2021 highlights presented in State of the County address: ‘Dare County had another banner year’

Published 1:16 pm Saturday, January 29, 2022

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“Dare County had another banner year,” said Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard at the start of his hour-long presentation about the State of Dare County 2022.

The presentation was delivered virtually from the Commissioners Meeting Room. All commissioners were present except Jim Tobin, who attended virtually because of quarantine.

Despite difficulties in 2021, Dare County visitors produced $1.4 billion in spending. Dare County is now rank as the state’s fourth largest tourist destination.

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Early in the fall, Cape Hatteras National Seashore broke visitation record. Rental agencies reported 100% occupancy.

Yet COVID-19 was present. In January 2021, Dare County’s Department of Health and Human Services held its first mass vaccination clinic. The health division would do 51 more of those clinics and vaccinate 25,039 people.

Childcare providers were hurting. Dare County set up childhood assistance grants, totaling $336,000, to help 15 local childcare providers through the pandemic.

Substance abuse is an ongoing concern in the county and was highlighted by Woodard.

He saluted county manager Robert L. Outten for his work on the opioid settlement agreement.

Dare County hired another sheriff’s deputy to transport people to area treatment facilities. Oftentimes, friends or family cannot respond immediately when someone wants to move away from drugs or alcohol.

Dare County created a Recovery Court to break the cycle of dependence. Woodard said some 36 people are active participants in the program. Another program supported is Outer Banks Dare Challenge. Dare’s commissioners contributed $200,000 to the local expansion program.

Creating essential and workforce housing is “definitely not an easy task,” said Woodard.

In December 2021, the commissioners voted to move forward with the Bowsertown project. The board committed $8 million, $7 million of which comes from the federal American Rescue Recovery Plan. The county has retained engineers to work through wastewater treatment issues.

North Carolina has allocated $35 million for workforce housing in Dare County. On Monday, Jan. 24, the board’s Capital Improvements Plan Committee meets at 9 a.m. to consider three responses to a request for qualifications for a partner to develop that housing.

Woodard highlighted these major projects:

– The new animal shelter formally opened March 31, 2021. Since its opening, 695 animals have been adopted. The new shelter is located at 378 Airport Road on Roanoke Island. It’s next to the Emergency Operations Center and Dare County Regional Airport and across from the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. In front of the shelter is a fenced dog park. The cost for the new facility was $6.6 million.

– Health and Human Services Building, Manteo. Two existing structures were united and interiors renovated. New space is the reception area for both agencies.

– The College of The Albemarle new academic building in Manteo has been under construction since 2020 and is expected to be completed in March 2022 with first classes held in fall 2022. The cost is $18 million.

Dare’s commissioners created the Dare Guarantee Scholarship for students in Dare County to attend College of The Albemarle with $250,000 in annual funding in 2020. Scholarship use continued to grow in 2021. The scholarship covers any unmet tuition, fees and educational expenses for a qualifying student (at the in-state rate) while funds are available. The maximum award for a curriculum student is $6,000 to cover the academic year.

The county participated in “partner projects.” Woodard called these out:

– Manteo Common opened in May 2021.

– Dare County Arts Council Courtyard created at the back of the county’s historic courthouse was opened in October 2021.

– Rodanthe Boat Launch, which opened in October 2021, was built by North Carolina Wildlife Commission on land owned by Dare County.

– Miss Katie is a shallow draft, $15 million, dredge now under construction. This is a public-private partnership. Dare County’s Oregon Inlet Task Force will manage the dredge schedule starting this summer.

In 2021, Dare’s commissioners agreed to rename the Dare County Center the Virginia S. Tillett Community Center. Tillett, the former Dare County commissioner, led the project from its inception to completion.

Property purchases in 2021 included a new site for the Youth Center in Manteo. The county also purchased property adjoining the existing Kill Devil Hills public safety building. Dare County will build a new Emergency Medical Services building.

In August 2021, the county received $4 million from FEMA to elevate 31 flood prone homes across the county.