Manager’s Message: Advancing Our Success into 2018
By County Manager Chris Coudriet
New Hanover County had a good 2017, and I am looking forward to another productive year in 2018.
I am confident the county will continue to further our economic progress, enhance the health and safety in this community, and advance the area’s education and workforce opportunities.
Last year, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved the first tax cut for county residents in 14 years in the FY 2017-18 budget. This coming fiscal year, I do not anticipate any increase in taxes, fees or landfill tip fees based on our current revenue, coupled with our current priorities and obligations. New Hanover County government is in a financially-sustainable position with a balanced budget, thanks to strategic planning, keen leaders and an innovative, customer-focused workforce.
In 2017, the county began construction on the Ogden Fire Station, Pine Valley Library Branch and water and sewer lines along the NC 421 corridor. These three infrastructure initiatives will serve our community for years to come.
The Ogden Fire Station is the second busiest station for New Hanover County Fire Rescue and the new 13,706 square-foot station will accommodate all of today’s fire equipment and apparatus. It is being built with growth in mind, and should be complete this September.
The new Pine Valley Library Branch should be complete by the end of 2018, with the doors opening in January of 2019. The new, state-of-the-art library will replace the Myrtle Grove Library, which has served our community well for nearly 25 years. In 1993, the population within a five-mile radius of the Myrtle Grove and Pine Valley areas was 43,258, and in 2020, it is projected to be more than 126,000. The new Pine Valley Library will be able to accommodate this growth and will be a true learning and community hub for our county.
Bringing water and sewer services to property owners on Highway 421 has been years in the making. In 2017, construction for the necessary tie-in to Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) lines began under the Cape Fear River and this project is anticipated to be complete by late 2019. This strategic economic development initiative will attract new businesses and encourage the expansion of existing businesses along this developable industrial corridor.
In 2017, New Hanover County funded 38 local nonprofits and agencies, totaling around $1.4 million. The county supported the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s Choose Cape Fear marketing campaign, continued incentives to local businesses for the creation of new and better jobs in targeted industry clusters, upgraded the county’s parks to increase accessibility and encourage healthy lifestyles, increased funding to New Hanover County Public Schools, and expanded pre-k services to add three new classrooms in the county.
In 2018, we will continue to build on our accomplishments by implementing a new strategic plan, which will go before the board of commissioners for approval on Jan. 22 and will help guide the county’s priorities for the next five years.
The county will also begin construction on a new, combined human services building that will bring the departments of Health and Social Services under one roof and provide enhanced and more efficient service to our citizens.
A new land-development software will be implemented by the county in the third quarter of 2018. Through departmental collaboration, involving numerous stakeholders from the building community, and partnering with outside organizations, this new software will make it easier to do business with the county.
The Planning & Land Use Department is currently working on updating the county’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to help guide future land development. The UDO should be adopted this year and will complement the county’s comprehensive plan to help ensure that we have responsible development as we grow.
In 2018, I hope the county will move forward with Project Grace and begin the process of requesting proposals for the redevelopment of a county-owned downtown block, bordered by Grace, Third, Chestnut and Second streets. The county plans to issue requests for proposals in the coming months and study the potential uses for the Cape Fear Museum’s current property, with those going before the board of commissioners this summer. The possibilities of increasing the tax base, building a new library, and co-locating the Cape Fear Museum on this downtown block make this an exciting project for the county, our residents and visitors.
Another initiative I am eager to see move forward is the county’s partnership with Trillium Health Resources to build a substance-use treatment facility for men in New Hanover County called Healing Place. This 100-bed facility is based on a Wake Med model that has an 86-percent success rate, and we hope to break ground on it in 2018. It is a tangible way to address the opioid epidemic and the need for accessible treatment in our community. The county is also working with Trillium to create treatment options for women and adolescents as well. These projects have the potential to make a real difference.
I am confident that the county’s priorities and strategic support will continue to encourage private investment and job creation, and will enhance the county’s quality of life and long-term success. I look forward to another banner year for New Hanover County in 2018.