By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Carolina Beach Town employees haven't received a cost of living raise or merit pay increases in two years due to the poor economy verses the cost of government.
This fiscal year the Town Council avoided a property tax increase by dipping into reserve funds. One can only drink from that well so many times before the water level becomes drastically low.
The Town's obligated itself to a multi-million dollar project buying land for a future NC Aquarium Pier. That's a little over $4 million on the front side and far more over the financing term along with demolition and development costs. They are obtaining grants to offset the cost, but grants aren't free, they usually have to be matched with taxpayer money.
The Town has a substantial amount of debt service to carry. The economy isn't showing major signs of healing and the long-term nature of economic scars is still largely unknown.
The Town does look far better now than it did a decade ago and our image has improved due to the
efforts of those administrations in power over the last decade or more. (Depending on whom you ask and whom they favor).
Buying land at 819 Canal Drive for around $600,000 at this point in time is not the fiscally responsible thing to do.
First, the purchase is said to be necessary to allow Carolina Beach to better facilitate the needs of transient boaters traveling along the coast and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Mayor Macon and Councilman Wilcox say the purchase would permit the Town to include amenities such as showers, coin laundry, and a kayak launch to provide more waterway access and a place for transient vessel owners to come ashore at a dingy dock.
In fact, the Town already has a grant for $50,000 to build a docking area and mooring field without the purchase of 819 Canal Drive. And that's adjacent to 819 Canal.
There's already a parking lot across the street with restrooms and ample public parking. Adjacent to the lot is an existing waterway access point with a gazebo on the water. To the east there's a beach access area.
There are multiple streets that dead-end at the waters edge on Myrtle Grove Sound offering numerous locations to build floating dingy docks to serve boaters that will use a future mooring field while stopping here on their waterway and Atlantic voyages.
The Town just finished a very nice public dock area at the municipal marina in the downtown area to serve transient boaters, tourists and locals.
819 Canal is obviously a long walk to the downtown area and it would be far more convenient as a boater to dock at the downtown marina than in the 800 block of Canal Drive. Use your motor boat, or, walk down a busy street? Not a hard choice.
Back to my original point, in this economy, even though it may seem like a good idea, many voters will likely frown upon such spending when they have to make so many sacrifices. Try to explain the envisioned economic benefits to them and many will likely give you a strange look and a piece of their mind. I'd ask for an economic study to prove the benefits, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't exist at this point.
Let's consider this "residential" lot has an asking price far above what the Town obligated to pay earlier this year for multiple prime "commercial" lots near the Town's marina for the Aquarium Pier project.
Part of that $4.3 million dollar land purchase was $475,000 for three 50’ by 100’ foot lots at 309 Carolina Beach Avenue North and one 50’ by 125’ foot lot on Canal Drive directly behind the three lots. The Town successfully bid $475,000 for all of the lots at a bankruptcy auction. To recap, that's $475,000 for four lots. The Town is considering purchasing land much farther away from the downtown area for around $600,000 right next to land they already own.
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