Most city projects that occur during the first half of calendar year 2019 are continuations from 2018 because the city is still tracking fiscal year 2018, which runs July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019.
City Council and staff will discuss proposed projects for the latter half of 2019 (fiscal year 2020) during Council’s February 25-26 Fiscal Year 2020 budget retreat at Wampee Plantation at 1190 Chicora Drive in Pinopolis. The budget retreat is open to the public. The city will post budget retreat materials online at www.nmb.us as they become available. Council will adopt a FY 2020 budget in May 2019.
With the possible exception of a couple of positions, it appears the city will maintain current staffing levels in fiscal year 2020, which meet the service and protection needs of both a permanent population of around 15,500 people and a primary tourism season population of 100,000-plus daily.
The city is staffed somewhere near the middle of both extremes and its employees are accustomed to thinking outside the box and sometimes working outside departmental and divisional lines to get things done. On the public safety side of things, that is even truer as many police and fire/rescue personnel are cross-trained, which helps during the peak tourism season, major festivals, hurricanes and storms, major incidents and other situations where cross-trained assistance is required.
Although at this time the city cannot be specific about fiscal year 2020 projects until City Council reviews and discusses them at budget retreat, these are possible: A multi-year program established by City Council in 2017 to resolve small to moderate localized storm water problems is likely to continue in 2019 at a cost of about $700,000. This represents the last phase of Council’s three-year, $1.7 million initiative to address localized storm water drainage challenges that rose to the forefront during the exceptionally heavy rains of 2016 and 2017.
Some challenges involve storm water drainage systems located on private property, which the city cannot remedy, however, the city was able in some cases to expand or redirect its public storm water systems in order to better collect and move water once it is beyond private property lines.
Replacement of some public safety and other city vehicles and equipment will occur on the usual pay-as-you-go basis.
The Crescent Beach road-widening project will continue until complete, as will the South Ocean Boulevard/Crescent Beach project placing overhead utilities underground. This level of roadway work generally does not occur during the primary tourism months when traffic is at its height.
The city may replace its Second Avenue South purchasing and services warehouse, destroyed by fire in 2018. Staff are located in temporary workspace.
Annual road paving, intersection improvements, sidewalk installations, beach access renovations or replacements and beach drains work are on the table for discussion at the budget retreat.
Solid waste and water and sewer capital improvements are always an ongoing budget focus.
Parks and recreation needs could include a focus on potential equipment enhancements to the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex.
Big ticket items still under discussion include the 18th Avenue North Ocean Outfall, originally projected to start in fall 2019 but which may instead begin in fall 2020. This would be the city’s sixth ocean outfall, which will cost about $12 million and take two years to complete. To date, the city has constructed five outfalls at a total cost of $26.7 million.
The first four outfalls were constructed under a blanket Federal permit and cost a total of $15 million. The fifth outfall at Main Street cost $11.7 million, reflecting that blanket Federal permits no longer are issued, the State is now involved in the permitting process, engineering and filtering requirements have increased, and purchase of land is often required to provide storm water collection and natural holding/release areas as the storm water makes its way to an ocean outfall.
The city’s primary revenue source for ocean outfalls is a monthly storm water management fee charged to property owners. To date, the state has contributed about $7.5 million to the construction of the ocean outfalls. The city has again asked the state to appropriate money in its new budget for continued installation of ocean outfalls.
Another U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment project occurs in spring 2019. The Corps will place about 280,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach, lost through erosion caused by Hurricane Florence. A December 2018 renourishment project placed about 200,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach, lost through erosion caused by Hurricane Irma. Thankfully, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pays for both projects.
The city has hired the consulting firm of Kimley-Horn to help develop short and long-term solutions to public parking challenges, which spiked in summer 2018 following a sharp increase in day-visitors, residents looking for easy parking locations and overall tourism growth. Also, residential growth adjacent to North Myrtle Beach but outside the city limits continues unabated. About 10,000 new residential dwellings are either underway, permitted or planned, and they affect available public parking in North Myrtle Beach as people come to recreate on our beaches.
The public is encouraged to participate in an interactive Feb. 8, 2 to 6 p.m. workshop at City Hall to discuss public parking needs and concerns with Kimley-Horn representatives. The workshop offers a “drop-in” format and people can arrive and leave any time between 2 and 6 p.m.
In FY 2012, the city issued $15 million in general obligation bonds to purchase land and help pay for the construction of the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex, using revenue from an eight-year, 6.1 mills property tax increase. The final payment on the bond issue occurs in FY 2020, which begins July 1, 2019. As a result, the city’s current property tax rate of 43.3 mills will decrease to 37.2 mills.