State of the Kiawah Conservancy
Greg Brown, president of the Kiawah Island Natural Habitat Conservancy, thanked the Town for being a long time and important partner of the Conservancy, and gave a brief report on the activities and financial status of the non-profit organization.
The Conservancy currently owns 14 properties on Kiawah that were purchased for $3.9 million and recently appraised at $5.1 million. Financially, the organization is stable with a clean 2011 audit and was recognized last year by the SC Secretary of State with the Angel Award, which is given to established non-profits that use at least 80 percent of their contributions for charitable services. The Conservancy was also recognized by the South Carolina Aquarium this year, and was the recipient of their annual Environmental Stewardship Award for committing to preserving and protecting the natural habitat on Kiawah Island. While the Conservancy’s income dropped between 2005 and 2011, the organization is currently ahead of plans and cash flow projections though the end of the year appear solid and positive.
Moving forward, Brown stated that they hope to maintain and increase habitat areas, and a recent study of the island revealed that approximately 52 percent of island properties meet the requirements for habitat-friendly landscaping – the most being found behind the second gate and less in the west end primarily due to the aging of the landscape and increased tree coverage. Additionally, while more development is taking place across the island, Brown reassured that 77 percent of the island is still long term natural habitat.
“We’re not losing habitat, or turning into Hilton Head or a wasteland. However, we still need to focus on our developed land by encouraging individuals to improve their landscaping by increasing natural habitat,” said Brown.
Brown noted that the Conservancy is hoping to preserve as much land as possible in perpetuity, and has already identified eight to 10 lots on the island for long term preservation. Lastly, he pointed out that a great issue of concern has been the invasive species tallow tree, and the Conservancy is working with other island organizations to fight the marsh-draining nuisance.
“The number one reason people come to Kiawah is the environment. Not the beach, not golf, not Charleston – the environment,” said Brown.
“You’ve done a great job for a number of years and the community owes you a debt of gratitude for the work you’ve done,” said Mayor Steve Orban.
Proposal to Change Voting Location on Kiawah
Art Morgenstern of the Kiawah Island Elections Commission asked the Council to reconsider the location for voting on Kiawah, which is currently held at the fire station on Sora Rail road.
“Where we vote now is not a good environment and parking is not good. Also, this is the last fire house being used for voting in Charleston County,” said Morgenstern.
While Morgenstern noted that the issue has been brought before the Council before, he hoped that with recent assurances as to the election commission’s role with the county and improved parking at Kiawah Town Hall, the issue could be reconsidered.
Morgenstern’s first proposal was the Town Hall as it boasts 51 more parking spaces than the fire station, which only offers 12, and voters could use the Council chambers, entering through one door and exiting through the other. If parking became an issue, Morgenstern noted that CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) would volunteer to help direct traffic. The only downside, he noted, was that the Council is scheduled to meet on two upcoming election dates and their schedules would have to be adjusted to accommodate.
Alternately, Morgenstern suggested that voting could be moved to Kiawah’s Sandcastle Community Center. Parking is available, but one issue would be that voting would have to take place on the second floor and the only handicap access is a ramp and elevator. Additionally, there would be a $50 charge for the use of the room. Another alternative would be the East Beach Conference Center, but rental of that facility is $500 and conferences would take priority for use of the room.
Elections are typically held twice a year, general elections and the Mayoral/Town Council elections, and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Council later discussed the issue of poll relocation, and voted unanimously that the Election Commission should investigate the use of the Sandcastle Community Center and return to the Council with their findings. The Town Hall, it was decided, might not work as well because of the day-to-day business that takes place both in the Town offices and the Kiawah Island Community Association (KICA) offices, as well as the scheduling conflict with Town Council meetings.
“We support moving from the fire department to the Sandcastle providing that KICA says it’s okay,” Councilmember Charles Lipuma elaborated.
Parking at Beachwalker Park
Island resident Wendy Kulick asked the Council to comment on whether Parthe decision not to allow cars to idle while waiting for a parking spot outside of Beachwalker Park was made by the Mayor or the Council, or who made the decision.
Islanders for School Board
Kiawah Island residents Jim Ramich and John Barter announced that they will be running for Charleston County School Board. Elections for the board will take place along with the general elections on November 6, but candidates were required to turn in their submission forms with at least 500 signatures by July 12.
“If anyone has been reading about what’s happening on the school board, it’s really quite remarkable. There’s no news about any strategy and they’ve had to review some members for denigrating the staff. So John and I aren’t taking it anymore. There’s no higher moral obligation than educating our kids. We’ve been passionate about this for a long time and we think we can have a top notch school district here,” said Ramich.
“Everyone deserves a good education and it’s our obligation to our kids as well as our community and our nation. We found some good candidates and with six open seats, by adding some diversity we’re sure we can make a difference,” said Barter.
Thanks from Carolina Waste
Scott Fennell of Carolina Waste Services thanked the Town for bearing with them as they learn all the “ins and outs” of collecting solid waste for the island.
“Thanks for your patience and thanks for the opportunity,” said Fennell.
Walter Hundley for District 41 Special Elections
Walter Hundley, Republican candidate in the special elections for the District 41 Senate seat, Glenn McConnell’s former seat, briefly spoke before the Council. Hundley noted that he was from the area and is running for the seat because of his experience.
“Let me tell you what’s going one. Democrats are trying to knock me and Thurmond off the ballot, so I’m trying to collect signatures before then. The right to vote it what’s really going on here and I don’t want you all to pass up on your chance to vote. I hope you exercise your right to vote on July 17,” said Hundley.
Councilmember Al Burnaford asked Hundley if his seat would expire in November of this year and Hundley noted that it would actually expire in December. After that, Kiawah Island would be under Chip Campsen’s district.
Adopting Subsidy for Town Waste Collection
Town Administrator Tumiko Rucker stated that the Ways and Means Committee recently recommended that the Town provide a $176 subsidy per property owner for the solid waste collection fund. This would result in no cost for curbside services, and other services would be offset by the $176. The subsidy, Rucker noted, will apply to property owners island-wide.
Council approved the subsidy unanimously.
Contract Renewal with Carolina Waste
The Council unanimously approved the renewal of the Solid Waste Collection agreement with Carolina Waste for an additional year to expire on June 30, 2013.
FY 2013 – Deputy Coverage Contract
Town Administrator Rucker reported that they are still working on providing 100 percent deputy coverage on the island, but coverage is still at about 75 percent. The difficulty lies in the fact that even though the deputies hired are off duty, they may be pulled away for incidents in other parts of the county.
“We went through records last year and between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. there were only a couple incidents that needed a sheriff. Most of the incidents were handled by KICA. We’re pressured them to fill the hours budgeted, and if it starts to have a detrimental effect, we’ll do something more stringent. But so far over almost the past year, we haven’t had that many incidents that require a sheriff,” said Orban.
“Since security, health, and safety are the main issues the Town government is responsible for, if the Town policy is to have two people per shifts and something happens or we consistently run a deficit, what is our liability?” asked Councilmember Greg VanDerwerker.
Mayor Orban replied that it is not a written policy that they will always have two people per shift.
“For example, during the off seasons, two sheriffs would be superfluous,” said Orban.
Orban – not a written policy for two people per shift. For example, during off seaons, two sheriffs would be superfluous.
Town Attorney Dennis Rhoad noted that it is difficult to sue a town successfully because they did not provide a service. The Town has looked into having its own police force in the past, but the cost is prohibitively expensive.
The Council approved the Deputy Coverage Contract unanimously.
FY 2013 Project Impact
As part of the Town’s hazard mitigation program, the Town produces an action plan every year that is approved by the Council and provided to Charleston County as part of their larger plan. That plan is then sent to FEMA for overall approval. Additionally, participation in this program relates directly to savings and discounts on flood insurance for island property owners.
The Council approved the 2013 Action Plan unanimously.
Technology Upgrade for Hand Scanner at Town Garage
As a result of discussions during a recent budget workshop, it was proposed that the Town of Kiawah Island relocate a biometric hand scanner used to clock evening and late night employees in from the first gate to the Town garage at Town Hall. This would reduce the cost of a dedicated line and save the Town approximately $6,000 a year. The cost of relocating the scanner would be roughly $3700.
The Council approved the expenditure unanimously.
Election schedule for Town of Kiawah
As a matter of providing information to the public, Mayor Orban reminded everyone that those wishing to file for a seat on Town Council or for Mayor may file between September 4 and October 4. The cost of filing is $25 for a Town Council seat and $50 for Mayor. Elections will be held on Tuesday, December 4.
Proposed Code Enforcement Position
Mayor Orban reported that Town Administrator Rucker has written up a complete job description for a new Code Enforcement officer and the Town will begin advertising for the position. Councilmember Lipuma noted that they had considered hiring two, but decided to go with one. A new officer is needed as the current job load is too much for the present officers and things are either not getting done or are not completed on a timely basis, some of which are income-generating. This will be the Town’s tenth employee. Salary range is $31,000 – $53,000/year.
The Council unanimously approved the job description and marketing for the position.
Total Estimate of Parkway Damages
When an 18-wheeler went off the curb as it approached the Kiawah Island first gate a couple months ago, it caused damage to the guardrail and some irrigation. The estimate of damages is approximately $33,884 and the Mayor stated that he didn’t feel it would be a problem to collect. Since the guardrail is treated wood and structural southern pine, however, it will take several weeks for the materials to arrive and the repair to take place.
“And work won’t be done during the PGA,” Councilmember Lipuma noted.
Environmental Report and Public Works
Councilmember Vanderwerker noted that the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) improvements to the Town Hall are moving along well, and Carolina Waste has already started work on the island. Regarding the Environmental Committee, Dr. Tim Kana of Coastal Science and Engineering will give a State of the Beach report at their July 16 meeting.
Councilmember Lipuma reported that the Sundown Festival at Night Heron Park went well, with Rick Godfrey and the Beach-Boogie-Blues Kings performing so well that they were asked to play an extra half an hour. An estimated 400 people attended the event.
PGA Security, Parking and Plans Committee
Councilmember Fran Wermuth reported that they will be holding a table top practice toward the end of the month to see if any last minute changes are needed and to refine the plan, but everything seems to be coming together. The next Public Safety meeting will be held on July 17.
Fires on Kiawah Ad Hoc Committee
Councilmember Burnaford stated that some issues arose following the last Fires on Kiawah Ad Hoc Committee meeting, which was held on July 10. One issue was that the term “witch hunt” came up regarding information provided by the St. Johns Fire Department and that, he said, was absolutely not true. Additionally, a Town resident apparently spoke before the Charleston County Council recently and stated that the Town was going to get its own fire department and fund it locally, and that is also not true.
“That type of thing is not needed at all on the island. We ought to all think about how and why rumors like this are started and how they affect the island,” said Burnaford.
Town Administrator’s Report
Tumiko Rucker reported that the Greenbelt Project is going along well, and that the bridge access on the Kiawah Parkway and the fishing pier access at Beachwalker Park are wrapping up. The ADA project at Town Hall is still ongoing and the front of the building will be closed temporarily again once the new doors arrive. All that remains is some electrical wiring, new light installation, and the addition of handrails and some gutter work on the outside of the building.
The updating of the Town municipal code is also underway, and she hopes to present a second draft of the recodified code to the Council before adoption by the September meeting. The long term goal, she noted, is to get the code online so it’s easily searchable.
Rucker also reported that the Town recently applied for a grant from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for public access and maintenance, and part of that award included a discount on “Keep off the Dunes” signs. The Town was able to purchase them for $10 a piece, so they bought 75.
“We won’t put up all 75, we just wanted to make sure we have extra in case some disappear,” said Rucker.
“I just wanted to make sure we could still see the dunes,” Lipuma smiled.
Regarding the recent Municipal Association Conference, Rucker stated that while the Town did not win any awards this year, their entry was published in the Conference’s report and they were recognized. Next year, she plans to submit the Town’s recent Greenbelt project for the Public Works category.
Additionally, Rucker reported that the Town recently received some Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the Johns Island Greenway from the Coastal Conservation League. She asked that anyone on the Town Council that has any correspondence relating to the Greenway to turn it in to her so she can give it to the Town Attorney for review.
Lastly, Rucker stated that they have been working with Carolina Waste to determine logistics for waste collection. The service will be providing new 35 gallon roll offs for recycling to replace the current blue bins, and dumpster colors and decals have been discussed along with several other details.
Mayor Orban was happy to report that Kiawah was featured in a big spread recently in USA Today, in an article titled “The Happiest Seaside Town in America.”
“We’ve requested a copy in vulcanized plastic so we can hang it up at Town Hall. It’s a very nice article,” said Orban.
Regarding the Greenway, Orban also noted that the Charleston Area Transportation Study (CHATS) is working on a request for proposals (RFP) to find innovative funding for the Greenway.
Lastly, Orban addressed Wendy Kulick’s question regarding idling cars outside of Beachwalker Park.
The issue, he stated, came up a couple weeks ago when Folly Beach lost approximately 400 parking spaces in a wash out. Because of numerous complaints regarding the smell of gas and fumes, and kids running in the street while cars are waiting and others leaving, as well as the issue of emergency access, they added a sheriff full time and a Code Enforcement officer to help with parking.
“We’re doing as well as we can do. We’re meeting with park officials to see if we can improve communications so people don’t have to drive 40 miles to find out that our lot is full and they can’t park. It’s not our park, we just want to facilitate people’s access to the park,” said Orban.
Cancelling August Council Meeting
Mayor Orban then made a motion that the Council cancel their August meeting, as well as the preceding Ways and Means Committee meeting, unless something extreme comes up. The Council approved the motion unanimously.
Kiawah Island Tom Kulick stated that, as Chairman of the Kiawah Island Fire Commission for several years, he was surprised that he was not invited to participate in the Fires on Kiawah ad hoc committee.
“I got an email about the creation of it and the participants and thought there must have been some oversight on the committee, but I looked and there wasn’t,” said Kulick.
Kulick went on to state that he received a copy of an email stating that the sender felt the committee should focus on the practices of the fire department and should hire an outside consultant to evaluate the department as the new building costs and regulations were “not warranted. The fire department does not put out fires.”
“It’s an outright lie, I think, and the credibility of this committee is shot. It’s a witch hunt, if you want my opinion,” said Kulick.
Councilmember Burnaford responded that the reason one gets a committee together is because they all have different opinions, and just because one person says something it doesn’t mean they all feel that way.
“I have no problem with you coming to the committee meetings, but I beg to differ, it’s not a witch hunt,” said Burnaford.
Kulick added that a study of the fire department might not be a bad idea as Chief Karl Ristow has made many significant improvements since he came on to the force.
Kiawah Island resident Wendy Kulick then addressed the Council regarding a number of items that the Council has yet to respond to. She asked for responses on whether the Town has spoken with the KRA regarding reimbursement of the utility built on parcel 23 at Indigo Park, if there would be any votes taken after the executive session scheduled for that day, and why there has been such a push recently to get the Johns Island Greenway on the CHATS long range transportation list, especially when “it has already been there.”
Councilmember Burnaford inquired as to when the house that burned down in Ocean Oaks would be removed as it’s becoming an eyesore, and Town Administrator stated that she would speak with KICA about discussing the issue with the homeowner as soon as possible.
Councilmember Wermuth stated that she was also curious about the Johns Island Greenway motion for innovative financing, and that there was no comment during the meeting as to what it was all about or why it was being done. Secondly, regarding Councilmember Burnaford’s statement about the Fires on Kiawah committee being a “witch hunt,” she felt that he was the only person who mentioned the words “witch hunt,” and that she recalled discussions as early as January of this year wherein Burnaford stated that he had not seen a fire department budget in some time, that he didn’t support the fire commissioner and that the fire commissioner was too close to the fire chief.
“The [fire department] budget is sent each year to the Mayor. If the Town hasn’t seen it, it’s here and it could be made available. And if a council member approves or disapproves of [our fire commissioner], he has served since 2001 and he can’t be replaced until his term expires,” said Wermuth.
Lastly, Wermuth stated that she attended the ad hoc committee that discussed whether Kiawah should create its own fire department, and that it was on the agenda as an item for consideration. So the party who spoke at the Charleston County Council meeting, she said, was not out of order.
On a lighter note, Councilmember Lipuma stated that the PGA is in the process of building some massive platforms at the Ocean Course, one 100,000 square feet and the other 125,000 square feet.
“It will be a sight to behold once everything is in place. I’m quite impressed,” said Lipuma.
Lastly, Lipuma thanked Rucker and Vanderwerker for all the work they have done with the ADA project at Town Hall.
“I was out underneath the new overhead roof during a pouring rain and it gave me time to get my umbrella open, so it’s achieving its objective. And the new patio block floor gives the front area character,” said Lipuma.
Councilmember Vanderwerker inquired as to Comcast service for the Preserve area, and Rucker replied that Comcast has approved the expansion and construction will begin in late July. The area should have service by the end of August.
Executive Session Cancelled
Councilmember Vanderwerker also brought into question the topic of the executive session, which he didn’t feel needed to be discussed in executive session as it didn’t specifically involve the town, just other parties.
Councilmember Wermuth also remarked that the wording on the agenda for the executive session was quite vague and should have been written more specifically.
Town Attorney Rhoad stated that if it had been rewritten, the agenda could have read that the executive session was “to discuss the development agreement provision dealing with the conveyance of the beachfront strip from the developer to KICA as required by the development agreement.”
Since the wording could not be changed as any changes to an agenda have to be announced a month in advance, the executive session was cancelled and added to the next Council meeting.