July 13, 2009

N&O on Jennettes Pier funding

Photo from NC Aquarium

The News and Observer came to the defense of the Jennettes Pier project in an article that explained the sources of money [link revised in 10/2010 original article not available] for the new facility. There has been increasing buzz statewide about state government spending $25 million dollars on a fishing pier at a time when expenditures in every state department are being trimmed drastically.
Liberal and conservative critics are pounding the new pier, trying to transform the project into North Carolina's "bridge to nowhere," the Alaska construction project that the state's Republican governor, Sarah Palin, boasted of trying to block as wasteful government pork.
Critics have deployed a television ad [here] and mass e-mails bashing the pier, saying it is a luxury the state can't afford when it is handing out pink slips to teachers and shutting down pieces of the state's health care services.
The article continues to explain that none of the money used to pay for the pier was available to meet next years budget. All the funds came from sources already committed to specific funding targets ranging from building aquariums to water access to stormwater protection. No money was taken from the soon to be adopted state budget. That budget will trim state spending in response to a severe drop in tax revenues due to the nations economic collapse.
There is no doubt the new pier goes well beyond the concept of the old wooden fishing pier. It will be 1,000 ft. long and made of concrete rather than wood, the better to withstand coastal storms. The pier house will feature a meeting room that will host education an community meetings. It will seat 200 for dinner and hold at least 500 standing. It is this facility that has caused the most controversy. It will be available for rent for weddings and other events. While this may seem a bit off it is exactly the same arrangement currently used by all the Aquariums to raise additional operating funds. What the critical video calls a "ballroom" is in fact a place where school kids can learn about the protecting the coastal environment and reducing pollution through alternative energy sources. I am not sure what the "clubhouse" crack refers to but it could be a the public beach access facility with showers and toilets for beach visitors. The new pier will be a major attraction for visitors and locals alike. It will rival or may even surpass its sibling on Roanoke Island.
Did I mention the pier will host a series of alternative energy projects including 3 windmills, extensive use of solar panels and possibly a small hydrogen fuel cell. Some or all of the cost of these element will come from private sources. The pier will also have advance wastewater and storm water plants. All these elements will be integrated into education programs that will be offered at the pier. These educational programs will very popular before the pier was damaged in Hurricane Isabel, damage that led to the construction of the new pier.
BTW You can follow construction of the pier on the NC Aquarium's website with regular construction updates.
The N&O spoke with Sen. Marc Basnight about the project. I will let his vision of the pier close this piece:
Basnight said the investment in the pier has to be viewed through a long-term lens. He said it will draw children and adults alike to features such as a 200-seat meeting room for school field trips, ocean conservation exhibits, and its plumbing, a system that cleans bathroom waste water and uses it to hose down the deck.
"This can be an opportunity to learn and educate the masses as to what our future could and should be, how to treat storm water, renewable energy," Basnight said. "We can dispel some of the myths at a place that will outdraw any museum ... any state historic park."
I couldn't say it better myself.
Disclaimer - I was recently chosen to Chair the Jennettes Pier Advisory Committee, a group that represents the agencies that funded the initial purchase of the pier property including the NC Aqarium Society, the NC Aquariums, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Town of Nags Head, Dare County. The effort to buy the pier was started by a resolution sent from the Town to Sen. Basnight during my tenure as Mayor. I drafted and offered the resolution. I have been a member of the Advisory Committee since its inception and I have advocated for the pier since before its purchase. I think it is a great idea, will be a great asset to the area and the state. Don't say I didn't tell you.


At 2:43 PM, Blogger Russ said...

Good post. Much better than the one I did. Although I am not a Keynsean at heart, this is exactly the kind of stimulus we need long term--infrastructure is something that provides economic returns over the long run, vs. tax rebates and the like which do little.


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