Jun 07 2018

Marine Mammal Project Needs Volunteers

By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer

Mayor Pro Tem John Gregg presided over May’s Seabrook Island Town Council meeting. The sound of silence greeted a pair of ordinances scheduled for public hearings just prior to the start of the meeting. Gregg then moved through procedures, approved three sets of minutes, and jumped into another positive financial statement for the month of April.

Total revenues for the month of April were over $140,000, which is a whopping $73,000 above projections. Gregg attributed the bounty to license fees, franchise fees, and a payment from the Municipal Association of SC. Expenditures were below projections, but SITC warns the money will be spent repairing Seabrook Island Rd. in the near term.

Gregg reported the club’s long range planning committee met on May 18, and shifted focus to its strategic plan for 2019. It is looking for ways to engage with members, study sea level rise, and find methods to attract buyers interested in “full” membership in the club. He then shifted gears to the public safety report.

Public safety met on May 14, with [storm] debris management as the primary focus. SITC requested proposals to potentially replace the existing contingent contract with Phillips & Jordan earlier this year, and now has five responses in hand. Gregg said SITC has plenty of time to make a selection in advance of the current contract’s September expiration.

FEMA has rendered Seabrook’s debris removal expense obligation available for “sign off,” indicating progress in the approval process. However, the town’s request for funds to offset emergency protective measures is still pending, and there’s no projection about when the check(s) will arrive. Reimbursement is usually at a rate of about 75% of the amount claimed. The remaining 25% is subject to state review.

Councilmember Skip Crane reported normal operations for SITC’s social media efforts. The town’s website is in the throes of a makeover Crane said is moving along, including platform testing (e.g. so the site appears the same on your phone as it does a computer). He requested photos from local photographers, and warned that content would need to be recreated, in many cases, as they close in on an October “go live” date. He concluded his report by saying satellite phones and other emergency had been tested and work arounds found for any issues encountered.

Councilmember John Wells said the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network’s project is underway with 23+ residents showing up initially to assist. Long walks and four-hour shifts have eroded support. Consequently, more volunteers are needed and the duration of the shifts is being reviewed. Wells also announced SITC is ready to award a contract to address flooding along Seabrook Island Rd., and left the details to the town administrator.

Joe Cronin responded by asking for approval of Triad Engineering and Contracting to effect repairs on/along the length of road between town hall and the traffic circle. Their $462,000 bid was the lowest, responsible estimate. Quality Enterprises’ astonishingly low $209,000 bid drew plenty of attention, which resulted in discovering more mistakes. The motion to accept Triad upon written approval of mayor/mayor pro tem within 90 days, passed unanimously. Assuming all goes as planned, this leaves a balance of $355,000 from the total budgeted for the effort, said Cronin.

Cronin then moved to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Charleston County. The move will facilitate completion of Seabrook’s Comprehensive Plan and improve communications. The measure, upon written approval of mayor/mayor pro tem within 90 days, passed unanimously.

Jim Bannwart reported normal operations at the Seabrook Island Utility for April. He said Seabrook processed more wastewater than usual, and was $14,000 in the red for the month as a result. He concluded by saying SIU was still waiting for the Department of Health and Environmental Control to respond to a request for increased capacity from SIU as well as permission for SIU to draw an additional 258 million gallons of water from Seabrook’s deep well. DHEC is, coincidentally, looking to reduce the amount drawn locally.

Ordinance 2018-04 was approved for a second reading. Vacation homes contribute to Seabrook’s income in the form of licensing, and sidestepping the process through online ads dilutes the town’s finances. The measure requires a business license number be included on all online ads for vacation homes.

Ordinance 2018-05 was also approved for second reading. The measure allows the town to charge for use of public space. Tweaks to the version approved last month (first reading) included new limits on room occupancy, for example, which Cronin pitched as practical. Anxious to support the newest member of the Seabrook family, Councilmember Jeri Finke gently pushed back on the changes in favor of allowing existing fire department limits to stand. She led a discussion of the matter, which resulted in the amendments being tabled.

Seabrook resident Alison Blakey prompted a lively discussion of the town’s plans to follow the lead of other local municipalities in banning plastic. This was the first time the topic has been officially broached in chambers.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next SITC meeting will be Tuesday, June 26 at 2:30 p.m.

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