Morehead City, N.C.

Nov. 18, 2019

TO THE EDITOR:

Having attended the Morehead City Council meeting last Tuesday and then subsequently reading about the same meeting in the News-Times, I came away with a degree of disappointment about the meeting and its reportage in the newspaper.

While it is true the city council voted 4-0 to approve the funding for the Shevans Park playground project, the council had one member conspicuously absent: Harvey Walker.

I had the pleasure of seconding David Horton’s (councilmen elect but not yet seated) remarks that a real look at refurbishing rather than replacing the entire playground should certainly have been done. Such an inspection should certainly have been done by persons other than the contractor bidding for the replacement and a single city employee.

In my remarks, I questioned the fact that the council agenda listed the action to be taken at this meeting as “Shevans Park update.” Update? Unless I am mistaken, the action taken by the town was to approve the only bid for the project and to move ahead immediately.

I questioned the council voting to approve a large amount of money for this project without proper notice, such as inclusion on the council agenda so the members of the public could attend and comment BEFORE the vote was taken. In fact, I believe that has been the practice in the past. What changed recently to allow voters to spend well over half a million dollars without plenty of advance notice to the public for comments and questions AHEAD of votes to approve or disapprove funding?

There was another gentleman present who addressed the council about what he described as “deplorable” conditions of other parks in the city that have NOT been addressed by the council, and which the council later professed to have little knowledge about. Therefore, Councilman Bill Taylor asked the city manager to see that a “survey” be done to determine the condition of other parks in the city. Who is going to conduct THAT survey? When is it to be completed and results reported back to the council? That apparently was not worth reporting to the public. I wonder why?

There are a large number of “problems” facing our town that need to be addressed by the council and the town administration. Not many of them are going to be solved cheaply. Most involve infrastructure such as streets, stormwater systems, waste water, sewage treatment and others. It seems to me that we are devoting a lot of taxpayer money to things that “look pretty” and work to attract tourists rather than the light manufacturing that could produce the jobs that will keep our young people in the county.

Tourism is one, single, answer but the great majority of tourism related jobs created that way seem to be those that pay whatever the minimum wage happens to be, rather than salaries that allow a family to live in our town on one paycheck per family. Certainly that includes those salaries paid to town employees, even though they do receive significant health insurance benefits, unlike most tourism centered jobs.

Carteret County has a great deal of waterfront property yet to be developed, but the great majority of THAT property is east of Beaufort. Problems with the remaining Morehead City waterfront north of Arendell Street involve addressing long standing pollution sources including sewage, stormwater and similar systems. We are fortunate in some respects that the railroad to the state port is routed through the middle of town and is mostly 30+ feet in elevation, with the resulting stormwater runoff draining from Arendell Street in both north and south directions. That is fine, until we cover the rest of our town with pavement WITHOUT requiring at least adequate stormwater runoff infrastructure in every case of new construction or remodeling.

The excuse, of course, is and always has been that some of that property is owned by the railroad, and Morehead City cannot force the railroad to do or not do anything. Maybe not, but we CAN require new construction to address stormwater and wastewater infrastructure and even existing problems with runoff from business property built on leased railroad property. Once rain and stormwater runs off railroad property and reaches Morehead City property (streets) exactly whose problem is THAT?

Once the railroad sells the property can the town then require the new owners to remedy runoff and other forms of pollution? If the property is leased to private individuals or companies can the town regulate runoff and other pollution from those businesses? If the town cannot, who has that power?

FRANK BRITT

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