05 – News & Views

Lou’s Views
News & Views / May Edition

Calendar of Events –

Conway Riverfest - CRRiverfest Celebration
June 26th  
Conway, SC

Held along the Waccamaw River in downtown Conway the festival
celebrates Independence Day with music and events for the entire family.
For more information » click here

4th of July Southport - CR 190
N.C. 4th of July Festival

July 4th  
Southport, NC

The patriotic spirit of America is alive and well in the City of Southport. For over 200 years this small maritime community has celebrated our nation’s independence in a big way. Incorporated as the N.C. 4th of July Festival in 1972 the festival committee strives to keep the focus of the festival on honoring our nation’s birthday with a little fun thrown in.

For more information » click here

Battleship Blast
4th of July Celebration
July 4th
Wilmington, NC


Annual 4th of July Celebration at Riverfront Park in downtown Wilmington. Featured entertainment will perform from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, followed by fireworks at 9:05 PM launched from a barge in the Cape Fear River adjacent to the USS North Carolina Battleship. The only place you need to be this holiday is downtown Wilmington for the best view of fireworks.
For more information » click here

TDA - logo
Discover a wide range of things to do in the Brunswick Islands for an experience that goes beyond the beach.
For more information » click here

Calendar of Events Island –

Concerts on the Coast Series
The Town’s summer concert series calendar has been released! Live performances featuring local musical groups are held at the pavilion on Sunday evenings from late May to early September. The concerts are free of charge.
For more information » click here

Most events have either been postponed or cancelled

Parks & Recreation / Programs & Events
For more information » click here

Reminders –

Golf carts are treated the same as any other automotive vehicle.

In the State of North Carolina, if a golf cart is to be operated on the streets, highways, or public vehicular areas, it is considered a motor vehicle and subject to all laws, rules and regulations that govern motor vehicles.

In short, the golf cart must have all of the following:

      • The driver MUST have a current, valid Driver’s License
      • Child Restraint Laws must be followed
      • Headlights
      • Tail lights
      • Turn signals
      • Rear view mirrors
      • State Inspection Sticker
      • License Plate Issued by NCDMV
      • Liability Insurance

All of the streets in the Town (including the side streets) are considered streets or public vehicular areas according to the State Law. This means that to operate a golf cart anywhere on the island, you must meet the standards above.

Golf carts are treated the same as other automotive vehicles
Town ordinances state no parking anytime on OBW
Therefore, golf carts are illegally parked when left by any beach access point

Pets on the Beach Strand
Pets – Chapter 90 / Animals / 90.20
From May 20th through September 10th it is unlawful to have any pet on the beach strand during the hours of 9:00am through 5:00pm.


. .

A Second Helping
Program to collect food Saturday mornings (7:00am to 12:00pm) during the summer at the Beach Mart on the Causeway.


1) Seventeenth year of the program
. 2) Food collections have now exceeded 273,000 pounds
. 3)
Collections will begin on May 29th and run through September 18th
. 4) Food is distributed to the needy in Brunswick County
For more information » click here

Hunger exists everywhere in this country; join them in the fight to help end hunger in Brunswick County. Cash donations are gratefully accepted. One hundred percent (100%) of these cash donations are used to buy more food. You can be assured that the money will be very well spent.

Mail Donations to:
A Second Helping % Douglas Cottrell
2939 Alan Trail
Supply, NC 28462


Hurricane Vehicle Decals
The 2021 vehicle decals were distributed with the March water bills.
Each bill included four (4) vehicle decals. It is important that you place your decals in your vehicle or in a safe place. A $10 fee will be assessed to anyone who needs to obtain either additional or replacement decals. Decals will not be issued in the 24-hour period before an anticipated order of evacuation.

The decals are your passes to get back onto the island to check your property in the event that an emergency would necessitate restricting access to the island. Decals must be displayed in the driver side lower left-hand corner of the windshield, where they are not obstructed by any other items. Officials must be able to clearly read the decal from outside the vehicle.

Property owners without a valid decal will not be allowed on the island during restricted access. No other method of identification is accepted in an emergency situation. Click here to visit the Town website to find out more information regarding decals and emergency situations.

Trash Can Requirements – Rental Properties
GFL Environmental – trash can requirements
Ordinance 07-13, Section 50.10

Rental properties have specific number of trash cans based on number of bedrooms.
* One extra trash can
per every two bedrooms

(A) Rental homes, as defined in Chapter 157, that are rented as part of the summer rental season, are subject to high numbers of guests, resulting in abnormally large volumes of trash. This type of occupancy use presents a significantly higher impact than homes not used for summer rentals. In interest of public health and sanitation and environmental concerns, all rental home shall have a minimum of one trash can per two bedrooms. Homes with an odd number of bedrooms shall round up (for examples one to two bedrooms – one trash can; three to four bedrooms – two trash cans; five – six bedrooms – three trash cans, and the like).

Solid Waste Pick-Up Schedule
GFL Environmental change in service, trash pickup will be twice a week. Starting the Saturday before Memorial Day through the Saturday after Labor Day: Pick-up is every Tuesday and Saturday from May 29th through September 25th

Solid Waste Pick-up Schedule – starting May 29th twice a week

Recyclingstarting May 25th weekly pick-up

Please note:
. • Trash carts must be at the street by 6:00 a.m. on the pickup day
. • BAG the trash before putting it in the cart
. • Carts will be rolled back to the front of the house

Yard Waste Service
Yard debris pick-up will be provided twice a month on the 2ndand 4th Fridays during the months of March, April, and May. Please have yard waste placed at the street for pick-up on Thursday night. The first pickup of the season was on March 12th. No pick-ups will be made on vacant lots or construction sites.

Debris must be placed in a biodegradable bag or bundled in a length not to exceed five (5) feet and fifty (50) pounds. Each residence is allowed a total of ten (10) items, which can include a combination of bundles of brush and limbs meeting the required length and weight and/ or biodegradable bags with grass clippings, leaves, etc.

Bird Nesting Area

NC Wildlife Commission has posted signs that say –
Bird Nesting Area / Please don’t disturb
The signs are posted on the west end beach strand

People and dogs are supposed to stay out of the area from April through November

. 1) It’s a Plover nesting area
. 2) Allows migrating birds a place to land and rest without being disturbed

Mosquito Control
Current EPA protocol is that spraying is complaint driven
The Town is unable to just spray as they had in the past
. 1)
Complaint based
. 2)
Citizen request
. 3)
Proactively monitor hot spots

They recommend that you get rid of any standing water on your property that you can
Urged everyone to call Town Hall if they have mosquito issues so that they can spray

Spraying is complaint based, so keep the calls coming!

Building Numbers
Ocean front homes are required to have house numbers visible from the beach strand.
Please call Planning and Inspections Department at 910.842.6080 with any questions.


(A) The correct street number shall be clearly visible from the street on all buildings. Numbers shall be block letters, not script, and of a color clearly in contrast with that of the building and shall be a minimum of six inches in height.

(B) Beach front buildings will also have clearly visible house numbers from the strand side meeting the above criteria on size, contrast, etc. Placement shall be on vertical column supporting deck(s) or deck roof on the primary structure. For buildings with a setback of over 300 feet from the first dune line, a vertical post shall be erected aside the walkway with house numbers affixed. In all cases the numbers must be clearly visible from the strand. Other placements may be acceptable with approval of the Building Inspector.

BOC’s Meeting
The Board of Commissioners’ next Regular Meeting is scheduled on the third Tuesday of the month, June 15th

News from Town of Holden Beach
The town sends out emails of events, news, agendas, notifications and emergency information. If you would like to be added to their mailing list, please go to their web site to complete your subscription to the Holden Beach E-Newsletter.
For more information » click here

Volunteers needed
The Town is always looking for people to volunteer for their various boards and committees. If you are interested in serving, please fill out a resume form and submit it to heather@hbtownhall.com.

Curbside Recycling
GFL environmental is now offering curbside recycling for Town properties that desire to participate in the service. The service cost is $93.29 annually paid in advance to the Town of Holden Beach and consists of a ninety-six (96) gallon cart that is emptied every other week.
Curbside Recycling Application » click here
Curbside Recycling Calendar » click here

Recycling renewal form was sent, you should have gotten e-mail letter already

Recycling Renewal
It is time to renew your annual recycling service. If you would like to continue the recycling service for the 2021 year, please fill out the recycling form and send it to Town Hall with the payment of $93.29 per bin no later than April 30, 2021. Any payments not received by this date will result in cancellation of the service and removal of the recycling bin. Click here to access the recycling form.

If you have any questions, contact Megan at reception@hbtownhall.com or at (910) 842-6488.

Elevator - CRElevators
Most states mandate that elevator systems be tested and inspected annually. Currently the state of North Carolina does not require annual inspections to be performed on all elevator systems. The use of unsafe and defective lifting devices imposes a substantial probability of serious and preventable injury to your family and guests. It is in the owner’s best interest to minimize injuries and liability by scheduling an annual safety inspection to ensure the safe operation of their elevator system.

Waupaca Elevator Recalls to Inspect Elevators Due to Injury Hazard

The elevator cab can fall unexpectedly to the bottom of the elevator shaft and abruptly stop, posing an injury hazard to consumers in the elevator cab.

Consumer Contact:
Waupaca Elevator toll-free at 833-850-7981 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, e-mail at info@WaupacaElevator.com or online at www.WaupacaElevator.com and click on Recall Information for more information.

Recall Details

This recall involves residential elevator models Custom Lift 450# and Custom Lift 500#, shipped and installed between 1979 and 2008. The recalled elevators are used in consumers’ homes.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled elevators and contact Waupaca Elevator to schedule a free gearbox inspection and the installation of a free overspeed braking device. Waupaca Elevator also will provide the installation of a free gearbox if the gearbox inspection reveals that the gears in the gearbox have worn down.

For more information » click here

There is an issue with the gearboxes on select Waupaca Elevators that may cause the elevator to suddenly drop. In December on the island, despite having recommended gearbox inspection, the Waupaca elevator cab fell to the bottom of the elevator shaft causing serious injuries to my friends that were in the elevator cab. Affected elevators need to be checked and the installation of overspeed braking devices completed before being put back into service. Even then I still would be concerned, due to the severity of gear boxes failure the safety features are not responding as they should. I’d strongly recommend that you immediately stop using these Waupaca elevators.

Brunswick County families sue, claiming home elevators failed, causing serious injuries
It was a terrifying experience. Two different families who survived residential elevator failures want to warn others they could be in harm’s way, too. Within the last year, there have been two separate elevator crashes in Holden Beach. One incident happened to a family vacationing at a rental home. Tressa Fortenberry was taking the elevator from the second floor to the third floor. She broke her foot when she says the elevator crashed to the ground on June 14, 2020. The other incident was more serious and happened to a local family in their own home. On December 2, 2020, Dickie and Delores Brackin say they fell three stories when the elevator they’d been using without incident for 20 years, suddenly crashed to the ground. The Brackins, who are both 70, suffered broken legs and remain unable to walk without assistance. “I looked down. I saw the bone sticking out of my leg,” Delores recalls of the morning of the accident. “I said, ‘Dickie what has happened?’ While I was laying there and asking God to please put his hand on both me and him… it was just a pain like unbelievable.” The couple, married for over 50 years, were air lifted to the hospital. Delores was hospitalized for two weeks. Dickie, who also suffered broken legs and crushed ankles, was released after four days in the hospital. “I trusted the people to put the elevator in. I trusted the people that came and inspected it every year,” Delores said. The same type of Waupaca residential elevator, which is subject to a recall, was involved in the Brackin and Fortenberry cases. An attorney, representing both families in a lawsuit against the manufacturer, estimates there are around 100 of these same recalled elevators in homes all along the Carolina coast. While researching the problem with these elevators, Attorney Joel Rhine found documented cases of the elevators crashing dating back to 1998. According to his lawsuit, 8,000 of these Custom Lift 450 and 500 elevators, built between 1976 and 2008, are at risk of failing. “I was shocked about how many there are, especially on our beaches. These vacation rentals are obviously two or three stories high; you need an elevator to get your luggage and everything up. Apparently, Waupaca was one of the largest suppliers of those elevators. They had several certified installers [in Southeastern North Carolina],” Rhine told WECT. Rhine says Waupaca knows about the problem, and he believes they are giving consumers a false sense of security that the elevators are still safe to use. Executives with the elevator company disagree. “Waupaca Elevator Company cannot comment publicly on the specifics of any ongoing litigation, including the cases currently pending in southeast North Carolina,” Waupaca Elevator Company Operations Manager Gary Ziebell told WECT. “Waupaca issued a recall of elevators in October 2018 in coordination with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Owners of those Waupaca elevators affected by the recall have been directed to not use the elevators until an overspeed safety device has been installed by an approved dealer. Some elevators affected by the recall require additional work, including a replacement of the elevator’s gearbox. After the necessary repairs have been made to the elevators, they are perfectly safe to use. If any Waupaca elevator owners have questions associated with this recall, they are welcome to visit Waupaca’s website.” Rhine’s clients relied on that information, and still got injured on Waupaca elevators. The Brackins had the elevator inspected as Waupaca recommended. According to the lawsuit, after an oil sample was taken from the Brackin’s elevator and sent to Waupaca for analysis, “the Plaintiffs were informed that their elevator had no metal shavings and thus did not need a replacement at this point.” With that in mind, the Brackins continued to use their elevator. According to Rhine’s other lawsuit against Waupaca, Plaintiff Tressa Fortenberry was using an elevator that had a high-speed braking device installed on it about seven months earlier, after a technician from Port City Elevator found signs that indicated the elevator was in danger of failing. The homeowner was informed the elevator was safe to use, but it still failed while Fortenberry was renting the home. “Our case is that [Waupaca is] telling people the wrong thing. They are not telling people about the danger. They’re telling people that this is normal wear and tear and that you can use these elevators until you have these shavings, [and that] these overspeed braking device will stop the elevator. None of that’s true, and that’s how we are bringing these lawsuits,” Rhine explained. When asked about the elevator that failed after the high-speed braking device was installed, Waupaca executives indicated it must have been an installation error. “Waupaca Elevator Company has tested the overspeed safety device extensively. Based on the results of the testing, we are confident that the overspeed safety device operates as intended, provided it is installed correctly,” Ziebell said. Rhine says this is a public safety issue and warns the public not to use these recalled elevators for anything more than transporting groceries and luggage. “One that crashed had the overspeed breaking device with it. It doesn’t work. Their remedy doesn’t work. These things are dangerous,” Rhine said. In addition to concerns about a false sense of security, the manufacturer is giving to homeowners with these recalled elevators, Rhine also noted there’s a lengthy backorder for the parts to repair the elevator if a problem is detected. “Those [replacement gear boxes] aren’t going to be available for years, there’s such a backlog. and they are telling people that you can use it in the meantime. This is dangerous,” Rhine said. Except for doctors’ appointments, the Brackins are still homebound five months after the accident. They hope their cautionary tale will serve as a warning to other homeowners and vacationers who might unknowingly trust that the residential elevator in their home is safe. They say they’re grateful to be alive, and grateful to the first responders, neighbors, local restaurants, family, and friends who helped them or sent food and cards after their accident, but they say this was a life-changing event they may never fully recover from.
Read more » click here

If you need something to keep you busy in this colder weather, make sure to visit the island library. The library is in the upstairs of Holden Beach Town Hall. All the books were donated. Patrons of the library don’t have to check out a book; they are on the honor system to return it.

Neighborhood Watch –

Need to look out for each other
Call 911 if you see or hear anything suspicious
Fill out Keep Check Request Form if you will be out of town
• Submit completed Property Registration Form
• Pickup copy of Protecting Your Home

Coronavirus –

COVID/State of Emergency – Timeline

Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 215 which lifts COVID-19 restrictions to reflect new public health recommendations. The order ended gathering limits, social distancing requirements in all settings, and drops indoor mask requirements for most settings.
Returning the state to almost normal operations after 15 months marked by COVID-19 lockdowns and limits. Click here
to view the Executive Order details.

Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 209 which removes the outdoor face covering requirement, relaxes restrictions on gatherings and extends the capacity and social distancing measures of Executive Order 204. Click here to view the Executive Order details.

It’s been just over a year since North Carolina went into the Covid-19 shutdown, and subsequent restrictions from Gov. Roy Cooper have followed. Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 204 which will roll back some of them, a further easing of restrictions on maximum capacity limits for many businesses and entertainment venues. Click here to view the Executive Order details.

Coronavirus Information
Brunswick County has developed a dedicated webpage for community assistance. Click here to view their website. Remember to seek the most verified information from sources likes the CDC, NC DHHS and the county regarding the coronavirus.

You can contact the Brunswick County Public Health Call Line at (910) 253-2339 Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

You can also email them at coronavirus@brunswickcountync.gov.
The NC Public Health Call Line can be reached at 866-462-3821 (open 24/7).

The situation is serious; take it seriously!

You may not be interested in the coronavirus, but it is interested in you.

Upon Further Review –

Brunswick County ponders water hike next year
Brunswick County commissioners are looking into significant water rate hikes to take effect next Jan. 1. Recommended changes allocate for anticipated debt service repayments that begin in 2022 for $156.8 million in capital improvements at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant, loss in revenue attributed to pending closure of an industrial customer and expected revenue reductions from wholesale customers as well as rate increases for raw water the county buys. Wholesale customers will see rates go up from $2.89 per 1,000 gallons to $5.25, with a monthly base service charge rising $4 for all meters. County rates would still remain lower or comparable with other retail water rates in coastal North Carolina counties, Brunswick County Manager Randell Woodruff said during the regular Brunswick County Board of Commissioners meeting Jan. 19. “It’s key to compare us with other coastal communities,” Woodruff said. “When you look at other coastal communities that have similar issues that we do, under the new rates we are proposing we would still be below the mid-point. That demonstrates that while the rates will be increasing, the customers here will be receiving a much higher quality water system than any in our region.” In 2018, commissioners took action to finance installation of a low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the county’s Northwest Water Treatment Plant to remove chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances(PFAS), like GenX, from water coming from the Cape Fear River. The following year, a Raftelis financial consultant water rate study was completed, with financial forecasts developed in 2020, which was reviewed during the board meeting. According to a Brunswick County newsletter, county retail water rates have seen minimal adjustments over the past 17 years. Commissioners will review and take action on recommended changes as part of the fiscal 2022 budget process, with approved changes going into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
Read more » click here

Water Rate Methodology and Rate Increase

This is what they said in 2019:
About 84% of the county’s residential customers use 5,000 gallons of water a day or less. Accounting for the average 4,500 gallons-per-day customer, using the smallest-sized three-quarter inch meter, an average county water bill increases $3.22 from $25.73 to $28.95

This is what they are proposing in 2021:
Average retail customer billed at 4,500 gallons increases $9.85 from $24.83 to $34.68

The rate increase amount predicted of $3.22 is much less than the current proposed rate increase of $9.85. The average retail customer bill will go from $24.83 to $34.68 which is a 140% increase.

Water Rate Changes
The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners received information on recommended changes to the county’s water rates during its regular meeting this Tuesday, Jan. 19. The Board of Commissioners will review and take action on the recommended changes as part of its Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 2022) budget process. Approved changes would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022. Brunswick County retail water rates have seen minimal adjustments over the past 17 years. The only increase occurred in FY 2015 when the monthly retail base rate was increased by $1. Meanwhile, volumetric rates for retail customers were decreased by $0.90 in both FY 2004 and FY 2020. With the proposed changes, the County’s FY 2022 recommended rates would still remain lower or comparable with other retail water rates in other coastal North Carolina counties. The recommended changes address the anticipated debt service repayments that will begin in 2022 for capital improvements at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant, loss in revenues due to the recent closure of an industrial customer, expected reductions in revenue from wholesale customers, and expected rate increases for raw water the County purchases. The proposed rate changes considered recommendations from the Raftelis water rate study completed in 2019 and subsequent financial forecasts developed in 2020 and reviewed this month. The rate methodology used in the water rate study is in accordance with procedures outlined in the American Water Works Association M-1 Manual, which is the industry standard. In 2018, the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners took action to finance the installation of a low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the County’s Northwest Water Treatment Plant to remove PFAS contaminants like GenX from water from the Cape Fear River. All Brunswick County water customers receive all or part of their water from this facility. The project at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant broke ground in Summer 2020. The facility will increase its conventional treatment capacity from 24 million gallons per day to 45 million gallons per day by Spring 2022. The first five units of the low-pressure reverse osmosis system are expected to begin treating water in Summer 2023 with the final three units anticipated to go online by Fall 2023. Brunswick County has joined other utilities in the region to sue DuPont and Chemours. The County is seeking monetary damages from Chemours to hold it responsible for the millions of dollars it is spending to install a new treatment system necessary to remove PFAS contaminants. The lawsuit remains active and ongoing.
Read more » click here

County should lessen impact of proposed water rate increase
In January 2021, the Alliance of Brunswick County Property Owners Associations (ABCPOA), which has a membership of 24 residential communities in Brunswick County, be-came aware of the proposal for a significant increase in retail and wholesale water rates proposed by Brunswick County. Our concerns extend to every individual, business and industry that relies on water from the county system. If you turn on your tap for a glass of water, you are affected! Since January, the AB-CPOA has been in communication with county officials to gather information, understand the issues, and share ideas for lessening the impact of a proposed 81% increase of wholesale water rates that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, if approved by the commissioners as proposed. The circumstances that the county cites for increasing the water rates demonstrate the need for meeting the costs for upgrading the water treatment plant, providing low pressure reverse osmosis for secondary filtration, and the loss of two large customers. However, with a range of available options for “lessening the sting,” the initial proposed rates seem to indicate a preference for only one option; pass it along to the consumer in one fell swoop. We find this to be short-sighted due to the risk of long-term damaging consequences for individuals, existing business, and future economic development. Two defenses for the cur-rent proposal that have been presented include: “Our rates are now comparable with other water systems providing secondary level purification,” and “It’s only a $9 increase.” With regard to the first defense, while it is true water rates were below the median for similar coastal counties providing secondary purification, it is also true that they did not get to their current rate levels in one billing cycle. As an enterprise fund with large capital investments, depreciation, and the need to upgrade should have been a part of long-range planning and, the Northwest Treatment Plant didn’t turn 40 years old in one year. The Chemours dumping into the Cape Fear River did create an immediate unforeseen need but with aggressive legal action by the county, what recompense might our residents and businesses expect in the future? As far as the “It’s only $9” argument goes, it’s important to remember that water billing is structured on a tiered system that starts with a set base rate (increasing with this proposal) plus usage that bills based on usage per 1,000 gallons with the price per 1,000 gallons increasing when usage exceeds the prior tier limits. Perhaps a residential user of 1,000 gallons per month might only see a $9 monthly ($108 annual) increase but we suspect there are few customers that meet this description. We urge you to check your own personal usage to gauge the impact. Irrigation and industrial fees are similarly structured. We are particularly fearful of the impact of these rate in-creases on small businesses, particularly those struggling to recover from the pandemic induced recession. During our meetings and exchanged communications with the Brunswick County Commissioners, the AB-CPOA has offered a range of suggestions for lessening the impact of these proposed rate increases. We encourage commissioners to reject the initial proposal and deter-mine a course of action that meets their financial needs while not unduly burdening their customers, the residents, industries, and businesses who rely on them for this service. A meeting between county, impacted municipal leadership and staff to brainstorm viable solutions would seem to be a useful first step. The ABCPOA is willing to participate in such a process
Brunswick Beacon

Calabash OKs letter addressing 81% water hike
Town commissioners last week approved drafting a letter expressing concern about a proposed countywide 81% water-rate hike poised to take effect next January. Akin to concerns recently expressed in Shallotte, commissioners informally agreed at their monthly March 9 meeting that the increase will have impact on Calabash and its renowned restaurants and other businesses, which have already been struggling during the pandemic. Town commissioner Forrest King cited a recent letter penned by the town of Shallotte outlining the effect the hike will have on its own restaurants and businesses. “We can assume it’s going to have exactly the same effect here … significant increases on everybody,” he said. Mayor Pro Tem Jody Nance suggested they “piggy-back on the Shallotte letter.” “We need to adopt some-thing pretty close,” King said, favoring a suggested alternative that the county impose the increase in steps “rather than hitting us all at one time with it.” He noted Shallotte suggested spreading the increase over a two-year period, which he deemed “bearable.” “But all at one time, especially with the environment we’re in right now, I think is a little bit crazy,” King said. A study presented to the county board in January pro-posed the hike to help pay off $156.8 million in capital improvements for the Northwest Water Treatment Plant, with wholesale water rates increasing from $2.89 to $5.25 per 1,000 gallons and a monthly base service charge rising $4 for all meters. It also proposes a 40% hike to $34.68 per 4,500 gallons for retail and irrigation customers from the current rate of $24.83.Commissioners estimated the climb could amount to thousands of dollars for a restaurant and several hundred dollars for a single-family home. They also wondered how sewer rates will be affected. Town Administrator Chuck Nance said he’s not sure about that but speculated the water hike should not have an effect on sewer un-less the county votes on it. “I know what (county officials) have said and why they’re saying they have to do it, but it is a very steep increase,” he said, referring to the water rate rise. “It’s not so much the increase as the design going about it,” said town com-missioner Michael Herring, also favoring spreading the increase over a greater period of time. Commissioners approved having Chuck Nance draft a letter to be sent to county commissioners. “A two-year span is something we could live with,” Jody Nance said.
Read more » click here

Mayors from county water customer towns meet with officials about rate increase
A contingent of Brunswick County’s mayors whose towns are Brunswick utilities customers met with county officials April 12 to lobby for taking the sting out of water rate increases expected to kick in next January. County commissioners are looking at water rate hikes as part of the fiscal 2022 budget process. A study presented to the county board Jan. 19 proposed to pay off the debt for $156.8 million in capital improvements to the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. The study presented examples of Wholesale customers rates increasing from $2.89 per 1,000 gallons to $5.25, with a monthly base service charge rising $4 for all meters and a proposed water rate of $34.68 per 4,500-gallon usage for retail and irrigation customers, a $9.85 hike from the current rate of $24.83. County commissioners will discuss the proposal during budget talks, which begin with a goals and budget workshop from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 3, prior to the county’s first board meeting of the month. At Monday’s meeting, Shallotte Mayor Walt Eccard was joined by Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith, Holden Beach Mayor Alan Holden, Northwest Mayor James Knox, Navassa Mayor Eulis Willis, Carolina Shores Mayor Joyce Dunn and Bolivia Mayor Ella Jane Marston. “There were several county officials including Commissioners Randy Thompson and Mike Forte” Eccard said.
“Whatever the water rate increase will be, it’ll be decided and included in the budget that will be adopted in June of this year. And the rate adjustment will take place in January of 2022.” Eccard said the mayors asked the commissioners about using some of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, which will provide Brunswick County with $26,699,060 to help offset the increase. They indicated that they’re currently reading of the guidance, which is a bit preliminary, is that they can’t use money to repay previously incurred debt,” Eccard said. The bonds were (already) issued to fund the construction. So they aren’t certain, and they seem to think they won’t be able to use it for that. I think it is fair to say that everybody is waiting for some guidance from Treasury. I read the authority to spend money on water and sewer infrastructure a little broader than they do. But I’m also prepared to be cautious and say we need to have more guidance from Treasury. There are other provisions in the bill that talk about not using money to repay debt. I’m not sure how those two provisions completely interact. “I probably have a slightly more aggressive take, but I could be wrong, and they could be right. The fact is unless guidance comes out prior to the budget being adopted, they said the budget rate decision will be final. So I just have to assume that if they don’t get guidance and in their current plan, they would be reluctant to use that money, that they won’t use it. But it’s their decision. My sense is that they’re reluctant to.” Eccard said there was no talk of allocating an equivalent amount of money from other county funds to use for the debt if the rules say they can’t use the ARP money. “We didn’t go into that in-depth. They did say that their staff is preparing recommendations for the commissioners on how to use the $28 million – $14 million this year, $14 million next year – and their current thinking is to use the money on general fund projects and also for some transmission lines for water and wastewater,” Eccard said. “Theoretically, I guess if you save some money there, you could look to save some of that savings. But we didn’t get good clarification on that point.” Eccard said the mayors pressed a number of alternatives and suggestions of things that could moderate the rate increase impact. “One is to review the capital recovery fees and see if some increase in capital recovery fees could, which is new growth, offset the cost to the existing ratepayers,” he said. They committed to look at that. “We also requested they consider using what we would call a more current growth rate assumption. They are currently using a 10-year average. And that’s a conservative approach. We think that with the knowledge they have on the amount of building that’s going on in Brunswick County that it really would pay benefits to look at (again). You could fairly and not wildly assume a somewhat larger growth rate, which again would reduce the impact. So we raised that point.” Eccard said the county officials are concerned about the rate increase impact on businesses. “They’re looking at how they can help them in a way that would mitigate the increase, but there were no specifics and how they plan to do that,” he said. “They’re also looking at breaking the increase over two years, rather than all of this in one year. In previous conversations, to me, the majority of the commissioners are not in favor of that. But they did agree to look at that again.” The county officials told the mayors any recovery they get from a lawsuit against Chemours would be used to benefit the ratepayers. “Of course, that settlement probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon,” Eccard said. But whenever it happens, if they get an amount of money that’s roughly equivalent to the cost of the reverse osmosis plant, the general commitment was to return that money, in one form or another, to the ratepayers. The county said they’re going to consider if there’s a way to adjust some kind of payment plan. We didn’t get specific on it, but the idea is the county ratepayers pay monthly, Shallotte ratepayers pay every other month. They’re going to see if there’s some way of having a payment structure that would let people pay over time in a different way. I don’t know how that would work, but they’re going to look at if there’s some way, they can use some kind of payment mechanism. “The towns in Brunswick County, some of them, like us, are wholesale purchasers of water from the county and we run our own water system. A number of them, perhaps even a majority, have the county run their water system. So the whole question of wholesale rates doesn’t really impact them because they’re not a purchaser of water. They probably purchase water for their own operations, but not for reselling to customers.” Eccard said they did not discuss the higher prices wholesale customers would face compared to retail customers. “That’s one topic we didn’t get to. We covered a lot of ground, but we didn’t get to everything. That’s a point we’ve been scratching our heads on also,” Eccard said. The mayors intend to keep pushing for changes to the water rate increase as the county has proposed it through communication with the county commissioners but also by keeping their residents up to date on the interactions the response, they receive from the county officials. “We’ve raised a number of points and they said they’re going to look at some of them. We appreciate that. But with the schedule they’re under, we’re going to reach out to all of our citizens to alert them in case they haven’t become aware of this coming change and what the impact on them would be,” Eccard said. “At a minimum, we don’t want to have our ratepayers surprised and be mad at us for not even telling them this was going to happen. We’re going to make sure we let them know what’s going to happen. We’re going to continue to urge the commissioners in whatever way that we can that they need to find some ways to reduce the impact, the one-year impact of this.” “I think the mayors are going to huddle to find the most effective way of continuing to communicate our views and concerns. Whether that takes the form of another meeting or some other mechanism, I honestly don’t know at this point. But we’re not going to be silent about this. Shallotte will not be silent and I’m pretty sure that other towns will not be silent.” Eccard couldn’t gauge how receptive county officials were to the ideas brought to them by the mayors. “I think the fairest way to say it is, the fact that they agreed to look at whether the capital recovery rate is set appropriately given the amount of costs thy are incurring. The fact that they’re willing to try to find a way to help businesses and the way that they’re at least willing to consider using of ARP funds if they get legal guidance. It indicated they were listening,” Eccard said. I don’t really have a good sense of what they’re going to do about the growth rates. I think they may look at that, but I don’t know if they’re going to make any adjustments. Similarly, although they’re going to look at breaking the payment over two years, I don’t have any clarity on whether they’re going to do that or not so. So I guess the fairest view of it is they heard what we were saying. They’re going to review a few things. And that’s all positive. But I didn’t come away with a feeling that we found a solution at all to the problem. “If I could be so bold, I guess my overall statement is one of appreciation that they’re willing to listen and consider some of the suggestions we made. But my deep concern remains about the impact of the proposed increase,” Eccard said.
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  • Dog Park
    The dog park will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The Town needed to use the land at the dog park to place material from the canal dredging project as the dredge spoils area. It is unknown when it will be returned to a useable state as a dog park again. They are currently looking at other options for a dog park on the island.

    Previously reported – January 2020
    Dog park was utilized for canal dredging spoil site. We did some site ditching prior to Hurricane Dorian storm event to facilitate draining of the pond.

    Intent is to reestablish pre-dredge capabilities which in order of priority are as follows:
    . 1.
    Permitted primary disaster debris management area
    . 2.
    Public Works lay down yard
    . 3.
    Dog Park

    Must maintain compliance with environmental permit and monitoring
    Safety is the priority for this site, at present it is not ready for use

    Four people spoke during the Public Comments session at the January BOC’s meeting, all in favor of creating a new Dog Park area. The park was utilized by people daily. We no longer have anywhere on the island to walk a dog safely. The nearest dog park for off leash activity is in Shallotte. I think we should make every effort to provide an area for dogs on the island. My recommendation is to utilize existing town property. The Town actually owns quite a bit of property. For instance, we have two parcels between BAW and OBW, across from Marker Fifty-Five, that were platted as streets but never put in; between High Point Street and Neptune Drive. We had previously discussed the possibility of creating parking areas out of them, one of them could be made into a dog park. Parking should be on the BAW side of the park, so it doesn’t get taken over by guests going to the beach. The designated area would be an additional recreational opportunity as well as an option for having dogs off their leashes instead of in unauthorized areas like the beach strand. As for allocating funds the cost should be paid for by the canal POA’s. You ask: Why? In April of 2014 we established the Dog Park on Town owned property at Scotch Bonnet Drive, at a cost of $19,000 sourced from BPART account. The Canal Dredging Project was mostly paid for from the Water Resources Development Grant of $1,439,922 which we secured in December 2017. According to Town Manager Hewett, “the Canal Dredging Project is paying all costs for the reconstitution of the Scotch Bonnet site to include installation of dog park facilities at that location.” That’s all well and good but meanwhile we do not have a dog park. It is my humble opinion that the right thing to do is for them to pay to create a temporary replacement dog park too.

    NRPA Park Pulse: Americans Agree Dog Parks Benefit Local Communities
    Local parks and recreation agencies provide dog parks for the areas they serve
    Each month, through a poll of Americans that is focused on park and recreation issues, NRPA Park Pulse helps tell the park and recreation story. Questions span from the serious to the more lighthearted. With this month’s poll, we look at the possible benefits dog parks bring to their communities.

    91% of Americans believe dog parks provide benefits to their communities

    Availability of dog parks is especially popular among millennials (94 percent) and Gen Xers (92 percent) followed by baby boomers (89 percent) who agree dog parks provide benefits to communities.

    Top 3 Community Dog Park Benefits:

        • 60% Gives dogs a safe space to exercise and roam around freely
        • 48% Allows dogs to socialize with other dogs
        • 36% Allows owners a chance to be physically active with their pet

    For more information » click here

  • Previously reported – July 2020
    BOC’s are cognizant that the residents want a dog park. The Board went with Option #2 – Request the Parks and Recreation Committee to include a new dog park in their upcoming Master Plan development efforts and recommend a possible site.

    Corrections & Amplifications –

Hurricane Vehicle Decals
The 2021 vehicle decals were distributed with the March water bills.
Each bill included four (4) vehicle decals. It is important that you place your decals in your vehicle or in a safe place. A $10 fee will be assessed to anyone who needs to obtain either additional or replacement decals. Decals will not be issued in the 24-hour period before an anticipated order of evacuation.

The decals are your passes to get back onto the island to check your property in the event that an emergency would necessitate restricting access to the island. Decals must be displayed in the driver side lower left-hand corner of the windshield, where they are not obstructed by any other items. Officials must be able to clearly read the decal from outside the vehicle.

Property owners without a valid decal will not be allowed on the island during restricted access. No other method of identification is accepted in an emergency situation. Click here to visit the Town website to find out more information regarding decals and emergency situations.


What is a State of Emergency?
A proclamation by the Town which enacts special ordinances and/or prohibitions during emergency situations to protect the public, public health and property. These prohibitions can include limitations on movement, curfews, directing of evacuations, controlling ingress and egress to the emergency area, alcoholic beverages, and more. State of Emergencies are issued in accordance with N.C.G.S. 166A-19.22.

What is a curfew?
A curfew is an order, typically during a State of Emergency, which requires all persons in the affected areas to remain on their own property. During a curfew, you are not free to move about public domain areas or on others’ property. Violations of a curfew could lead to arrest in certain situations.

What is a voluntary evacuation?
A voluntary evacuation creates a recommendation for all parties in the affected area to get their affairs in order hastily and evacuated.

What is a mandatory evacuation?
A mandatory evacuation means you must leave the area in which an order has been issued. With recent changes to the laws in North Carolina, you no longer have the option of staying in an area under an order of mandatory evacuation.

Why is the sewer system turned off during a storm/event?
Often the sewer system is turned off during storms which have the potential to create significant flooding on the island. The system is turned off to protect its integrity. If it were left on, it could pose a significant threat to the public health. When the system is manually shut down, it also greatly reduces the time needed to bring it back up after an event which equates to getting residents and guests back on the Island much faster.

Why is there a delay for decal holders to get back on the island once a storm ends?
After a storm, many things must occur before even limited access can be allowed. Some of those things include making sure the streets are passable; the sewer system must be restarted to comply with State laws; the utilities (water, sewer, electricity, propane supplies) must be checked to ensure no safety risk are present; and the post-storm damage assessment team needs to perform an initial assessment.

Where can I get up-to-date information during and after a storm or State of Emergency?
You can sign up for the Town email service by clicking here. The newsletter, along with the Town’s website will be the main sources of information during an emergency situation. Links to the Town’s official Facebook and Twitter pages can be found on the website. You can also download our app for Apple and Android phones by accessing the app store on your smart phone and searching Holden Beach.

Please refrain from calling Town Hall and Police Department phone lines with general information questions. These lines need to remain open for emergencies, storm management and post-storm mitigation. All updates concerning re-entry, general access, etc. may be found on the Town’s website and other media outlets.

Why do I see others moving about the island during a curfew?
If a curfew order is in place, you must stay on your own property. You may see many other vehicles moving about the Island. We often receive assistance from other local, state, federal and contract personnel during events. It is likely these are the personnel you are seeing, and they are involved in the mitigation process for the event. Please do not assume that a curfew order has been lifted and/or you are free to move about the island.

Can I check my friends’ property for them?
If a curfew order is in place, you may ONLY travel to your personally owned property. Traveling about the Island to check on others’ property is not allowed. is in place, you may ONLY travel to your personally owned property. Traveling about

Who can obtain decals?
Only property owners and businesses who service the island can obtain a decal.

How do I get decals for my vehicle…?

If I am an owner?
Decals will be mailed out in water bills to property owners before the season starts. Those owners who need additional decals can contact Town Hall. A fee may apply, please check the current fee schedule.

If I am a renter?
You must contact the owner of the property to obtain a decal.

If I am a business owner on the Island?
You must contact Town Hall to obtain a decal.

If I am a business owner off the Island that provides services on the Island?
You must contact Town Hall for eligibility and to obtain a decal.

When does my decal expire?
All decals expire on the last day of the calendar year as indicated on the decal.

Where do I put my decal on my car?
Decals must be displayed in the lower left-hand corner of the windshield, where they are not obstructed by any other items to include window tinting, other decals, etc. Officials must be able to clearly read the decal from outside the vehicle. Please note that re-entry will not be allowed if a current, intact decal is not affixed to the windshield as designated.

How do I replace a decal if I get a new vehicle?
If you trade a vehicle or otherwise need a replacement decal, you may obtain them from Town Hall during normal business hours. A fee may apply, check the current fee schedule.

Can I obtain a decal right before an emergency occurs?
While most of the storms we deal with are tropical in nature with some type of advanced warning, we do experience many other types of events that could create a State of Emergency without warning. All eligible parties should obtain decals as early as possible each year to avoid being denied access to the Island. Decals shall not be issued during the 24-hour period prior to an anticipated order of evacuation so staff can concentrate on properly preparing the Town for the storm/event.

Can I use a tax bill or another document for re-entry?
No. You MUST have a decal to re-enter the Island until it is open to the general public.

How does re-entry after a storm during a State of Emergency work?
The bridge is closed to all vehicle access, except for official vehicles. Once those with proper decals are allowed access, they must conform with the current rules in place by the specific State of Emergency Order. After all hazards have been rendered safe, the bridge will be opened to the general public. A curfew could remain in effect however, to ensure the safety and security of the Island and its residents and guests. Please understand this process typically takes days to evolve and could be significantly longer, depending on the amount of damage sustained. Please refrain from calling for times for re-entry, as those are often not set on schedule. Instead, stay tunes to local media outlets and official social media accounts for accurate updates.

How can I check on my property if access is limited to the Island?
Once it is safe, property owners with valid decals will be allowed back on the Island after a storm/event. At this point, you can travel to your property, in accordance with the rules of the specific State of Emergency Order currently in place.

If you live out of the area, please do not travel to the Island until you are certain you will be allowed access. Stay tuned to those media outlets and email services that are of official nature for this information. Also, be certain you have your current, valid decal properly affixed to your vehicle.

It is a good idea to be sure your contact information is current with the Town tax office as this is the location Town officials will use in the event you need to be contacted.
For more information » click here

NC General Statute 166A-19.22
Power of municipalities and counties to enact ordinances to deal with states of emergency.

Synopsis – The governing body may impose by declaration or enacted ordinance, prohibitions, and restrictions during a state of emergency. This includes the prohibition and restriction of movements of people in public places, including imposing a curfew; directing or compelling the voluntary or mandatory evacuation of all or part of the population, controlling ingress and egress of an emergency area, and providing for the closure of streets, roads, highways, bridges, public vehicular areas. All prohibitions and restrictions imposed by declaration or ordinance shall take effect immediately upon publication of the declaration unless the declaration sets a later time. The prohibitions and restrictions shall expire when they are terminated by the official or entity that imposed them, or when the state of emergency terminates.

Violation – Any person who violates any provisions of an ordinance or a declaration enacted or declared pursuant to this section shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Turtle Watch Program

Turtle Watch Program
. 1) Current nest count – three (3) as of 05/23/21
.    • 
Average annual number of nests is 39.5
. 2)
First nest of the season was on May 8th

Members of the patrol started riding the beach every morning on May 1 and will do so through October looking for signs of turtle nests.
For more information » click here

It’s Turtle Season on Holden Beach!
It’s official…. the turtle season has started!
Turtle Watch ATV riders are out looking for tracks of the mother turtle each morning.
Turtles usually start laying their eggs on our beach mid to late May.
It will take 55-60 days for these eggs to incubate.
They anticipate the first baby turtles on the beach in early July.

Several firsts on a Saturday afternoon
Not only did we have our first nest yesterday (May 8, 2021) it was a historic event! Our first nest of the season was laid Saturday afternoon around 2 p.m. So our turtle season has officially begun.

This nest marks a series of firsts!
1. First Kemp’s Ridley Turtle nest to be laid on our beach in Turtle Patrol History.
2. First nest in North Carolina for this season.
3. Earliest nest laid on Holden Beach

Kemp’s Ridley are the smallest of the five kinds of turtles that lay nests in North Carolina. They usually lay nests further north in the Outer Banks area. Kemp’s Ridleys are the most threatened species of turtles that nest in North Carolina. They usually nest during daylight hours (so mid-afternoon is not unusual for them). The momma climbed an escarpment and laid the nest in a safe place. Incubation for Kemp’s Ridley turtles is similar to Loggerheads, we expect to have babies from this nest in around 60 days. Their nests typically have 104 to 110 eggs.

We’re excited to have a Kemp’s Ridley nest on out beach. The turtle we see most often is the Loggerhead turtle. Riders are out each morning looking for turtle tracks (called crawls.) We’re thinking it will still be a little while before we have a Loggerhead nest….but who knows… our earliest recorded date for a Loggerhead nest on the beach was May 9, 2019.

North Carolina’s first turtle nest of 2021 season laid in Holden Beach
The sea turtle nesting season is underway in North Carolina. The first nest reported for the 2021 season was laid in Holden Beach over the weekend. The Holden Beach Turtle Patrol says the turtle that came ashore on Saturday was a very rare one — Kemp’s Ridley. It is one of the most endangered species of sea turtle so HBTP says they are going to do everything they can to make sure all hatchlings make it into the water. The incubation period is 50-60 days. Turtle experts say Kemp’s Ridley turtles weigh 50-80 pounds, and this one weighed about 60-65 pounds. The species typically nest just south of Texas in Mexico and there are usually only 3-4 nests in the United States per year.
Read more » click here

Odds & Ends –

Staying safe at the beach: Rip currents, jellyfish, sharks, and other hazards

A trip to the beach can turn deadly (or painful) due to natural hazards but being aware of risks and mitigating hazards is a good way to prevent problems.
Picture this: warm weather, blue skies, and your toes in the sand — it sounds like a perfect lazy summer day at the beach. Maybe you decide to cool down in the ocean and find yourself bobbing around when suddenly you realize you are a little too far out. As panic sinks in and you start to swim towards dry land you realize your efforts are in vain and your whole body is getting tired, all the while you are drifting further into the Atlantic — you have gotten stuck in a rip current. It’s not the only potential danger in the ocean, though. There are also sharks. And, of course, there are some things on shore that ruin your day at the beach, too, including stepping on jellyfish and, of course, good old-fashioned sunburn.

Rip currents
According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA), 80 percent of all ocean rescues are related to rip currents and annually more than 100 fatalities across the country are due to rip currents. While it is obvious that swimming at a beach with lifeguards is one of the safer options, there are plenty of area beaches that lack lifeguards or maybe ocean rescue season has not started just yet. So, what is the best course of action for surviving a rip current? According to the National Weather Service, there are several things swimmers should keep in mind when dealing with these often-unseen dangers.

  • Relax. Rip currents don’t pull you under.
  • A rip current is a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of 1-2 feet per second but has been measured as fast as 8 feet per second — faster than an Olympic swimmer. Trying to swim against a rip current will only use up your energy; energy you need to survive and escape the rip current.
  • Do NOT try to swim directly into to shore. Swim along the shoreline until you escape the current’s pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
  • If you feel you can’t reach shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help. Remember: If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • If at all possible, only swim at beaches with lifeguards.
  • If you choose to swim on beaches without a lifeguard, never swim alone. Take a friend and have that person take a cell phone so he or she can call 911 for help. 

    Sharks are a fear on most every swimmer’s mind, regardless of the actual dangers posed by the large predatory fish. “NOAA states that while shark attacks are rare, they are most likely to occur near shore, typically inshore of a sandbar or between sandbars where sharks can be trapped by low tide, and near steep drop-offs where sharks’ prey gather. While the risks are small, it’s important to be aware of how to avoid an attack,” according to previous reporting.

Suggestions from NOAA for reducing the risk of a shark attack include:

  • Don’t swim too far from shore.
  • Stay in groups – sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual.
  • Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight when sharks are most active.
  • Don’t go in the water if bleeding from a wound – sharks have a very acute sense of smell.
  • Leave the shiny jewelry at home – the reflected light resembles fish scales.
  • Avoid brightly-colored swimwear – sharks see contrast particularly well. 

    Most everyone has experienced a sunburn at one point in their life and while not often thought as a major concern for many, overexposure to UV light can cause serious long-term problems including skin cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using at least S.P.F. 15 sunscreen at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. Wearing a hat, long sleeves, and other protective clothing is also recommended to keep skin protected.

Jellyfish and Portuguese Man of War have been spotted along the beaches of New Hanover County and surrounding area beaches already this season and the little floating creatures can pack a punch. Often times beachgoers will spot them washed up on shore and other times they can be spotted in the water, but it is best to avoid them when you can. “While all jellyfish sting, not all contain poison that hurts humans. Be careful of jellies that wash up on shore, as some can still sting if tentacles are wet. NOAA recommends that if you are stung by a jellyfish to first seek a lifeguard to give first aid. If no lifeguards are present, wash the wound with vinegar or rubbing alcohol,” NOAA suggests. And what about that … other method of treating stings? Turns out, it’s a myth. In fact, urine can actually aggravate the stinging cells of jellyfish, making things worse. These cells, which detach and stick into the skin of prey, can continue to inject venom. Urine, as well as fresh water, can cause an imbalance to the salt solution surrounding the stinging cells, causing them to continue to fire. According to Scientific American, if you don’t have vinegar or rubbing alcohol, rinsing with salt water may be your best bet.
Read more » click here

This and That –

NCDOT collects 6M pounds of roadside litter this year
More than 6 million pounds of litter have been collected from state roadsides so far this year by North Carolina Department of Transportation’s crews, contractors and volunteers. About 6.3 million pounds of litter have been picked as of Wednesday up from roadsides as a part of this year’s litter removal efforts, around the same amount that was collected in 2020. The state is likely to surpass 2019’s record, when 10.5 million pounds of litter were collected. “We are on track to pick up more litter in 2021 than in any year previous,” said state Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette in a statement. “But to truly solve this problem, North Carolina must begin dealing with litter proactively. Secure your load, don’t throw trash out the window and do your part to make sure others know this too.” NCDOT’s litter management programs has many facets including NCDOT’s Sponsor-A-Highway Program, which businesses, organizations and individuals to sponsor litter removal along roadsides. NCDOT also partners with more than 120,000 participants in the Adopt-A-Highway Program, where volunteers pledge to clean a section of our highways at least four times a year. Report litterers to NCDOT’s Swat-A-Litterbug app, which can be downloaded at ncdot.gov/litter. The 2021 Fall Litter Sweep will be held between Sept. 11-25. More details will be available closer to the event. Officials say everyone should do their part by to combat litter by securing trash before driving to prevent roadside litter, disposing of garbage of properly and recycling when possible.
Read more » click here

Brunswick County In The Know

Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing counties in the entire nation!  Our county commissioners have offered to do an educational meet and greet.  Brunswick Commissioners Frank Williams and Mike Forte have offered their time to address an audience on general (non-political) topics such as county organization and structure, what the commissioners do, and most importantly what activities are going on now to ensure Brunswick County is ready for the expansion and growth coming our way.

Informational “Meet and Greets” will be offered on the 3rd Thursday of the month from 6:00 pm until 7:30 pm  at the Lockwood Folly Country Club, River room on the second floor.

Topics including but not limited to:
    * Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Response
.     * Board of Education and Charter School issues

.     * Election Integrity
.     * Economic Development – Brunswick Vision 2040

Mark your calendar for 3rd Thursday’s!
Be informed!
Get answers to frequently asked questions!
Make your concerns heard!
They are our elected officials…they work for US!

For more information e-mail: info@BrunscoInTheKnow.com 

Factoid That May Interest Only Me –

Expect Coyote Sightings This Month: WRC
Although coyotes are generally elusive and avoid humans, sightings peak in May as they begin searching around the clock for food to support their newborn pups. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission officials report that coyotes prefer to build their dens away from human activity, but in North Carolina, where coyotes can be found in all 100 counties, that can still mean contact with people. As coyotes wander in search of food such as wild fruit, small mammals and this year’s increased numbers of cicadas, the animals can enter residential areas, especially if food is plentiful, according to the commission. Coyotes will take advantage of pet food left outdoors, food scraps and other nutritious tidbits around homes. Smaller pets such as cats and small-breed dogs should always be closely supervised when outdoors, as they can easily be mistaken for natural prey. Dog-proof fencing, which is at least 6 feet tall and prevents digging underneath, is the only guarantee of a no-coyote zone, but there are other ways to keep coyotes from hanging around. “You must remove anything that could attract coyotes and actively make the area uncomfortable for them,” said Falyn Owens, extension biologist for the Wildlife Commission.

 Owens offers the following tips to deter coyotes:

      • Remove all outdoor pet food, fallen fruit, food waste and bird feeders.
      • Keep cats and small dogs on a leash or harness whenever they’re outside.
      • Haze coyotes away from homes and businesses.

Hazing is to wave your arms and shouting forcefully until a coyote leaves. Spraying them with a water hose or throwing small rocks in their direction can also alert coyotes they’re not welcome in the area. In more remote areas where a coyote pair might be denning, hazing likely won’t be effective. “Coyotes will closely watch people who come near their den or pups, so if you are passing through a brushy or wooded area and notice a coyote watching you or even following you at a distance, there may be a den nearby,” said Owens. “In this case, leave calmly and inform others to avoid the area for a few weeks. Coyotes use dens like a crib for protecting their newborn pups, and as soon as the pups can survive outside of the den, the coyotes will abandon it.” Coyotes rarely attack people, preferring to avoid humans entirely or keep their distance. If you are walking a small dog and a coyote seems to take interest, pick up the dog and act threatening toward the coyote. They are opportunistic hunters and prefer an easy meal over one that puts them at risk. If you have questions about interactions with coyotes, visit www.ncwildlife.org/coyote or contact the NC Wildlife Helpline, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., at 866-318-2401 or email anytime at HWI@ncwildlife.org.
Read more » click here

Editor’s Note –
That explains why a coyote was sauntering down my street while it was still light out a few weeks ago

Hot Button Issues
Subjects that are important to people and about which they have strong opinions

For more information » click here

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear

The Trump Administration Rolled Back More Than 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List.
Over four years, the Trump administration dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife, and toxic chemicals. In all, a New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts nearly 100 environmental rules officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back under Mr. Trump. More than a dozen other potential rollbacks remained in progress by the end but were not finalized by the end of the administration’s term.
Read more » click here

The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof
Definitive answers to the big questions.

Read more » click here

U.S. has entered unprecedented climate territory, EPA warns
The Trump administration delayed the report, which cites urban heat waves and permafrost loss as signs of global warming, for three years

For years, President Donald Trump and his deputies played down the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and delayed the release of an Environmental Protection Agency report detailing climate-related damage. But on Wednesday, the EPA released a detailed and disturbing account of the startling changes that Earth’s warming had on parts of the United States during Trump’s presidency. The destruction of year-round permafrost in Alaska, loss of winter ice on the Great Lakes and spike in summer heat waves in U.S. cities all signal that climate change is intensifying, the EPA said in its report. The assessment, which languished under the Trump administration for three years, marks the first time the agency has said such changes are being driven at least in part by human-caused global warming. As it launched an updated webpage to inform the public on how climate change is upending communities throughout the country, the Biden administration gave the agency’s imprimatur to a growing body of evidence that climate effects are happening faster and becoming more extreme than when EPA last published its “Climate Indicators” data in 2016.
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Development Fees
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Draft System Development Fees Report
Calculation of Water and Sewer System Development Fees for FY2022

Agenda Packet –
The System Development Report herein has been developed by Raftelis in accordance with Board direction to develop an update prior to the expiration of its five-year shelf life. Representatives from Raftelis will provide an introductory review of the report for the Board in addition to outlining the statutory process for consideration and adoption.

Draft System Development Fee Report

The Town, like Brunswick County, has chosen to assess its system development fee for its customers based on the number of bedrooms.

Step 5 – Scale the System Development Fees for Various Categories of Demand
The system development fees for various bedroom sizes were calculated by multiplying the system development fee for one bedroom by the number of bedrooms. The resulting water and sewer system development fees for up to 4 bedrooms are shown in Table 7.

Table 7. Water and Sewer System Development Fees by Bedroom
Bedroom Size Water Fee Sewer Fee Total Fee

1 Bedroom $960 $2,240 $3,200
2 Bedrooms $1,920 $4,480 $6,400
3 Bedrooms $2,880 $6,720 $9,600
4 Bedrooms $3,840 $8,960 $12,800

The water and sewer system development fees shown represent the maximum cost justified level of system development fees that can be assessed by the Town.

Schedule 3: Summary of Current and Proposed System Development
Total System Development Fee
Bedroom Size Current Fee Proposed Fee Diference $ Difference %
Cost 1 Bedroom $2,800 $3,200 $400 14%
Cost 2 Bedrooms $5,600 $6,400 $800 14%
Cost 3 Bedrooms $8,400 $9,600 $1,200 14%
Cost 4 Bedrooms $11,200 $12,800 $1,600 14%

System Development Fees Report
Click here to view the draft System Development Fees Report prepared by Raftelis in accordance with HB 436. 


Flood Insurance Program
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National Flood Insurance Program: Reauthorization
Congress must periodically renew the NFIP’s statutory authority to operate. On October 1, 2020, the President signed legislation passed by Congress that extends the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) authorization to September 30, 2021.

Congress must now reauthorize the NFIP
by no later than 11:59 pm on September 30, 2021.

Flood-prone homeowners could see major rate hikes in FEMA flood insurance changes, new study finds
With a major overhaul of the nation’s flood insurance program just months away, new data released Monday by the First Street Foundation suggests hundreds of thousands of homeowners in the riskiest locations across America could face massive rate hikes starting in October. The Brooklyn, New York-based research group estimates the average rate needs to more than quadruple on the nation’s most flood-prone homes under the ongoing effort to make the federal flood insurance program solvent and ensure homeowners most at risk are paying their fair share.

First Street data projects that the majority of homeowners won’t see big rate changes, and others could see premiums decrease. But for some 265,000 properties, annual premiums would need to climb $10,000 or more to match the actual risk. Those with more expensive properties are estimated to see the biggest premium increases. Any actual rate hikes adopted by the federal government would be slowly phased in for existing policyholders.
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Flood Insurance Costs Vastly Underrated by FEMA, New Report Says
At a Glance

    • A new report takes into account the cost of damage.
    • FEMA doesn’t currently factor that in to flood insurance premiums.
    • The fee structure for the federal flood insurance program is set to change this year.

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the U.S. would pay considerably more in federal subsidized flood insurance if rates accurately reflected the risk, according to a new report from research group First Street Foundation. The report comes at the same time the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to revise premiums for the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA says the new premiums will be more in line with real-life costs. If the First Street data is any indication, that could mean rates more than five times higher than what they currently are. First Street, a nonprofit research and technology group, identified 4.3 million residential properties as having substantial flood risk that would result in damage and financial losses. Under current FEMA rules, flood insurance rates are based mostly on whether or not a property is within a designated Special Flood Hazard Area, which requires flood insurance if a homeowner has a federally backed mortgage. The rates don’t take into account a home’s value, estimated cost of damages in the event of a flood and other factors, according to Matthew Eby, founder, and executive director of First Street. That means the cost of flood insurance for a $300,000 home could be the same as for a million-dollar home. “The rates are really low for some properties that have substantial risk,” Eby told weather.com in a recent interview. “And the reason for that is because FEMA does a zone-based approach to flood risk.” The foundation calculated annual estimated losses over a 30-year-period to determine what homeowners should be paying for flood insurance. About 2.7 million of the properties identified by First Street are outside of an SFHA. The foundation estimates that under the current system, flood insurance costs would need to increase by 5.2 times, which would bring annual premiums up to about $2,484 a year. Those inside an SFHA would face premium increases of 4.2 times, costing $7,895 a year. Costs would vary once other factors are thrown into the mix. And the prices would go up as climate change increases costs and makes flooding more likely, according to the report. The total expected loss from flooding this year is $20 billion. But that goes up to nearly $32.2 billion in 30 years. FEMA is expected to raise rates for flood insurance on Oct. 1. The agency says people should not assume that the First Street estimates are the same as the new NFIP rate structure, called Risk Rating 2.0. “Any entity claiming that they can provide insight or comparison to the Risk Rating 2.0 initiative, including premium amounts, is misinformed and setting public expectations that are not based in fact,” David I. Maurstad, who runs the flood insurance program for FEMA, said in a statement, according to the New York Times. The NFIP is operating under a loss of more than $36 billion, according to First Street. First Street introduced a new tool last year called Flood Factor, which is an interactive website that lets people look up flood risk by address. As part of its new report, the foundation added estimated costs of flood damage and losses over the course of 30 years to the tool.
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Big flood insurance rate changes are coming to NC. Will they be fair?
Climate change denial isn’t just the domain of recalcitrant contrarians. It’s baked into the way the risks and costs of flooding are calculated in North Carolina and around the nation. Government-backed flood insurance – often the only option for homeowners along the coast and near rivers – is based on outdated flood maps that fail to reflect how climate change is increasing the regularity and scale of flooding. Those maps have skewed insurance rates downward and left wide swaths of land where properties should be insured against flooding but are not.

Fortunately, that’s about to change. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is preparing to unveil the sweeping changes in assessing flood risk and setting insurance rates. The new approach, called Risk Rating 2.0, will begin Oct. 1. In North Carolina, with its long coast and many flood-prone areas within its coastal plain and mountain region, the changes will have a major impact. There will be a shift in rates – higher for some, lower for others – and more accurate risk assessments could show more property owners that they need protection against flooding. NFIP rates will no longer be based on zones. Instead properties will be individually rated depending on updated weather patterns and individual aspects of a specific property. Amanda Bryant, director of the website myfloodrisk.org, said that will mean higher rates for more vulnerable homes. “The new risk assessment will show the majority of coastal properties in North Carolina are at more risk,” she said. Former North Carolina insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin said the rate increases come after Congress has long postponed setting premiums high enough to cover the actual risk. “The longer you wait to correct something, the greater the pain and that’s what’s happening here,” he said.

FEMA is not saying yet how much the new risk assessment will drive up rates and when. Annual premium increases are capped by law at 18 percent, but the escalation over time could change who can afford to live in coastal areas. An analysis by the First Street Foundation, a non-profit that assesses flood risks, projects that some properties could face massive rate hikes. The predictions of rate shocks for expensive homes should not obscure that the changes will benefit owners of more modest homes, said Don Hornstein, a University of North Carolina law professor who specializes in insurance law. The current system sets rates too broadly, he said, and that leads to lower-income homeowners subsidizing the cost of flood insurance for higher-income homeowners. Hornstein said the rate changes are “going to fix that by eliminating these cross subsidies that go the wrong way.” As a result, he said, more homes will get price decreases than price increases. But also more homes should get flood insurance. “Climate change is indeed driving the flood risk up for everyone,” said Rick Luettich, director of the Center for Natural Hazards Resilience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Luettich, who develops flooding models, said the new risk assessments will be helpful to homebuyers. “There’s an aspect of it being good news if you have a better understanding of what the hazard level is and you can make a better decision about whether you want to live there,” he said. Meanwhile, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey sees an option to higher federal flood insurance rates. He is pushing to have private insurers get back into the flood insurance business they fled in the 1960s, necessitating the creation of the NFIP. Causey said during a meeting with Carteret County officials last year that private insurance policies could be “far superior to anything under the federal program.” He also wants more homeowners to buy flood insurance regardless of whether they are in a designated flood zone. “My message to everybody is if it rains where you live, you need flood insurance,” he said, “We’re all in a flood zone, it’s just a matter of whether you’re in a high-risk flood zone or low risk.”
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FEMA pauses flood insurance rate update after Schumer pushback: report
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has paused an impending update to flood insurance rates, aimed at making the country more prepared for risks of climate change, after objections from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), The New York Times reported Thursday. FEMA was reportedly set to announce new rates on April 1 to better factor in climate risks, a move that aimed to reduce construction in areas with significant threats but could have increased some costs for people who live in those areas. The Times reported, citing anonymous sources, that Schumer fought the changes, and that his efforts halted FEMA’s action. Neither FEMA nor a spokesperson for Schumer immediately responded to The Hill’s request for comment. Schumer spokesperson Alex Nguyen told the Times that the agency should consult Congress before taking action and called for “affordable protection.” “FEMA shouldn’t be rushing to overhaul their process and risk dramatically increasing premiums on middle-class and working-class families without first consulting with Congress and the communities at greatest risk to the effects of climate change,” Nguyen said. “Congress and the Biden administration must work together in a collaborative and transparent process.” An agency spokesperson told the newspaper that FEMA will continue to work with Congress to carry out the plan and its changes will “better reflect an individual property’s unique flood risk.” When he was on the campaign trail, President Biden’s climate plan included provisions saying he wanted to help make the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change. His plan also notes, however, that resilient efforts “must consciously protect low-income communities from ‘green gentrification’ ” in a section that noted that some mitigation efforts can raise property values. Schumer, meanwhile, publicly pushed back on proposed FEMA flood insurance changes in 2019, saying they “unfairly put a bullseye on the backs of Long Island and New York homeowners,” and that the agency should “halt.”
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U.S. rolls out first update to flood insurance pricing in 50 years
Hundreds of thousands of Americans will pay significantly more to insure their homes in coastal areas and flood zones under new rules released on Thursday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the first major update to its pricing system in half a century. The agency said that, over the coming year, it will phase in a price-setting method that marks an epochal shift in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was set up in 1968 to cover property in flood-prone areas. New premiums will be based on a property’s value, risk of flooding and other factors, rather than simply on a property’s elevation in a flood zone. They will take effect on Oct. 1, 2021, for new policies and April 1, 2022, for the rest, FEMA said. The NFIP currently provides $1.3 trillion in coverage through more than 5 million policies in the U.S. but has been losing money for years and is currently $20.5 billion in debt. The new rules will mean hefty increases for expensive properties in wealthy coastal enclaves, said Jeremy Porter, head of research and development at First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn-New York based nonprofit that studies flood risk. Current flood zone-based pricing was “basically a subsidy to people,” Porter said. Under FEMA’s new system, “pricing is based on your insurance risk.” FEMA said it expects 4%, or more than 200,000 policies, will see significant premium increases, while about 1.15 million will see decreases, noting the change makes prices “more equitable.” In a study released in February of flood-prone properties rather than policies, First Street determined that more than 4 million would face increases and the average premium in flood zones would be $7,895 a year. The numbers in First Street’s study are higher than FEMA’s because only about 30% of flood-prone properties carry NFIP coverage, Porter noted. The changes mark the first update to FEMA’s pricing methods in 50 years and are based on updated technology and FEMA’s evolving knowledge of flood risk, the agency said.
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Millions to see rate hikes under new flood insurance plan
More than 1 million people who buy flood insurance from the federal government will see their premiums drop next year under a new system that will end decades of overpayments by making insurance rates more accurately reflect a property’s flood risk, officials said yesterday. At the same time, premiums charged by the National Flood Insurance Program will rise sharply for about 200,000 policyholders, many of whom own expensive homes in high-risk flood zones and have been paying too little, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. The vast majority of NFIP policyholders — roughly 3.7 million people — will see moderate rate increases, according to FEMA projections released yesterday. “This will address inequity that has built up over time and must be corrected,” said David Maurstad, who runs the flood insurance program for FEMA. “Property owners with lower-value homes are paying more than they should, and those with higher-value homes are paying less.” Many owners of lower-valued homes have been “paying way more than their fair share,” Maurstad added. The NFIP is the nation’s main provider of flood insurance, which is not included in standard homeowners’ insurance policies. It insures 5 million properties, mostly along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The overhaul in FEMA’s flood insurance rates could generate opposition from some lawmakers, particularly those from the Northeast, where a large number of people will see rate hikes. A 2019 bill by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is now the Senate majority leader, would have barred FEMA from raising anyone’s insurance rate by more than 9% a year. New York and New Jersey will be two of the hardest-hit states under FEMA’s new system. In New York, 14% of the state’s NFIP policyholders will see their premiums increase by at least $120 a year, according to FEMA projections. In New Jersey, 15% of the policyholders will see premiums rise by $120 a year or more. “FEMA shouldn’t be rushing to overhaul their process and risk dramatically increasing premiums on middle-class and working-class families without first consulting with Congress and the communities at greatest risk to the effects of climate change,” Schumer spokesperson Alex Nguyen said in a recent statement. “Congress and the Biden administration must work together in a collaborative and transparent process.” By contrast, the percentage of policyholders facing at least a $120-a-year increase is 7% in Texas, 9% in Alabama and North Carolina, and 10% in Louisiana. In Florida, where more people buy NFIP coverage than any other state, 12% of the state’s policyholders will see a rate increase of at least $120 a year. Some policyholders will face the annual rate hikes for only a few years, while others who have been paying too little for insurance for a long time will see rate hikes for a decade or longer. The new rates will begin to take effect next April for people who are renewing policies. For new policyholders, the new premiums will take effect in October. FEMA’s announcement yesterday drew praise from environmental advocates. “This isn’t just a minor improvement but a quantitative and qualitative leap forward in more accurately pricing risk,” said Forbes Tompkins, head of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ resilient infrastructure program. Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said FEMA’s new insurance rates “could go a long way in helping homeowners better understand their risk, ensuring they can make informed decisions to protect themselves and their property.” The new insurance rates are the result of a yearslong process FEMA has undertaken to refine its analysis of flood risk. Under the new system, called Risk Rating 2.0, FEMA uses the latest technology and data to estimate both the risk of an individual home being flooded and the cost to replace each home. For decades, FEMA has used a crude analysis that puts homes into large geographic groupings and charges the owners the same insurance premium, ignoring distinctions that make some of the homes riskier than others. “It’s like going from a standard-definition TV to HD-quality resolution,” Tompkins said. Incorporating replacement costs into insurance premiums would result in generally higher rates in regions such as the Northeast and the West Coast, where labor and materials are more expensive than in the rest of the country. Maurstad of FEMA said he expects the new pricing would increase the number of people who have flood insurance by making the rates fairer and easier for homeowners and insurance agents to understand. “It will result in greater value and trust in the program. As a result, folks that maybe didn’t think they were at much of a risk of flooding will now know that they are, and it will be harder for them to ignore it,” Maurstad said during a news briefing yesterday. Federal law requires people to have flood insurance if they own a property that is located in a flood zone and is secured by a federally backed mortgage. But millions of people ignore the requirement, and in some cases face financial ruin when their homes are flooded and they have no insurance.
E&E News


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    Homeowners Insurance
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    Insurance companies request rate increase for homeowners
    The North Carolina Rate Bureau (NCRB) has requested a 24.5 percent statewide average increase in homeowners’ insurance rates to take effect August 2021, according to a news release issued Nov. 10 by state insurance commissioner Mike Causey. The NCRB is not part of the N.C. Department of Insurance but represents companies that write insurance policies in the state. The department can either agree with the rates as filed or negotiate a settlement with the NCRB on a lower rate. If a settlement cannot be reached within 50 days, Causey will call for a hearing. Two years ago, in December 2018, the NCRB requested a statewide average increase of 17.4 percent. Causey negotiated a rate 13.4 percentage points lower and settled with a statewide aver-age rate increase of 4 percent. One of the drivers behind this requested increase is that North Carolina has experienced increased wind and hail losses stemming from damaging storms. A public comment period is required by law to give the public time to address the NCRB’s proposed rate increase.
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  • To see a table of proposed homeowners’ rate increases go to: click here
  • Territory 120 / Beach areas in Brunswick County / NCRB proposed increase 25%

  • Insurance commissioner sets hearing date in dwelling insurance rate hike case
    North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has set Jan. 18, 2022, as the hearing date for the North Carolina Rate Bureau’s proposed 18.7% dwelling insurance rate increase. “We are not in agreement with the Rate Bureau’s proposed increase filed in December,” Commissioner Causey said. “I want to make sure that the process is transparent, and that consumers’ interests are protected while making sure our insurance companies remain healthy so they can pay claims.” The Rate Bureau is not part of the Department of Insurance. It represents all companies writing property insurance in the state. The notice of hearing said that some of the data included in the Rate Bureau’s Dec. 14, 2020, filing contained a lack of documentation, explanation, and justification of both the data used as well as the procedures and methodologies used. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 18, 2022, in the second-floor hearing room in the Albemarle Building, 325 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh. The hearing will take place unless the N.C. Department of Insurance and the N.C. Rate Bureau are able to negotiate a settlement before that date. State law gives the Insurance Commissioner 45 days to issue an order once the hearing concludes. Once the order is issued, the NCRB has the right to appeal the decision before the N.C. Court of Appeals. A Court of Appeals order could then be appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court. The NCRB and DOI can settle the proposed rate increase at any time during the process. Dwelling insurance policies are not homeowners’ insurance policies. Dwelling policies are offered to non-owner-occupied residences of no more than four units, including rental properties, investment properties and other properties that are not occupied full time by the property owner. The filing covers insurance for fire and extended coverage at varying rates around the state. Under the NCRB proposal, the increases would be felt statewide with most consumers seeing a double-digit increase. The last NCRB dwelling rate increase filing was in 2019 that resulted in a settlement of 4%, which took effect July 1, 2020.
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Causey sets hearing date in dwelling insurance rate hike case
North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has set Jan. 18, 2022, as the hearing date for the North Carolina Rate Bureau’s (NCRB) proposed 18.7% dwelling insurance rate increase. We are not in agreement with the Rate Bureau’s proposed increase filed in December, Commissioner Causey said. “I want to make sure that the process is transparent, and that consumers’ interests are protected while making sure our insurance companies remain healthy so they can pay claims. The Rate Bureau is not part of the Department of Insurance. It represents all companies writing property insurance in the state. The notice of hearing said that some of the data included in the Rate Bureau’s Dec. 14, 2020, filing contained a lack of documentation, explanation, and justification of both the data used, as well as the procedures and methodologies used. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 18, 2022, in the second-floor hearing room in the Albemarle Building, 325 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh. The hearing will take place unless the N.C. Department of Insurance and the N.C. Rate Bureau are able to negotiate a settlement before that date. State law gives the Insurance Commissioner 45 days to is-sue an order once the hearing concludes. Once the order is issued, the NCRB has the right to appeal the decision before the N.C. Court of Appeals. A Court of Appeals order could then be appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court. The NCRB and DOI can settle the proposed rate in-crease at any time during the process. Dwelling insurance policies are not homeowners’ insurance policies. Dwelling policies are offered to non-owner-occupied residences of no more than four units, including rental properties, investment properties and other properties that are not occupied full-time by the property owner. The filing covers insurance for ire and extended coverage at varying rates around the state. Under the NCRB proposal, the increases would be felt statewide with most consumers seeing a double-digit increase. The last NCRB dwelling rate increase filing was in 2019 that resulted in a settlement of 4%, which took effect July 1, 2020.
Brunswick Beacon

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    Hurricane Season

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Hurricane season start date could shift earlier because of a surge in May storms
Story Highlights

    • According to NOAA, May storms have formed in each of the past six years.
    • Although the majority of the recent May storms have been rather benign, some have not.
    • There will be no changes to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season this year.

Because of a surge in May storms, meteorologists are considering moving the start date of the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 to May 15. The hurricane season has started on June 1 for more than five decades. The discussion on changing the start date began in December at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) hurricane conference, which followed the most active hurricane season on record, when 30 named storms formed. Storms have formed in May in each of the past six years, according to NOAA. In 2020, Tropical Storm Arthur came to life on May 16, followed by Tropical Storm Bertha on May 27. Since the late 1960s, when satellites began identifying tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic, 19 named storms have formed before June 1, Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach said. Although the majority of the recent May storms have been rather benign, some have not: “At least 20 deaths have occurred from late May storms since 2012, with about $200 million in total damage, and one of these systems was a 60-knot (70 mph) tropical storm at landfall,” according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The most recent confirmed hurricane during the month of May dates back to May 20, 1970 – Hurricane Alma, which reached maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, AccuWeather said. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph. Klotzbach worries about moving the start date to May 15 since the most dangerous storms typically don’t occur until the height of the season from late August through mid-October. “If you extend the season another 15 days, you could basically have three months with very little storm activity,” Klotzbach said. “People can only prepare for things for so long before they just say, ‘forget it.’” The eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15, but Klotzbach said the Atlantic basin has a much more peaked season. The World Meteorological Organization and NOAA will have meetings this spring to discuss moving the date of the hurricane season. The WMO has the final say on any potential date change. “An examination would need to take place regarding the need for, and potential ramifications of, potentially moving the beginning of the hurricane season to May 15,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. Regardless, there will be no changes to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season this year, he said. Although the start date of the basin’s hurricane season has traditionally begun on June 1, the end date has a history of being pushed back, first from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13 to Nov. 30, where it is today, AccuWeather said.
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New climate ‘normal’ for Atlantic hurricanes shows more frequent and intense storms
The past 30 years have seen record levels of hurricane activity.
Every 10 years, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration revises the baseline of what weather and climate conditions are considered “normal.” The most recent normals for Atlantic hurricane activity will soon be released, and a preview reveals a spike in storm frequency and intensity. During the most recent 30-year period, which spans 1991 to 2020, there has been an uptick in the number of named storms and an increase in the frequency of major hurricanes of category 3 intensity or greater in the Atlantic. That comes as no surprise amid a spate of extreme hurricane activity that has featured seven Category 5 storms swirling across Atlantic waters in just the past five years. The newly revised climate normals aren’t a forecast of upcoming activity, nor are they necessarily illustrative of any one particular climate or meteorological trend. They’re simply benchmark values. The National Weather Service calculates new climate normals each decade for all major U.S. cities with sufficient historical data. When you hear your local television meteorologist describe a day as “10 degrees above average,” for instance, this data is where that comes from. The new hurricane normals are not official yet, though available data clearly shows an uptick in storm frequency and intensity, likely related to a combination of climate change, natural variability, and improved storm detection.
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‘It only takes one storm’: AccuWeather predicts above-average 2021 hurricane season for NC
AccuWeather is predicting an above-average Atlantic hurricane season for 2021. In a report released Wednesday, AccuWeather’s team of tropical weather experts said 2021 is predicted to bring 16-20 named storms, with seven-to-10 becoming hurricanes and three-to-five major hurricanes expected to impact the United States. A normal season, according to their report, is 14 storms. In 2020, there were 13 storms with six becoming major hurricanes. In the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Steve Pfaff said they use predictions given by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which won’t be out until May. Right now, NOAA forecasters are still looking at all the moving pieces that help create a hurricane season prediction, Pfaff said. That includes everything from expected rainfall trends in Africa, which could impact the number of tropical waves, to temperatures in the Caribbean and wind patterns that could move Saharan dust into the Atlantic basin. “These predictions are not simple,” Pfaff explained. The more important thing about these annual season predictions, Pfaff said, is that it gets communities talking. North Carolina is “rapidly approaching hurricane season,” which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, Pfaff said. “Regardless of what the prediction is, it only takes one storm to define a region,” he added. Even if the NOAA forecast predicts a lower-than-average season, Pfaff said the level of preparedness shouldn’t change. “All it takes is that one,” Pfaff said. “People unfortunately equate the number to impact. That’s not a good way to think about these.” Pfaff has spent 26 years with the National Weather Service, and over that time he’s seen more and more category 4 storms, which is why he stresses the importance of being prepared no matter what predictions show. The numbers are just that – purely numbers – and don’t specify who has a higher chance of being hit. On top of that, several hurricanes in recent years have led to significant flooding events. “It seems like we’re seeing more and more tropical storms and hurricanes that result in flood disasters,” Pfaff said, using Hurricane Florence as a prime local example. The storm, which made landfall near Wrightsville Beach on Sept. 14, 2018 as a Category 1, was slow moving and dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the area for days. During these times people are cut off from help and supplies. Pfaff recommended families keep preparations on hand for seven days rather than the typical three in case of extreme “It seems like we’re seeing more and more tropical storms and hurricanes that result in flood disasters,” Pfaff said, using Hurricane Florence as a prime local example. The storm, which made landfall near Wrightsville Beach on Sept. 14, 2018 as a Category 1, was slow moving and dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the area for days. During these times people are cut off from help and supplies. Pfaff recommended families keep preparations on hand for seven days rather than the typical three in case of extreme circumstances. Meteorologists are also considering a change in the timeline for hurricane season, potentially moving the date two weeks earlier to mid-May due to an increase in May storms. That discussion is still ongoing and would require worldwide coordination. While most May storms tend to be tropical storms or low-category hurricanes due to there being less warm water to feed off than during the summer, Pfaff said, he recommends having kits ready to go in early May.
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2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Expected to Be More Active Than Normal

At a Glance

  • A total of 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes are expected this season.
  • This is above the 30-year average of 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
  • The forecast was released Thursday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual, according to an outlook released Thursday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project. The group led by Dr. Phil Klotzbach calls for 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or higher (115-plus-mph winds) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This forecast is above the 30-year average (1991 to 2020) of 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. “We anticipate that the 2021 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have above-normal activity,” Klotzbach wrote in the outlook. Though the official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, storms can occasionally develop outside those months, as was the case in the previous six seasons and 10 of the past 18 seasons since 2003. In 2020, Tropical storms Arthur and Bertha each formed in mid- to late May. The CSU outlook is based on roughly 40 years of statistical factors combined with data from seasons exhibiting similar features of sea-level pressure and sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific oceans.

What Does This Mean for the United States?
A record 11 storms made landfall in the U.S. in 2020, including six hurricanes: Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, and Zeta. That’s well above the average of one to two hurricane landfalls each season, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division. “We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” Klotzbach said. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.” Despite the 2020 season, there isn’t necessarily a strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the 17 named storms predicted to develop this season could hit the U.S. or none at all. Some past hurricane seasons have been inactive but included at least one notable landfall. The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane. In 1983, there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there – 21 – as Andrew did in South Florida – 26. On the other hand, the 2010 Atlantic season was very active, with 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. Despite the high number of storms that year, no hurricanes and only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. In other words, a season can deliver many storms but have little impact or deliver few storms and have one or more hitting the U.S. coast with major impact. The bottom line is it’s impossible to know for certain if a U.S. hurricane strike will occur this season. Keep in mind that even a weak tropical storm hitting the U.S. can cause major impacts, particularly if it moves slowly and rainfall triggers flooding.
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‘Average’ Atlantic hurricane season to reflect more storms
Higher averages based on most recent 30-year climate record
Beginning with this year’s hurricane season outlooks, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) will use 1991-2020 as the new 30-year period of record. The updated averages for the Atlantic hurricane season have increased with 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes. The average for major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) remains unchanged at 3. The previous Atlantic storm averages, based on the period from 1981 to 2010, were 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. NOAA is updating the set of statistics used to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near-, or below-average relative to the climate record. This update process occurs once every decade. “This update allows our meteorologists to make forecasts for the hurricane season with the most relevant climate statistics taken into consideration,” said Michael Farrar, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction
. “Our work illustrates the value of NOAA’s investments in next-generation technologies to capture the data that underpins our outlooks and other forecast products. These products are essential to providing the public and local emergency managers with advance information to prepare for storms, and achieving NOAA’s mission of protecting life and property.”

This graphic captures the changes in Atlantic hurricane season averages from the last three-decade period of 1981-2010 to the most current such period, 1991-2020. The updated averages for the Atlantic hurricane season have increased with 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes. The average for major hurricanes remains unchanged at 3. The previous Atlantic storm averages, based on the period from 1981 to 2010, were 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.

The increase in the averages may be attributed to the overall improvement in observing platforms, including NOAA’s fleet of next-generation environmental satellites and continued hurricane reconnaissance. It may also be due to the warming ocean and atmosphere which are influenced by climate change. The update also reflects a very busy period over the last 30 years, which includes many years of a positive Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, which can increase Atlantic hurricane activity. “These updated averages better reflect our collective experience of the past 10 years, which included some very active hurricane seasons,” said Matt Rosencrans, seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “NOAA scientists have evaluated the impacts of climate change on tropical cyclones and determined that it can influence storm intensity. Further research is needed to better understand and attribute the impacts of anthropogenic forcings and natural variability on tropical storm activity.” For the Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific basins the averages over the 1991 – 2020 period do not change. The Eastern Pacific basin will remain at 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. The Central Pacific basin will maintain an average of 4 named storms, 3 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. NOAA will issue its initial seasonal outlook for the 2021 hurricane season in late May. The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30.
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2020 tied a record for the most major hurricanes in the Atlantic, after further review
The National Hurricane Center retroactively upgraded Zeta to a Category 3 at landfall

After each hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center pens detailed write-ups that require them to meticulously review each storm that formed. Once in a while, they encounter new data that changes how they categorize storms. A report released Tuesday on Hurricane Zeta, which struck Louisiana in October, suggests the storm was at Category 3 strength at landfall in late October. Five fatalities have been attributed to the storm, which made landfall in Cocodrie, on the Louisiana Delta. That upgrade means the 2020 hurricane season had seven major hurricanes, rated Category 3 or higher, swirling through the Atlantic, tying 2005s record for the most such storms. The record 2020 season featured an unheard-of 30 named storms, exhausting the conventional alphabetized list of storms, while dipping farther into the supplementary Greek alphabet list than ever before. With its revised rating, Zeta becomes the latest-landfalling major hurricane to ever hit the contiguous United States. According to the National Hurricane Center, the old record was set by the Tampa Bay Hurricane on Oct. 25, 1921. Five of the last six storms in the 2020 Atlantic season reached Category 3 or higher. The season ended with a bang when Category 5 Hurricane Iota struck the coast of Nicaragua barely 15 miles from where the devastating Hurricane Eta hit with Category 4 winds just two weeks before.
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Get Ready: It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week
Gov. Roy Cooper has joined the national effort to make people more aware of the dangers of hurricanes by declaring this week Hurricane Preparedness Week. Hurricane Preparedness Week, which began Sunday and ends Saturday, is to remind residents to prepare for severe tropical weather common in North Carolina during hurricane season, which is June 1 through Nov. 30. “All North Carolinians should take this time to prepare for the possible impacts of a hurricane or other severe weather by updating their family emergency plans and supply kits,” Cooper said. “Having a plan and supplies will help you to survive through a hurricane and to recover faster should one adversely affect your home.” The state is currently recovering from the devastating effects of multiple storms including Hurricane Isaias and the remnants of Hurricane Eta in 2020, Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Hurricane Florence as well as Tropical Storms Michael and Alberto in 2018, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. “There are things everyone can do to prepare for severe weather long before it hits, such as having flood insurance and knowing if you live in a coastal evacuation zone,” said Mike Sprayberry, executive director of the state Emergency Management and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. The 20 North Carolina coastal counties have established predetermined evacuation zones, based on the threats of storm surge and river flooding. Residents can find out if they live in one of these zones by visiting KnowYourZone.nc.gov. Residents should learn their zone and watch or listen for it if evacuations are ordered before or after a storm. “I also encourage everyone to lookout for one another, especially for those who may be more vulnerable such as the elderly,” said Sprayberry. “It is easier get through a disaster by helping your friends and neighbors and working together.”

An emergency plan should include details on a meeting place and family phone numbers. Officials recommend writing down the emergency plan and gathering important documents, such as copy of driver’s license, insurance policies, medical records, and prescriptions, and make sure they’re quickly accessible in case of emergency.

Officials also encourage residents to review and update homeowners or renters’ insurance policies to ensure they are current and include adequate coverage for your current situation. Assemble an emergency supplies kit that includes enough nonperishable food and water to last each family member three to seven days. Other essential items include the following:

    • First-aid kit
    • Weather radio and batteries
    • Prescription medicines
    • Sleeping bag or blankets
    • Changes of clothes
    • Hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and deodorant
    • Cash
    • Pet supplies including food, water, bedding, leashes, muzzle, and vaccination records
    • Face masks and hand-sanitizer

Residents should pay attention to weather and evacuation information on local media stations and have a battery-powered radio in case there is a power outage. If asked to evacuate, residents should follow evacuation instructions. To help mitigate damage from severe weather, residents can trim trees, cover windows and secure loose outdoor items before severe weather strikes. More information on hurricanes and overall emergency preparedness is online at ReadyNC.org. Read the governor’s proclamation.
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NOAA predicts 6th consecutive above-average hurricane season
The Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t officially begin for another 12 days, but the early signs are it may end up being yet another very busy one. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued it’s seasonal Atlantic hurricane forecast Thursday afternoon. The forecast calls for 13-20 total named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). All of those categories are above the average of 14 total named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and NOAA is just one of more than a dozen academic institutions, government agencies and private forecasting companies that put out seasonal projections. “Seasonal forecasts from nearly all universities and private agencies are predicting that 2021 will be an above-average season once again,” CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. Another highly respected forecaster is Colorado State University, which was the first entity to issue a seasonal tropical forecast. Experts there issued their forecast back on April 8 indicating 17 total named storms, eight of which are expected to be hurricanes. “There aren’t any big outliers this year, while the (European model) was pretty low last year,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at CSU. Klotzbach noted that the strong consensus between seasonal forecast groups is likely due to the shared observation of features that usually trigger a very active season.
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Lockwood Folly Inlet
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Lockwood Inlet Association warns boaters of broken pipe, other dangers in waterway
After a year of lockdown, many anticipate a busier than ever beach season. For the Lockwood Inlet Association, this raises some concerns. Members of the association, Vice President Ryan Williams and President Cane Faircloth, are cautioning boaters who plan to use the inlet for work or for play as spring break approaches and warm weather lingers. “The biggest factors when it comes to navigating the inlet, definitely the tide and the weather,” Williams said. “If the swells up and you’ve got a hard southwest wind, onshore wind, it’s going to be really rough in there and very dangerous in there right now,” Faircloth added. The two noted several ongoing issues like an unmarked Civil War wreck that could be hazardous to boats passing by but identified two important issues that need immediate attention as the waterway begins to see more traffic. Most recently an exposed, broken pipe has surfaced in the middle of the inlet. Who is responsible for the pipe remains a mystery, but the algae growth on the pipe suggests it has been in the water for quite some time. Additionally, why it’s just now surfacing remains unanswered as well. Some speculated recent dredging events broke the pipe, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the only impact dredging would cause is lifting sand off the pipe, relieving pressure, and allowing it to rise to the surface. Once notified about the pipe, the U.S. Coast Guard marked it with a buoy, but it remains a hazard for boats traveling at a high rate of speed or with low visibility at night or early in the morning. “It’s something that we can fix and we can save a life doing it,” Faircloth said. “Basically, we need the Corps of Engineers, Brunswick County, and the U.S. Coast Guard to grab the bull by the horns, and let’s remove this.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says there’s not much they can do until an owner of the pipe is identified. When that happens, they can partner with the Coast Guard and write a letter to the owner, notifying them that it needs to be removed. The second pressing issue is the absence of navigational buoys directing boaters. This became a problem after Hurricane Isaias scattered them and they were never replaced by the Coast Guard. “If our inlet is not quite 100%, the coast guard doesn’t want to put the navigational aids in there, but in all reality, the truth is that any navigational aids that we can have are going to greatly help you in the situation,” Williams said. “I mean, it’s like saying the road is not 100% so we’re going to take up the stoplights and stop signs.” A spokesperson for the Coast Guard explained that following recent dredging events, the inlet is not wide or deep enough to allow buoys to be safely installed. However, they remain ready to assess surveys of any future dreading events. In the meantime, Faircloth encourages anyone who will be using Lockwood Folly to go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website to download the most recent survey of the inlet outlining GPS points to help navigate the waterway. The Lockwood Inlet Association members call on the community to get involved, share their concerns with elected officials and make their voices heard, not only for the inlet but for all issues they are passionate about within the community. “The inlet needs the public’s support long before it becomes a problem,” Williams said. “It’s one of our state’s greatest resources, our shallow-draft inlets. It kinda makes who we are with our backwater, our estuaries, our river systems, our fish, our clams, our oysters, all that depends on the inlet,” Faircloth said. WWAY has reached out to Brunswick County for comment on the concerns and a spokesperson confirms they are working to get more information.
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Seismic Testing / Offshore Drilling
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    Solid Waste Program

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Things I Think I Think –

Dining #2Eating out is one of the great little joys of life.

Restaurant Review:
Dinner Club visits a new restaurant once a month. Ratings reflect the reviewer’s reaction to food, ambience and service, with price taken into consideration.
Dinner Club outings have been on hold since March 2020

Dining Guide – Guests

Dining Guide – Local

Restaurant Reviews – North

Restaurant Reviews – South

Seafood Barn in Holden Beach closes after more than forty (40) years in business. The restaurant will not reopen for the 2021 season, as the owners prepare for retirement. When the unmistakable barn on Holden Beach road opens for the 2021 season, it’ll have a new name and new management.

With changes underway, Wilmington brunch favorite Boca Bay rebrands
During COVID-19 restrictions, many restaurant owners took the time to renovate and update their spaces.
At one Wrightsville Beach area restaurant, that process led to rebranding and a new name. Boca Bay, at 2025 Eastwood Road, in Wilmington, is now Soundside Seafood & Raw Bar. According to the owners at the Urban Food Group, much-needed maintenance at the 20-year-old building soon turned into larger renovation and the restaurant being closed for a few months. The change in aesthetics gives the space lighter and brighter look and more casual atmosphere, said Trish Witek, spokesperson.  The changes also came with an updated menu. Chef KC Weaver has been at the local restaurant since February and before that trained with Urban Food Group’s Executive Chef Josh Oakley at Avelina in Denver. (Oakley recently competed on Season 19 of the “Hell’s Kitchen” reality show).  “When the opportunity to relocate back to the coast became available, I jumped on it,” said Weaver, who is originally from Barrineau, S.C. While here, he helped create a “hyper focused” local seafood menu. “In all our offerings, there will be an emphasis on who caught it, when it was caught and where it was caught,” said Kevin Jennings, restaurant co-owner.  Some menu favorites, like the Shrimp Scampi and Oysters Rockefeller are still there. New additions include a seafood tower, expanded steamed and raw seafood selections, sandwiches like the tuna burger and oyster po’boy, and small plates like steak tartare and flounder tacos. Boca Bay was among the three businesses Wilmington restaurateur Ash Aziz sold to the Raleigh-based food group in 2019. Through the years, the restaurant has attracted a loyal group of fans, especially for its lavish Sunday brunch.  With the changes, though, it’s become a different restaurant.  “It just made sense to rebrand,” Witek said.  Soundside is planning on serving an a la carte brunch for Mother’s Day, with hopes of permanently reinstating brunch as soon as it can get new staff in place, perhaps by late May. It also hosts a $1 “Oyster Happy Hour” 4-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Some of the renovations are still underway. The awning-topped patio will have an entirely new look, with umbrellas and a fire pit to make it comfortable year-round.
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As vaccinations increase, you may want to dine indoors again.
Here’s what to consider.

Not for the first time in this pandemic, the ground is shifting. This time, the news is good: After a slow start, more and more people are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. And many restaurants around the country are reopening dining rooms, bringing back business to a hard-hit industry. That might be worth a toast at your favorite neighborhood hangout — but these glad tidings also come with a heaping side of uncertainty. Vaccine rollouts are happening at varying paces, meaning families and friend groups won’t all have their shots at the same time. Restaurant regulations still vary widely by jurisdiction, and a few places have pretty much lifted restrictions, which some have interpreted as permission to party like it’s 2019. Who can dine together? Can I eat indoors again? Should I? Those are just some of the questions diners are considering as they think about booking a table during this in-between time, when millions of Americans are getting vaccinated daily but before we’ve reached herd immunity. The answers aren’t always clear-cut. “There’s no such thing as zero risk, and nothing is 100 percent risky,” says Leana Wen, a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and contributing columnist at The Washington Post. “It’s a spectrum.” She has long urged people to think about their risks as expenditures from a “coronavirus budget,” and says the budgets of those who have been vaccinated just went way up. “You still have to think about how to spend it, and if your priority is seeing grandchildren and going to church, then maybe you’re not going to restaurants all that often.” With encouraging headlines, springlike temperatures and our collective covid fatigue at an all-time high, it might be tempting to throw caution — and another round of takeout — to the wind. But experts agree that now is not the time to lower your guard, but instead to maintain your vigilance so we can return to something like normal by the fall. For most people, who aren’t vaccinated, restaurants can still pose risks. A study released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that counties allowing in-person dining at restaurants saw a subsequent rise in cases and deaths. That followed an earlier CDC finding that people who were infected in July were more likely to have dined at a restaurant. We spoke to public health experts, scientists, and industry representatives about dining in this new, partially vaccinated world.

Whom can you dine with?
The CDC’s guidelines for vaccinated people, two weeks past their final shot, applies only to private settings. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said guidance for public places is coming soon, although the agency doesn’t have a firm release date yet. In its initial advice, the CDC focused on what vaccinated people could safely do in their homes and urged them to continue taking precautions including masking and distancing in public settings. The agency is cautious about issuing dining guidelines because of too many unknowns, said Greta Massetti, co-leader of the CDC’s Community Inventions and Critical Populations Task Force. “First of all, if you go to a restaurant, you will not know the vaccination status of any of the other patrons or any of the people who work there,” she says. “And likewise, the restaurants themselves won’t know whether people are vaccinated who walk through their doors.” To figure out whom you can break bread with in public, first check to see how many people are legally allowed to be seated as a party where you live. But numbers aren’t the only factor to consider. Wen notes that eating in a group means you can’t observe the usual protocols. “When you’re dining in a group, you’re going to have your masks off, and you’ll be sitting in close proximity to one another,” she says. While it’s fine for multiple vaccinated people to be seated together, “fully vaccinated people should not be dining with unvaccinated people, and unvaccinated people should not be dining with one another.” It isn’t yet clear to public health experts whether vaccinated people can spread the virus. That means up-close interactions between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated may still carry risk. “It’s less safe,” says Jennifer Kolker, a professor at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. “There’s more data showing that the chance of a vaccinated person passing it on is pretty low, but we don’t know for absolutely sure.” Even if you’re gathering your friends for a celebration of everyone’s newly vaccinated status, keep the party on the small side. “The larger the group, the harder it is to know and trust that they’re fully vaccinated,” Wen says.

What to consider before you go
Before you make a reservation, think about the infection rate in your community, Kolker advises. High rates increase the infection risk for anyone. “Being vaccinated when there’s a lot of disease in your community means you’re highly protected … but there’s still more disease coming at you,” she says. The consensus is that outdoors is safer than indoors, though some people have become infected by eating too close to asymptomatic carriers on patios and the like. The CDC recommends that you eat on patios or in well-ventilated tents because you “are less likely to get or spread Covid-19 during outdoor activities.” But the agency cautions that even outdoor diners should wear masks when not eating or drinking and maintain six feet of social distance. Whether you’re thinking about dining inside or out, first check out the restaurant to see its setup and safety precautions. Is there a touchless payment system? A time limit for diners? Distance between tables? Some restaurants are spelling out covid protocols on their websites or on social media. But if you’re unsure, pick up the phone. “Customers … should be calling the restaurant and saying, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing to make me feel safe?’ ” said Larry Lynch, senior vice president for science and industry at the National Restaurant Association. That can help you decide if you’re comfortable — and lessen the chance of conflict or confusion. Tiffanie Barriere, a brand, and bar consultant in Atlanta, advises patrons to be more mindful than ever about restaurants’ rules. “Call before you come and see what’s the protocol if you want to bring your friends, or if you want to bring a baby,” she says. “See if it’s for you. It might not be.” The adage that the customer is always right has gone out the window, she says: “It’s not your place, it’s theirs. The second you want to make it your place, all hell breaks loose, and we’ve all seen those viral videos.” If all this fact-finding sounds like too much, or you still don’t want to take a risk, remember: You can always support your favorite restaurant with takeout.

By now we know that there’s only a small risk of surface transmission of the virus — that is, via commonly touched surfaces, such as menus or credit cards. Still, restaurants offering hand sanitizer and frequently wiping down spaces may not just be engaging in “sanitation theater.” “If they’re paying attention to this, there’s a good chance they’re being attentive to the virus in other ways,” Wen says. Restaurants and bars have long operated under health codes that require proper food handling, storage, sanitation, hot water, handwashing, hygiene and more to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses. But Lynch says the pandemic has required managers to expand their thinking about sanitation. Servers now wipe down everything and make sure they’re “familiar with the kinds of chemical compounds that can be used safely and effectively against covid-19,” he said.

Air quality and environment
Unless you’re an environmental engineer, it’s almost impossible to judge the quality of a dining room’s ventilation and filtration systems based on appearances alone, and even specialists need to conduct tests and review data. The best a diner can do is ask about a system and whether owners regularly service it. “Think about your own home system,” Lynch said. “The moment they come in and service it for the season, whether it’s for the winter or summer, you automatically get this better air flow. … It’s the same thing in a commercial structure.” This subject gets very complicated very fast. Some restaurants, like a South Korean one that was the subject of a well-publicized study on air flow last year, have no ventilation system at all. The restaurant relied on air conditioning units to move air throughout the dining room; two diners were infected with coronavirus because they sat in the direct air flow from a third, asymptomatic customer. Diners may feel as if they are playing Russian roulette, because they can’t determine what indoor environments are safe. What kind of filtration system does the restaurant have, and how often is the air exchanged? Does the restaurant have a carbon dioxide detector, which may indicate how well-ventilated a room is and whether there is a concentration of coronavirus aerosols? Donald Milton, professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, says one of the safest units is also one of the rarest: an upper-room ultraviolet germicidal system, which disinfects the air with UV light. But it can cost thousands of dollars to install per room, and it works only in high-ceiling spaces. But Milton says these systems could benefit restaurants even after the pandemic by protecting against seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands of Americans annually. Short of the UV systems, Milton says, restaurants could use portable HEPA filter units. “Even if they’re not particularly well-placed, as long as they’re not all just on the perimeter, that’s going to create a much better environment,” he said.

Are restaurant workers vaccinated?
If you’re vaccinated, and the servers are fully masked, they probably don’t pose much of a risk to you, Wen says. But dining indoors is not just about your safety; it’s about the servers, back waiters, bussers, bartenders, and anyone else who comes in contact with customers. In some places, such as New York and Kentucky, food service workers are getting vaccinated, but in others, such as Florida and Louisiana, they are still waiting for an eligibility date. “Unfortunately, we’ve got this patchwork quilt of regulations around the country, so there’s no solid way we can get everyone vaccinated in the same way at the same time,” said Lynch of the National Restaurant Association.

That is why the association asks members to maintain protocols that have been in place for months, including encouraging diners to wear a mask at the table when not eating or drinking. That’s especially important where food service workers — who spend hours exposed to the breath of countless diners — are still waiting for vaccine appointments. The national association and state groups are educating workers to communicate with customers that the server-diner relationship is not as one-sided as before the pandemic. The goal is to convince diners of the mutual respect needed when diners may be vaccinated (and potentially still contagious) but servers are not, and when some states have lifted mask mandates, but President Biden has issued a nationwide one. The idea, said Lynch, is to have servers explain that they’re protecting customers by wearing a mask — and that they need the same protection from diners in return. A year ago in the Lone Star State, a similar spirit led to a social contract called the Texas Restaurant Promise. By posting the promise on their door, restaurants agree to have employees pass health screenings and wear face coverings, to maintain safe distances between parties, and to disinfect tables between seatings. In return, by entering the restaurant, diners agree to follow protocols and instructions from employees, including distancing rules. The gist is simple: “Don’t be a jerk,” said Anna Tauzin, chief revenue, and innovation officer at the Texas Restaurant Association. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) recently allowed restaurants outside areas with “high hospitalizations” to open with no state requirements for mask-wearing or capacity limits, even though its hospitality workers remain ineligible for the vaccine. Tauzin noted that nearly three-quarters of the 725 members that responded to a recent survey said they would continue to require staff members to wear masks. It’s fair to say, she added, that 75 to 80 percent of the association’s 4,800 members would do the same.

Only 38 percent, though, said they would continue requiring diners to wear masks, while 42 percent said they would not, and 20 percent said they weren’t sure. “Frankly, they’re just tired of the confrontation,” Tauzin said. “And if someone comes in, they will remind them, ‘Hey, could you please put on a mask?’ And if they say, ‘No, it’s my God-given right to not wear one,’ then they’re not going to fight them. They’re going to let them sit at the restaurant. They’re going to serve them. And then hopefully those people are not going to wander around licking doorknobs or anything like that.”

A time for patience
Experts say the arrival of vaccines isn’t a moment to let up on precautions; hopefully, we’ll have to live with the stress and inconvenience for only a little while longer. The CDC hasn’t set a target yet for when the agency will declare herd immunity, but Massetti said “more than 70 percent” of Americans will need to be vaccinated. How many more remains unknown until the CDC can review more data on variants, asymptomatic transmission among vaccinated people and other key research. “We are on the right path,” said Massetti. “We want to continue to stay the course to ensure that we stay on that path.” Kolker says public officials have a tough needle to thread as they’re warning people to stay vigilant about safety precautions even as vaccination rates rise. But there’s still a possibility that before vaccines are widespread, a spike in cases could lead to more lockdowns. “Telling people to still be careful is a hard message right now,” she says. “Because if we’re saying, ‘Get vaccinated, but there’s still doom and gloom,’ it makes it sound like there’s no reason to do it. Everyone is chomping at the bit to get out there and dine with their friends and family, and there’s reason to be hopeful that we will — but we just don’t want to blow it.”
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Book Review:
Read several books from The New York Times best sellers fiction list monthly
Selection represents this month’s pick of the litter

WIN by Harlan Coben
Coben takes the sidekick Windsor “Win” Horne Lockwood III from his best-selling eleven-book series about Myron Bolitar, the sports agent-turned-investigator, and recasts him as the main man in this spinoff novel. The plot revolves around a modern murder and two unresolved F.B.I. cold cases that are connected to his family. Win dispenses his own unique brand of justice, not unlike vigilante hero Jack Reacher. There are lots of pieces to this puzzle that eventually connect satisfactorily.

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    Lou’s Views . HBPOIN

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