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Woes continue for dredging canals in Holden Beach Harbor.
More than a year after dredging began, property owners and town officials are dissatisfied with the removal of sand and mud from canals in that subdivision.
The dredging project for the town’s canals was bid in December 2005. The first check was issued to Kevin Alderman from Alderman Brothers Construction in April 2006. The total payment made to the company was $242,326, current Holden Beach town manager David Hewett said.
The contract with Alderman was to dredge 37,000 yards.
“There’s just over 16,480 yards left to be removed,” Hewett said.
Why isn’t the project complete?
Alderman Brothers has been fired—twice.
The town terminated Alderman’s company while Steve Wheeler was still town manager.
In September 2007, town officials said only half the work had been done of an amount that was supposed to have been finished in January of that year, and it was apparent the job had been abandoned, according to a notification sent out by then-town manager Wheeler at the direction of the Holden Beach commissioners.
That notification went to a bonding company.
Wheeler was listed as a project engineer in the original dredging contract.
However, an asterisk states, “The representatives designated within this contract are not professional engineers and make no such claim. The stated representatives only use this terminology within this contract for simplicity.”
When the town terminated the company, the project was turned over to a bonding company, Liberty Agency Underwriters from Hamilton, Ohio.
The bonding company then rehired Alderman’s company, Hewett said.
Hewett became town manager in February after Wheeler became town manager in Lake Lure. Hewett terminated the company in April, two months after he arrived.
“The town fired them again,” Hewett said. “I was here for the second firing.”
At press time Tuesday, Alderman, president of Alderman Brothers Construction Inc., had not received a public records request he made to the town of Holden Beach on June 13.
Alderman has declined to comment until he has received the public records request for documents related to the dredging project.
Town manger David Hewett said records requested by Alderman were not ready to be released. Hewett did not have a date the records would be available because of the “extensive nature” of the request.
Why was the company hired in the first place other than being the low bidder?
“Alderman had dredged another set of canals before this one, and it went fine,” Hewett pointed out.
“The bid came in at $315,000,” Hewett said. “The next highest bid was over $500,000.”
Funding came from Holden Beach property owners who paid per lot (linear foot), with most paying about $1,200 to get the canals dredged.
“They’ve paid their money, and it hasn’t been done,” Hewett said.
Holden Beach has three sets of canals.
The first set is Holden Beach Harbor, which is known by streets named after cities in North Carolina (Greensboro, High Point, etc). Holden Beach Harbor has nine canals.
The second set is Heritage Harbor, known by streets named after seashells and sea creatures (Lion’s Paw, Sand Dollar, Starfish, etc.). It has three canals.
The third set is Harbor Acres, which has streets named after big fish (Swordfish, Marlin, etc.). It has five canals.
A.O. Hardee’s company finished cutting the canals and letting the water come in from the Intracoastal Waterway in November 1963. He remembered being elated the project was finished, getting in his truck to go home, then turning on the radio and being deflated upon hearing President John F. Kennedy had been fatally shot.
In the 45 years since the canals have been built, sand and black mud have filled in, and the canals had to be dredged multiple times.
When the tide is out, Holden Beach Harbor residents say mud and muck are more visible than they’re supposed to be, and the draft is too shallow.
The highest and lowest tides of the year occur in October and June.
In June, Janet Harris, who keeps her boat tied to her private dock on Durham Street, said at low tide, her boat was literally sitting on the mud instead of floating in the water.
Many property owners in Holden Beach Harbor face the same plight.
In the past, canal property owners got together and took up a collection to get the canals dredged when they needed it.
Most canal property owners paid from their pockets, but some didn’t pay at all—although they took full benefit of fishing in or traversing their boats in the deeper-water canals.
To make the situation fair—everybody paying his or her share—and to spread out payments, property owners asked the town to take over administration of canal dredging.
“The Holden Beach Harbor Property Owners Association turned it over to the town in 2005-06,” Hewett said about billing for the dredging projects.
To further complicate the matter, the canals can be dredged only certain times of the year. They must be dredged during “a non-turtle session,” Hewett said. “April 15 is the cutoff time.
“The canals are also considered a nursery for finfish,” Hewett added.
Shrimp, oysters, clams and diamond-back turtles are found in the canals and also are supposed to be protected during certain times of the year.
Town officials are now getting consent agreements to finish the project and anticipate advertising for bids Aug. 15, Hewett said.
Certified engineers will now be used.
“We’re surveying everything—just so we can get a baseline,” he said.
Bids this time will be for all three sets of canals.
“Even though we’re going to bid it collectively, different amounts of yardage will be removed,” he said.
For example, in Harbor Acres, only the entrance to the set of canals will be dredged next.
Billing remains per lot for canal property owners.
At recent Holden Beach meetings, some Holden Beach Harbor residents said the town should share in the additional cost for getting their canals dredged as contracted. Other residents at the town meetings stated non-canal owners should not have to bear that burden and have their taxes pay for someone else’s mistake.
Regardless, Holden Beach Harbor residents are miffed.
“I don’t have a boat, so I’m not concerned about a boat,” said Mary Kaltsas, who lives on Salisbury Street.
“I’m concerned money-wise. Fifteen years ago, dredging cost $450 per lot. Then, about four years ago, somebody came by with a petition to re-dredge, he said it would cost about $650 and $700, and I said I’ll sign the petition.
“The next thing I know it was on my tax bill, and it was almost double that. Then we wait for the dredging thing to start. Half the time when they were out on the canal, the boat would not work properly, the pipes would bust and that mud stuff was throwing out all over the place. Many times it would be running after 11 o’clock at night, and it was extremely noisy.”
Kaltsas pointed out she is satisfied with Hewett, who inherited this problem and is trying to resolve it.
“The bottom line is that it was not done properly,” Kaltsas said. “Nothing really was accomplished. Are we going to have to pay $800 in addition to what we originally paid? Why should we have to pay in excess of what we already paid?”