Chris Seaberg’s first official day as manager of the town of Swansboro was Tuesday, Sept. 3, but he actually got an early start, thanks to Hurricane Dorian.
“My official first day starts tomorrow,” Seaberg said in a telephone interview on Monday, Sept. 2. “But we have been having some pre-storm planning sessions. Thank you Dorian!”
Seaberg takes the helm at Swansboro following the resignation of Scott Chase.
Chase, who was hired as town manager in July 2015, left in January to take the assistant manager job in Holly Springs.
Seaberg enters the job having served as administrator of nearby Cedar Point since 2006. Including his time with Cedar Point and his work in the community prior to that with Benchmark Planners, Seaberg has about 15 years of living in the Swansboro community.
“I’ve been through a few of these,” he said of the approaching hurricane. But, he added, “Every one is … unpredictable, unique.”
And, even before he served a day in the job, he indicated a healthy respect for the town employees.
“Swansboro has a good, seasoned staff,” Seaberg said, in discussing the town’s preparations for Dorian. “I’m just adding to the mix.”
Preparations will be settled and in place by the time Dorian nears Onslow County, according to the incoming manager.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “I just pray that everyone can stay safe.”
For the past several weeks, the town commission has discussed the status of the Swansboro’s Emergency Operations Center.
Several flaws with the EOC – the Swansboro Public Safety Facility – were revealed during 2018’s Hurricane Florence.
The facility leaked – complete roof repairs have yet to be made – and the generator that was supposed to provide electricity proved to be undependable.
Funds for a new power generator were allocated in this year’s budget.
In comments at the mid-August meeting of the board, Commissioner Roy Herrick asked about progress on installing the generator.
Jim Stipe, public works director, told Herrick the generator was on order.
“We are currently about a month away from the peak of the hurricane season,” Herrick said. “I am starting to get nervous.”
“I share your nervousness,” Stipe replied. But he also said that he could not order the generator until July 1, after the budget for 2019-20 was approved.
The conversation on the generator carried over to the late-August meeting when Stipe briefed the board on the progress,
He said the area has been prepped for the generator and the electrician has done all the necessary preliminary work. All that was needed was the equipment to be delivered.
Stipe also told the commissioners that, if necessary, the town has made arrangements to rent a generator.
Also under discussion at the Aug. 27 meeting was the status of the Public Safety Facility. The building houses the police and fire departments and serves as the EOC.
Portions of the interior are still damaged following the leaks caused by Hurricane Florence.
Stipe told the panel that a structural engineer was available to assess the PSF and other buildings on the town hall campus for suitability as EOCs. However, after some discussion, the commissioners directed to Stipe to simply focus on the PSF to not only determine its deficiencies, but to also determine ways to correct them.
Commissioner Frank Tursi had suggested the town consider moving the EOC to the Parks and Recreation Building at Municipal Park.
The idea failed to advance though because Chief Mark Tessing of the fire department said the emergency services personnel need to be close to their vehicles and apparatus.