Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Oak Island to stall decision on sand assessments

A contractor with Buff Builders waits to load piles of sand stockpiled on an Oak Island side street onto a truck to be used for a construction project unrelated to the storm. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

OAK ISLAND — Slated to make a key decision on assigning sand assessment amounts to residents Thursday, Oak Island Town Council will instead delay the determination for an estimated nine months.

At a special meeting set to discuss sand assessments required to pay for a $40 million long-term beach nourishment project, Town Manager David Kelly described longstanding issues with its sand contractor.

Related: ‘They have abandoned us.’ Sand assessments could cost beachfront Oak Islanders up to $27,000

“The master plan is not scrapped,” town spokesperson Michael Emory said Friday. “Development of the plan has certainly not been put on hold.”

Earlier this month, council established four “benefit zones” — areas divided by their proximity to the ocean that will likely be assessed over a four-year period. The four-year cost for average beachfront property owners ranged between $27,219 to $10,114 based on preliminary estimates. Actual costs are dependent upon what percentage of the $40 million cost council assigns each district.

That decision was supposed to take place Thursday. Instead, Kelly divulged a list of grievances the town has experienced with Great Lakes Dredging. The company first signed on to distribute sand along the town’s shoreline in June 2019 to cover damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 — a project that is behind schedule today. After agreeing to the town’s contract, the company signed a contract with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and opted to start that project before instead.

The timing caused extensive delays for the town, Kelly said. “What they have done is created a domino effect or a hardship on the Town of Oak Island,” he said at Thursday’s meeting. If the contractor continues working past May 1, the town will begin charging liquidated damages of $4,000 a day.

May 1 marks the beginning of sea turtle nesting season, when all sand disturbing operations must cease. The current delays will push back projects planned for fall 2021 to address Hurricane Florence damage and spring 2022. Because the town doesn’t know the timetables of the planned projects, it can’t commit to a timetable for the planned $40 million master plan.

Council may revisit a decision on assessments in January 2022. The additional time will allow the town to pursue alternative funding sources. Also at the meeting, council approved sending Brunswick County a formal letter requesting beach funding; council members were upset by the county’s apparent stance that previous in-person requests weren’t considered official.

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