Duck Town Council recognizes employees, hears about coastal resilience

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, June 21, 2023

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After a brief power outage and considerable traffic congestion delayed the start of the June 7 regular Duck Town Council meeting, town officials moved quickly through several agenda items.

Among the first approvals of the night was of a consent agenda with lengthy April 19 and May 3 meeting minutes, an $80,000 lump sum contract with VHB Engineering NC, P.C. for a shared use path feasibility study along the west side of N.C. Highway 12 from the crosswalk at Aqua south to the town line, a $100,000 contract with VHB to complete the necessary surveys, geotechnical engineering, wetland delineation and permitting for the development of a final design for the 850 to 1,000 feet of Town Park Shoreline Protection Project, and a $103,838 budget amendment to cover the increased debt service interest following the extension of the beach nourishment project and to correct several other department accounts with unforeseen costs for this fiscal year.

Moving on to special presentations, Duck Police Chief Jeffrey Ackerman and Deputy Fire Chief Trey Batschelet introduced Beverlee Davis as the town’s newest public safety office administrator, followed by an oath of office and swearing in of Timothy Armstrong as Duck Police Department’s newest sergeant.

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Also recognized during the evening meeting were public information and events director Kay Nickens, who completed five years of service with Duck, and Chief Ackerman for completing 20 years of service with the town. Each received a service recognition certificate and gift certificate.

The final special presentation of the evening was by Ken Willson of Coastal Protection Engineering of North Carolina, Inc., who provided a Resilient Coastal Communities Program Phase 2 Update.

According to Willson, the program is assisting communities with technical and financial assistance to advance coastal resilience efforts and a list of projects was compiled focused on achieving town vision and goals.

Later in the evening, council – without Rob Mooney, who had an excused absence – voted 4-0 to move forward with the identified projects.

Non-structural projects that do not involve physical construction include:
1. Town-wide beach management program
2. Town-wide stormwater management study
3. Soundside shoreline management study
4. Sea level rise analysis and climate adaptation plan
5. Septic system and drain field planning
6. Dune maintenance education program
7. Post-hazard event assessments
8. Establishment of resilience review team

Structural projects that do include physical construction and retrofitting include:
1. Flooding and stormwater management along Duck Road
2. Central reach beach nourishment program
3. NC-12 coastal resiliency project
4. Soundside erosion mitigation and storm damage reduction project
5. Town Park shoreline protection project
6. Stormwater outfall/pond retrofits
7. Acquire oceanfront property to support future beach maintenance

During discussion prior to the vote, community development director Joe Heard pointed out that although the list is in priority by rated importance, the projects may not take place in the published order. He went on to say council could review the list in more detail at a retreat unless it wanted to take a closer look at some other time.

Also receiving a 4-0 vote of approval was the manager’s proposed fiscal year 2023-24 $14,132,240 budget for anticipated revenues and expenditures along with the 2024-28 Capital Improvement Plan for 31 projects totaling $25,995,730.

During a few brief comments on the proposed budget, town manager Drew Havens advised that although the total is about 6.3 percent above the current year’s budget, it does not include a tax rate increase.

In a series of other votes, council appointed five individuals to serve on the town’s Board of Adjustment along with two others as alternates.

Regular board members include Olin Finch, Carol Powell, Ed Sadler, David Flowers and Kevin Lingard, with Tim McKeithan and Bob Webb selected as the two alternates. Terms for each regular and alternate member expire July 1, 2026.

Also nominated and receiving votes for a Board of Adjustment alternate position but not elected were Matthew Price and Sanjeev Jairath.

Other business for the evening included discussion with no action taken on recommended town policy changes to allow prior government service to be considered in determining vacation leave accrual, establishing a tuition assistance policy and the creation of a health insurance stipend for retired employees.

In his presentation to council, Havens advised that allowing prior government service time with other local or state agencies be considered toward vacation leave time could serve as a recruitment tool. Applying it retroactively impacts 16 of the town’s 40 employees.

Havens also recommended implementing a retiree health insurance supplement of $200 per month or $2,400 per year for employees who meet specific eligibility requirements and retire after July 1, 2023. Currently, Duck is the only area town that does not offer a retiree health benefit.

Havens went on to say with the implementation of a tuition assistance program, the Town of Duck would advance registration, tuition and other fees and costs up to $1,200 per fiscal year per employee. The actual amount of educational assistance provided per employee is to be determined annually, based on the approved budget of the town, with $9,600 budgeted in FY 2023-24. Employees will need to provide certification from the institution of satisfactory completion and that final grades meet town standards.

Havens said recommendations and comments would be incorporated into each program policy for another look in July.

Council, also by consensus, authorized staff to take the necessary time to work with planning board members to research and, if needed, develop text amendments for a variety of issues that may need work.

By evening’s end, Dominion Energy restored power. At one point several hundred customers in Duck experienced an outage. There was no word on the cause of the outage.