Business owners hear of Carolina Beach boardwalk improvements

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Carolina Beach Public Utilities Director Gil DuBois speaks at a public hearing about boardwalk improvements
Carolina Beach Public Utilities Director Gil DuBois (standing left) speaks at a public hearing about boardwalk improvements. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

About 40 people gathered at Shelby Jeans on the Boardwalk in Carolina Beach Tuesday morning to listen to Carolina Beach Public Utilities Director Gil DuBois talk about the rehabilitation work the town is planning to do on parts of the boardwalk and to voice any questions or concerns they have.

“We’re trying to think through this and make sure we minimize the interruptions [to your businesses],” DuBois said.

The scheduled upgrades include repairing or replacing water and sewer lines, placing underground conduits for electricity and communications and installing new lighting. The construction area extends from Harper Avenue south to Charlotte Avenue and from Lake Park Boulevard east almost to the wooden walkways lining the beach itself.

“We want to make this thing as transparent as possible,” said DuBois. “It’s something that needs to be done. It’s way overdue.”

Some residents were concerned about the timeline. According to DuBois, the town is hoping to start the work by the end of September, with a projected end date of early spring. He said they’re also allowing 15 – 20 days of buffer time in case some unforeseen delays occur, and that they want to take the time to do everything right the first time.

“Once we do it, we won’t have to come back here for another fifty, sixty, seventy years,” DuBois said. “If we do this section here, we move on to the next section. We don’t have to keep band-aiding here.”

Duke Energy Senior Engineer Sid Livingston, who is one of the project leads, said work will start from the bottom up.

“We’ll be installing the underground lines first,” Livingston said. “It’ll probably be December before we start removing the overhead [power] lines.”

The estimated cost of all the improvements is a little under $753,000, which will be completely covered by the town.

“It’s a conscious decision on behalf of council and staff to absorb all costs,” said Mayor Dan Wilcox. “We consider this a town project.”

“We don’t see this as something that we would require you to pay for,” Town Manager Michael Cramer added.

Though the town is doing its best to minimize the impact the construction will have on the businesses by communicating openly with them, inconveniences will be inevitable. Owners and tenants are preparing for it and looking forward to the end results.

“We’ve been through it before,” said Dava Villapiano, owner of Silver Dollar, a bar on the boardwalk. “We survived, we’ll survive again.”

Villapiano said while traffic in and out of her establishment could be affected, she believes all the work is a positive thing and the town is going about it in the right way.

DuBois, who will be the point of contact for all businesses throughout this process, said the feedback he’s gotten has been “very positive.”

“Anything they need to talk about, I’m here for them,” DuBois said.

Villapiano, for one, appreciates that.

“I feel like they have done their very best in a difficult circumstance and keep the businesses’ interests in mind,” she said. “I’m very pleased.”