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It would cost $1 million a summer for Holden Beach to provide lifeguards on the beach, Police Chief Wally Layne told Holden Beach commissioners during their meeting Tuesday, July 9.
Layne said the mayor and he got together after the drowning on the Fourth of July to calculate how much lifeguards would cost.
“We’ve got nine miles of beach,” Layne said. “It would be a minimum of 36 lifeguards, nine hours a day, from Memorial Day until Labor Day. That’s probably a million dollars a year. I could get five more cops and all the vehicles I wanted for half that amount.”
A man from Pfafftown drowned in the ocean at the 113 block of Ocean Boulevard West, one of four drownings in Brunswick County during the holiday week. They were all caused by rip currents.
What about warning flags, then?
“Is there anybody in this room besides me who knows what a high rip current flag looks like?” Layne asked.
Only two people in the audience raised their hand.
“Three of us in the room know, and we live here,” Layne said. “What if you’re from Cleveland or New York? Nobody would have a clue.”
The police chief said there are already signs at all the public accesses on Holden Beach warning about the dangers of rip currents and directions about how to swim out of a rip current. But people don’t read the signs.
Local television news had been warning tourists about high rip currents for more than a week.
Also, four people drowned in the past two weeks in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where lifeguards are on duty. Rip currents were also blamed.
Mayor Alan Holden asked Layne to research how many drownings there have been “in our jurisdiction.”
Layne, who has been police chief for 11 years, said there has been one drowning—on July 4—in the past 11 years off the beach.
“Exactly my point,” Holden said.
Commissioner Sandy Miller asked if it is truly more dangerous at low tide.
Layne said, “It’s more dangerous at low tide and it’s more dangerous around the pier. I was riding the beach the Fourth of July, and all day I was getting people out of the water telling them how dangerous it was.”
He said the two weeks including the Fourth of July are the busiest two weeks of the year for tourists.
“The beach is packed during the month of July. It’s packed to the water,” Layne said.
The beach on Holden Beach is 50 to 100 feet wider in most places than it was in 2000, said Fran Way, coastal engineer with Applied Technology & Management.
That’s because of beach renourishment, he said.
“The one exception to that is the east end,” he said. “The east end has always been the trouble spot. There was some erosion on the east end.”
For the past year, measurements show “the mean high water line actually gained sand,” Way said. “It was a pretty mild year erosion-wise.”
He still endorses renourishment.
“If we didn’t do anything to the beach, it would just erode, erode, erode,” Way said.
From 2000 to 2013, “there’s significant accretion over that time span,” he said.
Holden Beach is involved in Central Reach Project permitting (for up to 1.2 million cubic yards of sand), a possible terminal groin/east end project, 30,000 cubic yards of sand approved by FEMA after Hurricane Irene in 2011, and annual monitoring data collection and reporting.
“A lot of the federal projects—the funding is less than what it used to be,” Way said. “The town was anticipating that. It’s a moving target.”
In other business:
• Former town commissioner Ken Kyser was sworn in to fill the position of Ray Lehr, who died suddenly a couple of weeks ago.
“It was definitely not the way I intended to get back,” Kyser said. “I was planning to file for election. I’m not looking to fill Ray’s shoes because nobody can fill Ray’s shoes.”
Holden said the Lehr family asked him to express its gratitude for the food, flowers and services rendered by Holden Beach residents after Ray’s death.
• Town manager David Hewett and Holden presented Rhonda Wooten with two certificates for being a CAMA permit officer for the town for 15 years.
• Holden Beach resident Will Carter complained his family cannot get into its yard to park their cars because people block access to his property, located on a side street.
“People want to park where they can be the closest to the beach,” he said. “The people I’m having the problem with are not the tourists. It’s people who live here.”
When others complained about tourists and locals blocking mailboxes and driveways on side streets, Layne said to call the police department, and the vehicles will be towed.
• Commissioners took no action on a request for a four-way stop on Halstead and Brunswick streets, saying it would cause confusion instead of being beneficial.
The police chief added, “We work radar on both ends of Brunswick Avenue.”
• Commissioner Dennis Harrington said he’s still hearing complaints about dogs on the beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Layne said police have issued citations for people breaking that law.
• Commissioners approved a request from Barbara Andrews for two signs about the free Sunday night concerts at the pavilion. A big sign will be posted in front of the pavilion, and Bonnie Cox at Brunswickland Realty gave permission for a smaller sign in front of her office building across the street from the bridge, Andrews said.
Both signs will stay up until Labor Day weekend when the concerts end.
• Hewett reported the town had to go to three pickups a week of its two huge recycling containers behind the water tower.
“So we’re moving six containers a week,” Harrington said. “That’s a lot.”