Mayor Hatem’s Remarks from the March 9, 2021 Community Update

This is Dr. Joe Pat Hatem, Mayor of the City of Southport.

I would like to discuss with you today some of the projects our city is engaged in and how we continue in working towards the future in a strategic way.

Projects that are ongoing or beginning.

The Sewer Line Repair on Howe Street continues, block by block. The pace depends primarily on weather, on available supplies, and what unexpected problems are found. I appreciate the patience and cooperation of our citizens and our merchants. Remember, businesses are open, alternate areas of parking are available and sidewalks are passable. When this project is completed, this will improve the efficiency of our sewer system and marked progress in the overall renovation of the system

The City Dock project, the funding is in place and McPherson Marine Services will do an excellent job.  They have the experience, the expertise, and are a local company. The first phase of the project should be completed by June 30th, and the public should be able to access the dock soon afterwards. I look forward to a socially distanced ribbon cutting on the day our city dock is open. There will be a second phase project for the remainder of the dock replacement.

The Storm Water issue is one of the many aspects of the city’s strategic planning.  We are in the process of developing an overall storm water plan. The City Manager and I have visited areas in the city that are having problems with storm water drainage.  I have seen the problems with drainage in a neighborhood on Fodale Avenue and the lack of active flow in the ditch behind their homes. The city has made repairs for storm water problems at the West Brunswick Street and Yacht Basin Drive area.  We are working towards solutions that will include NC DOT, the clearing of drainage ditches, and the hiring of a civil engineer for the city, to coordinate a successful storm water plan for our entire city.

The Yacht Basin.  As we approach Memorial Day, we will be implementing recommendations from the Yacht Basin Committee concerning safety in the yacht basin. I appreciate the work this committee has done and for volunteering their time in this important project.  I thank the citizens who have participated in sharing their comments and ideas.

Roads and Pot Holes. If you did not see the story on CNN about the crew of Apollo 11 and how they were quarantined for 21 days after they landed safely on earth, it is worth watching. This was done to prevent the spread of some unknown contagious microorganism they may have come in contact during their historic landing on the moon. I bring this up only to share with you a part of this historic NASA Mission that I did not remember, and to also say that some of the craters that they encountered on the moon were probably as large and as prevalent as the ones all over our city. We have repaired some of these but with every rain they return. The ultimate solution is paving these areas and allocating and finding the funds to do so. The city has made this a priority.

Waterfront Stabilization. The city has been in contact with the Army Corps of Engineers, state officials, and are working towards legislative funding to implement the plan that has been developed by a an engineering firm hired by a previous board. We are making progress and will continue to do so. The same is true for repairs to be made to the road and waterfront in front of the community building on East Bay Street. FEMA funds should be available in the near future.  Our waterfront is so unique. Where can citizens, tourists, and visitors, walk along the banks of the Cape Fear River? Who has this view? This is what I want to preserve and protect. This is the reason we are a tourist destination and our waterfront, our yacht basin, our local restaurants and businesses, are the economic engines of our greatest industry, tourism. We also want to protect and proclaim the heritage and last remnants of the commercial shrimping and fishing industry, the working waterfront Southport once had.

Capital Power Inc. is closing their facility on March 31st.  I have had several conversations with the management and governmental relations at CPI and the city has been in contact with NC Department of Environmental Quality. A letter from CPI is being sent to 250 of our citizens who live within a half mile radius of the plant. The NC DEQ is monitoring the closing of the plant and the decommissioning steps that are taking place to ensure a safe transition in terms of environmental assurances that there will be at the completion of the project, a clean site will remain.

The Budget.  The Board of Aldermen will continue to hold budget workshops as the City Manager, City Finance Officer, and City Department Heads work on the budget. We have decisions to make in terms of funding. We will continue to write grants, but we need other creative ways to increase revenues. The possibilities include a storm water fee, specifically for this capital improvement project, adjustment of the ad valorem tax, paid parking for tourists and visitors, local sales tax through the legislature and other mechanisms to increase revenue. The budget is the final determination of what level of services the city can afford to provide and what projects that can be completed. The citizens will need to help set the tone for this through public comment and by contacting your Alderman and your Mayor. This is an ongoing process and must have a strategic vision for the future of our city.

Regardless of the issues facing our city, I base my decisions in part on the principles of public health, to protect first, to promote second and that the city, the public sector is responsible for building a foundation for success for the private sector, our local business, to flourish and thrive. This includes providing electricity, water, sewer, roads, protecting the environment, as well as promoting the public health safety measures. The overriding goal, as I have stated many times, is the enhancement of the quality of life, the preservation of the human spirit of our city and our citizens. I appreciate and am proud of all our city employees in helping to achieve the many goals and provide the important services to our citizens.

If you have not read the City of Southport March Newsletter, please do so. It is an excellent way to keep up with what is going on in our city, meeting our city employees, department reports, to historical aspects of Southport and even recipes. I want to thank the Department of Tourism and Communication, Randy Jones, Lisa Anderson, and Sharon Venis for continuing to produce another way to communicate with our citizens.

Along that same topic, “Southport Connected”—“our community notification system that gives residents, businesses, and visitors 24/7 access to important emergency alerts as well as general community updates.” Make sure you are connected.

There is a “Better Way Forward” and we will continue to work on these and other issues facing our city through strategic planning and budgetary funding.  Until then, “Spring Forward”, one hour on Sunday March 14th for Daylight Savings Time. The First Day of Spring is March 20th.  May our city be filled with hope and blossoms and beauty.  And on March17th, Wednesday, St. Patrick’s Day, I wish the Blessings of St. Patrick and the Luck of the Irish to you all. In the meantime, I will be looking for that pot of gold that may be buried somewhere on the river.

Stay Well, Stay Safe, and Stay Southport Strong, and Go Irish!