By IRENE NOLAN
Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, talked about county issues on Sunday, Jan. 3, on the Radio Hatteras Interview show, “To the Point,” hosted by Island Free Press editor Irene Nolan.
Woodard of Kill Devil Hills was elected to the county board in 2012. In December 2014 after Republicans took control of the board in the November general election, Woodard was elected chairman. He was re-elected last month.
In this interview, he discusses a number of county issues, especially those of interest to Hatteras Island.
Woodard began the interview by talking about how the board will reach out to make it easier for islanders to communicate with commissioners.
First, Woodard has already announced that the board will conduct its second annual Town Hall meeting 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19, after the regular meeting in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room in the county Administration Building in Manteo. As at the meeting last year, all are welcome to come and make comments to the board with no time limit for the speakers.
During the radio interview, Woodard announced that this year, the board will have a second Town Hall meeting on Hatteras Island. The Hatteras Island meeting is set for Thursday, Feb. 4. More details will be announced soon.
He also said that the county is exploring streaming the meetings of the board to a site on Hatteras Island, so that islanders can attend meetings and make public comment. Woodard said that the commissioners recognize the long travel time to Manteo, especially in the summer months, and that the technology is now available to have meetings streamed to a site on the island.
Hyde County has been using a live hook-up between Swan Quarter and Ocracoke for its meetings for some time. Ocracoke residents can attend the meetings and participate, and in Hyde County, the commissioner representing Ocracoke can attend at either location.
County manager and attorney Bobby Outten said special legislation was passed by the General Assembly to allow Ocracoke’s commissioner to attend in either location. Without the legislation, Outten said the legality of Hatteras Island’s commissioner attending at a remote location is questionable.
Woodard also said that the Dare County Public Relations Department is working on setting up the hook-up with the board meeting. He said after the interview that he hopes it can be done in about 60 days.
Other issues discussed in the interview include:
Hatteras Inlet shoaling — short term. Woodard said he is pleased that the county was able to move as quickly as it did to start dredging in the inlet — even though, he said he realizes it wasn’t quickly enough for the fishermen. A project using the state dredge is now underway and should be completed later this month. Fishermen are already finding that traveling through the inlet is easier, even with the dredging in progress. The county is paying about $132,000 of the $400,000 project.
Hatteras Inlet shoaling — long-term. Woodard discussed the need to amend the existing federal authorization to be more inclusive of the entire waterway that is known as Hatteras Inlet. Because of changes to the inlet over time, the current federal authorization, established in the 1940s, has boundaries that are no longer relevant. The board has recently passed a resolution requesting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as state and federal entities, expand the federal authorization to include all channels between Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island and to also include the Inlet Gorge and the sandbar for access to the Atlantic Ocean. The expansion, the resolution says, is a matter of public safety and economic necessity. He also supports an economic study of the impact of Hatteras Inlet commerce.
Economic Development. Woodard said economic development will be a priority this year for the board, which received an economic development proposal from North Carolina State University at its Jan. 4 meeting. “We’re totally a tourist economy,” he said. The question, he said, is whether there is an opportunity for further growth.
Price of gas in Dare County. In January 2015, Woodard, on behalf of the board, asked the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, to investigate “exorbitant” gas prices in Dare County — prices that are, he said, much higher in Dare County than in surrounding areas. Woodard said he continues to have the clerk to the board call the Attorney General’s office every two weeks to check on the status of the investigation. The response is always the same, he said. He is told that the investigation is still underway but not completed.
Buxton Beach Nourishment. Dare County is planning a project to nourish the beach in north Buxton to protect Highway 12 from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean. County officials have asked the National Park Service, which owns the beaches, for a special use permit to get this project done. Woodard said that the county expects to get the permit from the Park Service and start pumping sand in late spring or early summer.
The commissioners are currently considering whether to create a special tax district to help pay for this project. And, if they do create a special tax district, they must decide who must pay and how much. Potentially Hatteras Island and/or Buxton property homeowners could see a tax increase to pay for part of the nourishment project.
“I feel strongly that we need to at least explore this,” Woodard said. The county manager has presented seven options to the board members, and, Woodard said that in fairness to the board, he wants them have time to consider the options before making a decision.
“There’s nothing in stone right now,” Woodard said. “We will see where it goes, according to a majority of the board.”
The board is required to have a public hearing before it can enact a special tax district but not before it passes a proposal. Woodard would not be specific about whether the board would discuss the issue in public again or seek public input before considering whether to propose a tax district — or not.
Woodard mentioned that Hatteras Island property owners will be able to raise the issue at the Feb. 4 town hall meeting.
He also discussed other issues ranging from the county’s recent very positive audit — “the best one in eight years,” he said — to the possibility that the issue of sales tax redistribution issue will come up when the General Assembly meets gain this spring.
“To the Point” airs on the island’s community radio station, FM 101.5 , at 5 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of each month. It is repeated on the second and fourth Sunday. Those who don’t live on Hatteras can listen to the show on Sundays through live streaming at
Scroll down and click on the appropriate “To the Point” logo to listen to the audio of the interview.
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