The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve two resolutions sent by the Port, Waterway and Beach Commission to provide funding for beach renourishment projects at Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
Carolina Beach is expected to receive $4.4 million from the federal government and $1.18 million from the state of North Carolina. The remaining balance of the project will be paid for by the countyís room occupancy tax.
Kure Beach, on the other hand, did not receive funding on either the state or federal level.
An interlocal agreement between the three beach towns, the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County was created earlier this year so that a funding mechanism would be in place in the event that federal and state funding was lacking.
In this scenario, the county would pay for 82.5 percent of the project with the municipalities paying for the remaining 17.5 percent of the project.
The PWBC created the interlocal agreement in anticipation of a lack in state and federal funding; however, the need to enact the interlocal agreement came sooner than expected for the beach towns. For this reason, the PWBC requested that the county not only pay for 82.5 percent of the Kure Beach project, but also allow the municipality to borrow economic development funds to cover the remaining balance.
Commissioners agreed to this funding scenario with the understanding that Kure Beach would replenish the funds that it takes from the county with interest. The interest rate has not yet been discussed, but commissioners said it would be reasonably low.
"We want to make sure we have enough [interest] to not lose any money in our fund balance," said chairman Ted Davis, "but we do not want to make any money off of Kure Beach. We want to help them."
Commissioner Rick Catlin said that Carolina Beach has offered to allot some of the funds it received from the state and federal government to Kure Beach, even though the funding will not cover the Carolina Beach project in its entirety. This maneuvering of funds would need to be approved in the North Carolina senate, Catlin said.
A long-term solution to the lack of state and federal funding needs to be determined so that the 17.5 percent of funding can be covered in similar predicaments in the future, said vice-chairman Jonathon Barfield.
"This is a continued shift from the state and federal level to the local level," vice-chairman Jonathon Barfield said. "What I want citizens to understand is that when they vote it is going to affect them here locally."
"Right now we are taking a hit in New Hanover County," Catlin said. "[The room occupancy tax] cannot sustain these types of impacts year after year. We have a lot of work to do."
Pros and cons of agreement weighed
The PWBC faced a decision at its meeting Wednesday, June 27, to honor the interlocal agreement or find an alternative measure to fund the Kure Beach project.
"A lot of people are watching how we handle this, and we need to do it responsibly," said Layton Bedsole, chairman of the PWBC.
Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti expressed concern about funding the project by the interlocal agreementís terms. The agreement was a worst-case scenario, and the beach towns were not expecting a shortfall in funding so soon, he said.
"I voiced it many times that I thought in the first round we needed to be flexible, because it is crippling" to a municipalityís budget, Cignotti said.
Several potential funding scenarios were discussed during the PWBC meeting ranging from a possible sharing of funds between Carolina Beach and Kure Beach to Kure Beach sitting out the next cycle of beach renourishment.
Ultimately, the commission decided to move forward with a resolution that would allow Kure Beach to use county economic development funds to cover the remaining 17.5 percent of the project.
"In 2018, we will be ready for the 17.5 percent," Cignotti said. "If it happens we will have the money, but if it happened to us next year, then we would struggle too."
The county has allotted funding in its 2012-13 fiscal year budget for a new sand manager position. The salary range is $50,000 to $80,000. The sandman, as the commission called it, will advocate beach nourishment projects in the General Assembly, presumably securing state funding for future projects.