As Swansboro’s joint sidewalk-building project with the state will come up about $100,000 short of being able to complete the top three areas of priority, Mayor John Davis made a last-minute plea for commissioners to fund the shortfall in the town’s 2021-22 budget.

The budget was approved during the meeting of the town commission on Monday, June 28. (See related story.) The extra sidewalk funds were not included.

The state’s work on the sidewalks began earlier this year, according to Lauren Haviland, communications officer for Divisions 2 and 3 with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Swansboro had originally listed four areas in which it hoped to complete sidewalk construction, utilizing state and town funds:

• Priority number 1: to complete gaps on the south side of N.C. 24. It is approximately 1,239 linear feet from McDonald’s to Hammock Beach Road.

• Priority number 2: to complete a gap on the east side of Old Hammock Road from Deer Island Road to N.C. 24, approximately .89 miles.

• Priority number 3: to complete the sidewalk from Moore’s BBQ to Park Place, approximately .38 miles along Hammock Beach Road.

• Priority number 4: the Hammock Beach Road multi-use trail from Halls Creek Subdivision to 4H Road. This section is 2,323 feet.

Haviland points out that funding available – $116,634 from the town and $366,668 from the state – will not be enough to complete the first three priorities.

She said that Priority 1 will cost about $120,000, Priority 2 will cost about $335,000, and Priority 3 will cost about $125,000.

“Total cost as described above is about $580,000,” Haviland said. “Funding is $483,302, which means the shortage is about $97,000.”

The state funds come from the Division-wide Small Construction, Statewide Contingency, Public Access, Economic Development, High Impact/Low Cost, according to Chris Seaberg, town manager.

Former state Sen. Harry Brown and state Reps. George Cleveland and Phil Shepard worked together to secure that state funding, according to Davis. That was in 2019.

Seaberg, in his report to the town commissioners at the June 14 board meeting, said sidewalk building began on April 8.

He referred to the $97,000 shortfall as being “due to limitations caused by ditching and utilities.”

Davis, aware of the shortfall, said he has been in touch with Cleveland, Shepard and Sen. Mike Lazzara about securing more funds.

Davis also said the town might want to consider coming up with the additional funds to take advantage of the state’s partnership in the project.

DOT’s involvement to design and install the sidewalks is a real boon, according to Seaberg. The reason, he explained, is the difference between what is required for stormwater mitigation between the town doing the work and the state doing the work. Swansboro falls under a different set of stormwater rules than DOT. DOT has a national discharge permit and Swansboro does not.

Davis cited that advantage is urging the commissioners to revise the budget.

“I’d like to ask the board to commit,” he said of coming up with enough funds to cover the shortfall.

He said he had spoken with Lazarra and was confident the senator would provide a reimbursement of $50,000. Not only that, he said Shepard was hoping to provide the town with $100,000.

Commissioners, who struggled with having to cut much of the budget priorities to maintain the tax rate and limit the amount of unrestricted fund balance to pass the budget, were reluctant to commit.

“This is a terrible, terrible way to fund a capital project,” Commissioner Frank Tursi said.

After struggling for months to cut expenditures, he said he could not support the idea of adding $100,000 in spending at the last minute.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for us,” Davis said.

Commissioner Pat Turner summed up the board members’ feelings.

“I’ve been a proponent of sidewalks,” she said. “But I’m not a gambler.”

Another possibility, according to Davis, is partnering with the homeowners of Halls Creek North, one of the subdivisions benefitting from the sidewalk construction. He said the owners have expressed a willingness to participate financially in the sidewalk building.

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

(4) comments

David Collins

The BORO has a small mountain of issues that need fixing other than sidewalks that few will use . But , if sidewalks it is , be darn sure the foundation work is professionally done . The last contractor cut more than a few corners along the Hammocks Beach road and it shows .

Jackie Gleason

This is 2021 last time I checked. Where rural roads use to be now housing developments are existing. We have an asset called Hammocks Beach State Park and there is no safe way for anyone to get there other than by car. Seems like we just want people to continue to use cars and put aside a healthy walk or bike. Walk or bike down Old Hammocks Beach Road or Hammocks Beach Road and take your life in your hands. Should sidewalks be a priority?....ask anyone who lives on these roads or near the roads when they walk to the park or to church or to the store. If the town powers won't properly budget for sidewalks and continue to kick this can down the road then maybe they can reduce the speed limit to 25 or 30 MPH so when a car hits some person they can only get away with a broken leg versus a death.

David Collins

Agree . Sadly when the developers moved into that area our “Leaders” with vision as long as their *88*8** failed to require sidewalks . Need to be builder friendly or something like that was the reason , if memory serves . Now you got what you got . Last thing I knew , pedestrians , baby strollers , bicycles , skateboards , motorized granny chairs and golf carts are not permitted on sidewalks , at least at the same time . Wink , wink . Can’t make it too easy to get to the State Park . Too many people always ruins the back to nature experience . Perhaps a lite rail project would be acceptable , electric of course and complete with overhead wiring and a green energy source . The town grant hog should get right on that .

noitall

Back in the day the developer provided curb, gutters and sidewalks - all required to qualify for an FHA government backed mortgage loan. Let's just raise everyone's taxes and be done until next time.

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