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Currituck commissioners discuss reopening to visitors and public safety staff

Faced with a lighter than normal May 18 meeting agenda, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners voted to reschedule a public hearing, appointed two advisory board members and approved a consent agenda before entering a closed session.

Chairman Bob White said during the televised meeting that since the board was still operating under COVID-19 restrictions, it was necessary to reschedule the Baxter Station Public Hearing. With little discussion on the topic, the public review for a 127 unit residential subdivision development in Moyock was rescheduled for the June 1 meeting.

Later in the meeting, commissioners voted to appoint Renja Murray and Marcia Steele to one year terms on the Albemarle Commission Joint Nursing/Domicilliary Advisory Board. Commissioners then approved a consent agenda with May 4 meeting minutes, a $51,800 contract with the accounting firm Carr, Rigg and Ingram to conduct an annual audit for fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020 and authorization for the Parks and Recreation Department to dispose of timesheets dating back to November 2014.

Most of the other business for the evening included discussions about the county opening back up last week.

Chairman Bob White said several days of nice weather helped produce a very busy beach area and a number of board members joined Vice Chairman Mike H. Payment in saying they were happy to see that tourists are here and that opening the county back up would be good for the economy.

During commissioner comments, Paul M. Beaumont said providing a safe beach environment can be a challenge, but that Michael Cherry tried to meet some of the challenges of providing adequate beach lifeguard services by creating an online lifeguard qualification course. The result has been one of the best lifesaving crews the county has had with a waiting list of 50 lifeguards. Lifeguards are scheduled to take the stands on Saturday.

Several commissioners echoed the praises Kevin E. McCord offered for first responders during National EMS week adding that Currituck County is very fortunate to have some phenomenal people. McCord went on to say the week before was National Police Officer Week and Currituck was fortunate to have only one line of duty death in Currituck County history.

That death was Deputy Sheriff Watt Franklin Morgan who was shot and killed October 12, 1963.

McCord also encouraged everyone to make sure they have their beach parking passes and county manager Ben Stikeleather advised that the process for issuing passes will be a little different this year than in years past.

According to Stikeleather, Currituck County property owners anywhere other than the four-wheel-drive area can get two passes free of charge. A property owner in the 4X4 area, but without a home on the property, can also get two passes for free. Anyone with property in the 4X4 area that does have a home on the property can get four passes for free.

To pick them up, residents can go to any county Welcome Center with proof of identification and tax record for curbside service. Provisions are also in place for renters. Buying passes can be done online with payment through PayPal followed by a Welcome Center visit with a payment receipt as proof of purchase to pick up passes.

Another change is that rental management companies can purchase a group of passes and sell them at cost to residents.

“Hopefully that should cut down on the number of people that need to come to Welcome Centers,” explained Stikeleather, “and the rental management companies can just include these passes with the check-in packages they provide.”

Stikeleather also pointed out that there will be some operational changes beginning next week. Among them are the return of county staff currently teleworking who are not high risk employees, i.e. those with no health problems. They will be coming back to work Tuesday.

“We will be seeing people coming back in across all county offices,” said Stikeleather. “We expect that others that are high risk will return when we enter Phase III.”

Stikeleather added that as the county moves into Phase II recovery, people will see a change from all online permitting to a transition where Tuesday and Thursday people can drop off their documents for a three to five day turnaround.

“Instead of doing an express permitting on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he explained, “we will be doing drop offs. So if somebody does not want to do online permitting, they can come by on Tuesdays and Thursdays and drop their plans off. It takes between three and five days to get a permit. And sometimes online is actually faster because we can get documents back and forth a little faster.”

Stikeleather said he does not expect to see the return of express permitting without adding positions and there will be no new staff until the tax revenues coming in this summer can support that.

Stikeleather went on to say the baseball and softball seasons with Parks and Recreation have been canceled. As the county enters into Phase II, there are guidelines in place to allow tournaments booked at any Currituck facility to take place after Memorial Day. Other sports after baseball and softball should roll out unless there is a virus resurgence and the governor puts something out.

Libraries will be offering curbside book check out in Phase II and in Phase III, libraries will open for regular use. Senior centers will open for regular use in Phase III.

Public restrooms at beach accesses, Carova Park and at the Whalehead Club will be open to the public next week with the Whalehead Club available for tours in Phase III.

Commissioners ended the meeting with a closed session to discuss a legal matter with the county attorney.

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