By Katy Calloway, The Island Connection Managing Editor
The first meeting of the fall season was called to order a questionable three minutes ahead of time, after Mayor Weaver questioned the accuracy of the clock.
The September meeting minutes were approved unanimously, following Councilmember Mezzanotte’s admitting to already sending in a few “wordsmithing” changes to Town Clerk Petra Reynolds.
Mayor Weaver opened business with a few updates, including information on the Lowcountry Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund, created to help citizens in North and South Carolina impacted by the storm. Donations are currently being accepted through the Coastal Community Foundation.
He announced the Fall Back to Kiawah event happening Oct. 4 as an opportunity for residents to come and see the beautiful Town Hall and enjoy good weather.
Citizen’s Comments hosted Wendy Kulick at the podium, who urged folks to visit Atlanta, where she and her family evacuated to during Hurricane Florence, adding that people could not have been more hospitable.
David DeStefano then discussed the process of meeting notice.
DeStefano chairs the Public Works Committee and was disappointed in the late notice of the last special meeting of his committee. DeStefano received notice merely an hour and a half before the meeting was set to begin.
There was a presentation by Emily Sobczak of Greene Finney LLP on the annual financial audit.
She opened by describing the ongoing process of internal controls that the Town uses throughout the year and decribed her agency’s role in evaluating these processes and suggesting improvements. Greene, Finney issued a “clean” opinion that describes the year’s financial information as correct and accurate.
At year’s end, (Kiawah’s fiscal year ends June 30) there was an available fund balance of $8 million, an increase of $1.2 million from the prior year. $115,000 was classified as non-spendable, having already been allocated for services rendered in 2019, leaving an unassigned fund balance of $7.9 million, or 160% of the 2019 budgeted expenditures, which Sobczak described as “very good financial condition.”
Business licenses, building permits and court fines brought in more revenue than expected last year contributing to an 11% increase over what was budgeted, for a total of $5.9 million in journal revenues. Investment returns were also very successful.
Expenditures totaled $5.1 million, $120,000 over budget, primarily a result of Hurricane Irma clean up expenses. This total was 3% less than the prior year, which reflected a more expensive clean up from Hurricane Matthew.
There were no significant recommendations from Greene Finney, which Sobczak credited to “management [working] very hard to make improvements and continue to improve processes and to remain diligent in maintaining effective internal controls for the Town.” Good news following a few “shaky” years.
Mayor Weaver commented on the myriad of changes that have been made to financial activities and processes in the past few years and that those changes continue to be effective and properly maintained.
Moving on to new business, Mayor Weaver commented on an item not on the agenda, which was a first reading at the last meeting of the Town’s Beach Lighting Ordinance. The second reading has been indefinitely pulled from the agenda while staff reviews comprehensive changes.
The intent will be to bring this ordinance back to Council prior to turtle season 2019.
Mayor Weaver then read the Kiawah Native Plant Week Proclamation, which declares the third week of October as “Kiawah Native Plant Week” to recognize the essential value and importance of Kiawah’s native plants to the island’s history, landscape and environment. There will be a number of programs taking place Oct. 15-19 encouraging planting and conservation of native species.
Council then considered the approval from Kimley-Horn for Beachwalker Dr. improvements. Ways & Means recommended approval for the $46,400 expenditure to research, design and construct an additional turn lane to Beachwalker Dr. The approval passed unanimously.
The second item for approval was for the installation and maintenance of two trash compactors at Kestral Ct., at a cost of $14,520 annually. Approval was granted unanimously.
Finally, the Town received three bids for the demolition of the condemned property at 122 Turnberry Drive. Ways & Means recommended approval of a contract with Watts Builders in an amount not to exceed $35,500 to demolish and dispose of the single-family residence, leaving the lot raked and free of debris. This passed unanimously in anticipation of the court order, but Mayor Weaver noted that the work cannot take place prior to court approval.
Town Administrator Stephanie Tillerson updated Council on the trash concerns with HOAs. Issues center around the placement of trash receptacles and the policies of Carolina Waste Management. Sixteen out of 288 residents contacted by mail have requested the change to curbside service.
Committee updates included Councilmember Wilson’s congratulations to staff members on the successful audit. Wilson also stated that the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is available on the Town website and encouraged residents to take a look at it. He updated Council on Johns Island’s road improvements and allotments, which is beginning to sound like daytime drama. I-526 is apparently back on the table, but Councilmember Wilson seemed cautiously skeptical.
Councilmember Widuch reported a Dec. 15 finish date for Fire Station 6. He then reminded residents that there is a St. Johns Fire Commission vacancy starting in December. Anyone interested should please contact him or Stephanie Tillerson. Mayor Weaver gave a final comment on the first joint meeting between the Town Council, ARB and KICA to discuss the Sea Level Rise report. All three groups were invited to discuss recommendations and have questions answered by the Sea Level Rise Committee members. Weaver described the meeting as a good starting point and expects subsequent meetings to follow.
Marilyn Green Larach took to the podium for closing Citizen’s Comments to discuss the trash collection at the Greenslake Cottages. She and her neighbors have been recently told Carolina Waste Management, per their policy, will not collect trash that is not at street level. Larach was surprised because this has never been an issue for the years that Carolina Waste Management has been collecting trash. She pointed out that there is no space for permanent, street level trash containers in the cottage neighborhood and that the expectation that all residents will take their trash containers to the street themselves is unrealistic.
David DeStefano returned to the podium to discuss the slow-moving vehicular traffic that he believes residents are overwhelmingly opposed to. These are golf carts that run up to 25mph and are (supposedly) equipped with all standard automotive safety equipment. DeStefano referred to the vehicles as “glorified golf carts” and would like to see the Town of Kiawah ban these vehicles, which can only be operated within 4 miles of the garage they are kept in, according to state law. DeStefano is concerned for safety reasons, particularly mothers holding young children in their laps, and implored the Town to ban these vehicles. Mayor Weaver said he is confident that the Town and the Community Association will take a serious look at this issue.
Council then moved into Executive Session.
The next regular meeting of the Kiawah Island Town Council is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.