Morehead City, N.C.
Nov. 15, 2019
TO THE EDITOR:
First, I thank everyone who participated in our recent municipal election. Local politics are important can affect our lives in ways just as big as state and national politics do. Thank you for your support.
I thank the local newspaper, Carteret County News-Times, because they were the only public source for information in our race. They allowed each candidate to submit a resume as well as answer some basic position questions. They also served, through letters to the editor, as a source for candidates and citizens to comment on information they felt was important. Supporting our local newspaper is vital to our democracy. What would it be like without our local newspaper?
Before I begin I want to make it clear, I love parks, Shevans Park, ADA compliant parks and believe they are vital to a good community.
But Shevans Park is an $840,000 unnecessary project:
(1) There was no objective assessment done on the condition of the playground. The only assessment done was in March 2017. That assessment DID NOT recommend tearing down the park and consequently the playground has never been closed. That assessment was done by Leather and Associates, which is the same company that is selling us the new playground. Further, three reputable area builders who did a site visit for me said the structure is structurally in good condition and could be rehabilitated for a fraction of the cost to replace. The argument that it is at the end of its useful life is, I believe, untrue and there is no objective study that supports that position. I asked the council and manager to delay the decision to replace the playground, in light of this new information, until the city has an objective, fair evaluation done on the park. They refused.
(2) There were no competitive bids done on the project. The total cost is $840,000 and according to the city manager we did not go through a competitive bid process. The company that assessed the playground is also the very same company that sold us the new one — Leather and Associates. The wooden structure that will be torn down for $21,000 will cost citizens $420,000 to replace. Many people in the community love this old structure and, though it is only 20 years old, feel that it has historic value and would prefer to see it rehabilitated. Much like the sentiment for the old high school.
(3) There have been no public hearings on the project and residents who live nearby have not had an opportunity to see the scope of the project and do not realize a splash pad will be put in their neighborhood. Jerry Riggs, from Morehead City Parks and Rec, stated that splash pads are so popular that students from other countries are often bused in to enjoy them. I strongly believe a project of this cost, scope and potential for crowds should have been discussed in a public hearing to hear comments from the local neighbors.
(4) The splash pad cost is $274,000. It is not the same company as the playground but there were also no competitive bids on it. I had heard that the Atlantic Beach splash pad had a lot of maintenance issues (only heard but do not know) and asked the city manager if Atlantic Beach had been contacted to see if there were problems. They were not contacted. Does this really belong in a quiet single family residential neighborhood? I’m not sure.
(5) The rubberized pad and the splash pad together seem to be much larger than the 10,000-square feet that trigger stormwater permits. If stormwater permits and structures are required, it could add significant costs and delays to the project. I asked the city manager if he had accounted for this. He had not. The cost of the rubberized pad, in place of woodchips, is $105,000.
The always generous and civic minded Big Rock Foundation has fortunately agreed to contribute $150,000 to the project, which lowers the cost to the city. There is talk of trying to get more sponsorships for the project that could also help.
I am sorry that as a new councilman that I feel obligated to publicly disclose this information about the park. I tried to get the project delayed to go over some of these issues and spoke directly will all of the council members and city manager. They believe that they have made the right decision and are not willing to delay this for even one month.
On this same night the council voted to award a contract for the new city hall. It was significantly over budget and the cost is around $6.5 million. Our streets seem to be in poor condition and from what I’ve seen our budget is tight even after the 8.5% increase and the water and sewer rate increases. As a conservative businessman, I do not believe we can spend money like this without further tax increases. My goal, as I stated in my campaign, is not to have tax increases — especially when the cause is for projects like I have described above.
City Council member