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New Duck town manager sworn in

Duck Town Council opened its regular monthly meeting Wednesday night with an oath of office ceremony for new town manager Drew Havens.

Making an introduction and welcome, Mayor Don Kingston advised that Havens, a Vermont native, is a 1984 graduate of Syracuse University with a BA degree and earned his master of public administration from Walden University in Minnesota in 2009. Havens also has advanced specialized training at UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.

In addition to a public safety career as both firefighter and police officer, Havens has more than 20 years of municipal management experience at Glasgow, Va., River Bend and Apex, where he served as assistant manager 2014-16 and then as manager 2016 to January 2021.

After an announcement of his selection in January, Havens started work February 15, just in time for the board’s annual two-day retreat, providing plenty of time to interact with council and town staff, even with social distance required.

Calling this a second career, Havens said listening to Kingston recite his work history makes it sound like he is really old and some days he does feel like it, but that he is looking forward to working with Duck council and staff to move the town forward.

Kingston then recognized director of community development Joe Heard for the leadership Heard provided as interim town manager during the seven month search for the new town manager.

Kingston said in the middle of a pandemic, Heard seamlessly maintained many of ongoing town functions and even spearheaded planning projects that are expected to benefit the town for years to come.

For his part, Heard said it was an individual being recognized for a team effort because instead of just treading water, many people even took on greater responsibilities. He added that it is also nice to know that people think he did a good job.

Moving down the agenda to business items, council held a public hearing on a request to modify the minimum parking standard for the Soundside Shoppes at 1180 Duck Road.

Currently renovating the retail space previously occupied by Plum Crazy, the Golden Sand Holdings, LLC request was to waive a requirement that one additional parking space be added to the existing 33 shopping center parking spaces so that a one-bedroom apartment could be established on the second floor above the retail shop.

According to Heard, in his presentation of the request details, the shopping center is the only commercial condominium in Duck and was originally approved in 1987 by Dare County, six spaces short of the current minimum parking standards. Although the addition of a one-bedroom apartment does change the parking calculations to require one additional parking space, the site meets the criteria for a special exception that allows council to modify the minimum parking requirement and find that 33 parking spaces are adequate under the Village Commercial Development Option.

In previous years, reduced parking standards have been approved under that option at Aqua Restaurant, Loblolly Pines, NC Coast, Roadside Cafe, Scarborough Faire, Twiddy Realty and Wee Winks.

When asked to comment on the request, Molly Adamovic, representing Golden Sand Holdings, LLC, said employee housing here is limited and the apartment would give an employee a place to stay and help fill that need.

With little discussion, the board approved the request with the conditions that renovations are in compliance with applicable codes prior to issuance of a building permit for the apartment, parking for the residential apartment is to be near the dumpster and the conditional use permit will expire in twelve months if the associated building improvements have not been permitted.

Also approved was a $14,100 contract with Emerald Forest of Chesapeake, Va. to construct a stormwater wetland and rain garden south of the Town Park entrance near the playground.

After a December request for bids, council’s review of the four responses during the February meeting revealed that the lowest bid was extremely low and out of line with the other bids. Councilman Sandy Whitman said it appeared the contractor may have failed to include all the necessary materials.

At council’s request, the low bidder was contacted to confirm that all project specifications were thoroughly understood. According to Heard, after reviewing the specifications, Caribbean Landscaping recognized that their bid did not include all the required project components and the company opted to withdraw its bid, making Emerald Forest the lowest remaining bidder.

In other business for the evening, Andrew Carter with DEC Associates presented information and answered questions by video link about Duck’s current, upcoming and future beach nourishment project financing options. That was followed by a video link with Chris DeWitt to discuss the town’s BRIC grant application for sidewalk, shoreline and NC12 roadway improvements.

According to DeWitt, although the BRIC grant award announcement is not expected until July, there is an extensive amount of engineering, design and permitting work needs to be completed in order for the BRIC grant projects to begin in October. In order to meet that fall starting date, some action is required now. He added that even though the project had the highest score in the state – placing it at the top of the list – there is some risk involved in moving forward ahead of receiving the grant award.

“Permitting is the key to meeting our schedule because we have no control over it,” said DeWitt.

After careful consideration and an assurance from DeWitt that some work could be stopped if a BRIC grant is not awarded to Duck, council voted to move forward with a $322,000 VHB contract to design, permit and solicit bids for the three-part project. Overall project cost is estimated to be $2,456,830.

Also approved Wednesday was a consent agenda with January 6 and February 3 regular session meeting minutes and a $375,025.55 Government Education Access Channels Committee proposed 2021-2022 CurrentTV budget.

During departmental update reports:
– a pill takeback event is scheduled for March 22-26 where any unused medications can be brought to the police department anytime during business hours and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 27.
– building permits are up 47 percent over 2020.
– Town revenues are strong and expenditures are all within budget and tracking well.
– COVID cases are trending down.

The meeting ended with a closed session for council to discuss a confidential personnel matter with the town attorney and a position to be taken in negotiating the price and other material terms of a contract or proposed contract to acquire real property at 101 and 103 Scarborough Lane owned by Larry Herron, Thomas Herron, Kascie Herron and Ciera Herron and property located at 1165 Duck Road owned by Larry Heron, Thomas Herron, Deborah Herron, Vicky Herron and Catherine Herron, by purchase, option, exchange or lease.

Nothing was announced after the closed session.

Duck Town Council will meet again for a regular session meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7.

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