Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Chairman Bob Woodard outlined the BOC and county’s initiatives in 2018, while noting issues that would linger into 2019, at the State of the County Meeting on Wednesday morning, January 16.
The meeting, which was hosted by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, attracted nearly 200 attendees which included Outer Banks town mayors and councilmen, N.C. House District 6 Representative Bobby Hanig, nonprofit organizations, community business leaders, and a host of other county officials.
Woodard began the meeting by pointing out these many community representatives, which also included furloughed Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent David Hallac, who attended out of uniform due to the federal government shutdown.
“You will not find a finer gentleman than Dave Hallac,” said Woodard. “I’m so sad that he and his staff are going through this right now.”
Woodard then got down to business outlining the projects that were covered by the BOC and the county in 2018, noting several broad issues that would carry over into 2019 as well.
Highlights from the list of county accomplishments and ongoing issues included the following:
Offshore Drilling and Seismic Testing
Offshore drilling and seismic testing was one of the biggest issues on the table at the meeting, with the majority of post-presentation questions from attendees focused on the topic. Woodard noted how county BOC members, including himself, attended and / or spoke at the 2018 Public Rally in Raleigh against offshore drilling, went to Washington, D.C. to express concerns to the acting superintendent of BOEM, and met with the N.C. Secretary of the Interior to discuss the issue as well.
“I’ll fight till the cows come home,” said Woodard. “…We cannot jeopardize a $1.2 billion dollar economy. As long as I’m Chair, as long as I’m a commissioner, I’ll fight.”
Chairman Woodard noted that in 2018, the BOC approved the filing of civil lawsuits against opioid providers, supported efforts by Trillium and the Saving Lives Task Force to combat the opioid epidemic, and approved and supported the launch of the new PORT Health facility in Hatteras village. He noted that the opioid crisis would continue to be a topic in 2019 as well, as the BOC authorized $125,000 in funding for recovery to provide alternatives for addicted individuals, with commissioners working alongside local Dare County judges to address the problem.
Buxton Beach Nourishment
In addition to the completion of the Buxton Beach Nourishment project in 2018, Woodard noted that the BOC approved $566,972 for post project monitoring for the Buxton shoreline, and is also applying for reimbursement for the more than $20 million dollar project from FEMA.
“We cannot afford to spend $100 million dollars [on county beach nourishment] and not maintain it, so we’re going to do just that” said Woodard.
Avon Ocean Overwash
Woodard stated that the BOC has and will continue to work with the National Park Service to identify both short and long-term solutions to the ocean flooding problems along Ocean View Drive in Avon, noting that the BOC will continue to meet with residents and property owners in the year to come.
New County Dredge and Commercial Fishing Support
Inlet dredging and commercial fishing were both big issues for the BOC in prior years, including 2018, and Woodard confirmed that progress was being made on acquiring the new dredge vessel that would be used for both Dare County inlets.
“[We’re working on the] local dredge that we’re going to use for both Oregon Inlet and Hatteras Inlet,” said Woodard. “We want our commercial fishermen to have a highway to go to work.”
In addition, the BOC asked the governor to examine the membership of the Marine Fisheries Commission in 2018, opposed the state plan to change the definition of commercial fishing, and re-established the Working Watermen Commission, which Commissioner Steve House said is coming together. “We are still making a few more appointments,” said House.
With the onset of new federal flood maps, and many Dare County homes being moved out of zones that require flood insurance, the county launched a campaign in 2018 to spread the word that “Low risk is not NO risk.” This initiative included the establishment of the new website, obxfloodmaps.com, which provides a wealth of information on the new flood map changes for property owners.
In 2018, the BOC also approved the use of golf carts in Wanchese and Buxton. “That’s the new form of travel in Dare County,” said Woodard.
Woodard also touched on a number of BOC-lead initiatives in 2018, ranging from the upcoming enhancements to COA and the Dare County Animal Shelter, to stormwater management on Roanoke Island and other hot spots throughout the county.
He ended the presentation by outlining the many issues that would remain in BOC conversations in the coming year – namely, a continued focus on beach nourishment, dredging, education and COA, economic development, bridges, and the animal shelter. Woodard received a standing ovation from the room for his presentation and overview of the county’s accomplishments, before answering questions from attendees.
Woodard also announced during the presentation that the community meetings that are traditionally held in March will continue into 2019.
The next regular BOC meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on January 22 at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.