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.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Question about convention center and waste water

I have some mixed emotions about the convention center possibility. I like the thought of having one for the purpose of our need for hotels and bringing people for short stays. Hence, they will hopefully come for a weeks stay in a cottage. I know you know that already.
If not, my other thought was that the open space at that site would be nice if you were to have a boardwalk along the sound where tourist and locals could congregate for a Key West style daily sunset festival. Entertainers and peddlers could pay the town for a license to be there.
I am also concerned about our septic systems. Sewege treatment?
I do like your comment on having the town working better with businesses. If anything just being able to be comfortable calling any official to ask a question. Communicating with mutual respect. It doesn't exist. Without it, citizens will choose to make decisions that could hurt themselves and/or the town.

On the convention center, I am concerned about the opportunity cost on both the land and the dollars required to operate the center. I like the boardwalk and sunset concept, and I've mentionedthe Duck park as a possible model.

On sewage treatment, I am firmly in support of our onsite septic systems. I think they've done a good job for us, and with small amounts of maintenance, which we are encouraging, they will continue to provide good treatment. I think there is a place for central sewage in clustering development to preserve open space, as in The Village. But the recent problems with the central package plant have made me very wary. Big plant, big corporate ownership, potential big problem.

I can see us allowing central sewage expansion in critical environmental areas, like the request in the Fresh Pond AEC recently. But we've chosen a good path with onsite treatment, and I think we should stick with it.

The attitude of the leadership of the organization determines the culture of the organization. I think we have started on some change, but it will take some time for it to circulate through the organization. I think I can provide some good experience on setting that tone.

Question about beach driving

I have read your ideas on beach renourishment and wonder why there is no initiative to halt driving on our town beaches? Driving on the beach obviously accelerates beach erosion. It leaves ugly rutted out soft sand that causes rapid erosion by wind and water. Not to mention it would be great to go to the beach without worrying about children being hit by cars. It is an outrage! If they want to drive on the beach got to other 4wd areas. I have a degree in geology and I really wish you would listen to the scientist's and not your wallet. S. Nags Head has a high rate of erosion because it is an ancient riverbed and thus bad real estate. That will not change. The beaches in the rest of Nags Head are large. Please stop the erosion by banning beach driving.

Thanks for your comment. I don’t agree with your conclusion on beach driving for a couple of reasons. First, we limit beach driving to Oct 1 thru May 1, a time period we feel like beach users and slow traffic can coexist safely. Second, I don’t feel like driving on the beach contributes significantly to the erosion problem. I believe our erosion comes mainly from larger ocean events, like northeasters and hurricanes. I have seen no empirical evidence that erosion rates are higher because beach driving is permitted. Lastly, beach driving for fishing has been a tradition in Nags Head, one that is continued by the Nags Head Surf Fishing Tournament going on now. I think there is room for these users of the beach to continue.

Sorry we disagree on this point. I certainly welcome discussion. If there are facts that I don’t know, I’d like to know them. Please stay in touch. I hope we agree on other issues for Nags Head.

Question about mandatory recycling.

What are your feeling on mandatory town wide recycling? Having residence get a recycling can at their home.

Curbside recycling is available through our franchisee, Outer Banks Hauling, for around $8 per month. I feel like this is a good value, and makes this service available to our citizens without the Town making the capital investment and labor investment. I think this is an instance where the service is better provided by the private sector.

Thanks for your question.

Question about Hotel height and central sewage

What is your position on building hotels or any other buildings above 60 ft in height (excluding the Aquarium pier? Also, what is your position on city sewage or allowing sewage treatment lines from other towns to come into Nags Head?

Thanks for your questions. I think our height limit has proven to be all the community wants, so I would not accept hotels over 60 feet.

On sewage treatment, I think we should rely on the decentralized plan that has worked so well for us, while continuing the water quality testing that gives us a verification of our water quality. Although the VNH plant is a huge mess right now, I think that is due to corporate ownership - but big plant, big potential problems. The trade off is the open space that was set aside in the Village while the housing was clustered. I would consider a line from the KDH plant in environmentally sensitive areas like the Fresh Pond AEC, where there is a significant environmental benefit.

Please feel free to call me at 480 4705 if you'd like to discuss these or other issues.

Vacation Homes and Litter

I agree with most of your agenda for the future of Nags Head. However, one thing that is a huge issue for me involves the vacation home rental companies. I know it's very difficult to regulate aspects of that business, but the amount of waste, pollution(too many cars), and strain on our utilities is getting out of hand. Also, the way the tourists stack themselves in these huge homes that aren't built to hold that many people and the blatant littering and disrespect is awful. I was raised in Nags Head and have worked for the Village Beach Club for about six years, so I see this first hand. I was wondering if you had any opinions or initiatives on how to alleviate these problems. Thank you in advance for you time and consideration.
Thanks for your note. I can appreciate your perspective. Litter is one of my pet peeves, and I take it personally.

From my point of view, and I'll say upfront that my opinion is based on my experience being in the vacation rental business,much of the disrespect you mention is from a small percentage of our guests. Creating solid waste is a normal byproduct. Our society uses cars as our main transportation. Guests use a lot of utility capacity, but they pay for more than their share, as well. I think we have to weigh the benefits in tax revenue and jobs against the costs of a tourism economy, and try to mitigate those costs where it is possible.

This is a short reply to a good question. I hope we can attract a group of guests who love Nags Head like the locals do, and try to weed out the relatively small percentage of rude ones.

I would welcome more conversation - it is an issue that affects us all.

Question about Beach Nourishment

What is your stand on beach nourishment? Are you 100% for it? What is your time table for achieving it? You have a very nice website, but this will be the determining factor in my vote.

I think beach nourishment is the best alternative for the long run for the Town of Nags Head. The other obvious alternatives, hardening the shoreline, and retreat, carry costs that will be unacceptable to our citizens.

Hardening the shoreline is the worst case scenario. Sandbags have contributed to increased erosion on neighboring properties, and have literally taken over the public beach. While sandbags protect the individual home, they do so at the cost of the public beach. We have parts of the beach now where the waves break against the sandbags at all stages of the tide.

Retreat also comes with cumulative costs. For example, in the area around Jockeys Ridge, a retreat policy would allow homes on our historic cottage row to fall into the ocean. Shortly after the homes succumbed to erosion, the beach road, NC 12, would be threatened. The Bypass is only feet away from NC 12 in parts of this area. I think we would act to preserve NC 12, and the Bypass. Why not act before that point, and take the opportunity to preserve the historic homes, and our oceanfront tax base?