By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The October meeting of the Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI) town council was cancelled four days prior to the arrival of hurricane Matthew.
The two month break made for a busy, daunting look to November’s meeting agenda. All five members of town council confirmed their attendance by responding to a verbal roll call. The meeting was well attended and included eight members of TOKI’s staff. Two staff members had speaking parts related to hurricane Matthew. Several sets of minutes were approved along with several requests for changes.
An unaccustomed silence followed the call for contributions to the first round of citizen’s comments, and it was on to the first of several presentations.
Paul and Mary Jane Roberts were “in the house” to accept an Outstanding Service Award. Their work on Johns Island road planning consumed much of their lives for the past 11 years, but didn’t pay particularly well. Roberts made his contribution for the low, low price of $1 over the period, despite commanding a degree from the MIT Center for Transportation Studies. “I have never worked so hard on anything in my life and accomplished so little,” said Paul to chuckles of appreciation. Mary Jane followed with, “he has never worked so hard on anything [peals of raucous laughter] in his life.” The Roberts plan to stay involved with the project despite their recent move to Bishop Gadson.
Councilmember and mayoral candidate Craig Weaver gave the next presentation,
which featured a shell of TOKI’s new website. The lights dimmed and slide show began showing a familiar look, but with improved navigation. The feature came as a welcome to relief to residents like Wendy Kulick, who says it can take as many as five clicks to find what you’re looking for. The demonstration displayed where actual content would end up, and presenters specified the enhanced design will enable TOKI staff to make updates without incurring additional costs.
Interesting as the demo was however, councilmember Johnson had to prod the town’s attorney from a snoring slumber, which drew plenty of attention. Initial testing on the site will be completed in late November with roll-out scheduled for early December. Weaver concluded his remarks by saying he would circle back for input from residents over the next couple of weeks.
The last presentation was a summary of the 2015/2016 Audit. Based on information supplied by TOKI, a representative of audit firm Greene, Finney and Horton delivered their “unmodified” opinion of TOKI finances. GFH said TOKI was in good financial condition as of June 30, 2016, and they continue to work with staff on improving documentation of internal controls, processes and policies.
They also cautioned the town not to use funding balances to level the annual budget unless they are saving for a major purchase. Complete, detailed copies of the report and presentation are available at town hall while they last.
Old business consisted of a second reading of ordinances 2016-07 and 2016-08. The matched pair enables rezoning of parcel 207-05-00-116 to R3/C residential/commercial status. The land, owned by the National Christian Charitable Foundation, is located on the opposing side of Beachwalker lagoon from town hall. Lengthy discussions yielded unanimous approval of the measure.
New business included;
1. Extension of the contract with Accurate Window Cleaning through June 2017.
2. Approval of IPW Construction Group to improve drainage along Beachwalker Dr. There was quite a bit of discussion around this. The debate centered on a survey of the area conducted by WK Dixon, which revealed 30 year old pipes that had turned more toward vinegar than wine. However, the $139,000 price tag from IPW exceeded the $100,000 budgeted amount. Councilmember Mary Johnson asked if this required an amendment to the budget. She was informed the overage could be accounted for in the future.
3. Extension of the contract with Island Beach Services for an additional six months.
4. Hiring Dwayne M. Green as the TOKI attorney for a period of one year starting January 1.
There has been a bit of change in compensation suggested by the search committee. Green himself was part of TOKI’s ad hoc committee, which recommended $160/hour for 10 hours/week.
The total was double what TOKI currently pays for 30 hours/week, as previously reported in The Island Connection. The new agreement specifies a flat rate of $80,000 per year without indicating the number of hours.
The only exception being the need for extraordinary instances, in which case, a separate contract can be negotiated.
Standing committee reports were a bit Spartan in the wake of Matthew, but councilmember Wilson delivered an update on Johns Island roads. It seems federal grant money is available to study routes for alternative transportation for say, a bike path, which are not available to study traditional roads like the Cross Island Parkway. The engineering study will cost $100,000. $80,000 will be picked up by the feds and the remaining $20,000 will be picked by TOKI and split evenly between an as yet to be built coalition.
Councilmember Johnson seemed to object when she said, “We don’t own this land and we’re doing this on Johns Island.” However, the Mayor jumped in and characterized the study as a “good back door approach to studying this route.” The idea is they can get the route studied and let time take care of determining if the study can be translated into a roadway. “There’s a lot of benefit to having the study done. We can’t do a study on a [traditional] roadway,” quipped the mayor.
Johnson asked if there was going to be more review on the part of council, but the mayor was ready with a response. Assuming organizations like the community association, Resort, and Town of Seabrook all kick in an equal amount, the mayor informed Johnson the remainder fell within the mayor’s authority to approve outside of council review/approval.
Meeting or not, Hurricane Matthew demanded a report for Weaver’s public safety committee. He said the town had performed well in the crisis, and was developing an after action report that will be ready in the next couple weeks.
Weaver seemed ready to be done, but the mayor prompted him for an update on his recent activity with the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). Weaver responded by reminding the room the county had approved funding to rebuild the fire stations on Kiawah before saying the BZA had approved construction on station 6 (Flyway) to begin this December.
The town administrator’s reported featured a pair of staff members. Jim Jordan delivered the summary of a report from Coastal Science and Engineering.
The report on hurricane damage mirrored observations previously reported by The Island Connection, but “There’s nothing we can do right now except continue to monitor,” said Jordan in conclusion.
Rusty Lameo reported on actions being taken to remedy the many boardwalks damaged by the storm. Public boardwalks have up to a year to comply but private versions are another matter and affected residents are being informed of their responsibilities. Particularly interesting was the observation that of 42 trash/ recycling containers on the beach, only four remained post-Matthew.
The mayor reported TOKI has closed on the sale of the existing municipal complex to the community association, and secured a $3 million loan to purchase a new one. The door to the second round of citizen’s comments was now open, and this one would not be so quiet as the first.
Kiawah resident Dennis McGill began his remarks by observing the minutes for meetings were chronically late, but he had other things on his mind. According the TOKI statute, the town appoints four positions; clerk, treasurer, attorney and judge, he observed. The administrator’s position, consequently, is purely optional, McGill said. The remaining positions are to be made “following inauguration” he emphasized, wondering why council had appointed the new attorney mid-term. “Why now, it’s not that critical. Rarely does anything get referred, and it’s a waste of time to have the attorney in every meeting. And if you’re paying for it, it’s a waste of money, too.”
Resident Wendy Kulick persisted in asking when she was going to get answers to the questions she has been asking for the past two and half years. There being no further business the meeting was adjourned.