Ocean Isle officials consider budget ideas for 2014-15

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By Brian Slattery

OCEAN ISLE BEACH — Ocean Isle Beach officials reviewed ideas that could become budget items at a daylong budget retreat March 13.

Town Administrator Daisy Ivey said the staff is interested in putting a bill pay option online for taxes and water and sewer bills in the next budget year.

She said the idea of going paperless could also come to the town board.

“We want to research a paperless agenda in 2014-15. We would provide you with laptops with all the (agenda) information included,” Ivey said.

Ivey said the only item the town administrative department needs is a laminating machine.

Planning Director Justin Whiteside followed suit, saying the planning department’s only need is a printer/scanner/plotter.

Fire Chief Robert Yoho put a water rescue Jet Ski on his department’s wish list. He said it would provide more stability in shallow areas than the two boats the fire department uses for water rescue.

“There are none available through mutual aid,” he said.

Yoho said the department was able to lease one of the watercraft through a program run by Yamaha, but the program ended.

Police Chief John Goodwin proposed buying two Ford Explorer/Interceptor SUVs to replace to police cruisers: a 2006 Crown Victoria and a 2006 Dodge Charger.

Goodwin said the department is moving away from sedans to SUVs, which are more highly visible and are all-wheel drive, making them better for driving on the beach strand.

“They have received good reports nationwide,” he added.

Goodwin said he was trying to make the police vehicles more uniform. If the two SUVs are purchased in 2014-15, it will give the police force five of the Ford vehicles.

Goodwin told the board another item to think about in the near future is purchasing vehicle cameras with audio recording capability for five patrol cars.

The cost would run about $6,100 to install each camera system. A $3,000 workstation set up inside the police department would be able to automatically download video from the cameras.

Goodwin presented the board with another camera proposal: a five-camera bridge-cam system. The cameras would be placed throughout Ocean Isle Beach with one dedicated to recording vehicles leaving the island to capture license plates and identify vehicles.

“I’d prefer this over the patrol cars,” Goodwin said.

Yoho also offered a switch if it could get him another full time firefighter. A fully staffed department would need three more full-time positions, he said.

Mayor Debbie Smith said they could look at budgeting in 2014-15 to add one full-time employee if it could be done without a tax increase.

New town hall

Ivey said the town will pay off the fire department property and land designated for a new town hall on the causeway side of the Ocean Isle Beach bridge in 2016.

Smith asked the board members to consider what to do with the buildings on West Third Street that house the town hall and police department.

Mayor Pro Tem Dean Walters said he favors a new town hall, but too many other issues should be addressed first.

“If we are going to build in the future, we’ve got to start planning,” Ivey said.

Smith said she would like the board to consider putting fund aside to have the current town hall buildings re-appraised.

Water, sewer, town services

Ivey advised board members to budget for a study of whether to remove water lines from the bridge and put them under the Intracoastal Waterway.

The town staff said they would not recommend an increase in water and sewer rates, but a rate study might be a possibility for 2014-15.

But Whiteside presented the idea of updating the town fee schedule, at least for building permits which have remained the same for 10 years despite cost increases.

“We are not coming in to ask for an increase on everything,” he said.

Whiteside also proposed lower the town development fees to make them more competitive with other towns throughout the state.

Assistant town administrator Larry Sellers said water and sewer tap on fees may need to go up to cover the material costs and general price increases.

“I’d agree just to make sure we cover our costs, not to make a profit,” Walters said.

The town board members may also consider expanding curbside recycling as mandatory for all residents.

About 400 residents pay $45 a year for curbside recycling pickup twice a month, but the town also keeps a recycling bin behind town hall that is constantly overloaded.

The board considered eliminating the complaints about the bin and improving curbside recycling by going weekly at least part of the year.

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.