Civic Affairs Meeting This Week

Sundae Horn
We talked trash at the last Civic Affairs meeting -- bring your hot-button-issue questions to this week's meeting!
We talked trash at the last Civic Affairs meeting -- bring your hot-button-issue questions to this week's meeting!
Crystal Canterbury

OCBA will host a Civic Affairs meeting on Wednesday, November 13th at 6pm. 

On the agenda for the 11/13 meeting is:

  • NC Ferry Division Update  
  • Mosquito Control Board Update
  • Hyde County Update
  • NPS Update

OCBA also hosted a Civic Affairs meeting on October 30, and although we call ourselves The Current, and this information is so two weeks ago, here's a little recap (finally) of the last meeting: 

The meeting was hosted by Ocracoke Civic & Business Association board president Rudy Austin and veep Justin LeBlanc, along with OCBA's executive director, Helena Stevens. Hyde County employees Teresa Adams, Corrinne Gibbs, Kris Noble, and Justin Gibbs attended the meeting; Ocracoke's commissioner Tom Pahl was also present. Ivey Belch of the Ocracoke Interfaith Relief & Recovery Team (OIRRT) attended by speaker phone. 

The meeting opened with misinformation delivered by the county representatives, which had to be corrected by Ivey. Hyde County had put out a press release that day stating, "The SBA loan application is the portal to all other Disaster Assistance programs. If you do not apply for SBA loan assistance, you will not be eligible for any other programs." What?!? Turns out, that's just not true. 

Oh, the confusion! I can speak from experience (and did!) that all three of my visits to the JRC (the Joint Recovery Center disaster truck that was in the Variety Store parking lot) created more questions that they answered. 

So did the discussion at the Civic Affairs meeting. 

As Ivey clarified that night, "Don't get the intake form confused with the SBA loan application. It's a totally different process."

The SBA loan application is the only route to an SBA loan, state Individual Assistance, or free building materials through UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the church group that is coordinating Ocracoke's longterm rebuilding needs.) It can also make homeowners eligible for elevation grants to raise their houses. While the county representatives strongly encourage everyone to apply to the SBA, they were wrong to suggest that it's the only path to relief programs.

There are other options to get help: through the OIRRT, the Outer Banks Community Foundation, UMCOR help with labor (not supplies), and the island church's programs such as Adopt-a-Family through the Lifesaving Church. In addition to those, there are off-island groups and individuals helping Ocracoke residents directly. 

Jenny Scarborough asked for a flow chart and got a good laugh, but she was serious. (I have since heard that a flow chart is forthcoming, and will publish is ASAP when I see it.) She also asked that the information be put out in Spanish. (Just think how confusing this confusion would be in your second language!)

The questions and comments were lively and sometimes contentious. Angry shouting happened; so did laughter. (Thanks to Farris O'Neal for the comic relief.) Tempers were lost and regained. 

Tom Pahl dropped some pearls of wisdom. "We've had some bureaucratic issue since we got the state disaster declaration, but from what I've learned, we're better off dealing with the state rather than FEMA. We're trying to make it work," he said. "Everybody's working for the common good. Please be patient, these are your friends and neighbors. Be kind."

He and Kris ended that discussion by saying they would go to the JRC in person the next day and work on communication and streamlining the process for applying for recovery aid. Since that meeting, the JRC has left the island as scheduled, and a new office, open 9–5, M–F has opened at the Lifesaving Church. Teresa Adams is there fulltime to help people navigate the paperwork process.

Other topics touched upon at the 10/30 meeting:

Debris can be moved to the side of Hwy. 12 across from the Pub. 

No street-sweeper will come by to clean up after the debris removal crews. If there is broken glass or little bits of stuff leftover in your yard or the street by your house, in the words of Darlene Styron, "Grab you a broom!" 

Corrinne Gibbs is in charge of debris removal operations for the county, which is, apparently, complicated because there are strict FEMA guidelines to follow so that the county will be reimbursed for the millions of dollars it will cost. 

Corrinne reported that the pile of debris at the Lifeguard Beach is huge, but getting smaller. Six truckloads are carried off the island 4 days of the week; three loads are carried off on the remaining 3 days. That's 35 loads/week. With 266 projected loads in Mount Dorian, that's 8 weeks at least, and, as we all know, there's a lot more to add to the pile. Truckloads will continue leaving the island during the two-week hiatus for the roadside debris pickup. 

Business owner Ashley Harrell asked if there was any state or local money available for advertising Ocracoke when we are open again. Helena Stevens said that the contract is place with Element Advertising was paused for the fall and will start up again on January 7, 2020. Tom Pahl added that the Ocracoke Tourism Development Authority had met and appointed a subcommittee (made up of OCBA and TDA board members) to work on the "messaging." (They met November 7th. We hope they will report on their meeting at this week's Civic Affairs meeting.)

Available, affordable housing is a huge issue for the island. It wasn't easy to find housing before the storm; now we have at least 80 households staying in rental cottages. Martha Garrish of Ocracoke Island Realty is working with Kris Noble on keeping track of the displaced families and talking to homeowners and potential renters (when the island opens to visitors) about allowing people to stay in the rental cottages. 

Meanwhile, the county continues to work on bringing travel trailers to the island for displaced residents. 


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