanover County.  The project is being developed with a solid business plan."
He explained, "We have buy-in  from the state to help with grants to support the wooden boardwalk expansion and re-construction of the current deteriorated boardwalk.  So the Historic Carolina Beach boardwalk will be extended an additional 2,000 ft and provide visitors and County residents with a wide Promenade, covered seating areas and various new access ramps for individuals with disabilities.  I have the town matching funds for the construction work to match state grants.  I have the new oceanfront hotel developer also committing some funds to tie in their new property to the boardwalk expansion.  All we need now is a little love from our local County Commissioners."
He hopes the Town can begin work in September and will continue efforts to secure state grant funding as well as funding from the County.
To contact County Commissioners, visit their website at www.nhcgov.com