Two newly elected members of the Dare County Board of Commissioners and two re-elected members were sworn in by board clerk Gary Gross at yesterday’s regular meeting.
In addition, the board chose its chairman and vice-chairman for the coming year and concluded the meeting with yet another discussion of the Hurricane Matthew debris collection, which Dare County Bobby Outten has called the most “frustrating” experience the county has had in recent years with cleaning up after storms.
Danny Couch, a Democrat of Buxton took the oath of office from Gross with his hand on a family Bible held by daughter, Susanna. Other family member joined Couch for the occasion, including his wife, Sherry, their sons, Gideon and Griffin, and his brother, John.
Couch fills the Hatteras Island, District 4, seat that became vacant when Allen Burrus decided after 10 years on the board not to run for re-election for health reasons.
Also sworn in were newly elected District 3 commissioner Steve House and re-elected commissioners Wally Overman and Bob Woodard respectively. All three are Republicans.
That leaves Couch as the only Democrat on the seven-member board, which also includes Jack Shea, Margarette Umphlett, and Beverly Boswell.
Boswell will serve on the board until next month when she heads to Raleigh to fill the District 6 seat in the state House of Representatives. Dare Republican leaders will choose her replacement on the Board of Commissioners.
For the third year — since Republicans took control of the board in the 2014 general election, Bob Woodard was elected chairman by his colleagues and Wally Overman will serve again as vice-chairman. The votes were unanimous.
By the end of the relatively brief meeting, the discussion turned to Hurricane Matthew recovery, specifically debris removal.
Overman said he and Outten attended a meeting of state boards of commissioners and representatives from such groups as FEMA in Raleigh last week to discuss recovery efforts.
Outten noted that the Dare delegation noted FEMA’s slow response to get the ball rolling on Matthew recovery efforts, especially debris collection. Part of that is that Matthew hit a large area, increasing demand for such companies as debris removal contractors.
While county officials and FEMA officials usually meeting a week or 10 days after a storm to lay out a work plan, that meeting didn’t take place for almost two months after Matthew caused record storm surges in some areas of Frisco and Hatteras villages.
Outten also said that FEMA and county officials could make certain agreements before the storm season that would hasten the burden after a storm strikes — such as what roads will be included in debris collection and hiring a secondary contractor to move the work along.
Once again the commissioners and the county manager stressed that the debris contractor, TAG Grinding, is making a last pass on Hatteras Island, beginning this week — and depending on the weather.
“We don’t need people to put anything out behind the trucks,” Outten said.
“This is the last pass…We need to stop putting out stuff that isn’t storm-related,” said Woodard.
Edward Mann, director of Dare County Public Works, said that his staff members will be moving through behind the contractor’s crews to do final tidying up.
“This has been a very frustrating process,” he said. “This has been something we have not been happy with, but we have done all we can do.”
The county is required to choose the lowest bidder on debris contractors, and county officials said TAG and other contractors have been stretched thin.
In other action, the board:
Unanimously agreed to set a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, for a zoning change that would allow indoor recreation as a permitted use in the C-2 zoned area of Avon.
Perez already has an indoor recreation facility in Kill Devil Hills and is building one in Rodanthe — the large steel building with the “saucer” on its roof.
According to published reports, inside the Rodanthe building will be an arcade along with laser tag, mini-bowling and a snack bar. Outside, a climbing wall will be built around the east and north sides of the building with a circular installation to mimic mountain climbing. Outside, a miniature golf course and zip line are planned. Over the golf course will be a ropes course.