NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH | Debbie Dougherty was among the visitors to North Topsail Beach Thursday who were taking in some sunshine and sea breeze during the week’s reprieve from the winter cold.

She was also among the first to take advantage of the newly repaired crossover to the beach at the Jeffries lot.

“It’s good to see the crossovers open and it is nice that they are working on the dunes, too,” said Dougherty, a Jacksonville resident who said she tries to stop by North Topsail Beach on nice weather days whenever she can.

Rosalie Sims, of Sneads Ferry, who was taking a walk with her dog on the beach, said she saw work underway and was excited to see one of the two crossovers at the lot was ready for use.

“I’m absolutely glad to see it,” Sims said. “We love to come out to the beach; it is why we live here.”

The repairs to crossovers and the berm push to create some dune protection along the shoreline are signs of the ongoing recovery progress by the Town of North Topsail Beach following damages by Hurricane Florence last September.

The Board of Aldermen at its Feb. 7 meeting approved a contract with Swaney Construction of Wilmington for $98,000 to repair and reconstruct 22 beach crossovers that were damaged. The contract provided that work begin immediately and be completed by March 31, said Town Manager Bryan Chadwick.

“We’re looking to have them all open by summer,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick said the contractor is tackling the crossovers with the least damage first to get as many of them open as they can as soon as possible.

Those who have visited North Topsail Beach lately may have also noticed the work to build up the damaged dune system.

Chadwick said significant progress has been made by the contractor, working around the tide and weather to conduct the berm push, which involves pushing existing sand to form dunes in the areas where they were washed out during hurricane.

“They are in the midst of doing the work now and have been doing about 1,000 linear feet a day,” Chadwick said.

As of the end of the week, about half of the 50,000 linear feet planned for the project had been completed.

Chadwick said North Topsail Beach lost 2.5 million cubic yards of sand from its shoreline from the hurricane, with about 400,000 to 500,000 cubic yards of that being sand from the dune system. The current berm push provides some initial protection until there can be a full restoration of the dune system at a later date.

“This is not a full dune system,” Chadwick said. “We wanted to get some initial protection in place until we can do the full dune system.”

As work continues on the beach, the town is also taking steps toward deciding how to proceed with restoration of the town hall.

Town staff has been operating out of a temporary town hall in Sneads Ferry since the hurricane due to significant damage to the town hall building due to Hurricane Florence.

While no contract has been awarded, Chadwick said the town put out requests for qualifications and has selected Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects of Gastonia to work with for architectural and engineering services for the project.

Chadwick said they are currently working to develop a scope of work for the project to determine the best course of action for restoration of the town hall and town park. They need to determine the full extent of the damage and exactly what work needs to be done to either renovate or rebuild the town hall facility.

“We want to find the best way to go,” he said. “If it needs a total gut job, will it be worth it to repair what is there or do we need to rebuild?”

Chadwick said there are no current plans to relocate the facility.

The same architectural firm recently completed the space needs study for the police department, which is located in the same facility and already has familiarity with the building, which is a benefit, Chadwick said.

Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at 910-382-2557 or Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com. For digital subscription information, click here.