Southern Shores council hears audit report, update on mid-Currituck bridge project

Published 1:07 pm Sunday, October 23, 2022

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The Southern Shores Town Council opened its October 4 regular meeting with a presentation from CPA Teresa Osborne on the results of the town’s June 30, 2022 annual audit. Osborne gave the town an “unmodified opinion” on its financial statements, which is the best opinion that can be given and confirms that the financial statements are presented fairly in accordance with generally accepted accounting standards and there were no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses noted.

Osborne explained to the council the reasons that General Fund revenues were $3 million more than expenses. Generally, revenues equal expenses at the end of the year.

Osborne pointed out that the municipal service districts were implemented as well as the four-cent beach nourishment tax. These taxes were implemented before the first debt payment of $1.7 million was due. Additionally, the town received $471,354 in American Rescue funds that were not budgeted, but they were received and put into the General Fund to offset police salaries and benefits.

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The town received $233,000 from bond funds, and shared revenues (occupancy tax, sales tax, land transfer tax) came in over budget by about $900,000.

“Overall I just want to say that the town ended the year in a very strong financial condition,” Osborne concluded.

After the presentation, the council moved on to staff reports. Of note was Police Chief David Kole’s update on the tragic ultralight glider malfunction that resulted in a fatal crash a half mile out in the ocean.

Multiple entities were involved in the recovery. Kole thanked EMS, the fire department, and Dare Central first responders. “Two local divers … did a tremendous job of recovering the victim which was important to all of us to give the family some closure,” Kole reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board is handling the investigation.

Town attorney Philip Hornthal gave a much-anticipated update to the mid-Currituck bridge litigation. On Monday, October 3, the fourth circuit advised that oral arguments in the case would be scheduled for December 6 through 9. The specific date will be determined.

“This is the first real development since we filed our amicus brief in mid-June and we’ll report any further updates,” Hornthal said.

Next, council members moved quickly through six new business items. They approved an annual appointment to the Reconstruction Task Force, followed by an approval to amend town code in reference to signage in town and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that signage requirements in town must be content neutral. This issue was brought before the board in March, but was returned to the planning board for further work.

Signs will now be allowed in the town right-of-way during campaign season. Language changes include allowing temporary signs in the town right-of-way during campaign season with permission of the adjacent property owner(s), revising the requirements for signs on properties that are for sale or lease, revising definitions of sign and temporary sign and revising the requirements for signs at major entrances to subdivisions. There are also changes in requirements for wall signs in the commercial zoning district and for temporary signs in all zoning districts.

“To write an ordinance that strikes a balance between trying to accomplish what we want to accomplish for us – the aesthetics of our town – but also recognizing people have free speech rights, and also recognizing that the town needs to have an ordinance that they can use when necessary. All of that I think has been worked into this in a pretty good balance and so I’m very grateful,” said Mayor Elizabeth Morey.

Council then approved a subdivision plat requested by Matthew Casella and amended the town code regarding building height requirements to match the current standards.

Next, the council approved the request for qualifications (RFQ) for professional engineering, planning and design services for the Juniper/Trinitie Trail Bridge Replacement Project as presented and approved a budget amendment awarding Ginguite Stormwater Project to lowest qualified bidder.