Whether you are an avid vacationer in Nags Head or not, here comes a party house on the North Carolina coast that will only cost taxpayers a conservative $25 million to construct. Oh yeah, and there’s a pier attached to it. Normally, “Bad Bill of the Week” is dedicated to those who are trying to get legislation passed. However, this week we had to take note of one particular bill, HB628, which blew through the General Assembly at a much faster rate than most.
Aquariums Satellite Areas Funding was introduced in the House March 17 by Reps. Timothy Spear (D-Dare), Bill Owens (D-Camden) and Daniel McComas (R-New Hanover) – will New Hanover residents have a similar pier in the near future? House members passed the measure April 9; Senate appropriations moved it forward April 13; the Senate approved of it April 14 and it was signed, sealed and delivered to Gov. Perdue the same day. With very little discussion, it became law. Coincidentally, the measure breezed through roughly at the same time that we here at Civitas began to ask questions about its merit.
Final language of the bill reads, “An act to authorize the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to expend existing moneys for capital improvement projects at North Carolina Aquarium Satellite Areas,” meaning, the pier project is “to be funded with receipts or from other non-General Fund sources” and at a cost not to exceed $25 million dollars. Slated to create 555 construction jobs, and 1,250 off-site jobs, the pier, formerly known as Jennette’s Pier (properly now known as North Carolina Aquarium Pier at Nags Head), is “shovel ready,” yet it lacks any explanation of its true economic impact. Question – are North Carolinian’s going to get those jobs? And on top of that, are they seasonal or full-time with benefits? According to the bill, this project is estimated to bring in $14 million dollars to North Carolina’s economy – do the math.
Interestingly enough, the pier – owned by the state – is being rebuilt because it was destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 (a category two with 105 mph winds). Anyone scratching their head at this, anyone? Based on the Tropical Meteorologist Project at Colorado State University, “the team’s first extended-range forecast for the 2009 hurricane season anticipates 14 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. Seven of the 14 storms are predicted to become hurricanes, and of those seven, three are expected to develop into intense or major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.” The new pier is going to be 1,000 feet from the shore line, where as the original pier was 740 feet.
Not only is the pier being rebuilt to generate local and state tourism dollars and jobs, but also the pier would be used for educational purposes to exemplify green technologies. The two-story pier house includes a 200-seat multi-purpose room, primarily to be used for educating. Federal legislation has recently been put in place to allow for the construction of wind turbines in charted waters off the east coast. The North Carolina coast has been viewed as a primary location to pilot them. Nags Head officials have already drafted an ordinance to permit such turbines on the pier. Harnessing the wind is supposed to produce electricity. Some experts say, however, there is not enough evidence gathered to prove wind turbines provide longevity, when in fact, setbacks need to be just right or they come falling down, like they have off the coast of Japan.
Again, anyone scratching their head? Water and steel and hurricanes and students; does this sound like fiscal responsibility when other counties, who don’t even come close to having an annual budget of $25 million are struggling to make ends meet? Yet, the party house is ready to get a-rocking with the sound of a category three hurricane.