RALEIGH — Cultural and historic sites on the coast will see more than $5 million in much-needed repairs under a plan released this month by the McCrory administration.
State budget director Art Pope distributed a list to lawmakers outlining a funding plan for $90 million in capital projects, many of them renovations and repairs to aging infrastructure and buildings. The list includes at least 21 projects in coastal counties.
While much of those funds were concentrated on festering needs in Raleigh, among the top group of recipients outside the beltway were the state’s aquaria with more than $2.5 million in projects. Major projects are also in the works for coastal historic forts, with a $1.4 million renovation budgeted for the Fort Macon public bathhouse, visitor center upgrades at Fort Fisher and repair and shoreline stabilization work at Fort Anderson in Brunswick County.
David Griffin, state aquarium division director, said several of the projects listed, including a chiller plant replacement at Pine Knolls Shores and fixing a deteriorating, storm-damaged roof at Roanoke Island, were among the department’s top priorities.
The list of 191 projects is due to be reviewed today by the Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations, which conducts the final round of oversight on the list. The money represents a jump in repair in renovation funding from recent years. According to Pope’s memo, the list was winnowed from $554 million requested for 545 projects.
The aquarium projects along with dozens of other roof repairs, HVAC upgrades and infrastructure projects scattered throughout the state reverses years of deferred maintenance and needed upgrades, a traditional strategy during times of tight budgets. The facility funds come at time when state-owned attractions are being asked to rely more on receipts from visitors and foundation support for operations. Officials have already announced a hike in ticket prices next year at aquariums and other facilities.
Griffin said visitors along with taxpayers expect the facilities to be well-kept and if the aquarium projects win that last step in the approval process today, it will mark a significant start toward working through a backlog of necessary repairs and improvements.
“We’re excited about them,” he said of the projects on the list. “They are much-needed and if we get the funding, we can get them under way.”
The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse was moved to its current location overlooking Edenton Bay in 2007. Photo: UNC
Keith Hardison, director of the Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, said two projects — renovations at Fort Fisher and finishing work on the Roanoke River lighthouse are aimed at supporting tourism.
“The funding at Fisher will allow for repairs and upgrades to the site’s visitor center as well as for a complete reconstruction of the fort’s palisade defensive works,” he said. “These improvements will position the site for being a focal point for the Civil War Sesquicentennial activities in January 2015.”
The additional funding for the lighthouse restoration on the Edenton waterfront should allow the lighthouse, which was damaged in Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and moved to its new location in 2007, to reopen.
Brenda Bryant, site manager at Fort Anderson, said in the case of the fort and the historic Brunswick Town, time is running out. Heavy erosion along the Cape Fear River has exposed an old cribwork wharf and some of the fort’s colonial-era features, she said. Taking steps to preserve the area will help retain its archaeological potential.
“Our waterfront represents some of the early history for the whole area,” she said. “It’s why [the project] is listed as an emergency.”
The capital projects report notes that the Army Corps of Engineers and the state are working on a $6 million project to reduce shoreline erosion from heavy shipping traffic on the Cape Fear River.