Local News

UPDATE: State House passes bill allowing Dare sales tax hike

The North Carolina House of Representatives today passed a bill that will allow Dare County to raise the local sales tax by 1/4-cent without a voter referendum to pay for inlet dredging. The vote was 114-3.   Read more

UPDATE: Bill to increase sales tax is filed  -- and already amended

As requested by the Dare County Board of Commissioners, a bill has been introduced in the General Assembly to give the board the power to increase the sales tax in the county by 1/4-cent to pay for dredging Oregon and Hatteras inlets. The bill, House Bill 388, was introduced yesterday by Rep. Paul Tine, who represents Dare County. Today, an amendment was filed.
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Dare asks lawmakers to authorize quarter-cent sales tax

In response to worsening shoaling in Oregon and Hatteras inlets, the Dare County commissioners passed a resolution on Friday, March 27, asking the General Assembly to authorize a quarter-cent local sales tax to help pay for dredging.

See "Shooting the Breeze," the Editor's Blog.

UPDATE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sends dredges to open Oregon Inlet

If shoaling and weather conditions permit, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District will begin emergency dredging operations at Oregon Inlet Wednesday to remove the shoaling that has been obstructing the federal channel passage for commercial fishing vessels. 
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With passage blocked, Coast Guard closes Oregon Inlet

Oregon Inlet is closed to vessels drawing more than 2 feet, essentially shutting down the charter fishing fleet with four days left in the bluefin tuna season and as Easter week approaches.

Petty Officer Kathryn Bruner with the Coast Guard in Wilmington said Saturday that the closing was prompted by the latest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers survey, which showed that search-and-rescue vessels can no longer get out of the inlet.

Emergencies will be handled by helicopters out of the Coast Guard’s air station in Elizabeth City, she said.

A buffer zone of 100 yards on either side of the Bonner Bridge will be enforced, she said, with fines for violators of $32,500. There was no estimate on how long the closing will last.

Read the story in The Outer Banks Voice.

Legislative Update:  It was raining bills all week

With months to go before the General Assembly is expected to adjourn, Thursday, March 26, was the last day that public bills and resolutions could be filed in the Senate and thus it rained bills all week – 312 in the Senate, of which 199 were filed on the deadline day. In fewer than two months, members of that chamber have submitted a total of 711 pieces of proposed legislation

In the House, representatives have until April 8 before the deadline for public bills and resolutions pops up in that chamber. The deadline for finance and appropriation bills is April 15. The House offerings of proposed legislation on Thursday was a paltry 22 with a total of 60 for the week.  
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Dare County plans large-item pickup for April

The Dare County Sanitation Department will be conducting a large item household pickup for residential customers only. No commercial business debris will be picked up. Please do not interfere with county employees picking up large items. Materials must be at curbside no later than 6 a.m. on the date of collection. There will not be a second day pickup.
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UPDATED: State Bar issues complaint against Judge Tillet; Tillett answers

Exactly two years after accepting a reprimand by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission for entanglements in Kill Devil Hills’ town affairs and threats against the district attorney’s office, Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett is facing a complaint from the North Carolina State Bar over questions of alleged unprofessional conduct related to the same imbroglio.

In the 11-page complaint, filed on March 6 and posted on the Bar website on March 16, the Bar cites 17 points where Tillett “engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Alleged offenses include expressing his anger to town officials over Kill Devils police detaining his son; accepting one-sided complaints about town officials and police; and threatening to remove Kill Devil Hills officials from office.

Aside from disputing many of the allegations in the Bar complaint, Tillett’s attorney Norman Shearin, with Raleigh firm Vandeventer Black, contends that the Bar’s grievance is unfair because Tillett had already accepted discipline from the Judicial Standards Commission for the same conduct.

Read the story in The Outer Banks Sentinel.

UPDATED: Dare County is the big loser in bill that would shift sales tax revenue

Finance officers for the county and town governments in Dare County have been scrambling to try to determine just how hard local budgets will be hit if Senate Bill 369, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, an Onslow County Republican, and filed on Monday, becomes law.

The new plan would increase – in some cases double – the amount that some poorer, rural counties would receive, while reducing revenues flowing to more prosperous areas.
Brown said at a news conference on Monday that the rural counties are being shortchanged by a system that gives sales taxes to urban centers with shopping malls and big-box stores.

Of all the counties that would see decreased revenues, Dare County would take the largest hit – a 59.2 percent reduction in sales tax revenues. The plan would have an significant impact on the budgets of the county and the incorporated towns. 
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Extra ferries will be added for Easter and spring-break visitors

In preparation for holiday travel over the upcoming Easter and spring breaks, the North Carolina Department of Transportation's Ferry Division will be enhancing the schedule on its Hatteras-Ocracoke route between March 31 and April 13.  
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Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum to host Underwater Heritage Symposium

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum will be hosting the 2015 Underwater Heritage Symposium that will showcase significant members of the diving community. The symposium will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 10 and 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

During the two-day symposium, The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum will formally honor several divers who have had an impact on their profession through their passion for diving, documenting shipwrecks, lecturing and authoring books on their experiences, and mentoring new divers in the field.
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Outer Banks residents say 'no' to offshore drilling

For members of LegaSea, an Outer Banks grassroots anti-drilling group, it was like a flashback to more than 25 years ago when Mobil Oil Corp. wanted to sink an exploratory well off Cape Hatteras – except this time, they were joined by opponents of all ages and political stripes.

“I was just bowled over by all the people that were there,” said Mickey Baker, a founding member of LegaSea who attended an open house held Monday by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM. “I was very, very encouraged. We saw another generation coming up.”  
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A whole lot of shaking going on

I was sitting at my desk in my office on Monday afternoon around 4:30 when the door out to the porch startling rattling and shaking.  It was a sunny, mild day with no wind to speak of.  The house was quiet and the noise got my attention.  I watched and listened for maybe 10 or 15 seconds and the rattling ended.

So, no wind. No storm clouds on the horizon. No one was running up my steps.  I didn't hear any trucks rumbling around the neighborhood.  No aircraft noise from above. Suddenly, it was just quiet again.

Then it happened again -- twice this afternoon.  So what's going on?  
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BOC chairman sends another letter on Dare County gas prices

Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, has sent a second letter to state Attorney General Roy Cooper asking for him to investigate gas prices in Dare County.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice said this week that the department's Consumer Affairs Division continues to investigate the complaint.  
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Gas pricing on Hatteras Island is topic of radio interview...WITH AUDIO

Bryan Perry, owner of Frisco Shopping Center and Frisco Rod & Gun, where he sells, among other things, gasoline, was the guest on this week's edition of "To the Point" on Radio Hatteras.

In the interview, Perry, who has been selling gas at the store since 1975, gives some straightforward answers to questions about how he determines the price of gas at his pumps and how much profit he makes on it. 
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First Stewart Couch scholarship will be awarded in June

When Stewart Couch passed away, unexpectedly in February 2012, a heartbroken community searched for a way to memorialize this local leader. Within days, the Outer Banks Association of Realtors (OBAR) and the Outer Banks Community Foundation established a scholarship fund in his name to benefit Hatteras students. From across the country, dozens of people contributed to the fund.

Little did they know, Stewart himself had the exact same idea.

Now, a bequest from Stewart Couch's estate will be combined with funds from the two groups that have raised money to create the Community Foundation's largest one-year scholarship to date --  $8,900, which will be award to a Hatteras Island graduating senior in June.
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Ocracoke wrestles with occupancy tax, marketing, boosting tourism

After receiving an outpouring of mostly negative comments about a proposed tourism authority for Ocracoke, Hyde County Manager Bill Rich last week unveiled a revised plan for enhancing tourism, especially in the shoulder seasons.

Instead of a tourism development authority that would levy an additional 2 percent on top of the 3 percent occupancy tax already in place for all short-term lodging stays, Rich wants to work within the 3 percent already collected.
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M/V Silver Lake to undergo repairs after running aground at Ocracoke

The North Carolina Department of Transportation's ferry M/V Silver Lake returned to Ocracoke today under tow after losing steering power and running soft-aground Saturday night.

The incident happened about one mile south of Ocracoke as the Silver Lake was making its last run of the day to Cedar Island. The captain of the Silver Lake contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, which sent a boat from its Hatteras Station to bring the ferry's 14 passengers back to Ocracoke.  
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Commissioners, Board of Education reach agreement on funding

A special meeting between Dare County’s Board of Education and Board of Commissioners on Wednesday saw more comity than clashing of panels, as members united on a new formula to fund schools as well as worry over potentially crippling cuts in tax revenue from Raleigh.

Gone was the suspicion exhibited during a commissioners retreat in February, when the board members were threatening to cut the schools’ budget.

“I’m proud to say that we have stepped up to the plate and done the right thing,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard said Wednesday.  
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New legislation takes aim at inequities in coastal insurance

Most coastal damage is from storm surge and flooding, which are not covered by homeowners insurance.

A public authority would be formed to issue bonds to help pay claims after a major storm and more precise modeling would be mandated to set property insurance rates under legislation unveiled today in Raleigh.

The bill, which was sponsored by 1st District state Sen. Bill Cook and other senators, is aimed at helping to hold the line on premium costs, especially in coastal counties.

A companion bill is being introduced in the state house.

Willo Kelly, legislative liaison for the Outer Banks Homebuilders Association and the Outer Banks Board of Realtors, has been working for six years to force a change in the way insurance rates affect counties east of I-95.

Read the story by Russ Lay in the Outer Banks Voice.

The story behind repairing Friday night's icy power outage

After having survived an unusually harsh winter of snow, ice, high winds, and stretches of below-freezing temperatures with barely a flicker, Hatteras and Ocracoke's power system finally met its match last Friday night, March 6.

After another day of temperatures hovering right at the freezing mark and icy drizzle falling all afternoon and into the evening, the lights went out on the islands at 6:37 p.m., and stayed out in some villages for almost 6 1/2 hours.  
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Tri-villages have first meeting to gauge interest in zoning

Rodanthe's first zoning workshop, an unstructured, casual gathering held on a rainy night, became Thursday’s go-to event.

About 70 residents and property owners attended the open house at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building to give their view on whether the three villages should have stricter zoning rules.  Attendees were asked to fill out a form with questions on existing issues and uses, and potential future uses.
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After marathon, divisive meeting, board commits funds to inlet dredging

What started as weighing in on the pros and cons of using occupancy taxes to fund dredging of severely shoaled Oregon Inlet at Monday’s marathon Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting quickly devolved to a fishing community versus business community contest that pitted the value of Oregon Inlet against  beach nourishment.   

Residents, public officials, and representatives of both camps came out in force to give their opinion on draft legislation that would allow the board to divert occupancy tax revenue, including funds earmarked for beach nourishment, to pay for dredging the inlet, creating an uneasy divide in the packed audience.  
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Winter Wonderland on the islands is washing away...WITH SLIDE SHOWS

The second coastal storm of the week left about 2 inches of snow on Hatteras and Ocracoke before it turned to freezing rain late this afternoon and began washing away the white stuff.

However, the third coastal storm this week -- the first brought only cold rain and wind on Monday -- is expected to roll up the coast tomorrow night, bringing more frozen precipitation. And the islands are getting ready for a one-two punch of winter weather, somewhat unusual for this time of year. 
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Frigid Siberian air grips the islands...WITH SLIDE SHOW

Heat pumps have been pumping non-stop on Hatteras and Ocracoke for the past few days as frigid air has poured into the southern U.S. According to the weather forecasters, this is not just your normal Arctic cold -- it's cold all the way from Siberia.

The cold weather has set record low temperatures on the islands and a record high for winter power usage as we all try to stay warm.
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Passenger ferry test runs scheduled for May 4 and 5

 As part of its ongoing feasibility study on passenger ferry service, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has signed an agreement with Bay State Cruise Company to charter the M/V Provincetown III for test runs of a potential passenger ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke village on May 4-5.
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UPDATE: Appeals Court grants request for mediation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today granted a request by all of the parties involved in the legal wrangling over replacing the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge for the assistance of a mediator in their effort to negotiate a settlement in the case.
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