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Work behind the scenes deserves our thanks

The Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board on April 10 reviews the nonprofit project proposals for funding for the 2018-2019 year. Photo: C. Leinbach

In Ocracoke Alive’s Deepwater Theater show, “Dingbatter’s Guide to Ocracoke,” one of the skits is “The Reappearing Local.”  It spoofs how, during their stay, visitors might see a worker in several different businesses.

This skit could equally apply to residents who serve behind the scenes, many on multiple boards—both nonprofit and government–which often intersect.

In Hyde County, the only government is the county’s Board of Commissioners. There are no incorporated municipalities in the entire county. Ocracoke’s only local elected official is our county commissioner.   County employees–the county manager, assistant manager and others in various departments–of course work on behalf of Ocracoke as well as the mainland, but it falls to islanders to handle some of the tasks done in larger communities that have larger resident pools and more paid governmental employees.

Among these important boards are the (elected) Ocracoke Sanitary District, that oversees the municipal water issues, an elected island representative to the county’s Board of Education, the appointed Mosquito Control Board (which handles those relentless pests, standing water and drainage), the Ocracoke Advisory Planning Board and the Occupancy Tax Board (OT) which divvies out money from the occupancy tax coffers to support nonprofit projects.

Last year, the county commissioners authorized two more volunteer boards: The Ocracoke Waterways Commission (which addresses critical access issues via the Hatteras Inlet and Ocracoke’s harbor) and the Tourism Development Authority (TDA).  When the commissioners last June raised the occupancy tax rate by 2 percent (for a total 5 percent tax on all lodging rooms and houses), they authorized the TDA to manage this added revenue.

While the OT board reviews, applications submitted by nonprofits seeking funding for specific projects from the 3 percent fund, it is advisory only: The county commissioners must approve their allocation plans, which, in recent memory, have always been approved.    

But the TDA is its own independent authority and can spend the 2 percent monies however it wants for tourism promotion according to its authorizing state legislation.  The TDA been developing a plan with the Ocracoke Civic & Business Association (which is tantamount to a visitor’s bureau) to spend these new funds to market the island.

Late last fall, yet another committee formed to explore how the Island Inn could be saved from possible commercial development and put into community hands.

This group accomplished its goal when the nonprofit Ocracoke Preservation Society took a big leap and agreed March 22 to purchase this iconic building and property for community use. Specifics are still to be determined, but Hyde County has agreed to purchase the vacant lot across the street on which to install a new building to house the EMS services.

Among other island nonprofits are the Ocracoke Health Center, the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, the Ocracoke Youth Center, which oversees and fund raises for the island’s ball field, the Ocracoke Foundation, which owns Community Square, WOVV 90.1 FM, the island’s community radio station, and Ocracoke School Booster Club.

Ocracoke Alive produces the Ocrafolk and Latino festivals, Arts Week in the school and community theater shows. OcraCats oversees control of the island’s feral cat population.  Still other groups raise money and produce events for the island churches, school activities, the library and more.

We don’t have room to list all the island nonprofits but suffice it to say that much work goes on throughout the year to make this little island vibrant, all while retaining its non-commercial feel.

These islanders take seriously their membership on these (largely) volunteer boards. They do it out of dedication and commitment to the community, and we salute them for stepping up and for their hard work.  Through their dedication, they improve the island community and deserve both our thanks and admiration.

Ocracoke Preservation Society president, Ken DeBarth. Photo: P. Vankevich

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2 replies »

  1. Why is there no thanks for the lodging owners that made the investments which are the basis for all the free money. They do not get one penny for being used in fact it costs them money. An unappreciated group by the whole community.

  2. With regard to the “Dingbatters” play, I think the play is offensive because you are actually making fun of the tourists you rely upon for your existence. Its not meant to be playful. It’s meant to be mean because you think tourists are too stupid to understand that you are making fun of them. How about the play “The Local Drunk.” That’s not funny either, is it.