Belhaven green-lights project

Published 4:25 am Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Community Editor

BELHAVEN — With or without matching grant money, the town plans to move ahead with the Wynne’s Gut dock project.
The Town Council gave surveyor Hood Richardson and Town Manager Guinn Leverett until its Aug. 23 meeting to receive approval for the project from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would then provide matching grant money for the project.
If the USFWS does not provide the grant funding, the town will open bids to build the project and use town funds to pay for it. The town allocated $150,000 for the project in its 2010-2011 fiscal year budget.
“If we can’t get an agreement in 30 days, we’ll go ahead without it,” Mayor Adam O’Neal said at the council’s meeting Monday night.
Councilmen Steve Carawan and Mac Pigott said they support moving the project, which has been in the works for a little more than two years, along as quickly as possible.
“The most prudent and quickest way to do it,” Pigott said.
The grant money is contingent on whether the town’s plan satisfies the USFWS grant requirement, which calls for a minimum of 13 boat slips.
According to Leverett, the plan is to put eight boat slips along Wynne’s Gut and five more at the newly purchased Cooperage property.
“The Cooperage (subdivision) will be part of Wynne’s Gut,” said O’Neal.
During the meeting, the council approved the purchase of the Cooperage property, a nine-acre tract adjacent to Shumac Creek.
“The main point of the contract is that the town is getting the property for no money,” O’Neal said prior to the council’s unanimous decision.
The town has applied for a Coastal Area Management Act grant to cover the $1.2 million it will cost to purchase the property. The contract explicitly states that if the town is not awarded the CAMA grant, it can opt out of the purchase agreement, according to O’Neal.
“If we can’t get the grant money, we’re out of the agreement,” he said.
The construction of boat slips along the Cooperage waterfront would be the first phase of a project that might include a wash house and boardwalk.
The town must receive permits for the project from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries before construction can begin.
Richardson recommended the town pursue permits for “as many (boat) slips as you can get.”
In his presentation to the council, Richardson said construction of a picnic pavilion at Wynne’s Gut, which is included in the project plans, will cost about $25,000.
“That’s separate from the bulkhead and piers,” he said.
Richardson recommended the town do a reverse-bid process for the rest of the project. As part of that process, the town would tell prospective contractors it has a specific amount of money to spend on the rest of the project.
“How much can you build for this amount of money?” Richardson said the town should ask each prospective contractor.
Responding to an inquiry from O’Neal, Richardson said a reverse bid is not a common business practice.
“But in this economy, a lot of business people are in survival mode,” he said, adding that reverse-bid process could potentially save the town some money.
In other business, Pigott asked that the town make Jimmy Davis, the town’s former interim fire chief, an “honorary chief” of the Belhaven Volunteer Fire Department.
“He’s done an exceptional job,” Pigott said. “I worked with him very closely.”
The council adopted a resolution honoring Lisa Harris and Paul Wood as co-chairmen of Belhaven’s recent Fourth of July celebration.
“It keeps getting better every year,” O’Neal said.
In other action, the council directed Leverett to maintain a maintenance schedule and write an energy-conservation policy for all town-owned public buildings. Carawan made the motion requiring the town manager to perform those duties.
“We tell citizens what to do,” he said. “The town should lead by example.”
Carawan said the idea came to him while he was working on the recently renovated fire station.
“These are very obvious assets the town has been neglecting,” he said.