Emerald Isle board agrees to spend federal relief funds on new website, bike path updates | News

EMERALD ISLE — Emerald Isle commissioners Tuesday night approved a list of projects to pursue they believe are eligible for funding under the American Recovery Plan Act of 2021, including an upgrade of the town’s website.

The 5-0 vote came during the board’s monthly meeting in town hall and virtually on GoToWebinar.

The town expects to receive about $1.16 million in ARPA funds in two equal payments this year and in 2022.

The board approved the website upgrade after a presentation by Anna Smith, public information officer and town clerk, and approved other projects after a report by town manager Matt Zapp. Commissioners had discussed those during a work session Tuesday afternoon at Ribeyes Steakhouse in Cape Carteret.

Items included in the package include cameras and public Wi-Fi at the town’s two major beach access facilities at an estimated cost of $20,000, a camera on Bogue Inlet Drive at an estimated cost of $12,000, five contactless drinking fountains along the bike and pedestrian paths at a cost of $25,000, a $26,000 town match of donations to for construction of the long-planned dog park in McLean-Spell Park, two bike tire repair stations on the path at a cost of $5,000, bike racks at a cost of $25,000 and stormwater management improvements in the flood-prone Cape Emerald subdivision at a cost of $100,000.

“Emerald Isle residents, property owners and guests will see the benefit of local APRA reinvestment very soon,” Mr. Zapp said in an email Wednesday. “The projects identified provide increased ‘contactless’ access/communication, improved outdoor activity for health and safety and improvements to critical stormwater infrastructure.”

All the expenditures depend on final eligibility determinations by the federal government.

President Joe Biden signed into law the ARPA March 11. It provided $350 billion in funding for state and local governments to stimulate economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and to increase the safety and health of state and local residents.

In her presentation, Ms. Smith said the upgrade to the website by Kansas-based CivicPlus will cost the town a onetime fee of $32,893, then annual payments of $9,750. The company doesn’t require a long-term contract.

She said the site will be more user-friendly and functional, enhancing interactions between town officials, residents and visitors for such things as permit payments, news and other needed information about the town and its activities, including government.

In addition, Ms. Smith said the increase in online interaction will reduce the need for phone calls to town staffers, which will increase efficiency.

Ms. Smith said she did extensive research before recommending the board go with CivicPlus, a company she said has received glowing reviews from other local governments.

According to the company’s website, it has been involved in building more than 4,000 local government websites, ranging from small towns to huge cities like Anaheim, Calif.

Commissioner Jim Normile said he approved of the switch to CivicPlus.

“I like it,” he said. “You can do additional e-commerce and add widgets.”

Commissioner Mark Taylor made the motion to approve the switch and it passed unanimously.

The town expects the new website to be up and running in about six months.

“It’s a big day for Emerald Isle,” Mayor Eddie Barber said of the overall ARPA project list. “It’s a win-win for everyone” in terms of positive projects for the community.


Disclosure: Anna Smith is the wife of News-Times reporter J.J. Smith, who was not involved in the reporting or production of this article.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email [email protected]; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.