Highlights from Civic Affairs Meeting

Sundae Horn
I bet we'll talk about this tonight.
I bet we'll talk about this tonight.
Courtesy of Tom Pahl

... and agenda for special Board of Commissioners meeting.

The special Hyde County BOC meeting is tonight, Monday, November 18, at 6pm at the Community Center. Brave the hoi toide and come on out! The agenda and packets for the special meeting are available to the public. Click here to view the documents. 

And now for the Civic Affairs: Part 1: Updates from Park Service and Hyde County

Ocracoke Civic & Business Association held a Civic Affairs meeting on Wednesday, November 13th, which was attended by OCBA board members Rudy Austin, Justin LeBlanc, Jenny Scarborough, John Giagu, and Margaret Trainer; OCBA employees Helena Stevens, Dana Long, and Sara Teaster; Hyde County commissioner Tom Pahl; Hyde County emergency manager Justin Gibbs; and about 40 island residents. 

NPS Ranger Shane Bryant was first to speak, offering an update from Cape Hatteras National Seashore. He reported that the Park Service is ready for visitors to return and enjoy the beaches. The bad news is that the campground won't open 'til spring, the Lifeguard Beach parking lot is closed because it's being used as a debris collection site for hurricane clean-up, and the visitor center and bathrooms are still closed for repairs. The good news is that all the ORV ramps are accessible, ORV permits are available online, the Lighthouse grounds are open, and the NPS boat ramp and docks are damaged, but usable. 

He also mentioned that if your ORV sticker got towed away with your flooded vehicle, the permit office will work with you to replace it. It helps if you can remember when you bought it so they can find you in their records. 

Tom Pahl was next to speak, and he opened by talking about the Hyde Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting planned for November 18th. The topic of that meeting is to discuss opening the island to visitors. 

"Following the last [BOC] meeting [on November 4th], I think there was concern about kicking the can down the road," he said. "The intent is to link opening to the completion of road work. Scheduling a meeting for the 18th created a perception that we weren't deciding."

Tom explained that the BOC decision was that "opening the island will be triggered by the completion of road work," which is why they sent out the November 11 press release.

"We're still having our meeting on the 18th, but we took a phone vote to ratify the language on the press release," he said.

Housing is a big issue for Ocracoke's recovery from Dorian, and will become more crucial when the island opens to visitors.

Tom reported that Hyde County has received $600,000 from the Office of State Budget Management (OSBM). That money will pay for 35 travel trailers, each of which sleeps 4-6 people. They will be made available to families for 18 months, with the possibility of extending another 6 months. 

Justin Gibbs explained that he is working with the state to purchase repurposed travel trailers for $5000 each, a nominal fee paid to the federal government. They are similar to the trailers currently on the island to house ferry workers. The long-term recovery group on Ocracoke (Ocracoke Interfaith Relief & Recovery Team)(OIRRT) will manage the trailers, and dole them out according to their hierarchy of needs: medical, elderly, families with children, time sensitive issues, everybody else...

Trailers will be available to homeowners (to put on their own property) and renters. $110,000 of the grant can go toward lot rental assistance and provide families with up to $2400/month for six months. Possible locations for the trailers also include a loop of the NPS campground or the county-owned property across from the Island Inn; both properties would need septic installation before they could be used. (A community member asked about Jerniman's campground; it, too, needs a new septic system.) At their next meeting, the BOC will change the Ocracoke development ordinance setback rules so that the temporary trailers don't have to comply. 

The county is looking in to ways to purchase more trailers. The Outer Banks Community Foundation fund managed through the Fire House committee has allocated $200,000 to assist with the trailer project. Some of that money will be used to pay for the associated costs of hooking trailers up to electric, water, and septic.  

Ocracoke resident Kathy Hutcherson expressed her frustration that FEMA isn't here to help with Individual Assistance. "In all my 62 years on this island, I've never seen anything like this," she said about Dorian's destruction. 

Tom sympathized with her, saying that he shared her disappointment.

"As I understand it," he said. "FEMA is only meant to step in when state resources are overwhelmed. According to FEMA regulations, North Carolina can manage this."

He added that if Governor Cooper had appealed the FEMA decision, "the appeal would still be underway. The state can respond faster."

Justin added that the "isolation of damage was a factor in FEMA denial."

Once again, Ocracoke is unique. We got hit by Dorian the hardest, with most of the storm's damage in NC focused on our tiny island, which isn't a big enough disaster for federal involvement. (Read more about that here.)

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2: Updates from Mosquito Control, TDA Board, OCBA, and more!



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