By Katy Calloway, The Island Connection Editor
Kiawah Town Council convened on Feb. 6 for its monthly meeting, which proved to be an efficient and brief endeavor. With all Councilmembers in attendance, the minutes of the previous month’s meeting were approved unanimously without changes or comments. Mayor Weaver had just one item to discuss in his update, and that was the dune replenishment project that has officially concluded. He thanked the staff, especially Wildlife Biologist Jim Jordan, for their work on securing the two required permits, as well as their perseverance through the inclement weather, which resulted in numerous project delays. In all, 15,700 feet of beach dunes were replenished, 62,800 cubic yards of sand. Council approved a budget of $275,000 for the project, which came in at $198,000. The Town will continue to monitor the project over the next several years, to document the progression of vegetation growth along the dunes. Jordan believes it should start filling in, in about two months, a gain of two or three years over what the natural forces would have accomplished. Citizen’s comments included an appearance by Wendy Kulick at the podium to ask about the Executive Session item on the agenda, “to receive legal opinion from the Town Attorney on a matter related to the anticipated challenge by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project to seismic testing and drilling in the Atlantic Coastal waters.” Kulick questioned why the discussion had to take place behind closed doors. She also asked who from the Town would be attending the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seminar in Columbia on Feb. 13, regarding seismic testing and drilling. Additional comments urged the Town to reaffirm its position in opposition to seismic testing and oil drilling along the SC coast, stating that the Town’s previous statement on the matter, issued in June 2017, “was no longer strong enough to express the concern for protection of Kiawah beach.” Noted was the “conspicuous” omission of Kiawah Island on the list of Charleston area islands united in a lawsuit to block the search for offshore oil. It was anticipated that this matter would be discussed in Executive Session. Mayor Weaver expeditiously moved on to the next agenda item, the second reading of Ordinance 2018-01, an amendment which would create the Fairness in Lodging Act Compliance in Article 4, Finance and Taxation, which would allow the Town to partner with the SC Department of Revenue to increase compliance on tax payments from rental properties. There was no discussion and the ordinance was approved unanimously. Moving on to new business, committee appointments for 2018 were announced. The Board of Zoning Appeals recommended JJ Lewis be nominated to fill one vacant seat. The Environmental Committee had four vacant seats to fill and recommended Pam Wilson, Scott Nelson, Beverly Gholson and Michael Guzniczac be appointed. The Public Works Committee, which is relatively new having been formed last year, had no changes for 2018. The State Accommodations Tax Committee also had no changes. All new appointments were approved unanimously. Committee appointments are for 3-year terms. The second item of new business was the approval of the Kucera Proposal for 2018 Aerial Orthophotography Services. The current images are 4 years old and considered obsolete for mapping purposes. Wildlife Biologist, Jim Jordan, requested the new maps noting that the images are used by all Town departments. The Town received three bids for aerial photography, with Kucera International, Inc. coming in lowest at $29,900. With no discussion from Council the proposal was approved unanimously. The work will take place this month.
New business included a discussion of the FEMA proposed flood maps. The informational item, provided by Town Administrator Stephanie Tillerson, described the maps and their impact on the Town and its properties. In defining the lowering elevation levels, Tillerson believes that most residents will see a decrease in their insurance rates. She urges property owners to discuss changes with their insurance companies. The FEMA maps are currently in a public comment period that closes April 18. Homeowners can look at their current designation and their proposed designation and appeal to FEMA if they feel it necessary, (KiawahIsland.org/flood-awareness). The Town will reserve the right to appeal FEMA decisions, as well as determine if future Town ordinances should include an elevation requirement that exceeds FEMA mandates. This potential change in Town building requirements would have no impact on insurance costs, which are determined according to FEMA designations. Treasurer, Dorota Szubert delivered the budget report for the period ending Dec. 31. The combined balances were approximately $15.9 million, an anticipated decrease of approximately $800,000 due to the timing of revenues and the accounting on a cash basis. About $450,000 is related to construction costs. $5.6 million is available in the general fund. With half of the year left, expenditures are at 52% of budgeted expenditures.
“Overall, revenues and expenditures appear reasonable,” concluded Szubert. Mayor Weaver clarified that the capital construction project is now closed and it came in at approximately $416,000 under budget. Future expenses related to the Municipal Center project will come out of the general fund. Town Administrator, Stephanie Tillerson asked Facilities and Contracts Liaison Rusty Lameo to describe the project taking place along Betsy Kerrison Pkwy. The Town is responsible for about 60 feet of road along Betsy Kerrison outside of the roundabout. There has been ponding on the road and in cooperation with the State, there will be sampling of the road to determine structural integrity, repaving and reshaping of the bank and the addition of a guardrail along the outside lane. Tillerson also reported that the Town is working to get reimbursement from FEMA for what will amount to approximately $110,000 in repairs from storm damages. Councilmember Mezzanote reported that she will ask the Charleston Visitor’s Bureau to attend a Council meeting to discuss its current projects. The Arts Council is holding seven events in February, several have sold out. Councilmember Wilson reported on his attendance at the Charleston Area Transportation group meeting. The Maybank improvement project, phase 1, 2 and 3, which includes the resurfacing and addition of a bike path, widening of the road at the Johns Island bridge and the finishing of the “pitchfork” that would allow for three lanes coming off the bridge, will move from federal funding to local funding. Wilson was told that there are no other plans for Johns Island at this time. With no other committee reports, citizens comments were again entertained, and again Wendy Kulick returned to the podium to suggest the Town remind people of the State of SC Tax form TC44, which allows a tax credit for property owners paying more than 5% of their income for insurance coverage on their legal residence. Kulick voiced a number of reactions to the Town retreat that was held Feb. 1-2. She praised the work of Tillerson and her staff in preparing the workshop and lamented over the fact that only three property owners attended. Kulick’s questions included: Does the Town plan to schedule, “what would be a real retreat,” to discuss policies and planning based on staff recommendations? What was the cost for Joan Houston to plan, prepare and attend the first day of the retreat? Mayor Weaver responded specifically to one question stating, “I don’t envision that we’ll have a follow up meeting, per se, to talk specifically about the recommendations that came out of the two days last week,” he continued. “The budget process is really the process by which the Town and the Town Council… puts in place different projects and spending priorities.”
That process will roll out over the next several months and allow Council to consider input from different Town departments. The next meeting of the Kiawah Town Council will be held Tuesday, March 6 at 2 p.m.