New Holden Beach town hall / police station 40 percent complete

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Holden Beach's new town hall/police department is on schedule and 40 percent complete, architect Jim Stewart said in an interview Tuesday night after he updated Holden Beach Commissioners.

The $4 million building—triple the size of the previous structure—is scheduled to be completed in January 2009.

Stewart told commissioners during their regularly schedule meeting Tuesday night in the Holden Beach Chapel fellowship hall that construction workers will have all the upper trusses in place by the end of this week.

The architect also told the town board an excellent mason is working on the building.

Stewart updated commissioners on the new Emergency Operations Center on the mainland.

The overhead doors for the EOC may arrive July 18, and they will take a week to install, he said.

Power to the building was set to be connected Thursday.

So far, the town has spent $1,007,929 on the EOC, town manager David Hewett said.

Hewett announced an important Coastal Resources Commission meeting Monday, July 14, at the Brunswick County Realtor's building. The CRC will make a public presentation at 5 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session at 6 p.m.

The meeting is about proposed new setbacks for oceanfront property as well as proposals about locations that have long-range beach renourishment plans in place.

Hewett said the proposals are the most important since the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA), adding, "I would encourage everyone to attend."

The Holden Beach town manager also announced the off-site computer transition is taking place this week and next week.

Hewett said town officials received a CAMA permit Tuesday to construct an odor-control device on Greensboro Street.

The town manager said fish and wildlife officials just notified the town Holden Beach has three locations with vitex, a noxious weed.

"We want to get rid of it before it invades other places," he said.

Holden Beach Mayor Alan Holden introduced Brunswick County Commissioner Marty Cooke, who told commissioners and property owners in the audience about a study of the Holden Beach Causeway.

The study at this point is just data gathering for creating a prettier, more pedestrian-friendly corridor leading from the stoplight at Wings and Exxon to the bridge. The goal is a possible DOT enhancement grant.

Holden thanked Cooke and Brunswick County Planning Director Leslie Bell for their quick response in seeking the study.

"The Holden Beach Merchants Association and other property owners have been trying for years to beautify the area (the causeway)," Holden said.

But the Holden Beach mayor pointed out town officials have no jurisdiction over that area, because city limits end halfway across the bridge.

Jurisdiction of that causeway belongs to county commissioners, Holden said.

It's a different situation for Holden Beach, he added, noting Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle do have control over their respective causeways because their city limits extend beyond the island to the mainland.

In a separate matter, Holden said he received several calls about whether town officials have a plan in case of a hurricane. One person told him the 2008 Hurricane Bertha formed on the same day a Hurricane Bertha did several years ago.

"The town has had a hurricane plan for some time, and it is upgraded annually," Holden said.

He said the new EOC on the mainland obviously is not ready to occupy right now because it's still under construction. So the current emergency plan would be used if it is needed. Once the EOC is ready, the plan will be changed to include all the capabilities the new building offers.

Holden said he and the town manager just checked out the shoreline from the Lockwood Folly Inlet to the Shallotte Inlet.

He said while he was amazed some areas of beach have been cut, "overall, the beach is in good shape."

Holden also announced some trash cans were removed off the beach, and the older ones with no bottoms were replaced with new trash cans.

"The number of trash cans on the beach has never been greater," Holden said.

Hewett agreed.

Holden Beach Commissioner Sandy Miller withdrew her motion from the last town meeting for the board to have one meeting a month. She said she received sufficient feedback from property owners that they still want two regularly scheduled town meetings a month.

She thanked people for their response to her proposal.

Commissioner Ray Lehr told the audience if someone has a serious question or a concern to call the town manager.

If someone just wants to make sarcastic remarks or has a political agenda, he said, then maybe that's why they would write a letter to the editor.

"You will always get a decent answer at town hall," he said.

Commissioner Gary Staley said in his comments the Holden Beach Merchants Association has been working tirelessly on how to make the causeway pretty.

"In order to get grants, you have to have about 100 percent participation," he said.

Some causeway property owners may be leery if they think they would lose two parking spaces if something such as sidewalks or palm trees were proposed on the causeway near the road.

Holden said, "The issue of the causeway has been going on for 25 years or more."

In other news Tuesday night:

•Holden said he has never seen as much sand as there is now in the Lockwood Folly Inlet.

"The sand has accumulated in those spits--some people call them sandbars--but technically they're spits," he said.

"One hundred and 50 yards south of that old shipwreck, people were walking high and dry," he said.

He cautioned boaters not to go out of the inlet at dead low tide.

"The buoys are not what you need to follow," he said, adding the commercial boats are not following them. "It's just amazing the amount of sand that is in that inlet."

•Hewett said Holden Beach has committed $25,000 as part of a $100,000 study of lower Lockwood Folly--where it needs to be dredged and where that sand would go. Brunswick County has committed $50,000, and Oak Island has committed the other $25,000, he said.

•Most of the EOC is complete except for the stormwater system, septic system, driveway, furniture and audio/visual equipment, Hewett said.

•Hewett encouraged Holden Beach property owners to sign up for the town newsletter so they can receive news about the beach "in small chunks."

•Police chief Wally Layne reminded property owners to sign up for e-mail blasts from the town during an emergency by logging on to the network www.firstcall.net and filling out the form. If they fill it out correctly, they will receive a confirmation e-mail.

He said for property owners to put their Holden Beach address on the form, not, say, their Raleigh or Charlotte address. But they can put in their Raleigh or Charlotte phone numbers and their cell-phone numbers.

A man in the audience said if property owners don't have Internet service here on the beach, they can go to the library to fill out the form.

•Layne said rerouting traffic on the Saturday before the Fourth of July did not work. He got calls saying traffic was backed up to Holden Beach Seafood and then to Sharon United Methodist Church.

So the police chief cancelled the rerouting for Friday, the Fourth of July, and the next day, Saturday, July 5.

"The traffic volume was quite a bit different," Layne said.

Also, police officers were waving frantically for motorists to keep going and turn right coming off the bridge, but they each dutifully stopped at the stop sign.

"We learned from that, and we'll move on," he said.

Holden said the Fourth of July crowd was probably the largest crowd he's ever seen on the beach.

Layne said there were no major incidents over the holiday.

•Hewett announced the yellow tape on the west end of the island marks off a nesting bird site. "A group from N.C. State is monitoring that," he said.

•Holden said he's been getting good feedback about the concerts every Sunday night at 6:30. He said there's an additional concert this Friday night, July 11.

•Commissioners had framed certificates of appreciation for the following individuals who previously served on town boards and committees:

Public Area Improvement Committee: Charlie Boyle, Melanie Champion, Bill Cohen, Tyra Edwards, John Heimlich, Jim McMurray, Peggy Schiavone, Mark Tuttle and George Stout.

Audit Committee: Peggy Schiavone.

Emergency Preparedness Committee: Gay Atkins, Bill Cohen, Chris Critz, John Heimlich, Gary Staley and Norman Meares.

Planning and Zoning: Buck Breece, Jim McMurray and John Hancock.

Board of Adjustment: Sheila Young and Allen Williams.

Shoreline Protection Committee: Gay Atkins, Shane Holden and Sarah Sue Ingram.

•Holden Beach Commissioners began the meeting asking the audience to join them in a moment of silence for commissioner Ken Kyser's father, who recently passed away.