Monday, November 2, 2009

Question about fairness in financing beach nourishment.

I noticed that you mention that you favor "a special taxing district" as one of the funding streams for beach nourishment.  Previously the special taxing district was identified as "East of the beach road".   This might have been "easy" but it did don't consider closeness to the water nor elevation.  Houses on the West side of the beach road are very often advertised as "one lot back" and in many cases are closer to the water than houses east of the beach road.   Do you feel that the designation of the special taxing district as East of the beach road was equitable? And if a special taxing district is again identified what area would you recommend including in the special taxing district?

Thanks for your question. I think the funding formula for the referendum was balanced on factors such as simplicity, fairness, and ease of execution. It's hard to deny that oceanfront owners reap the greatest benefit, but even that benefit varies dramatically from north to south. I believe the previous formula balanced the cost and the benefit reasonably well, because it was based on the tax value of the property.

I would anticipate that a special tax district would be used again, and I think it will be difficult to include anything that is not east of the beach road. While I understand your point that your home is actually about as far west as some Dolphin Run homes, I think not having to cross the beach road adds value to your property. I've had some of this discussion with the property owner who is the last one in the north beach section to be included, but that line does have to be drawn somewhere. And practically, the beach road is a much clearer line than 1000 feet from the first line of vegetation, or some similar measure. I am open to suggestions on a better way that retains some of the simplicity.

Thanks for your question J.. I know I may not have given the answer you prefer, but please understand that I think it's the best one available, and I'm open to your suggestions as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Question about Time Constraints

It was suggested to me that you are very busy with your businesses, too busy to be effective as a Mayor.  Do you have time to do the job?
Bob is to modest to answer this question fairly so as his Treasurer and a former Mayor I am going to answer it for him.   Certainly Bob is busy now.  He spends time with each of his operations, Nags Head, Columbia and Ocracoke each week.  His time however is extremely flexible, certainly more flexible than mine was when I was in office and working full time at the US Post Office.  Bob's job at Villiage Realty is to lead rather than to do.  He has excellent employees who actually run the businesses, his role is to advise them and solve problems.  Much like the job of Mayor in Nags Head. 
Bob has space in his schedule for the average of 15-20 hours a week that it takes to be Mayor.  That time is spent returning contacts from residents and other stakeholders via phone and email,   It is spent meeting with the Town Manager and other staff to advise and problem solve.  Finally a portion is spent keeping in touch with the Commissioners and in bimonthly board meetings.  It need not be fit into a 9-5 workday, actually much of it takes place before and after those hours when the working people of Nags Head have time to talk to their Mayor.
It is important to note that the Mayor DOES NOT have day to day operational duties and good mayors don;t involve themselves in the nitty gritty.  Bob practices this in his businesses and will bring the same model to the Mayor's office.
You should also note the other things that Bob has managed to accomplish while building his businesses.   Bob has been active in a variety of local charities.  Not just a once a year donor but an active leader.  He has had time to be Chairman of the Outer Banks Community Foundation and over 5 years as the head of the local March of Dimes, he built the organization into one of the best in the state.  Bob has taken time to be a good citizen and good Commissioner.  It is this time Bob will devote to being Mayor. 
I am proud to support Bob Oakes for Mayor and I have no doubt that he is fully committed to doing the best job possible as the next Mayor of Nags Head.
Bob Muller, Mayor of Nags Head 2001 - 2005, Treasurer for The Committee to Elect Bob Oakes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Question about early voting

What do I have to do to vote early? Where do I go and do I need an excuse?
A lot of people have been asking this question as I have been knocking on doors.  We added a page to the website that explains the how, when and where of No Excuse early voting.
Its so easy there is No Excuse not to vote.
Thanks for your interest and support.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Question about Sewage and Septic Tanks

What is your position on sewer connection.I love the idea of sewers, just hate the growth that comes with it. I would hate for Nagshead to become like Delaware beaches, where you can't see the ocean due to large hotels blocking the views.

I am in favor of retaining the decentralized model of wastewater treatment that has worked well in our community. Septic tanks and other onsite systems work well with very little operational supervision. If there is a problem, it is limited in scope. I think the biggest problem with central sewage is the fact that when there is a problem, it's a big problem. And central sewer treatment is more complex, and so requires more supervision.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Question about South Nags Head beaches

I am home owner in South Nags Head as well and it truly breaks my heart to see the peoples dreams fall in the ocean. In your recent response to Mr Edwards you referred to the amount of sand and other issues needed to nourish our PUBLIC BEACHES. Do your comments indicate that you do not fully support South Nags Head nourishment because we are the ones that need it most . Can you please clarify your position. Do you support the nourishment plans that have taken 7years to engineer and get approved by all the necessary parties or do want to start from scratch. Thanks for providing this forum and for answering our questions. It would seem that if funding is the only issue remaining we could find some way to put out the fire before it burns down any more homes and dreams.
I support the nourishment plan that has been developed for Nags Head as a local project, with counsel from Dr. Tim Kana. This plan provides approximately 10 years worth of sand (based on the actual erosion rates of a previous ten year period that includes Hurricane Isabel).

When we are successful in funding a nourishment project, it will be critical to monitor the erosion and compare it to our expectations. I mentioned South Nags Head as a problem area because its rate of erosion has historically been greater than three times the erosion rate in the northern end of Nags Head. It's important to note that about three times the amount of sand per linear foot is scheduled to be used in South Nags Head because it has about three times the erosion rate. After the project is done, we can judge the success or failure by how long the sand stays in the system. I think it is realistic to acknowledge that there may be some areas that it is not feasible to protect. We just don't have the actual information to make a good decision until we try nourishment as a solution. We also need to compare the cost of retreat in the problem areas with the cost of nourishment to make a rational decision. Just to be clear, I strongly believe that nourishment is our best option, we need to have a backup plan for strategic retreat, and sandbags are the worst possible scenario, since they destroy the public beach.

I hope this provides the clarification you requested. Please feel free to follow up with additonal questions or helpful information.

Question about Town employee compensation

Comments:You have said, and I absolutely agree, that Nags Head&'s employees are our greatest asset. Recruiting the best-of-the-best means paying employees a fair salary and providing top notch benefits to employees and their families, where do you stand on employee compensation and benefits?
I think our salary and benefits have significantly outpaced the private sector on the Outer Banks. In the not too distant past, local government jobs were seen as consistent, reasonably paid jobs with good benefits. The pay and the benefits have risen rapidly in the last 20 years, particularly the benefits. I think you get a lot of job security with a government position, and a good retirement with defined benefits. But I believe we've made it a bit too attractive. Our employees have a defined benefit retirement program through the state, and a 401 K (or the public equivalent). Many employees on the Outer Banks have neither.

The health care costs to the employee are far lower than the private sector typically, and co-pays have only now started to rise in response to increased premium costs. We pay 75% of the family health care coverage, unusual among municipalities in the state, and unheard of in the private sector. It's rare when there is not a COLA increase, and there are merit and longevity incentives most of the time. We've ended up with a cadillac benefits program, and above average salaries at a time when many private businesses and citizens are struggling to stay afloat. No raises was the norm in the private sector in 2009. We continued with a 2% COLA when the cost of living increase was only half that.

I believe we need to hold the line on increases in the benefit package, and we should consider a smaller contribution than 75% to the family coverage. I tend to prefer merit raises, because I think they are more effective at keeping your best employees. I think the career development program has merit, but was not managed well. To reduce our budget in any meaningful way, we have to reduce payroll expenses. I think we can learn a lot from the hiring freeze that is currently in place - when we have vacancies in departments, how is the work prioritized? If the necessary work gets done with 6 less employees, do we really need to fill those vacant positions? If building permit work has fallen by more than 50%, do we need the same number of building inspectors? It seems like it is far easier to hire someone in government than to let them go. I think we are at the point that we need to carefully review the needs of our town, and how we are organized to deliver these services, then make decisions like we were spending our own money.

Bottom line, I think the Town has done very well by its employees over the years, and we've received good service in return. We have to spend these payroll dollars extremely wisely over the next few years, however, as our citizens and taxpayers are all feeling the stress of a poor economy.

This issue demands more than a couple of paragraphs, and I know there will be further discussion in the future. I hope you will offer your thoughts as well.

Warm regards,


Monday, October 12, 2009

Question about erosion, nourishment and retreat

Mr Oakes---We are property owners in South Nags Head and have been for 30 years . We love NH and have supported the local economy by always making sure to use vendors and tradespeople who live in the NH are. We rent the propery 23-26 weeks a years that brings approx. 200 family members to NH who help aupport the local economy. We spend 3-4 weeks in NH ourselves.

I was surprise to read on your Bob Oakes for Mayor website your quote regarding the beaches and the future a "Plan for possible retreat, especially in South Nags Head". I would appreciate your expanding on what you mean by "retreat". This sounds rather ominous and to a propery owner this means we have to begin making decsions for our future in Nags Head --

Thanks for you reply -

Thanks for your obvious devotion to Nags Head. I appreciate your concerns in regards to retreat in South Nags Head. Unfortunately, we have already been retreating in South Nags Head as a default policy. While we've made every effort to implement a beach nourishment program, first a federal plan, then a local plan, the erosion does not wait. Without nourishment, our choices dwindle to hardening the shoreline, or retreat. Hardening the shoreline takes away the public beach, and is the least desirable alternative.
Even in a nourishment program, South Nags Head demands three times the amount of sand because of the higher erosion rate. A terminal groin at the south end of town could change this pattern, but it could also cause unforeseen consequences that we should examine closely.
My point is that we have been forced to retreat somewhat haphazardly, and we should plan for a more consistent policy on sandbags and homes on our public beach. Planning should enable us to anticipate and mitigate the many issues involved in a forced retreat from the ocean. This can be done at the same time we reach for nourishment. Thanks for your question, and your investment in Nags Head.