With federal dollars scarcer than ever, beach town leaders are looking for new and creative ways to fund beach renourishment projects.
During WHQR’s Forum last night, six of the seven hopefuls competing for seats on Carolina Beach Town Council explored how to raise money to put sand on the beach. And while the approaches varied slightly, all six agreed on one thing: it’s the biggest challenge facing the coastal municipality.
Carolina Beach is the first beach town in the state to face the fallout from the expiration of a 50-year funding agreement with the Federal Government. Current Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis says the Water Resource Development Act, in its existing version, could offer a 15-year extension of that agreement. But it has yet to pass, and even if it does, it would only green-light the possibility of federal dollars. It wouldn’t actually appropriate any.
“Are there other methods – and the other method might be -- can we get a sales tax? Can we get something specifically just for beach nourishment from the state? Can they allow us just to get a direct type of contribution? And that’s what we’re looking for.”
After Tom Bridges suggested setting aside a portion of the revenue from Freeman Park permits, LeAnn Pierce, who owns a hotel in the beach town, argued Freeman Park is hardly a reliable revenue stream – considering it could be decimated by a hurricane.
“I personally would like to see it more funded through a primary line item in our budget. And we’ve definitely got to work with our local and state representatives to continue to have them advocate for us on that level.”
Jody Smith points to increasing tourism during so-called “shoulder seasons” – the period following the peak – in order to increase Room Occupancy Tax funds.
Dan Wilcox, challenging Incumbent Bob Lewis for Mayor, has served on the Ports, Waterways, and Beach Commission. He says there is no really good answer, but state legislators play a key role – particularly since they change every two years.
You’ll hear more from the candidates later in the week as Election Season continues… including those from Kure Beach.
And don’t miss tonight’s Wilmington City Council Candidates Forum. WWAY TV 3 and WHQR will carry the live broadcast at 7 PM.