EMERALD ISLAND – Two mayoral candidates from Emerald Isle and six candidates for the commission engaged in a virtual forum on October 13 highlighted by discussions on stormwater management and vegetation protection.
Jason Holland and Doug Starcke are running for the mayoral seat vacated by Eddie Barber, who chose not to be re-elected in Tuesday’s ballot.
Candace Dooley and Mark Taylor are running for re-election to their commission seats, contested by Josh Sawyer, Travis Speight, Jamie Vogel and Jeff Ward. The third commission seat up for grabs is held by Jim Normile, who chose not to run.
Sally White of Carteret County Women’s League voters moderated the Zoom forum.
Most candidates cited stormwater and flood management, particularly in the Coast Guard highway corridor, as well as stopping clearcutting of vegetation as the most significant issues facing Emerald Isle is confronted.
The city has been working on stormwater management for years, but is starting a more concerted effort as increasingly low rains are causing problems.
“We are working very hard on it,” Ms. Dooley said. “We can’t stop (the rain) but we can push it back as soon as we can.”
Mr. Sawyer also spoke about vegetation and traffic, noting that the city’s 30% lot clearing limit must be strictly adhered to to help limit runoff.
“Stormwater is arguably the biggest problem,” Taylor said.
He too noted that the vegetation rule must be applied and that penalties must be imposed on violators.
Likewise, Ms Vogel said the city must protect native vegetation.
“We need zero deviations” from the rule and strict enforcement, “she said.
Mr Ward agreed to the app and said Emerald Isle needs to get a handle on water use in general, especially over-irrigation of lawns.
Meanwhile, Holland said stormwater management is “high on the list,” but added the city needs to protect its shores, not only on the ocean side, but along the strait as well. .
Mr Starcke agreed that stormwater is a major problem to be addressed, but noted that it is a universal problem in eastern North Carolina.
Like Mr. Taylor, Mr. Speight stressed the need to penalize those who violate the rules of vegetation.
“Otherwise it’s free for everyone,” he said, and those who break the rule should be forced to replant.
Mr Ward said part of the problem is “falling on the city” and staff need to do a better job of “reporting offenders.”
None of the candidates supported the increase in the property tax rate, although several indicated that they knew it could happen.
“I would like to see a tax increase as a last resort,” Mr. Holland said.
“The last thing we need to do is raise taxes,” Starcke agreed.
Mr Sawyer noted that the city must ensure that the police, fire and EMS services, as well as the lifeguard program, continue to be adequately funded.
Meanwhile, Mr. Speight credited many city managers for working with commissioners to keep the tax rate low, at 15 cents per $ 100 of assessed value, plus an additional 4 cents tax for owners of beachfront properties.
Mr. Taylor agreed.
“We have worked very hard to keep taxes low,” he said.
Ms Vogel said the key is to manage growth and continue to apply for and receive “as many grants as possible”.
Likewise, Mr Ward said he would not want to raise taxes, but there might be ways to cut spending, including possibly combining fire and emergency services, as did other towns in the region.
In their closing comments, the candidates mostly talked about keeping Emerald Isle a family beach.
Mr Ward, a veterinarian, said people kept asking him why he wasn’t adding another vet to his staff. He compared it to the growth of the city.
The move “won’t make me happier. I think of the island the same way. I don’t want to wake up one morning thinking, “I don’t recognize the Emerald Isle,” he said.
Ms Vogel urged residents to come out and vote, but to do more than that, to “come together as much as possible”.
“Volunteer at the Christmas Parade, Volunteer at the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, Volunteer at the Marathon (Emerald Isle),” she said. “This is our city… and we need everyone to be engaged. “
Mr Taylor said that during his years on the commission he saw himself as a “gatekeeper,” protecting the things everyone loves in town, and he wants to continue in that role.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you can’t get it back. And it’s fragile, ”he noted.
Mr Speight said he’s showing up in part because young blood and new perspectives are important. One of its main goals is to have a fire station on Coast Guard Road so the residents of that corridor are closer to life-saving emergency personnel.
“I don’t want to see Emerald Isle change,” he noted, and pledged to listen to voters before pushing forward ideas.
Mr Sawyer said he had childhood memories as he drove the streets. He said he didn’t want to make big changes, just “minor adjustments” if necessary. He pledged to continue going out, talking to residents and listening to them after the election.
Ms Dooley vowed to continue to listen to both sides of the issues before making decisions as commissioner and urged voters to vote.
“Every election counts and every vote really matters,” she said.
Mr. Starcke stressed the importance of protecting the city for families like his.
“I am a product of this city,” from elementary school to the present day, he said. “I understand that we need growth, but we need to manage it and protect the culture. It’s not just the numbers that are increasing.
Mr. Holland said he enjoyed being in the community and talking to residents during the campaign and pledged to continue to do so if elected mayor.
“I will listen to you, learn and grow with you,” he said.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; send an e-mail to [email protected]; or follow us on Twitter @brichccnt.