February 19, 2006

OB Sentinel: Beach Nourishment finanncing

Some big facts right but lots of important errors in the Outer Banks Sentinel's report on the beach nourishment financing plan presented to the Nag Head Board of Commissioners on Wed. night.
On the right side: The project cost projections $26.75 mil and the cost used by the committee $30 mil. Also right recommended distribution of costs 25% Dare County, 25% property tax, 50% assessment on benefitting property owners. The story also reported that the Town would have to hold a referendum before going ahead with the project.

On the error side

"Revenues for 25 percent of the cost is projected to come from the one-cent occupancy tax currently collected and held by the Outer Banks Tourist Bureau, " While the OBVB is funded by a one per cent occupancy tax the committee was referring to a separate one cent occupancy tax passed several years ago to fund shoreline management. This fund has been used to pay the local share of the match for the proposed federal project and was used to pay for real estate acquisiton for the federal project. Interestingly the report refers to the right fund in the next paragraph.

Error 2

"A common method used by the Army Corps of Engineers is a cost assessment on property owners who would benefit from beach nourishment" The COE doesn't use anything to finance beach nourishment. An accurate statement would have been "A common method of financing the local share of beach nourishment projects undertaken by the COE is a cost assessment on property owners who would benefit from the project"

Semi-Error 3

According to the Committee, oceanside property owners east of NC 12 and 1243 are a relatively small group but they will receive direct benefit from the project. I am not sure where the small group thing came from. There are few voters in this subset of Nags Head property owners but it still represents a lot of people. The implication of this paragraph is that the town should ask a small group to pay most of the cost and that no one else has a direct benefit. What the reporter fails to mention is that the committee opened talking about finding an equitable distribution of costs that reflected, in some, measure the benefits from the project.

Semi-Error 4

This same paragraph continues with a ramble about the varying benefits to other property owners. It is taken from a discussion paper the committee developed and distributed that talked about the variety of options for distributing costs but had little to do with the proposed plan.

Error 5

During the meeting Mayor Cahoon allowed Chas Winkler, a Nags Head resident who was in the audience, to comment. In the article his comment was attributed to a "Yogi Hart". Actually Yogi Harper, also a Nags Head resident, had spoken to the board during public comment. Mr. Harper represents a group of oceanfront property owners in south Nags Head. He was asking for a report on the town's plans for this area. He supports beach nourishment. Had he made the comments attributed to him (or someone whose name sounds like his) his clients might doubt his sanity. Yogi should sue the Sentinel for slander except they couldn't even get his name right.

Error 6

The comment made by Winkler but attributed to Yogi was that the town should look at the results of the recent repeal of the sales tax for beach nourishment and consider if the public wants beach nourishment. Fair enough and accurately reported (except for who said it) Then comes a nice set of facts. "In the Dare County referendum vote, Nags Head residents voted 380 for and 221 against, a clear sign that residents don't want to see a tax increase. In fact, results throughout the entire precinct show more votes for the repeal of the sales tax that is to pay for beach nourishment than against." This is typical OB Sentinel style. Up the this point the article was factual, though with some mistakes, but little opinion. Now suddenly it is an editorial interpretting the results of the referenedum. Reporting the results of the referendum is a good addition to the story, doing it twice (the second sentance) is a bit over the top but OK its factual, up to a point. Of course it didn't say Nags Head had the highest percentage of support of any precinct in the county, It didn't report that county wide turnout was about 25%, lower than the municipal elections that put the current board in office, many on platforms supporting beach nourishment. No, the only facts the Sentinel wants you to know is that defeated referendum means something other than what people voted for.
Let's back up a little. Certainly the referendum indicated that a lot of people didn't want to pay a sales tax for beach nourishment and some of those votes were cast because people don't want higher taxes in general and perhaps a smaller group were cast as a direct all-consuming vote against beach nourishment (see Chas Winkler). But those distinctions weren't on the ballot and reporting as if they were just isn't accurate.
At least in Nags Head discussion about beach nourishment will continue a little while longer. The town will have a workshop next Wed. (2/22/06) at 7:30 in the council chamber. Maybe the Sentinel will be there to tell us what happened or at least some of what happened, partly accurate.
The full report from the Beach Nourishment Committee can be found under agenda item C of the Fed. 15 agenda.

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