By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Seabrook Island Town Council’s (SITC) August meeting began like so many others with the pledge and call to order. Complying with the Freedom of Information Act includes distribution of agendas in advance of council gatherings, and this month’s outline was brief and looked harmless enough, not appearing to threaten SITC’s penchant for short meetings. However, the meeting materials presented upon arrival were as thick as a brick, and nearly required bailing twine to hold them together because the packet included SITC’s annual audit.
Mayor Ciancio set the stage for the audit report with a rundown of August’s financials, reiterating the town has accumulated over $2 million in rainy day funds. The town hit a small speed bump of $17,000 last month losing ground compared to the same period last year.
However, SITC remains well in the overall game, and should be able to add to their savings account again this year. The mayor’s observations teed up Erik Glaser’s (Glaser and Co.) audit report.
Glaser has a personable presentation style, a knack for making numbers interesting, and was effusive in his praise of Seabrook’s finances. His summary of the expansive document (available at town hall) noted Seabrook had a very small but highly efficient staff, and singled out clerk/treasurer Faye Allbritton and town administrator Randy Pierce for their consistency and attention to detail. “Of the employees that run everything, no one person has control of a transaction [the person incurring the expense is never the one to approve it]. She and Randy take this seriously,” said Glaser, who couldn’t hide his pleasure in working with the pair as he applauded SITC’s processes.
“The liquidity of this town is very good. That’s how they are able to fund the road project without creating new revenues. The town has been taking in more than they spend – nothing complicated about it. [We are] going to build from revenues, as we have been planning for all along. We didn’t have to dip into reserves,” said Glaser. “We planned for it.”
Asked why the term “adequate”, which could be construed as tepid, was used in rating internal controls, Glaser hinted at legal limitations placed on auditors; “I can’t say I have tested them [internal controls] but I feel good about their design.” Responding to another question, he said including the utility, a sub-division of the town, had delayed delivery. Glaser also addressed the potential sticker shock about an entry denoting Seabrook’s portion of state retirement liability, required by a new accounting system. He intimated the details weren’t as bad as the $495,000 price tag was obvious.
Details on the convoluted state retirement system and how it is funded are available by searching: https://www.peba.sc.gov/assets/06.30.2015-gasb-68_report_finalprotected.pdf.
Council member John Gregg said the club’s long range planning committee met on Aug. 14 and reviewed their annual survey. There were 769 responses, which was 300 more than last year representing 43% of membership. This was something of a victory considering how steadfast Seabrook is about resident fulfillment amidst previous reports of petition fatigue. Results indicate a high level of satisfaction, but 410 of the responses included comments that will have to be digested and dissected before the report can be posted.
The public safety committee also met on Aug. 14, said Gregg, and focused on the comprehensive emergency plan. June’s emergency preparedness exercise revealed some shortcomings. GIS coordinates need adjusting and the county is simultaneously working on their own version of the plan. The changes from Charleston County will have to be adopted by Seabrook when complete.
Gregg went on to announce the state’s portion of Seabrook’s claim to the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) for Matthew related expenses is in the final stages. When complete and if approved, the reimbursement funds will bring close to $105,000 to the town. Still more good news was mention of progress on getting the county to contribute to the road renovation project. The award would be a real coup for SITC, which set aside reserve funds for the project. It means SITC would be able to reallocate monies transferred from reserves by the amount received from the county.
Gregg then broached the topic of renewing SITC’s standby contract for debris removal with Phillips and Jordan.
Although the original contract allowed for cost increases, none have been requested until now. The current contract extension calls for a 1.3% increase and Gregg made the motion for approval of both. The motion passed unanimously. He may also have discovered a solution to reducing debris. SITC has had a solution for sequestering storm debris in place for some time.
However, the location does not allow for burning of solid waste at the site. Air curtain burn units do not produce smoke and may solve the need for relocating debris for reduction, said Gregg.
Council member Skip Crane had no official report, but said he and John Wells have been talking to Bohicket Marina representatives about road repairs, in light of the planned improvements between the gatehouse and the traffic circle. Marina personnel are interested in the timing of the Seabrook Island Road project as their own plans to renovate the marina entrance gain momentum. Crane also informed SITC of the marina’s plans to replace boardwalks in a move to win their wrestling match with sinkholes at the marina.
The mayor’s report included a solution to the blight 1126 Ocean Forrest has become. SITC’s action elicited a response from Wells Fargo, the owner of record, said the mayor. The bank has sold the property to a John Matney of Tennessee.
Resulting agreements include timetables for a decision to renovate/demolish, deadlines for improvements, and teeth.
Mr. Matney will be charged $150/day if any of several incremental dates aren’t met. The measure was approved.
The mayor then discussed an addendum to task number 3 of the project to renovate Seabrook Island Road. Government agencies have approved work on two of six drainage gates, which is somewhat different than the original description in the contract with G. Robert George and Associates, Inc. The addendum to allow work to proceed on the two gates was approved.
The mayor then moved to establish Sept. 23 as “Green Day’” to recognize the Seabrook Island Green Space Conservancy for 17 years of very productive service. The SIGSC has set aside nearly 30 tracts of land in that time, and will be conducting tours of the properties they have preserved on Sept. 23. The motion was approved.
Jim Bannwart said the utility (SIU) sold less water this July than last. He said SIU “sold” 49 million gallons of water in July 2016, a month which saw only 2 inches of rain. Seabrook experienced 12 inches of rain in July 2017 and consequently, SIU “sold” only 29 million gallons of water, said Bannwart. He also said SIU was installing a new generator for pump station 1, renovating manhole covers and flushing the sewer lines.
SITC then approved Temporary Use Permit #29, a measure allowing The Alan Fleming Senior Tennis Tournament to erect banners and tents etc. in conjunction with its annual event scheduled to run from October 3 – 9. The measure was approved.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned and time to “let them eat cake,” yes, cake. Town staff invited attendees to help celebrate the birthdays of both Mayor Ron Ciancio and Mayor Pro Tem John Gregg.Tweet