Shooting The Breeze


Hi, and welcome to my "Editor's Blog"! In this space I'll be attempting to keep our readers informed on fast-breaking news and issues affecting our islands. Visit often. There's a lot going on!

Enjoy the Island Free Press and, even more importantly, enjoy our wonderful barrier island!!!




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Devildog (Protecting N.C. H…): Steve, Devildog, it is not a philosophy, but proven facts that Mr. Scott speaks of.. Negative. Dr…
John G (Year In Review – …): 100th Anniversary of the Mirlo Rescue.
Steve (Protecting N.C. H…): Devildog, it is not a philosophy, but proven facts that Mr. Scott speaks of..
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The Piping Plover Plunge

Friday 31 July 2015 at 4:58 pm

Shorebird nesting is winding down at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. In fact, it's over for the federally listed piping plover.

There are no piping plover nests or chicks on the beaches, and there aren't likely to be any at this point.

The season's results for the piping plovers are dismal and disappointing.  For all the effort that has gone into protecting these tiny shorebirds, only two chicks successfully fledged this summer.

According to the National Park Service, 16 pairs of piping plovers were breeding on the seashore this year -- one on Bodie Island, seven on Hatteras, and eight on Ocracoke. That's close to the number of pairs that have been nesting in the seashore for the last five or six seasons.

However, only two chicks survived to fledge. That's way below the record year of 2010 with 15 chicks fledged, though slightly better than 2002 and 2004 when there were no fledged piping plovers chicks.

I can't hazard a guess at how much money goes into protecting these birds on the seashore, especially the federally listed piping plover . In fact, it would probably take the Park Service a good deal of time to figure it out.

However, I think it's safe to say that those two piping plover chicks are million-dollar babies -- or at least close to it.

It's disappointing for the birds, for park officials, and for the park's users who surely hope that all these protection efforts result in more birds.

At this point, you begin to wonder if there ever will be -- or, more importantly, can be -- more birds.

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Raleigh takes aim at Dare County

Friday 24 July 2015 at 5:38 pm

The North Carolina General Assembly -- more specifically, the Republicans in the Senate -- are proposing a sweeping change in the way sales taxes are funneled back to the state's counties and cities.

And it's a change that would be devastating, crippling, scary, a game-changer for Dare County.

If it happens, Dare County will lose from $9 million to $15 million of revenue annually from its general fund budget of just $101 million.

The amount is equal to about half of the funding county allocates to schools, more than the entire Emergency Medical Services budget, and 91 percent of the amount allocated to the sheriff's office, 911 communications, and the jail.

If it happens, the county's property owners could see their taxes increase as much as 12 cents per $100 of valuation to replace the lost revenue.  

Dare County's ad valorem tax rate is now 43 cents per $100.  If the Senate succeeds in ramming through its sales tax redistribution plan, property owners could be paying up to 12 cents more -- 55 cents per $100 -- to keep the same level of services we now have.

The tax bill on a $200,000 house in unincorporated Dare County is now $860.  It could be $1,100.

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Waterfall Park: The continuing saga of an island eyesore

Friday 17 July 2015 at 5:30 pm

Dare County stepped up its efforts last month to get the owner of one of the island's worst eyesores to clean up the property -- so far with only minimal success.

On June 11, Dare County attorney and manager Robert Outten sent a letter to Ritsa Merjos of Virginia Beach, owner of Waterfall Park in Rodanthe, advising her that she had not resolved safety issues at the site and that the property, therefore, was not in compliance with county ordinances.

The 14.5 acre park is a prime property in the tri-villages, with land on both sides of the highway that extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pamlico Sound.

It's one of the first things that visitors to the island see as they head south on Highway 12, and for the last four years, what they have seen are falling down structures and fences, putrid pools and ponds, old tires and other debris, and overgrown shrubs and grass.

The park was built by Ritsa Merjos and her late husband, George, and during its heyday in the 1980s and ‘90s, it was filled with families enjoying all of the water-themed attractions, such as waterslides, bumper boats, go-carts, a bungee tower, and swimming pool.

Waterfall Park started its downward spiral after George Merjos died and then the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy in 2007.  It fell on hard times, business fell off, land values plummeted. The park had not been in operation for several years and was looking pretty rundown by the time Hurricane Irene hit in August of 2011.

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