BEAUFORT — Commissioners of this town are expected to approve on Monday an agreement with the National Parks Service to accommodate visitors heading over to Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The item, which includes designating 80 parking spaces for use by those traveling to the seashore by ferry, is included in the board’s consent agenda, which will be voted on early in the meeting. That meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the train depot on Broad Street.
Currently, private ferry companies take passengers over to the seashore, which includes the lighthouse setting and Shackleford Banks. However, that will all change next year. The NPS is setting up two points where customers can get a ferry, one in Beaufort and the other at the Cape Lookout Visitor’s Center on Harkers Island. Rather than allow all ferries to bring guests over, the NPS will contract with just one.
Tickets for the ferry in Beaufort will be sold from town hall, located at the corner of Front and Pollock streets. Three boat slips at Grayden Paul Park will be used by the ferry operator.
While parking – or lack thereof – is an oft-discussed topic in Beaufort, county manager Charlie Burgess didn’t expect the NPS’s parking request to have much of an impact. The NPS wants its customers to be able to use 70 spaces on Front Street from Queen to Live Oak streets and another 10 on Pollock Street.
However, the spaces won’t be dedicated solely to NPS customers. Anyone will be able to use them. The difference is that ferry customers will receive a window hanger for their vehicle, which will allow them to stay in the space for longer. Vehicles are currently allowed to park in a space in that area for up to five hours.
Mr. Burgess said ferry customers are more likely to travel early in the day. “Most folks are going to be back by the afternoon,” he said.
Also, private ferries are already running trips to Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks from Beaufort farther west of the Grayden Paul Park location. The new location will only shift that need for parking to the east.
“We think the spaces are going to be there,” Mr. Burgess said.
Also at the meeting, the board will again consider moving forward with awarding a contract to construct a satellite fire station down Highway 101, near the N.C. Forest Service building.
Commissioners considered the request in January, but decided to table it to get some feedback from the county.
While the town is tackling the project and will keep its equipment at the station when complete, the funding is coming from the county. That’s because the majority of residents who will benefit from the new station will be outside of town limits, in the county’s unincorporated area.
In addition to receiving better fire protection, residents in a six-mile vicinity of the station will also benefit financially from the new station, as fire insurance ratings will drop in the area.
The county added a 1.5-cent per $100 fire tax rate to residents in that area to generate the money.
So far the county has collected about $353,000 to go toward the project. The low bid to conduct the work is about $474,000, leaving an outstanding balance of about $160,000.
The town wants to put money it has toward the project so it can start now and have the county pay it back with the revenue generated from the 1.5-cent tax rate. However, the county hasn’t yet said whether it would be inclined to pay back the money, which could leave the town holding the bill.
If the town board doesn’t come to a decision Monday, it may hold a special meting Jan. 19, one day after the County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to discuss the topic.
Other items on Monday’s agenda include the following:
· The board will hold a public hearing to consider the voluntary annexation for 5.94 acres on Lennoxville Road and Chadwick Road.
· The board will consider the voluntary annexation for 8.24 acres on Highway 70.
· Commissioners will consider a special event application for the Beaufort Boat Building Challenge May 4 in the West Parking Lot on Front Street.
· Commissioners will consider a special event application for the Beaufort Artist Expo July 4-6 in the Town Park beside the Dockhouse.