PINE KNOLL SHORES — Although Carteret County occupancy tax revenues were down 14% percent in June and 12% percent in July compared to 2018, August collections were up 16% and county officials are hoping the upward trend will continue when September figures are in.
That was the word Monday from County Shore Protection Manager Greg Rudolph, speaking during the monthly meeting of the County Beach Commission, which advises his office.
Collections are important this year because the county’s beach nourishment fund gets half of the revenue from the occupancy tax and the county is planning a $28.2 million Bogue Banks beach nourishment project to begin in February in western Atlantic Beach.
“Our estimated value for the beach fund at the conclusion of August is approximately $11.5 million,” Mr. Rudolph said during the meeting in the Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall.
That’s about $500,000 less than he had projected about a month ago, but Mr. Rudolph said he’s not concerned, even though the beach nourishment fund is to pay much of the cost for the project in Atlantic Beach, all of Pine Knoll Shores, a portion of Salter Path and western Emerald Isle.
The county, he told the beach commission, is working with state Rep. Pat McElraft, an Emerald Isle Republican, to make sure it gets the $15.3 million in state funds expected for the project.
Additionally, he said, the county still expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send in the $10 million it has approved to reimburse Pine Knoll Shores for the cost of replacing sand lost to Hurricane Florence in September 2018, as well as the $7.7 million it has approved for Indian Beach/Salter Path.
“I think we will be fine,” Mr. Rudolph said Monday. “We have that money … on paper.”
In addition, he said, FEMA is in the final stages of review of Emerald Isle’s request for more than $40 million to pay for sand lost during Florence.
All total, the county’s beach engineering firm, Moffatt & Nichol, has said Florence took 3.6 million cubic yards of sand from Bogue Banks beaches.
The county has said the towns won’t have pay shares of the money for the project, unlike in past nourishment efforts, saving the town’s a combined $3 million.
One good thing, Mr. Rudolph said, is the nourishment project isn’t supposed to start until February, so that should help with cash flow. The effort is to be completed by Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Emerald Isle under the county’s and towns’ contracts with the dredging company, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock of Illinois.
As for the occupancy tax revenue, Mr. Rudolph told the commission despite the down months in June and July, it’s now actually up 0.9% for the calendar year, flipped into positive territory by a good month in August.
“The impacts from Florence paint a complicated picture moving forward,” he added. “For one, we should expect higher receipts for September 2019 (than in September 2018), considering Florence impacted Bogue Banks during this same month in 2018.”
However, during the winter and early spring months of 2019, occupancy rates were higher than normal because many of the accommodations that weren’t damaged during Florence were rented by construction workers repairing other damage from the hurricane, he noted.
“Of course we won’t experience that type of influx in the winter/early spring this year and could see the collections drop slightly,” Mr. Rudolph told the beach commission.
But a drop in those months – when occupancy rates are usually low – won’t have much impact because “these months contribute little (revenue) compared to the high-volume summer tourism season.”
Mr. Rudolph said the parking lot at the public beach access at the site of the former Iron Steamer Pier in Pine Knoll Shores will serve as the staging area for the beach access project.
Atlantic Beach work will be done first, then Pine Knoll Shores, then Salter Path and finally western Emerald Isle. Two dredge boats will be involved, the Liberty Island first, then the Ellis Island in Emerald Isle.
Sand will come from the offshore dredged material disposal site associated with the State Port of Morehead City federal navigation project, which organizes dredges of the port harbor and channels. That’s the same sand source as this year’s project in eastern Emerald Isle, Indian Beach and Salter Path.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.