Sundae Horn
Weekends at the Beach
Ocracoke occupancy tax will fund two days of lifeguards this summer for seven days of safe splashing.

In a 3-2 decision at their May 5th meeting, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners voted to allow the Occupancy Tax board to appropriate $10,000 for lifeguards. This funding is necessary because Cape Hatteras Seashore is contracting for lifeguards for only five days a week this summer. Hyde County, via Ocracoke's occupancy tax, will pay for the other two days. They will contract with the same company that the Seashore is hiring to provide lifeguards.

"I wish we were not at the point where we have to yield to the Park Service," said county manager Bill Rich. "But we have no choice when we talk about human life. I don't want to be county manager and have someone drown at the lifeguard beach on a weekend. We had no choice but to spend the money."

Ocracoke's own commissioner, John Fletcher, cast one of the nay votes. He feels strongly that the county shouldn't pay for services that the Park Service has always provided, citing that Cape Hatteras National Seashore superintendent Barclay Trimble had enough money in the Seashore budget to pay for full-time lifeguards. 

"He had the money and he chose to spend it on other things," John said, adamantly and accurately. 

At their March 19th meeting, the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board voted to set aside $10,000 for lifeguards in case it was needed. The motion was passed with all in favor, with Wayne clarifying that the OT board would still need to meet again to complete the authorization. It is expected to pass with all in favor. 

"This protects the public for this year," said Bill Rich. "But we're going to continue to fight [Trimble] on this issue. We're going to work toward next year, continue to work with Congressman Walter Jones's office. We want the Park Service to hire lifeguards next year. We're also going to work to amend this year, and ask the Park Service to reimburse us."