By Katy Calloway, Managing Editor for the Island Connection
All councilmembers were present at the Dec. 5 Town of Kiawah Council meeting. The Town Council Public Hearing minutes and the minutes from the Nov. 7 Town Council meeting were both approved unanimously with no fanfare or changes. Mayor Weaver started with his update, announcing that the permit was received for Phase II of the sandscraping project. The project, predominantly on the western end of the island, should be completed by Christmas. Citizen’s comments included a question from Wendy Kulick asking Council when a public vote was held to recommend one candidate over the others, regarding the three Kiawah applicants for the St. Johns Fire Commission. This question went unaddressed. Old business included the policy discussion on post-employment health benefits for previous Town employees. Town Treasurer, Dorota Szubert, researched similar programs and other municipalitys’ policies. Staff is asking Council to approve a policy that will fund up to 50% of the premium for retirees up to age 65 and the percentage to be based on years of service with the Town.
Discussion on the memorandum included Councilmember Wilson pointing out that employees would need to be in good standing with the Town. Additional discussion centered around the logistics of payments of such a program.
Councilmember Widuch voiced opposition to the program, as did Councilmember Mezzanotte. The motion to approve the policy, with minor changes was eventually approved by all except Councilmember Widuch. A second reading of the ordinance to approve rezoning of the property at 1 Kiawah Beach Drive from Commercial Zoning District to the RST-2, Resort Zoning District passed unanimously. In new business, the 2018 meeting schedule was approved unanimously and the schedule can be found on the town’s website. Councilmember Wilson announced that Will Conner, Director of Major Repairs, has received a permanent appointment to the Public Works Committee. There was always intent to add Conner to the committee but he had been previously overlooked. Councilmember Widuch then addressed Kulick’s question regarding the recommended appointment to the St. Johns Fire Commission. Widuch said that all three applicants were qualified, they were vetted by John Connolly, Chairman of the Fire Commission, as well as the Fire Chief Colleen Walz. Connolly recommended Stephen Rolando, who has the added benefit of extensive IT experience. The motion was made to approve Rolando for the St. Johns Fire Commission and was unanimously approved. Stephanie Tillerson, the Town Administrator, introduced Joe Cronin, the new Town Administrator for Seabrook Island who was present at the meeting. Councilmember Koach announced a vacancy to fill on the BZA. There has been an announcement made through the Town’s eblast and so far one candidate has shown interest. Councilmember Wilson, still hoping for clarification on the status of the I-526 continuation, attended a recent Charleston Area Transportation Studies meeting. The project is still uncertain. The flyover at I-17, as well as the widening of Main Rd. do seem to be “live” issues. Wilson believes the flyover, politically well supported, will eventually happen, but he feels that it will be a number of years before it comes to fruition. Councilmember Mezzanotte reported that the Arts Council sent out a survey and received an astounding 552 responses. The survey resulted in a lot of good information and suggestions, as well as praise for the Arts Council programming. The College of Charleston Magical Dinner was sold out at 136 seats. There was no environmental report, but Mezzanotte did note that the Coastal Science Beach Erosion annual report should be available in February. Concluding citizen’s comments included Scott Nelson who asked that the signage at Captain Sam’s Spit be replaced. The sign stating that dogs are not permitted in the Audubon sanctioned shorebird area was washed away in the storm season and in addition to replacing the sign, he requested that the beach patrol exercise more of a presence in that area. He noted that dogs are running loose and on occasion harassing visitors. Virginia Abbott raised concerns about the health care memorandum. She was directed to the analysis that was included in the provided packet of information. It includes state requirements on the health care program. She stated that she is opposed to the program. Wendy Kulick returned to the podium to read a comment on behalf of Diane Leader who could not be present. The comment was in reference to the selection of Miss Kiawah Island, Bailey Rodgers. No one on council was familiar with the designation or the presumed competition that deemed Miss Rodgers, Miss Kiawah. Kulick then commented on the discontinuation of the Town Exchange, a public forum for communication between the Town and property owners.
She asked that Council reconsider this decision. She then asked if the Town has plans to pursue a civil suit against the former Town employees who were recently indicted on counts of embezzlement. Mayor Weaver replied that the Town’s position continues to be, “to allow the legal process to carry its way through.” He stated that there is a date (May 2018) the Town has to decide if it will pursue civil action. They are holding their options in advance until the current proceedings take place. He added that the Town, “absolutely would like to see the Town receive full restitution for their losses.” Mayor Weaver concluded by saying that in regards to the signage that was lost in the storm season, Council is aware that a lot of signage was lost and it is trying to work through re-establishing the signs. He added that the beach patrol is also aware of the dog issue and is trying to be more vigilant. Town Council then went into executive session to discuss staff performance. No votes were taken and no decisions were made. The next meeting of the Kiawah Island Town Council will be on Tuesday, Jan. 9.