Pier should open on time, but a few hitches remain

By on April 27, 2011

With three weeks to go before a grand opening, workers at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head are scrambling to wrap up last-minute details, including repairs to a leaky aquarium, before welcoming its first visitors.

The opening May 21 is scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m. with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, followed by speakers and a christening at noon.

Final occupancy permit inspection of the $25 million facility, which will be run by the North Carolina Aquariums, is set for May 8 and 9.

The parking lot is done, flooring is going down, final paint touchups are underway and the phone system will be installed the first of next week, manager Mike Remige told the Jennette’s Pier Advisory Committee Wednesday.

Workers are still repairing a leaky aquarium. The tanks will not be permanently populated with marine life until mid- to late-June, although some specimens might be on display temporarily before then, Remige said.

“If you do everything by the book like you should to ensure the safety of the specimens that are going in the tank, it’s a six-week process,” he said. “It’s a biological and chemical process.”

Although none of the last-minute hitches appear serious enough to affect the scheduled opening, the pier faces a community relations problem. While adult anglers will pay $12 to go out on the pier, sightseers will pay nothing.

Committee member Warren Judge said that the state had promised not to compete directly with privately owned piers on the Outer Banks. That was expected to be done by charging higher fees, including $2 to $3 for those who are not fishing.

“I just don’t think it’s right that we don’t charge,” Judge said.

Nags Head Commissioner Renee Cahoon, who owns a grocery store just north of Jennette’s, said that pier owners had asked her to attend the meeting on their behalf.

“I think you’re betraying their trust,” she said. “It’s not a good way to start out.”

Remige said that charging a fee at a state facility has to clear the state Rules Review Commission, which is a months-long process.

The North Carolina Aquariums secured permission to charge a fee for fishing, but Remige said that Dee Freeman, secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, made the decision not to pursue a fee for sightseers who want to walk out onto the 1,000-foot pier.

“We, at this time, have been overruled,” Remige said.

Committee member Anna Sadler said that with no fee, free parking and a state-of-the-art bathhouse, the pier will be used as a beach access. The limited number of spaces would be quickly taken so that anglers, the only people paying a fee, would have nowhere to park, she said.

“Let me tell you, once the word gets out, you will have no space for that money that you need to operate on,” she said.

Nags Head is considering parking meters in a lot it is planning across N.C. 12 to help control its use, she said.

The committee voted for Chairman Bob Muller to contact Freeman by phone and letter to explain the implications of the decision and to urge him to reconsider and expedite the process for approving a fee.

In the meantime, the pier will ask for a $2 donation from walkers.

Committee members also pushed pier management to secure the necessary training and approval as a saltwater fishing license vendor. Those fishing on the pier will be covered by a blanket license, but committee member Damon Tatem said that the facility, as a state operation, should also be in the business of selling them to individuals.

The pier facility will be self-supporting through the fishing fee and rentals of the pier house’s second floor for meetings and weddings. At $3,300 for five hours, 20 weddings have already been planned for this year and 23 for next year.

Hiring is still under way for a staff of up to 37 full-time and part-time employees. More information is available at www.jennettespier.net/employment.

Educational programs are also planned to start in June. They include fishing lessons, collecting and identifying plankton, exploring the intertidal zone and examining wind power. A feature of the pier are three wind turbines.

Fees will cover the cost of the programs.

Fishing will be free opening day. Satellite parking with shuttles will be available at the Nags Head Municipal Complex and the grassy area south of the Dunes restaurant.

In addition to exhibits, the pier house includes a gift ship, tackle shop and snack bar.

The old Jennette’s Pier was a Nags Head icon until it was destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Plans for the property over the years once included construction of 12 houses.

The Jennette’s Pier Advisory Committee is made up of various stakeholders, including the town of Nags Head, which invested $300,000, and Dare County, which put in $700,000.

Outer Banks Voice photo.

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Comments

Taylor

May 9, 2011 2:24 pm

OBX Resident, you have coined a great term “Big Box Pier” as the place really sicks out like visual eye polution! Are we now the Myrtle Beach of NC? I miss the old low key pier.

Tim Myers

May 2, 2011 10:48 pm

As long as Gary Oliver has the the Outer Banks Pier, I could care less. Sounds like free parking for beah go’ers and Im gonna half to walk a half mile to fish. I don’t think so!!

Fishtales

May 1, 2011 9:19 am

I know this is off the subject be I need to vent! Go to Jennettes Pier web site and look at the employment link,
Educator – One year of experience in a natural science field. Graduation from a four-year college or university with a major in education, biology, zoology, botany, or other natural science curriculum is preferred. Salary: $11.19 per hour maximum.

Housekeeper – One year of experience in performance of a variety of housekeeping tasks.
Salary: $10.04 per hour maximum

A friggin 4 yr degree get you $1.15 more and hr. and none of these jobs are full time so no benefits. I’m glad I sent my daughter to college so she can get a high paying job!

OBX Resident

April 29, 2011 5:21 pm

GB, there is no logic in your point about public school buses, schools, and town meetings. Most schools and associated programs are exempted from the Umstead Act. Education is a core function of government. We can agree to disagree, but I would like to protect the precedence of the three old fishing piers, the owners, employees, and those that enjoy their services rather than erode their business by offering free walks on the new big box pier.

Town Meetings competing with private entertainment offerings…..please

Kim

April 29, 2011 2:57 pm

I would be more then willing to pay a fee to go out on the pier.

Danny Altman

April 29, 2011 2:49 pm

I am making plan to attend this Grand Opening Coming from the Raleigh area. I understand some of th concern over the opening of this kind of State Owned Facility. I feel once all the Roar of the Grand Opening is all over then the Pier can develop a Standard Way of operation and blend in as best it can. Sure till the new wears of this wonderful addition to the Naggs Head Community there will be action at a non stop pace for a little while.
Another thing I know everyone is not a Fan of Senator Basnight But this man has done more for the Outer Banks than any other man in North Carolina. He career in State Government is about over so Please keep His Good Name out of any Negative comments. He has been good for North Carolina And Especially the Outer Banks.
So I say Hello to the Jennette’s Fishing Pier and Fair well to a Great Statesman.

gb

April 29, 2011 11:34 am

Using this logic there should be a fee for public school buses, (competes with other transportaion) public schools (competes with private schools), public parks and town meetings (compete with private entertainment offerings).

Why do the interests of two or three older fishing pier owners take precedence over the thousands of vistors, guests, and residents who will benefit from offering a free walk on the pier?

I don’t see the older piers and the new pier as competing attractions but rather they are complementary. The new pier will generate more visitors and interest in piers for everyone.

OBX Resident

April 28, 2011 4:11 pm

I refer to this pier as a “big box pier”, and it is going to have a negative impact on existing private businesses specifically “mom and pop piers” and wedding venues. I wished that a scaled down version had been built without the wedding chapel, this is the pier that I wanted to welcome. The wedding chapel is nice but why does the State want to be in the wedding business and compete with private business. North Carolina law, Chapter 66 Article 11 Section 66-58 Sale of merchandise or services by governmental units, commonly referred to as the Umstead Act.

The Act specifically prohibits North Carolina government agencies from:

•Directly or indirectly selling goods in competition with NC citizens;
•Rendering services to the public that are ordinarily provided by private businesses;
•Leasing space in a state owned or operated building for purposes of selling goods or rendering services in competition with private business; or
•Contracting with anyone to sell goods or render services in competition with private business.

This pier does not charge a fee for patrons to walk out on the pier, and charges less than other wedding venues to lease the facility. It will be interesting to see how the pier manages to provide parking when someone leases the venue. Do they reserve parking for those attending a “leased/private” event, thus, limiting public access to the beach?

It would be interesting to see how the State justifies the lower rates for facility rental and the free walks on the pier. And where does the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce stand on this issue, if they even stand on this issue.

In closing, is the State also going to restrict water access buffering 300 feet adjacent to the pier.

ekim

April 28, 2011 4:06 pm

Governer Cahoon stands to make big$$$$$$

Ray M.

April 28, 2011 11:51 am

Anyone just can’t pick up the phone and get the Army Golden Kights to an event. Been there, done that. Just wondering who we should give the credit to for this.
How about the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels? They’d look really cool flying over the end of the pier. With all the money our county commissioners have dropped in Washington, DC at hotels and restaurants, we should have plenty of pull for that…I’m serious. Someone should give them a call..

John R

April 28, 2011 10:38 am

What I’d like to know is where are all the paying customers going to park?Between the FREE public beach access and FREE sightseeing,the lack of parking is going to drain income from the pier,plus it’s not fair to the private pier owners,who charge a sightseeing fee.I welcome the new pier,but good grief,use a little common sense!Piers are costly to maintain and the sightseeing fees help pay for those costs.

Jimmy

April 28, 2011 8:29 am

Anyone who doesn’t see this as a solcalist move on the part of the state of NC is blind. NC has spent 30 million dollors of our tax money to create a megga business that directly competes with the small mom & pop operations of Dare county. Not just the piers but the resturants, tackel shops, gift shops & many others. This artical alone staes that in the next two years $141900.00 will be taken from locals in just weddings & the place hasn’t even opened yet.God help America

Steve-O

April 28, 2011 8:02 am

How in the heck will they have enough parking for a decent-sized wedding?

ekim

April 28, 2011 8:00 am

We like to call it the Basnight memorial

Roger

April 28, 2011 6:25 am

I’ve got a way around the $12 fishing fee. I’m dusting off my Ronco Pocket Fisherman!

Nags Header

April 28, 2011 2:18 am

“No mon… no fun.”
Anna Sadler is a trip.

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