Southport Aldermen have given the green light to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to install upgraded pedestrian crosswalks at two of the city’s busy intersections – crossings at Moore and Davis streets and at Howe and West streets.
DOT officials believe enough state contingency funds exist to pay for the upgrades – $123,964 at Moore Street and $83,077 at Howe Street. Mayor Joe Pat Hatem told aldermen that State Rep. Charles Miller would also work to find the funding so it is not a city expense.
Creating the bump-out crosswalks will sacrifice some parking spaces, a maximum of five – four in front of the old City Hall on Moore Street, one in front of Dosher Flea Market and perhaps one in front of Moore Street Market.
“This is a DOT planned engineered project,” said Southport City Manager Gordon Hargrove. “I feel comfortable moving forward with it.”
Hargrove said he initially was concerned about the availability of funds but that DOT District Engineer Chad Kimes assured him funds for such projects are stable for the next couple of years. The board voted unanimously on Alderman Karen Mosteller’s motion to move forward with the project pending DOT funds are available.
The crosswalks have been in the planning stage for two years. Under the plan, the sidewalks and curbing will be extended the length of the parking spaces and the streets marked. It gives pedestrians a safer place to stand while crossing and alerts drivers to yield the right of way.
“I do support these,” said Southport Police Chief Todd Coring. “I actually support several more crosswalks. We can always say that we haven’t had anybody hurt or hit, but I’d rather be proactive than reactive.”
Coring discussed the plans with aldermen, including the number of parking spaces that will be lost.
“I know our businesses don’t want to lose parking either,” said Coring. He added that the loss of a few spaces is a good trade off for making streets safer for all, and the curb extensions also eliminate visual blind spots for drivers.
Alderman Lowe Davis questioned if the board should take action at the meeting, or if plans ought to be made more available for citizens to view.
“I would like to take action, so if funds come available we can proceed,” said Mayor Hatem.
Another option rejected by aldermen would have added just painted lines on the streets where the crosswalks exist. The cost for just paint would have been $15,730 at the Moore Street and $13,640 at the Howe Street crossings. Some aldermen asked if the painted lines could be placed now while awaiting funding for the larger project.
“DOT would like to do it all at once and doesn’t want to do the painting now and have to come back,” said Hargrove.
Coring said the crosswalks will definitely help improve safety and that many more will be needed in the city.
“I am just grateful to have the funding,” added Hatem.
Aldermen also unanimously adopted a new rate schedule for users of the Southport Community Building, which is a very popular venue for weddings and special occasions overlooking the Cape Fear River on Bay Street.
Prices will increase to cover the city’s rising costs for cleaning and maintenance.
Alderman Lora Sharkey presented the report from the Rate Committee that increases prices starting in January 2022. She said currently the building operates as a community model city building, which costs the city money on a fiscal year basis to keep it as available and as cheap as possible.
Sharkey said based on bookings, during the month of October, the city stands to collect $13,837 in rent revenue from the building and that cleaning costs will amount to $3,344.
“We need to recover more money to run this facility to pay the cleaning staff,” Sharkey said. “We can easily see these prices are in line with other venues in our area.”
In most cases, the daily rates increase by $100 or $200, depending on the day, and hourly rates increase by $25.
The budget ordinance approved last week includes the following new fee schedule:
Residents – $2,000 per day (12 hours, Monday-Thursday); $175 per hour (Monday-Thursday, events under 12 hours); Non-residents – $4,000 per day (12 hours, Friday-Sunday); $350 per hour (Friday-Sunday, events under 12 hours).
Taxpayers/city employees/nonprofits – $2,000 per day (12 hours, Friday-Sunday); $175 per hour (Friday-Sunday, events under 12 hours); $1,000 per day (12 hours, Monday-Thursday); $75 per hour (Monday-Thursday, events under 12 hours).
Deck only – residents - $125 per four-hour block; non-residents - $150 per four-hour block.
Sharkey said the city is working to update the Southport Community Building’s webpage to be an events-driven page on par with competitors and will be advertised with Google so it pops up during searches. The building will also host a wedding show in February.
Aldermen approved a final plat for The Haven, an eight-lot subdivision on 2.89 acres on the western side of the intersection at Burrington Avenue and W. Leonard Street. The site is being developed by Premier Homes LLC.
The site was previously platted as a 15-lot cluster subdivision but those plans never developed. It is zoned R-10 with a minimum of 10,000-square-foot lots.
City Planner Thomas Lloyd told aldermen the average lot size is 12,850 square feet and the smallest is 10,030 square feet. Lloyd said the lots have the required front, side and rear yard setbacks. He said the subdivision’s 40-foot right-of-way street, Port Haven Way, will be built to NCDOT standards but maintained privately by the property owners.
Rivermist resident Wendy Douglas addressed aldermen and asked is they had any knowledge of plans to extend J. Swain Boulevard in their neighborhood to connect with Long Beach Road Extension. She said there is talk that developers are planning such a move.
Lloyd said he asked NCDOT about any plans by Cameron Management to seek such an extension but there are no such applications in the works.
Douglas asked that if a plan does develop could the city request that an emergency-only gate be installed to keep through traffic out of their community. City Attorney Mike Isenberg noted it would be an NCDOT decision and the city would not have control over the proposal.
In other business, aldermen:
• Approved a consent agenda that included purchase of a generator for the East Leonard Street pump station for $45,200 from Heck Electric. It is a turnkey project and includes fuel connections. A 2011 Dodge Charger vehicle was also declared surplus property.
• Honored Frank Popelars with a plaque for his more than 10 years of service on the Southport Board of Adjustment.
• Honored Southport Finance Director Melanie Texler and her department staff for their work in removing the city from the Local Government Commission’s “distressed” city list for finances. The city had landed on the list under its previous administration for not turning in audited financial statements on time and for a pattern of sending late financial statements to the state. “Thank you for a job well done,” said Hargrove.
• Adopted proclamations declaring October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month; another one for Emergency Nurses Week; and one for National Colonial Heritage Month.
• Adopted a proclamation to celebrate the opening of the John N. Smith Cemetery Outdoor Museum on Saturday, Oct. 16, at the cemetery on E. Leonard Street.
• Were introduced to newly hired police officers Kelly Garrido, Kevin Doherty and Amanda Cobbs by Police Chief Coring.
• Heard from Alderman Thomas Lombardi that 32 people, including 10 high school students, participated in the city’s recent clean-up day to spruce up plants around the Yacht Basin boat and to stain picnic tables and benches.
• Heard from Hargrove that the city expects to receive its CAMA permit next week to begin Phase II of repair work at the City Dock.