Mayor Hatem’s Community Update: March 2022

In this video, Mayor Hatem discusses the spectrum of projects and priorities for the City of Southport as we head into budget planning season.

Supporting documents:

May 2021 Captial Projects Ordinance

State Port Pilot Column, Jan. 2022

Goals and Priorities document, Jan 2022

Mayor’s Comments:

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

I want to share with you a song from one of my favorite musical artists—Warren Zevon—to help describe where we are in moving forward for our city. My mother, God rest her soul, would ask “why do you listen to that Warren Zevron?” Which is how she pronounced his name. So my apologies to her.

The lyrics of the song are as follows: Not my words or my actions.

I went home with the waitress, the way I always do, how was I to know she was with the Russians, too?

I was gambling in Havana, I took a little risk, send lawyers, guns and money, dad get me out of this.

The song: “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.”

For me, I see for our city: “Lawyers, Slide Rules, and Money, with slide rules representing the now extinct 20th-century tool of the engineer.

A lawyer’s service is like an ambassador in a foreign country in a dangerous situation requiring an exfiltration, you hope you never need one, but when you do, find and hire the best. Southport has had that for over 30 years with City Attorney, Michael Isenberg. Mr. Isenberg is retiring and we are now in the process of hiring a new City Attorney. We continue to retain Mr. Gray Styers, who was the city’s attorney in successfully defending the city’s position and our ordinance on the open space issue in our city and with respect to the Yacht Basin. We are in discussion now as to whether to continue to retain this firm for the development agreement with Indigo Plantation Phase II. Wise counsel is one of the keys to success for our city and as Mayor, I will always ensure we have the best legal team as we evaluate the growth and development that is at times overwhelming in Brunswick County and Southport. We will be recognizing Mr. Isenberg for his years of service at the Board of Aldermen Meeting on March 10th.

Engineers and their slide rules, one of the most underappreciated disciplines ever!  We can name five actors or five professional athletes, but not one engineer. Yet without them, no clean water, no roads, no cars, no power plants, no cell phones or computers, no man on the moon… They quietly do their job and give us the expertise we all need. For the City of Southport: Transportation/ Division Engineering as with NCDOT—Traffic Patterns, Roads, Crosswalks; Civil Engineers: Design, construction, roads, wastewater/sewer systems, stormwater.  BEMC has an Electrical Engineer that is working closely with our Electric Superintendent, Mr. Ellie Pittenger. The stormwater issue in Southport must be a city-wide solution, guided by the expertise of an engineer. The city has engineers involved as we upgrade our water and sewer system and as we merge with Brunswick County, helping to design the addition to the county wastewater treatment system. Southport is responsible for a 30 million dollar loan for this project. Engineers work with city and county staff to help with the design, efficiency, they are pragmatic, numbers-driven, and assist in obtaining the greatest results with finite funds. I enjoyed working with the engineers from Hazen and Sawyer as we moved the city away from building its own sewer treatment plant going with regionalization of our sewer system with the county. And let us not forget the largest engineering project—Waterfront Stabilization and Erosion Control. We will hire the best engineering firm that has the most expertise in this field.

To summarize the goals, priorities, strategic plans, I share with you what I refer to on moving forward, based in part on our recent Board of Aldermen Workshops:  The Capital Projects Ordinance voted on by the Board of Aldermen on May 13, 2021; A column I wrote for the State Port Pilot-January 19, 2022; My list from the Board of Aldermen Workshop.

Waterfront Stabilization and Erosion Control

Regionalization of Waste Water Treatment System with Brunswick County

Upgrade City Sewer System—Pipes and Pump Stations

Roads—Paving to Pot Holes.  Howe Street and E. Bay Street are scheduled next

Storm Water—City wide solution–urgent areas mitigated

BEMC: Burying Power Lines to increase and upgrade the electric grid and feeder lines into the city

Crosswalks/Sidewalks—Safe Pedestrian Crossings on Moore Street and Howe Street and sidewalks on Ninth Street, Howe Street, and Leonard Street, improving connectivity walking, biking, and jogging

Yacht Basin Pedestrian Corridor and Yacht Basin Dredging—Cape Fear Council of Government consulted on the traffic pattern, parking, and pedestrian safety in the Yacht Basin

Kayak Launch, City Dock, Kingsley Park Pier repair

And as we approach Budget Season, we look at the requests, needs for every department: Fire, Police, EMS, Hurricane Preparedness, City Staff Salaries, Technology, Tourism, Communication, Parking, City Facilities, Parks and Recreation, Street Lights, Mosquito Control, Cemeteries, and other important departments from Finance to Development Services and as always, Historic Preservation and the overriding importance of Public Health Initiatives in our city and in our lives.

Money:  The city has funding from the State Legislature–$2.8 million dollars. Part of this will be used to pave Howe Street. The remaining can be used for infrastructure, to upgrade the pump stations that are in need of repair or replacement as part of the improvement required for the merger with the county. We look for continued funding in this regard from state, county, and federal resources.

The city has 5 million dollars to begin the Waterfront Stabilization Project; funding in the Capital Project Ordinance for projects was voted on by the Board of Aldermen as previously mentioned. There is money that the city is eligible for from the American Rescue Plan Act—a once-in-a-generation funding possibility for infrastructure and for recovery from the pandemic. There are grants the city is applying for and there must be a robust grant-writing program for our city. Ad valorem taxes may need to be increased—it takes money to retain employees with competitive salaries and to hire needed city staff to provide the services our citizens request and should have. It requires money to hire the right attorneys and engineers for guidance and success on the many projects and challenges facing the city. Our biggest issue is growth and how we meet the infrastructure requirements and how we balance it with historic preservation and protecting our culture, heritage, our environment, and quaint village atmosphere. Tourism is our greatest economic engine, we support our business community, and the City of Southport must continue to provide the necessary services for our shops and restaurants to be successful.

So Lawyers, Engineers, and Money!

I close with the importance of Historic Preservation and the Commemoration of the Sinking of the John D. Gill, on March 12, 1942, when World War II came to shore in the City of Southport. The citizens of Southport and in particular the women of Southport, just having completed training classes from the Red Cross, they cared for the injured and mourned and grieved for those who died. The ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 12th, at 4 pm, at the Southport Community Building sponsored by the Southport Historical Society.

We move Southport in the Best Way Forward—Historic Preservation, Public Health Initiatives, Strategic Planning, Projects, and Goals—Prioritized; forward-thinking with a future vision of Southport grounded by what needs to be accomplished now and in the future; infrastructure, communication, and the voice of our citizens. Lawyers, Engineers, and Money—for the enhancement of the quality of life, the preservation of the human spirit for our city and all our citizens.