Southern Shores makes adjustments in response to COVID-19

Published 11:39 am Friday, April 17, 2020

At the monthly Southern Shores Town Council meeting on April 7, new policies resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic were enacted. Discussions around beach nourishment and recycling also took place. The budget workshop agenda item for this meeting was tabled to a future date.

All members of council were present; Mayor Tom Bennett and councilmen Leo Holland and Jim Conners met in person, while councilman Matt Neal and Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey attended virtually.

Wes Haskett, interim town manager, opened the meeting by reporting what measures Southern Shores had taken to promote health and well-being within the town: town hall is closed to the public, but assistance can be provided in the form of telephone calls, virtual meetings, fax, online permitting and outdoor drop-box accommodations.

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The town website and Facebook page are being updated regularly. Haskett added that town employees are reporting to work as normal while maintaining social distance. He said that staff are “healthy, feeling well and busy.”

The budget workshop originally scheduled for the April 7 meeting was postponed to April 21. Haskett said that due to anticipated loss of revenue caused by COVID-19, staff is working on options to “help offset that loss.” These options will be presented at the meeting on April 21.

Finance officer Bonnie Swain then addressed a personnel policy change, which allows all classes of employees to be eligible for emergency paid sick leave and emergency FMLA. This change came about after staff was made aware that first responders were not eligible for emergency paid sick leave and FMLA by law.

Under this new policy, everyone, including first responders, is covered. Haskett approved the policy on March 30 after receiving approval of this action from the School of Government.

Bennett then made a motion in favor of approval and a unanimous vote secured the policy in place.

Following approval, town attorney Ben Gallop brought forth an amendment to council rules and procedures. Due to the need for social distancing to mitigate spread of COVID-19, Gallop recommended the council adopt an electronic meeting policy.

This policy enables council members to participate in council meetings through electronic means if deemed necessary. An “electronic meeting” is one where all or more than half the quorum of participants are participating via virtual means.

Gallop suggested while making use of the electronic meeting policy, council members limit certain activities, such as holding closed sessions. “Some things we just have to deal with, but the less you do and the more you can put off, the less likely you will run into issues,” Gallop advised.

After little discussion from the council, Conners made a motion to approve the amendment; all were in favor.

Other matters of business included a report from Haskett on beach nourishment: “Three coastal engineering firms responded to the RFQ that Duck has sent out for future beach nourishment,” he started.

Haskett said three virtual interviews took place on Thursday, April 9. Towns are in the process of scoring each firm now and once each town has selected their chosen firm, the results will be presented to their elected officials.

As for the current status of recycling in Southern Shores, Haskett said that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has authorized local government in Dare County to continue hauling recyclables to Wheelabrator in Portsmouth, Va. with “no given time frame.”

However, Haskett received word that a multi re-use facility (MFR) in Portsmouth, owned by Recycling and Disposables Solutions (RDS) of Roanoke, Va. is now available.

RDS has been attempting to secure a location in Elizabeth City, according to Haskett, but has so far been unsuccessful at doing so. To have recyclables processed at their current site would cost $95 per ton, not including fees for collection and hauling.

Haskett said the town can enter into a contract with RDQ, but Bay Disposal has not released an estimate on the coast of transporting the items to the site. No further comment was made on this topic during the meeting.

For more information on the Town of Southern Shores and to view future agendas, visit www.southernshores-nc.gov.

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