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Army Says Carolina Beach Can Use Storage Building For Certain Items

Councilman Unsatisfied With Army's Response

The Town of Carolina Beach recently received permission to store certain materials at a building on land they lease from the U.S. Army.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Earlier this month the Town of Carolina Beach sought permission to utilize a storage building on property they lease from the U.S. Army off Dow Road. The Army responded and granted permission to store numerous items in the building with the exception of some items that one Councilman says the Army previously agreed to.
Currently the Town is renting space at the Federal Point Shopping Center for storage of various materials and equipment.
The Town was notified in April of 2012 they were in violation of their 1972 lease agreement with the U.S. Army for land off of Dow Road. The "buffer zone" is land owned by the U.S. Army for the MilitaryOcean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU) across the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County. The port deals in ammunition and the buffer zone serves as a "blast zone" in the event of an incident. The zone covers the largest area of land west of Dow Road in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher.
The property housed the Town's Operations Department including public works, public utilities, storm water department and the Town's garage. Additionally, it was home to a greenhouse, various offices and storage areas as well as large dumpsters.
The 1972 lease only permitted a wastewater treatment plant, a storage building and related uses.
Town manager Michael Cramer sent a request to Col. James A. Rupkalvis - Commander of the Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point - on April 21st requesting permission to utilize a 40' by 100' metal storage building constructed by the Town on the leased property many years ago.
Cramer wrote to Rupkalvis stating, "Thank you for your help in securing the approval to upgrade the Town of Carolina Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant with two new variable frequency drive blowers. We anticipate that construction will be complete within a couple of months and we will contact Mr. Fuller to perform an inspection when the project is complete. Given our improving relationship I am reluctant, yet compelled, to ask for additional help with another issue."
Cramer explained, "Since the inspection of the given lease property on November 7, 2011 the Town of Carolina Beach has been actively engaged in bringing the former Fleet Maintenance and Operation activities into compliance with lease agreement No. DACA21-l-64-4180. Following the inspection the Town spent approximately $467,756.19 completing the corrective actions needed to fulfill our obligations. The only aspect of the corrective action plan that is still in the process of being completed is the environmental remediation activities."
He explained, "To date the town has hired a consultant to perform initial soil samples and outline potential contaminates related to the towns previous activities at the former Fleet Maintenance and Operation facility. On August 20, 2013 your office received an email for Ben Ashba with Catlin Engineering that explained the types of environmental tests that had been performed and the types of material found. In October 2013 a compliance inspection was conducted by a USACE Reality Specialist and on November 5, 2013 we received an email communication from Yadira Gill, Senior Reality Specialist from the Savanna District indicating that we "may store supplies in the building with the understanding (and agreement by the Town) that all supplies / equipment must be removed, if and when asked to do so by MOTSU and /or USACE." The email continued to state "For planning purposes, MOTSU has agreed to grant a one year extension to the lease to allow sufficient time to resolve the environmental issues. On January 7, 2013, we received a letter from Mr. Robert M. Jewell Chief, Management and Disposal Branch requesting that we complete the lease extension documents and return the documents with a check for $13,800 to Yadira Gill for the processing of the lease extension. We complied with that request of January 21, 2014 and have since waited for confirmation of the receipt of the lease extension before we begin storing the approved list of supplies and materials in the building. On April 8, 2014, we received the executed copy of the lease extension."
Cramer explained, "Between August 20, 2013 and April 4, 2014 we have discussed with several environmental engineering firms the results of the initial sample tests and found that all of the firms have recommended additional soil and groundwater samples be conducted in order to identify the exact location of the areas of interest, before we engage a contractor and perform a remedial action plan. You have been copied on all correspondence with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources regarding our intention to perform the additional tests and develop a remediation plan that can meet the standards of NCDENR."
Cramer explained the Town currently leases space in the Federal Point Shopping Center on North Lake Park Blvd to store supplies and materials that are approved to be stored in the former metal building. He explained, "We are currently spending approximately $3,600 per month for this storage area. We are prepared to move the approved list of supplies and materials into the facility and utilize the savings to perform the additional tests and environmental remediation action. However, before we do that I would appreciate receiving that approval in writing from you. Attached is a copy of the approved list of supplies and materials."
Cramer explained, "We do not want to make the same mistakes that were made in the past, so we are requesting permission before continuing the process. We have no intention of placing any materials or supplies in the fenced in area, only in the storage building. We agree to the previous understanding that if and when asked to do so by MOTSU or USACE, we will remove these supplies and materials. We hope that our two and a half year dedication and the level of funding placed behind resolving all of the identified issues are evidence that we are serious about completing this project and restoring the USACE confidence in our relationship."
He explained, "We are requesting permission to store the approved list of supplies and materials inside the 40 ftx100 ft metal building located on the north eastern corner of lease the property described in Lease Agreement no. DACA21-l-64-4180.In accordance with the terms of our lease, we hereby submit this letter as the Town of Carolina Beach's formal request."
Last month the Council voted to delay a decision to purchase land on Bridge Barrier Road for a permanent location to house a waste transfer station to handle garbage and debris collected throughout Town from public trashcans. Since the Town was first notified of violations of their lease on the military land, the Town explored various locations to relocate the transfer station. Ultimately the Council approved spending funds to lease property at 1313 Bridge Barrier Road adjacent to the Carolina Beach Post Office.
The decision to delay purchasing the property was in response to area residential property owners complaining about the potential for odor from trash, rats and loud noise from trucks backing up a tall ramp to dump trash into a large compactor.
Currently Town management is researching a property at 110 Dow Road behind a commercial storage facility as a possible site to locate a waste transfer station and area to store certain materials. That was a previous location researched by the Town in 2013 and abuts undeveloped land with the exception of the commercial storage facility and a power substation.
For the Bridge Barrier Road property, the Council discussed the property may be of some use other than a waste transfer station but would like more research before making a final decision.
On April 22, Ralph Werthmann of the Army Corp of Engineers Savanna District Real Estate Division explained in a letter to the Town, "Temporary approval is granted to store those supplies and materials that support operation of the sewage treatment facility, which exclude the items lined-through in red on the enclosed list. Upon renewal of the lease, a final approved list will be incorporated as an exhibit."
Werthmann explained, "I appreciate your cooperation in complying with the conditions of the lease by notifying MOTSU in advance or your intent to store the supplies and materials."
The list of materials that can stored in the building include items such as pumps, pipe reducers, pipe saws and blades, other tools and items associated with operating a sewer treatment plant as permitted by the lease.
Items lined-through on the list excluding them from items permitted for storage in the building include items such as safety barricades, cones, barrels, traffic and work zone signs, orange safety fence, ropes, cables, rolls of landscaping fabric and fire hydrants.
Also, the Town can't store items such as lifeguard stands or seasonal banners, lifts, flags, decorations, archived files or a mechanical beach rake.
On Tuesday April 29th, Town Manager Michael Cramer explained to the Town Council via email, "On April 21, 2014 I sent a letter to Col. James A. Rupkalvis Commander at MOTSU to request that the Town be allowed to utilize the old Fleet Maintenance Building for storage. During my pervious conversation with him it was apparent that they did not want us to utilize the fenced in area, since we will most likely need to remedial some of the petroleum by products in the area. Yesterday, I received a letter from the Savannah District Chief Ralph Werthmann approving our use of the 40' x 100' building for the approved list of materials. With the approval they did remove some of the nonwastewater items that they had approved previously. The Department Heads and I are meeting today to discuss our options. Any option will require funds to be appropriated to up fit the space in an efficient and effective manner. I anticipate bring this issue to Council at the May 13th Council meeting."
On Tuesday April 29th, Carolina Beach Town Councilman Steve Shuttleworth responded to Cramer's email stating, "Michael I think we push back to Ralph's superior who met on site. He and Ralph previously approved all the items on the list. He comments to us was that we need to earn their trust. I would ask how do we trust them when we make plans based on approvals in writing that they arbitrarily change them. This feels more like Ralph and the other guy at Sunny Point pushing rather than the Col. I think you should put the previously approved letter in an email to Col. Baker and ask for his he has offered several times. Further. the whole environmental remediation needs to be resolved more quickly. The Town spent money on the fencing based on previously approved and agreed to action items. When this began it required getting Representative McIntyre's office involved too. I don't think we should just say ok."
The environmental remediation stems from the many years the Town used the storage building as a garage to service Town vehicles. That was not permitted by the lease with the Army to use the land and the building could no longer be used for that purpose. The Army also required the Town to have environmental studies performed on the property which showed hot-spots where fuel and oil were identified in the soil. The Town is now required to clean up those areas.