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The public meeting of Occupancy Tax Board tonight (Thursday, Feb. 9) at 7 p.m. in the Community Center will focus on Hyde County’s request to seek $216,000 from occupancy tax funds to pay for the operating costs of a village tram system in conjunction with the proposed passenger ferry.
Hyde County Commissioner Tom Pahl, who represents Ocracoke and asked for the meeting, said the meeting will allow for comments and discussion with islanders.
Pahl was interviewed on WOVV 90.1 FM last week on this topic and that interview will be rebroadcast today at 11 a.m. and online at wovv.org.
Bill Rich, Hyde County manager, will present the request and Kris Noble, assistant Hyde County manager and county planner, and Beverly Paul, Hyde County Transit director, also will attend.
A state Passenger Ferry Feasibility study done in 2015 and released in June last year recommends two 100-passenger ferries making eight round-trips a day between Hatteras and Ocracoke Village at a cost of $15 per round trip.
Once a contract to build such a ferry is approved and awarded, construction would take 18 months to two years.
The idea of a passenger ferry was floated after Ed Goodwin was appointed Ferry Division director in April 2014 and the short ferry route between Ocracoke and Hatteras was deemed not navigable after hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 added more shoaling to the Hatteras Inlet.
The U.S. Coast Guard formally established a longer route (about one-hour crossing) between the islands in August 2014.
Goodwin was let go from this position Jan. 31 and Deputy Director Jed Dixon was named interim director.
The Occupancy Tax fund is derived from a 3 percent tax on top of the 6.75 percent sales tax on all lodging nights purchased, both hotels and rental homes. Yearly receipts generally amount to about $440,000, although in the 2015 fiscal year, total receipts were $453,780 and last year they were $454,535. The county receives 10 percent of that total to administer the fund.
While most all North Carolina occupancy taxes are legislatively designated for tourism promotion, Ocracoke’s statute allows for the awarding of grants to nonprofits that although might not provide direct tourism promotion, they nevertheless relate to tourism since visitors may use or need their services.
For this fiscal year, the Occupancy Tax Board, composed of five islanders, two of whom are recommended by the Ocracoke county commissioner, and two by the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, received 15 requests for grants totaling $477,905.
They recommended appropriating a total of $365,005 to the following:
United Methodist Church–$2,000 for repair of the parking area on School Road used for public parking
Ocracoke Friends of the Library–$5,355
Hyde County for McClees Consulting Services (this is the county lobbyist in Raleigh)–$10,000
WOVV Community Radio–$11,500
Ocracoke Preservation Society–$16,000
Ocracoke Health Center–$5,000
Ocracoke Youth Center (Ocracoke Community Park)–$48,000
Ocracoke Community Center–$18,250
Ocracoke Child Care–$4,500
Ocracoke Fire Protection Assn.–$80,000
Ocracoke Civic & Business Assn.–$120,100 (includes $50,000 to initiate a professionally guided marketing campaign)
Hyde County–$23,800 for July 3 fireworks
Duck control project–$5,000
To read about one meeting on the island about the passenger ferry, click here.
To view the passenger ferry study, click here.