Steve Smith, Mayor

Steve Smith, Mayor of Topsail Beach, NC, and fellow Kiwanian presented an overview of happenings in Topsail Beach at our Club meeting, Tuesday, November 17. Mayor Smith noted that COVID-19 cases are increasing in town right now as they are across North Carolina and the Nation. He encouraged people to stay safe during the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.

Steve noted that Topsail Beach now has 24 hr. fire coverage as additional firemen have been added to their volunteer Fire Department. Another public safety improvement is the hiring of a detective for the Police Department to assist with the changing types of crimes that are occurring in Topsail Beach.  An increase in white collar crimes, and drug cases results in more time needed to take prisoners to Burgaw as no lockup facility is available in Topsail Beach. Thus, patrolmen lose 4 hr of patrol time as prisoners are transported, so the new detective can assist in this process.  With more people moving to Topsail Beach and Topsail Island for that matter, from large inland towns, more citations are being issued after vehicles stops due to issues with alcohol and drugs. Increase in out of towners is also resulting in more trash on beaches to remove.

Overall town finances are in good shape with a 1 yr reserve in the General Fund, a $7 million reserve in the Beach, Inlet and Sound Fund, plus $1 million in the Capital Improvement Fund. However, there will be an unknown impact from COVID on town finances during the next year.

Steve described a sound side project the Town is in partnership with the North Carolina Coastal Federation that will place a living sill at the Rocky Mount shoreline location in town. Topsail Beach also contracted with an engineering firm to investigate and propose possible solutions to sound side flooding, as well as street flooding through a grant of $1.6 million dollars from the State. This state grant was part of a $5 million dollar award to the three municipalities on Topsail Island for Hurricane Florence relief. The grant will also allow purchased of some land on the mainland for a future Emergency Operations Center.

One noted effect of climate change is a lowering of water table level in the Castle Hayne aquifer such that water levels are being drawn down and salt water intrusion is increasing particularly with the continued growth in eastern, mainland Pender County. Thus, both the Town and Pender County need to drill more wells in eastern Pender to meet expected demands.

Topsail Beach has one of the most successful shoreline protection programs on the NC coast. Last year, Steve noted that 1.6 million cubic yards of sand were placed into the dunes and on the beach and an additional 1 million cubic yards will be placed this year through a contract with Weeks Marine. The dredge is coming this week. Crews will set up cross island lines for the delivering sand from Topsail Creek and Banks’ Channel to the beach. The project this year is all about building dry beach as the dune system was addressed in the 2019/20 project. The goal of the 4-month-long 2020/21 project is to end up with 75 to 100 feet of dry beach area along the entire length of town. Funding for the combined $30 million dollar project is mostly from FEMA for the last four hurricanes, plus $7.2 million in Shallow Draft funds from the State.

Mayor Smith acknowledged that in addition to the Board of Commissioners and dedicated staff, several strong committees in town including the Beach, Inlet Sound Committee, the Planning Committee, and the Board of Adjustment Committee and the volunteers that populate these committees are making a big contribution to the Town’s success.

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