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Duck considers repaving work on Duck Trail

During a marathon November 4 meeting session Duck Town Council narrowly defeated a motion to add additional money for an additional 1,716 feet of repaving improvements for a section of Duck Trail in the Sanderling neighborhood.

According to permit coordinator Sandy Cross, Barnhill Contracting Company is nearing completion of an improvement project around Martin Lane as part of a $200,000 trail improvement project included in the FY 2020-21 budget. She explained that there would be no additional cost to complete 690 feet with conventional concrete as planned and the remaining improvements could be addressed in the next budget cycle. However, by allocating an additional $108,341.47, Barnhill could complete another 1,716 feet between Blue Heron and Oyster Catcher Lane with conventional concrete in some areas and using pervious concrete in others prone to flooding.

While Monica Thibodeau and Rob Mooney favored moving ahead with the additional work since occupancy tax revenues continue to be strong, Mayor Don Kingston voiced a note of concern that only four months into the budget, there are too many unknown variables.

“We need to be cautious,” advised Kingston, who explained that there were other requests for money on the night’s agenda. “We need to err on the side of caution because $108,000 is a lot of money with all the unknowns out there.”

Although community development director and interim town manager Joe Heard advised that there was no guarantee that project cost numbers would not be higher if council delayed action, Nancy Caviness, and Sandy Whitman sided with Kingston and a motion to repave an additional 1,716 feet failed.

Cross advised that she would notify Barnhill to complete the 690 feet.

Taking up one of the budget items Kingston mentioned, council members listened intently while Duck Fire Chief Donna Black provided a detailed proposal with justification for adding one full time firefighter-EMT position to meet an immediate Duck Fire Department need.

Black explained that the fire department was established in the early 1980s as an all-volunteer department, but after Duck incorporated in 2002, service demands and changes in demographics made it necessary to employ full-time, skilled personnel. Positions were added gradually until today there are, in addition to chief Black and a deputy chief, currently one captain and two firefighters assigned to each of three rotating 24-hour shifts.

Generally, full-time firefighters are able to provide adequate fire and rescue emergency response services for the community with help from a crew of volunteers and several paid part-time positions. Recently, however, one paid firefighter moved to another state and two others are, for different reasons, out on leave. In addition to those vacancies, the pool of capable volunteer and part-time firefighters is dwindling, making it difficult to fill all three shifts.

“Time matters,” said Black. “We need to be on a scene quickly and in order to do that, we need to maintain three on a shift for 24/7 all 365 days a year.”

Black said her proposal is to reduce the budget for part-time firefighters and use that money toward one new full-time position. The change would require an additional $11,500 in the current year’s budget.

With little discussion, the vote approving Black’s request was unanimous.

Also receiving unanimous approval was the vote authorizing a contract with VHB for design and engineering services in preparation of a Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program grant application. The aim is to combine a NC Highway 12 resiliency project between the Resort Realty office and Sunset Grille with two other projects already funded: a living shoreline and Phase 4 sidewalk work.

In other business for the evening, the town manager was directed to contract with the N.C. League of Municipalities for $2865 to have The MAPS Group, a consulting firm specializing in public sector human resources, review and update town personnel policies and conduct a salary/classification study; approved the consent agenda with September 9, September 16, September 23 meeting minutes and a $435,380 budget amendment for beach nourishment permitting and design, annual monitoring and engineering costs; set aside February 17-18 for annual retreat dates; set January 22 as the Winter Celebration date with a short Zoom gathering, recorded segments, gift certificates from a variety of Duck restaurants and a toast at the end.

Early in the meeting, Christian Dick was introduced as the newest full-time firefighter filling a vacancy created when Noah Parsons left.

No stranger to the Town of Duck, the 22-year-old graduated from First Flight High School, started as a junior member with Southern Shores and has been a fill-in, part-time firefighter with Duck for a couple of years.

During department reports it was announced:
– The employee insurance benefits contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield is up for renewal. Beginning December 1, employee medical insurance costs will increase by 5.1 percent and dental insurance costs will go up by 3.6 percent.
– The town is re-advertising a request for bids from qualified contractors to provide landscaping and maintenance services for Duck Trail, Duck Town Park and Sound Side Boardwalk and 1.7 miles of Duck Village sidewalks.
– Beach grass planting is scheduled to begin November 11
– N.C. Division of Water Resources approved $1,450,921.35 in financial assistance for Duck’s beach nourishment project.

The meeting ended at 11:46 p.m. after an extended closed session in which council discussed a confidential matter with no actions taken.

Duck Town Council will hold its mid-month meeting at 1 p.m. on November 18; the Duck Planning Board will meet later the same day at 6:30 p.m.

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