Monday, June 24, 2024

Podcast Feb. 23 – Wrightsville development, Castle Street, special guest talks White Oak Dike failure

We’re doing something a little different this week, with our first special guest.

But before we get to that, it’s the latest chapter in the City of Wilmington’s long and complicated history with Jeffrey Kentner’s Galleria project. According to internal emails, some city engineering staff felt the city would fall behind on its 2014 transportation bond projects due to additional workload generated by the city’s involvement in the project — specifically potentially extensive upgrades to Wrightsville Avenue.

While the city claims that staff concerns, including morale problems, are unfounded. But, to say the least, things have come a long way from recent reports from officials, including Mayor Bill Saffo, that the city was “nowhere near” a commitment to the multi-million dollar roadwork demanded by Kentner.

Next up, we take a closer look at the city’s Castle Street property. The city held the unused property for a decade in the hopes of granting it to a community group, but that group never produced concrete plans for the location. Now, the city wants to sell it — either in an option auction or in a direct sale to a non-profit with an approved social mission.

Tru Colors founder George Taylor, Jr., has been a major player in the decision; Taylor wants to spin off a non-profit from his explicitly for-profit brewery Tru Colors, in order to avoid having to participate in an upset bid process (that could drive up the cost). We spoke with Taylor about why he did this, and what he plans to do next.

Special guest topic: The White Oak Dike disaster

In the second half of our podcast, we welcome Emily Featherston of WECT. Featherston, along with fellow WECT reporters, including reporter Alex Guarino and assignment director Brandon Wissbaum, has been uncovering years of mismanagement and miscommunication that led to the devastating failure the White Oak Dike after Hurricane Florence.

The dike’s failure caused damage to hundreds of homes and forced evacuations of residents, in some cases by helicopter. Because the community, an unincorporated region of Bladen County called Kelly is outside the flood zone, residents didn’t have flood insurance.

Featherson discovered that the dike was damaged by Hurricane Number Nine (in 1945, hurricanes were not yet named), a storm that was eerily similar to Hurricane Florence, following similar patterns, delivering comparable rainfall, and even landing on the same week in September. In the 1960s, the dike was rebuilt — with a storm just like Florence in mind.

“It should have protected the community from Florence — it was built to do that,” Featherston said. “But because it was not taken care of for so long it had no chance. And the Army Corps of Engineers knew that.”

Featherson unpacks the history of how the White Oak Dike fell into disrepair, and how — despite official knowledge that it was seriously deteriorated — it remained in shambles. Plus, a look at what’s next: can the dike be repaired, or will the people of Kelly face leaving their homes for good?

You can find the investigative piece here — Failure to Protect: Decades of dike’s neglect leave residents with unanswered questions — as well as a follow up on the considerable financial difficulty of repairing the dike here —Millions of dollars are needed to repair the White Oak Dike, but where will the money come from?

If you missed any of these stories, you can catch up below. Then take a deeper dive with our weekly podcast.

Developer projects, staff shortage could threaten Wilmington transportation bond project schedule

TRU Colors founder creates nonprofit to bypass Wilmington bidding process for Castle Street property

A decade of delay: Harris Teeter requests extension for Carolina Beach store to 2020





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