Juniper Road floods

Multiple hoses across Juniper Road in Pine Knoll Shores transport stormwater from low areas prone to constant flooding. Officials from the Bogue Banks town would like to continue drainage improvements. (Dylan Ray photo)

PINE KNOLL SHORES — Town officials want to focus on strategic planning in this year and pursuing projects called for by their long-term goals, including stormwater drainage improvements.

The town board of commissioners, planning board and department heads met Thursday and Friday for the annual off-site retreat   at The Trinity Center on Highway 58. Thursday, Town Manager Brian Kramer said he thinks there’s been a lull in officials’ efforts to update the town’s strategic plan and pursue its goals.

“I recommend we refocus on strategic planning in 2019,” Mr. Kramer said. He went through a rundown of the existing strategic plan’s focus areas and the primary goals of each one, including environment and natural resources.

A major focus of the plans in this area is stormwater drainage. Town officials have been working on improvements in areas of town that regularly flood during rain events, and this year staff will be working on phase two of the improvement plan, which focuses on the eastern end of town.

Commissioner Clark Edwards said several lots in this area are proving problematic because they’re conflicting with what they’re planning for phase two.

“There’s no way they (the lots) could be developed without impacting everyone around them,” Mr. Edwards said.

Mr. Kramer seemed to agree, saying that any additional impervious surface created on the east end of town creates more stormwater runoff problems.

Mayor Ken Jones also recognizes the problem that stormwater flooding poses for Pine Knoll Shores. He said part of the problem is a lack of control over how residents make use of the town’s right-of-ways next to the roads.

“People turn their downspouts so they run into the road,” he said.

During a joint meeting between the planning board and board of commissioners at the retreat Thursday, Mayor Jones said they’re looking into opportunities to purchase vacant lots to prevent them from being developed.

Planning board member Bob Holman said he thinks many residents are uninformed on the issue of stormwater.

“I think we need a really strong public education program,” he said.

Mr. Kramer said he thinks that when looking at strategic planning, the board should focus on emerging issues. This year, one such issue is the expansion of Interstate 42.

“I think the expansion is going to have significant (local) impact,” Mr. Kramer said. “I heard it’s going to empty out somewhere between Newport and Morehead City.”

The main concern for town officials is the potential increased traffic and population the interstate project could bring. Mr. Edwards seemed to agree with Mr. Kramer.

“It will also create political pressure for a third bridge (to Bogue Banks from the mainland),” he said.

Another major project in the town’s strategic plan officials might pursue this year is strengthening the frontal dune system on the oceanfront beach. After Hurricane Florence made landfall in September, it caused significant beach and dune erosion.

Town officials have applied for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for rebuilding the dunes.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about our prospects,” Mr. Kramer said. “The (dune) vegetation is part of that.”

Other projects on the town’s strategic plan that may be pursued this year include:

•    Reducing solid waste tonnage and increasing recycling.

•    Restarting the town’s Heritage Tree Program.

•    Expanding the use of social media to reach residents and out-of-town property owners.

•    Exploring additional recreational facility opportunities.

•    Engaging with county officials to update the regional hazard mitigation plan.

In other news at Thursday’s meeting, commissioners received a presentation from Fire/EMS Chief Jason Baker on staff’s response after Hurricane Florence and, to a lesser degree, Tropical Storm Michael.

“This was the biggest storm I’ve seen in Carteret County,” the chief said. “We learned a lot. We only have so much personnel to accomplish tasks; efficiency is key.”

One of the biggest takeaways during the chief’s presentation was that coordination with state and county personnel during the aftermath of Florence “was a disaster.”

“We need to have our own plan for future events,” the chief said. “I don’t want to rely on the county in the future.”

Police Chief Ryan Thompson seemed to agree, saying they need to create a new plan, complete with a secondary, off-island emergency operation center, in the next two months, so it doesn’t get put off and forgotten.

Among the problems Chief Baker said they ran into when trying to coordinate with state and county personnel was managing traffic coming back into town. He said N.C. Highway Patrol officials said they weren’t allowed to prevent people from driving down Highway 58 if the state reopened it. Chief Baker also said he requested supplies from the county and state, but never received them.

Chief Baker said the town’s existing emergency operations plan needs to be reviewed. He also suggests creating another emergency operations center at town hall for administrative personnel, so they can be  easily found.

Chief Baker said each time a hurricane approaches North Carolina, public safety staff are overwhelmed with people rushing to get re-entry passes in case they have to evacuate. He suggests setting up a timeframe with a cut-off date to get a pass.

The board also received a presentation from age friendly committee chairman Joan Lamson.

She said this year the committee plans to focus on the issue of transportation for older residents.

“Driving is very important to us,” she said, “and it becomes difficult as we get older.”

Ms. Lamson said while the Carteret County Area Transportation System is available, their services have to be requested ahead of time.

“I think we need to have a conversation with the county about this,” she said. Planning board member and strategic planning committee member George Greene said that he’ll make sure the age friendly committee is a group his own committee engages with on the matter.

The following also occurred at the retreat Thursday:

•    The board unanimously appointed Alicia Durham to the board of commissioners. Ms. Durham is taking the seat formerly occupied by John Brodman, who stepped down Jan. 31.

•    Mr. Kramer delivered a summary of the major accomplishments of the board and staff in 2018. These included approval of the Maritime Woods subdivision plat, adopting a watershed plan and formation of a stormwater ordinance committee.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

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