June 22, 2015
Tine convenes pow-wow to discuss funding dredging projects
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
Rep. Paul Tine used some tough talk with a roomful of Dare County
movers and shakers concerned about long -term solutions for the
county's inlets when he told them this morning that they’d better rally
the troops if they want to be heard in Raleigh.
“If y’all have a position, you really need to engage your people,” he
said. “If it’s going to go to a referendum, you really need to do
a lot of work to organize. If you’re going to go to the people, they’re
going to have to understand how important Oregon Inlet is, how
important Hatteras Inlet is.”
More than 26 public officials and representatives from the business
community --some actively engaged in proxy spitting matches over
funding inlet dredging and beach nourishment -- met for a pow-wow with
Tine to hash out the options.
“This is not an us-versus-them proposition,” he told the group
assembled at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute. “It is not either
tourism or dredging. It is both tourism and dredging – how do we get
Tine, who is from Kitty Hawk and is unaffiliated, called the numerous
stakeholders together, he said, to talk about funding proposals for
dredging the inlets that are currently being considered in Raleigh, as
well as other ideas that are less likely to be considered.
In recent months, the dredging issue has become conflated with beach
nourishment projects in the public arena because of a bill proposed in
the state Senate that would take money from the beach nourishment
account, funded by a 2 cent occupancy tax , and use it to pay most of
the county share of costs to dredge the inlets.
But that provision in Senate Bill 160, sponsored by state Sen. Bill
Cook, R-Beaufort, caught even county officials by surprise, and
quickly launched an increasingly contentious debate about use of the
The county needs to find about $3.5 million annually to match state
funds that would be provided for proactive dredging by the Army Corps
Only three mechanisms are available to find the funds, Tine said:
said that the House favors allowing the county to do the ¼-cent tax. It
is not clear why the Senate is opposed to that tax. Sen. Cook’s office
did not respond immediately to a request to explain the opposition.
legislation to increase the sales tax by ¼ cent – without a referendum
-- which translates to 25 cents per $100. The bill would sunset after
construction of the Bonner Bridge replacement was completed. A bill to
do this passed the House in early April, but Tine said that the Senate
has so far not supported that option.
referendum asking residents to approve an increase of ¼ cent in the
sales tax. The downside of this option, Tine said, is that if the
measure failed, it could not be brought up again for another five
years. But the county already has the authority to hold the referendum.
that would allow the county to use up to $3 million of future occupancy
tax revenue for dredging. As the law is now, the only use allowed
is for nourishment. But town officials say the funds have already
been committed to their projects and borrowing them would jeopardize
ongoing nourishment needs.
Also, statewide lobbyists for hotel/motels and restaurants are strongly
opposed to use of occupancy taxes for anything other than
tourism-related purposes, Tine said.
Bob Edwards, mayor of Nags Head, said that everyone seems to agree that
funds need to be provided to dredge Oregon Inlet. But using the beach
nourishment funds to pay for it, he said, is too risky.
“We are really marginal,” he said. “If we have a little blip in
the economy, we run out of funds for beach nourishment. The other
downside is if you take $15 million out of that fund, sooner or later,
the taxpayers in those municipalities will be paying.”
Edwards said that the town supports the ¼-cent sales tax.
“We need a permanent funding solution that’s there year in and year
out,” he said, “because the dredging problems are not going away.”
The dedicated 2-cent occupancy tax for beach nourishment, although it
is shared, goes initially to the county, not the towns, said Dare
County Manager Bobby Outten. So far, he said, about $100,000 has been
paid for sand fencing, and about $28 million has been paid for Nags
Head’s project. Also “multiple millions” have been spent for
upfront costs. Between Buxton and the town projects, he said, the fund
has paid out $37 million.
Earlier, Outten had proposed that if the Senate bill is passed, the
county use a five-year funding plan that would allow it to borrow its
share from the account to pay for dredging, while still meeting the
needs of the town projects. But that is only a short-term
“Whatever we do here in this legislative session,” he added, “isn’t going to make this go away.”
Micah Daniels with Wanchese Fish Co. said she is opposed to the ¼-cent
tax, adding that Oregon Inlet urgently needs help, and that could be
achieved faster with the Senate bill.
“That tax is not going to affect people in the room,” she said. “There
are people in this county who do live paycheck to paycheck. Do we value
that people come here to fish, that we’re the billfish capital of the
But Tine reiterated that it is not about winners and losers, or
nourishment versus dredging. Instead, it comes down to the right
“What I take exception to,” he told Daniels, “is we’re not valuing the
inlet if we choose a different way to fund it . . . The question is how
we move from where we are today. Unfortunately, the reality is, the way
the legislature works, there’s no immediate solution.”
Jim Tobin, chairman of the county’s Oregon Inlet Task Force, encouraged
Tine to support the Senate bill as a short-term solution and to work on
the getting the ¼ cent tax for the long term.
“But that’s going to take some time,” Tobin said. “The only solution I see is to dip into the fund for a while."
Jeff Oden, a Hatteras motel owner as well as a commercial fisherman,
said that shoaling in Hatteras Inlet also affects commerce and the
county’s economy, and that dredging is also a necessity there.
“There are a lot of impacts other than Oregon Inlet,” he said.
Considering that there would be little to no support to raise property
taxes in the county, Bob Woodard, the chairman of the county Board of
Commissioners, said that borrowing funds from the occupancy tax
plan would make the most sense. The county would be using it’s own
share of the tax, and has promised to cover up to 50 percent of
maintenance costs for town projects.
“To me, it’s a no brainer,” he said. “So for the life of me, I can’t
understand, with the amount of money that’s being spent on beach
nourishment, that there’s reluctance for us to spend $3 million of our
Sheila Davies, the mayor of Kill Devil Hills, proposed a combination of
the ¼-cent tax and the “flexibility” for the county to use the
“My biggest fear is that something changes and we have to go back to the taxpayer,” she said.
Dare County Commissioner Warren Judge said that it is clear that a stable revenue source must be found.
“All the options that are on the table are inadequate because of the
timelines that are coming fast,” he said. “Before you know it,
it’ll be five years, and what are we going to do then?”
Tine said he encourages the roundtable participants as well as
residents to e-mail him or call him with feedback or input into the
issue. A long term solution, he said, will take involvement of
the entire community.
“Nothing we say here is binding,” Tine told the group. ‘Nothing here is
secret. My expectation is that you will go back and talk about
Tine said he had not wanted press coverage of this morning's meeting
because he was concerned that people may fear being direct, or that
they might grandstand. But when a reporter showed up, he decided that
it would not hinder the process to be open.
“It’s great to have this (meeting),” said Mikey Daniels, with Wanchese
Fish Co. “You always wonder what other people are thinking – if
they’re not waving or whatever. We don’t see y’all. You don’t
understand our problems, and we don’t understand your problems.”
(Rep. Paul Tine's e-mail is [email protected]. His phone number is 252-305-5133.)