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Firm Seeks To Settle Old Lawsuit
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vvsin iNew douiu
BY KRIC CARLSON
Houston and Associates, the engineering firm thai
won a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Brunswick
County, has offered a to call off its plan to ask an ap
peals court for S5(X),(XX) in additional damages if the
county commissioners will agree to pay the company an
undisclosed cash settlement.
Durham lawyer Richard Evans said he hand delivered
a letter to County Manager/Attorney David Clegg
Monday afternoon with what he called "a serious offer"
to settle Houston's suit "for less than we want, hut for
more than the jury awarded."
Following a week of civil court testimony last
November, a jury found that the Brunswick Com
missioners were wrong when they voted Aug. 5, 1991 to
terminate a contract with Houston and Associates to de
sign six water system improvements projects.
But the jury awarded Houston only S50,(XX), instead
of the S396,202 the company said it lost as a result of
the breached contract.
After the trial, Evans said the company would ask the
N.C. Court of Appeals to overturn the award and to
grant Houston either the full amount or a new trial on
the question of damages. That appeal is about to pro
ceed, Evans said Tuesday.
Evans feels the new Democratic Party majority on the
board of commissioners might be more willing to setde
the case out of court than were the three former commis
sioners named in the suit.
"With a change in administration, the new commis
sioners can deal with this in a businesslike fashion with
out egos, old grudges, personalities or politics being in
volved," Evans said.
"It also may be easier without David Clcgg," Evans
said. "If he had been advising the county that it could
not lose this case, it would be less likely for him to ad
vise a settlement. I don't know if he was out on a limb."
Clcgg, who was both co-counsel and a witness in the
case, turned in his resignation Monday less than an hour
after Evans delivered the settlement request. He was in
Charleston, S.C., and unavailable for commcnt on ihe
Commissioners Chairman Don WarTen said Tuesday
he had received a copy of Evans' letter to Clegg
Monday. But he added, "1 don't know what it said."
Despite denying any knowledge of an offer from
Houston, he indicated that he might consider settling the
case, "If we can settle it chcapc' than fighting it in
Warren said the county had already incurred more
than S285,(XX) in legal fees and S50,(XK) in damages de
fending against the suit. He questioned the wisdom of
spending "another S15(),(XX)" to contest Houston's ap
peal with no guarantee that the county would win.
"If we know we've already lost and it's a ease we
can't win, in my estimation we should settle," Warren
said. "I'm inclined to try and come out the cheapest way
Evans said he feels sure the court of appeals will
agree that the Brunswick County jury had no basis for
awarding Houston an amount of damages less than the
S396.202 the company claimed it lost. Me said an award
in Houston's favor would likely include eight percent in
terest from the time the contract was breached along
with court costs.
Hie county would probably have to spend between
S35,(XX) and S8(),(XX) on an appeal, depending on
whether or not a new hearing was ordered, Evans said.
"It's possible that before the county knows what hits
it. it could face a judgment of -urn nm to S500.000,"
said Evans. "We arc asking for considerably less than
that amount to avoid my client having to expend the
same legal fees."
Evans said the settlement offer was also being made
in hopes that Houston and Associates might again be
hired by Bninswick County.
"It may help with a new administration," he said. "It
may be hard for someone who had a fight with Houston
and Associates to award it any more contracts. We want
to extend an olive branch and try to get this behind us."
BY KRIC CARLSON
Brunswick County Landfill/ Solid Waste Director
Leo Hcwctt has been suspended from his position.
County Personnel Officer Staric Grissett said Tuesday.
Hcwctt, 44, of Cedar Grove, was suspended by
County Manager/Attorney David Clcgg in one of his
last official actions before he submitted a "letter of res
ignation to the county commissioners Monday after
Clcgg was in Charleston, S.C., Tuesday and could
not be rcachcd for comment on the suspension.
Grissett said she could not provide any details about
why Hcwctt was suspended.
Under state law, a county employee's personnel file
can be examined only by the employee himself or his
agent, a supervisor or authorized agents of the state or
Contacted at his home Tuesday evening, Hcwctt
confirmed that he had been suspended but would not
commcnl further about the action.
"I don't know t)ie full story at this moment," Hcwcll
said. "All I know is I've been suspended. When I do
know more, I will have something to say."
Hcwett has been employed by the county sincc
August, 1978. He held several different positions be
fore being named soiid waste director in March 198X.
His salary at the time of suspension was S28.534.
Grissctt would not say if Hewetl's suspension was a
precursor to dismissal.
Whether or not he is dismissed, Hcwett can appeal
his suspension to the board of commissioners, which
can hear the case or refer it to a three-member adviso
ry personnel board for a recommendation. If not satis
fied with the commissioners' decision, Hcwett can ap
peal the case to the State Personnel Commission.
If Hcwett has reason to believe that the action was
based on discrimination, he can appeal directly to the
Shallotte Slates Hearing On ETJ Zoning
BY DOUG RUTTKR
Shallotlc area residents will have
another chance lo tell town officials
what they think of a proposal to
zone approximately 2,(XX) pieces of
property outside the town limits.
The board of aldermen and plan
ning board will hold a second public
hearing on the issue Thursday, April
8, at 7 p.m. in town hall. Town offi
cials hope the sccond hearing is the
At their regular meeting Tuesday,
aldermen reviewed the proposed
zoning map for the extraterritorial
area (ETJ). The map was revised
following the first hearing in
Planning Board Chairman Carson
Durham said the board received 33
specific requests for changes follow
ing the initial hearing and had
agreed to all of them but three.
"We came out with some better
moves than we had before the public
hearing," Durham told the town
board Tuesday night. "1 feci pretty
good about these recommendations.
We tried to look at this from a long
At the first hearing in January,
about 60 people packcd town hall
and spoke for nearly two hours
about the zoning plan. Many speak
ers made specific requests for
changes, while others voiced general
opposition to zoning.
Shallottc officials established the
ETJ in September 1991. It takes in
most property within one mile of the
town limits, extending to the south
end of the U.S. 17 bypass and north
to Royal Oak and Red Bug roads.
The ETJ also takes in land as far
west as McMilly Road and cast on
N.C. 179 to Hale Swamp Road. In
all, the area includes approximately
2,(XX) pieces of property.
Shallottc officials plan to enforce
the slate building code and their own
zoning regulations in the ETJ in an
effort to control the type of develop
ment that occurs on the outskirts of
"The main purpose of the ETJ is
to try to blend that area in with the
town rather than the county,"
Durham said Tuesday.
The planning board has suggested
zoning most of the ETJ as residen
tial, either RA-15 or RAM-15. Both
districts arc intended for residential
and agricultural uses.
Some sections of the ETJ have
been tagged for the B-2 business
district, which carries a provision for
a minimum lot size of 20,(XX) square
feet. That's twice as strict as the
minimum lot size requirement in
"We wanted something more than
just asphalt and rooftops," said
Alderman Paul Wayne Reeves, who
also serves on the planning board.
Durham said nobody complained
about the minimum commercial lot
size at the first hearing.
The ETJ hearing on April 8 will
follow another public hearing on a
proposal to amend a section of the
existing town zoning code.
Planners have recommended
deleting part of the zoning regula
tion dealing with non-conforming
uses. It requires the owner of adjoin
ing lots that don't meet minimum
standards 10 combine the lots.
"We think that's punitive really,"
Durham said. If the code amend
ment is approved, he said it would
likely apply inside the town and in
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Strand Renourishment Project
Cushions Impact At Ocean Isle
BY SUSAN USIIKR
A storm had been forecast, but at
Ocean Isle Beach, as in other
Brunswick County communities, the
severity of Saturday's storm caught
people off guard.
No one expected what they got?
shallow flooding and sustained gale
force winds of 45 mph to 50 mph
with hurricane-strength gusts.
"We got our butt kicked and then
they decided they'd better do some
thing north of here (as the storm
moved up the coast)," Building
Inspector Druicd Robcrson said
Monday after a day of scouring the
island inspecting for damage, and
finding plenty among streets littered
with shingles and in some instances,
debris left behind by receding flood
But he was the first to say it
could have been worse. Erosion
damage from the storm was cush
ioned by recent dredging of the inlet
and waterway. Partly dredge spoil
from annual U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers maintenance dredging
and partly renourishment work con
tracted by the town, the project had
just pumped nearly 1(X),000 cubic
yards of material onto the bcach
strand at Ocean Isle, nearly half of it
on the far cast end.
"Otherwise we would have had
four or five new houses endan
gered," he said. As it was only 8 feel
to 10 feel of sand were lost on the
cast end and elsewhere on the
"The wind was blowing out of the
west," he said. "We had waves 4 feet
high in the sound area of the marsh
behind the fire department."
By late morning, "there was 24
inches of water on East Second
Street and it was still rising,"
Robcrson said. "We realized the wa
icr was going to comc before wc
could get people off."
As both winds and water rose,
making travel hazardous, the bridge
was closed to traffic to and from the
island, separating some families and
The decision to close the beach
came, said Roberson, "when the po
lice department would drive across
in a heavy cruiser and comc back
with white faces."
It was after 3 p.m. before officers
allowed families to get back togeth
er and islanders to begin leaving at
their own risk.
While most of the island had elec
trical power by midnight Saturday,
service wasn't restored to some east
end residences until Sunday after
noon because of downed power
lines and other problems.
Roberson is estimating damages
of SI.2 million, with at least
S50.000 in storm-related costs for
A preliminary damage survey
Sunday by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers indicated eight to 10
houses had floors gutted out and
about 15 to 20 had erosion up to
their back doors.
"That's true," said Roberson, "ex
cept four were like that before the
storm. They have been like that
since 19X7, on a banana peel for ap
proximately six years."
Erosion broke the water line serv
ing four homes isolated at the east
ernmost end of First Street. That ser
vice will be restored, but no decision
has been made whether to replace
the existing line or run a line to the
homes from a different direction, he
The storm knocked only one of
the town's 23 public beach acccss
ways out of service, but Roberson
estimates about 20 percent of all pri
vate accesses were damaged from
390 E. First Street to the end of the
He estimated 90 percent of all
residences on the island lost at least
one shingle in the storm, and that
approximately 160 might need roof
repairs. Of those only about 20 had
sustained more serious damage,
such as missing porches, porch roofs
and/or portions of living area roofs.
Those include "five or six" ocean
front homes, and three canal street
On the causeway, a section of the
water slide tube broke away and
high winds broke off the overhang at
Ocean Isle Plaza, leaving it draped
across on the gas pumps.
Trash Pick-Up Is
March 26 At OIB
Ocean Isle Beach has arranged for
a one-time special pickup Friday,
March 26, by Chambers of South
Building Inspector Druicd Rober
son said trucks will pick up shingles,
insulation, limbers under three feet
in length and other types of debris,
but "no yard waste."
Island properly owners only may
bring larger timbers, yard waste and
other debris suitable for burning to a
debris pile growing daily at
Shallottc Boulevard on the island's
east side. Town firefighters will bum
the pile sometime Friday or later.
"This for island property owners
only," said Roberson. "If we see
anybody trying to come across the
bridge with anything we'll turn them
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