Southern Shores aims to fix trash problem

Published 8:45 am Saturday, February 12, 2022

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Southern Shores Town Council members discussed the trash problem in town at the February regular meeting following a presentation from planning board Chairman Andy Ward.

“In our town we’ve got a great police department, we’ve got a great fire department, and y’all are spending a ton of money on beach nourishment which I’m all in favor of, but coming through our town and seeing the mess that starts here at Pelican Watch and goes to the split in the road and beyond – it’s our main corridor of town and it needs some help,” Ward said.

Multiple issues causing problems were reported, including overflowing trash receptacles, failure to roll carts back in and a crowd of mismatched carts that make the streets look messy and unkempt.

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Ward presented the planning board’s Solid Waste Ordinance recommendations, some of which will require town code amendments, including replacing “should” with “shall” in several areas within ordinance (for example in the 24-hour rollback requirement); establishing a minimum number of trash and recycle receptacles based on advertised occupancy; clear and prominent labeling with arrows toward the street on can’s lid showing TRASH or RECYCLE; and requiring a fully functional lid to cover the entire receptacle.

Ward also suggested that the council elicit help from the public works department in off-season rollbacks, as well as from the police department to help identify excessive offenders. The planning board recommended that the town require by ordinance that property managers include in the tenant welcome packet information about proper trash removal. Other options proposed included the possibilities for roll out service or large dumpsters, which Ward said may look better than a dozen trash cans lining the street.

The council agreed that the property owners are ultimately responsible and discussed options for enforcement such as letters or fines.

Enforcement does pose a problem, however, as many of the properties are professionally managed. Town attorney Ben Gallop brought up the difficulty when “the cost to collect exceeds the cost to enforce.”

“It looks pretty bad for our town,” Ward said. “We can do better and the planning board recommends we stiffen up and maybe create some new ordinances that we can use to hopefully hold the rental property managers’ feet to the fire.”

Mayor Elizabeth Morey concluded the conversation by saying, “Yes, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. I totally agree.” She directed staff to draft a town code amendment and return it to the council for approval at a later date.

Next, Fire Chief Ed Limbacher shared the 2021 year end report. There are 68 active volunteers in the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department. “We train every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-10 and every Saturday morning they have a maintenance from 8-10. That’s basically checking every piece of apparatus, every piece of equipment on it. Our members can train 8 hours a week, 32 hours a month – that’s more than anybody else on the beach,” said Limbacher.

He continued, “. . . So a total of 13,079 hours you’re getting of free labor. I think that’s something really to note, to appreciate because [other towns are] paying for it. I think our guys are very, very dedicated and we’re extremely lucky to have them.”

In two other brief items of new business, council members approved a budget amendment for additional part-time seasonal hours in the public works department, and then approved amendments to Town Code Chapter 12, Emergency Management. The changes better reflect how the town operates during emergencies, and also brings Southern Shores into compliance with changes to the NC General Statues.

Town manager Cliff Ogburn updated the board on the status of the beach nourishment project. Though in the early stages and subject to change, the nourishment in Southern Shores is scheduled to begin in mid-July and last approximately one month. The town plans to release interactive updates on its website so residents and visitors can see where sand is placed and the completion levels of the project.

Finally, the council welcomed its newest member Mark Batenic. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the town of Southern Shores, its residents and the visitors who come to see us every year . . .  I’m glad to be here and I’ll do my best,” Batenic said.