New Hanover County Commissioners unanimously voted to sign a memorandum of agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that the beach renourishment project at Carolina and Kure beaches will receive the previously allotted federal funding.
The motion also included a budget amendment with the projected increases in the erosion control payment and the appropriated fund balance.
County manager Chris Coudriet summed up the work session discussion from Thursday, Aug. 30, to bring the public up-to-date on the agenda item.
The contributing authority — the new federal authorization — is what is changing the dynamics, he said.
To reduce overall costs, the Corps plans to bid both projects as one. The two beaches are on a three-year renourishment cycle.
Nearly $9.7 million of the
$14.1 million project would come from the room occupancy tax funds.
“No. 1, the state is saying it will not sign the MOA,” Coudriet said, adding that this makes the county responsible for any cost overruns and liabilities in terms of work found in the field.
That liability is what chairman Ted Davis said he does not like about signing the agreement. But he agreed to support the MOA, because the beaches are critical to the local economy.
“The Carolina Beach project in effect protects the Kure Beach project and vice versa,” Coudriet said.
Davis said he spoke with Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti about the impact it will have when the Wrightsville Beach renourishment cycle comes up again.
“I don’t want to run the risk of losing 4.4 million federal dollars,” Davis said. “I know it won’t ever get cheaper.”
If the commissioners had voted against signing the MOA, federal and state monies would have been lost, bringing the total to six years without a refurbishing project.
Commissioner Rick Catlin said just five to six years ago the world was different with renourishment. Federal funds contributed
65 percent, state funds contributed
75 percent of that remaining
35 percent and the county contributed only about 8 percent, he said.
Catlin said the county would most likely not receive federal funds in the future unless it receives disaster funding as the result of a hurricane.
“Again, this may be the last federal money that we get,” he said.
A letter explaining that the MOA was signed under duress will be sent along with the document, Catlin added immediately after the motion passed.
Time was the primary factor in the decision since the project must be awarded in October with work starting by the middle of November.