Carolina Beach finds funding for Joaquin costs

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Pop's Homemade Ice Cream at 1114 S. Lake Park Boulevard closed the first weekend in October 2015 thanks to Hurricane Joaquin. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Pop’s Homemade Ice Cream at 1114 S. Lake Park Boulevard closed the first weekend in October 2015 thanks to Hurricane Joaquin. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

Three months after the effects of Hurricane Joaquin caused flooding in the area, Carolina Beach officials have amended their budget to account for the costs incurred during the storm.

The town declared a state of emergency on Oct. 2 last year in preparation for the storm, which did not make a direct hit but brought torrential rain and flooding to the region. It was lifted at a special meeting held on Oct. 13. At that time, Asst. Town Manager Ed Parvin, who is also in charge of emergency management, estimated the cost of damage to both personal and private property to be $250,000.

After more assessments and repair work, the town has reached $310,000 in construction costs related to sinkholes and other damages caused by Hurricane Joaquin, as well as $4,111.32 in overtime pay for municipal workers who were on call throughout the weather event.

“During that time, we had multiple infrastructure failures for stormwater,” said Town Manager Michael Cramer. “We have approximate $315,000 of infrastructure improvements that need to be made. We’ve basically band-aided them.”

As a result of major damage the coastal counties received during Joaquin, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory filed an aid request for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When that was denied, the governor filed an appeal, which was also turned down.

“FEMA did not agree that our county or the other counties had a reason for the FEMA request, so that was denied,” Cramer said.

As a result, the costs are up to local governments and the state to cover. On Tuesday night, councilmembers approved a budget transfer from the Utility Fund, which includes water, sewer and stormwater expenses.

While all were in favor of transferring the money, there were some questions about an accompanying finance resolution, which would allow the town to include those costs in any future capital project funds or bonds for reimbursement.

“Why are we electing to finance this long-term instead of paying cash?” asked Councilmember Steve Shuttleworth. “We had an emergency, we paid for it.”

Mayor Pro-Tem LeAnn Pierce agreed, saying, “If we have the money, why don’t we just pay for it?”

Cramer clarified that the town would pay for it in cash with the approval of the budget transfer, but the finance resolution gives them choices in the future.

“We’re not necessarily electing to [finance this long-term], we’re giving ourselves the option to do so,” said Cramer. “If council elects not to, there’s no harm, no foul.”

Cramer reminded council that any projects financed through capital funds or bonds, or any other major projects needing funding, would have to be approved by them.

“You have the authorization to decide what gets paid for with cash and what gets financed,” Cramer said.

That assurance eased some concerns, as both the budget transfer and the finance resolution passed unanimously.