This article was updated at 10:29 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, to correct a date.
EMERALD ISLE — With bids for street work on Islander Drive delayed by unforeseen circumstances, town officials Tuesday night agreed to postpone the start of work on the major redevelopment project until April.
Commissioners agreed, without a vote, to the delay suggested by Town Manager Matt Zapp during the board’s monthly session in the meeting room beside the police department on the north side of Highway 58.
Mr. Zapp told the board if construction began in February as originally planned, the road, which intersects with Highway 58, would be torn up during the Emerald Isle Marathon, which is set for Saturday, March 28, and during the St. Patrick’s Festival, which annually draws about 30,000 people. This year the festival is set for Saturday, March 14.
“We went out for bids in early January and have seven bidders interested,” Mr. Zapp said, but that was later than originally planned and the town can’t risk causing problems during the events. The town can still get the underground work done – burial of utility lines – but the roadwork will wait.
The town’s current plans for the Islander Drive/Louise Avenue area include the addition of parking spaces, golf cart spaces, landscaping and decorative lighting. In addition, A-Team Enterprises, a Morehead City company, plans to build a major, mixed-use project on a 1.85-acre Islander Drive tract it bought from the town.
The goal is to revitalize the area, which is also home to the Western Ocean Regional Access. It once was a hub in town but had fallen into some disrepair in recent years.
Mr. Zapp knows that with the new schedule, work in the area will be going on during Easter, the unofficial beginning of tourism season. But, he said Tuesday during the meeting, “Our goal is to have it done by the start of the 2020 (tourism) season,” Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25.
If that turns out to be impossible, he said, the work could be delayed until the offseason.
The marathon, Mr. Zapp said, is the biggest factor. People plan for it months in advance and it’s a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
He said he is disappointed a delay is necessary.
“We’ve all been working on it nonstop,” he said.
Commissioner Jim Normile expressed support for the delay.
“We have to make sure we don’t damage the marathon,” he said.
The commissioner also noted that although the project has been planned for a long time, it was already delayed by Hurricane Florence in September 2018 and complicated by a tornado that touched down in the area and destroyed an RV park off Islander Drive when Hurricane Dorian moved along the coast in September 2019.
“Let’s do the marathon right and then do the project,” Mr. Normile said.
Mayor Eddie Barber agreed.
“I think that’s the only way to go,” he said.
The electrical work, already approved by the board, will cost in the neighborhood of $150,000, but A-Team will pay a third of the cost because a portion of the work will be on their property.
The town signed off on an agreement to that effect by unanimous vote Tuesday night during the meeting.
Mr. Zapp estimated roadway improvements along Islander Drive and Louise Avenue will cost $325,000, with the money to coming from accumulated Powell Bill funds.
There will also be improvements at the WORA at a cost of about $100,000, derived from a state redevelopment grant the town obtained. Golf cart spaces are expected to cost about $30,000.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.