By Gregg Bragg, Senior Staff Writer for The Island Connection
Seabrook’s December town council meeting at town hall got an early start designed to accommodate public hearings on ordinances 2017-05 and 201706. Both were read into the record for the first time during November’s meeting.
Ordinance 2017-06 clarifies retirees as eligible for town benefits, but without Seabrook contributing the employer portion of premiums, or subsidizing the employee portion the way it does with active staff members. Ordinance 2017-05 rezones 2718 Old Oak Walk for transfer to the Greenspace Conservancy (GC). The mayor responded to questions from the floor saying this was the fourth parcel transferred to the GC this year and the eighth in recent memory. Parliamentary obligations were quickly dispatched in the run up to November’s financial report.
Revenues were $4,000 below projections for the month of November because of a dip in business licenses, among other factors. The mayor was quick to add Seabrook has collected $244,000 more in revenues than anticipated for the year, and has a fund balance of $4,596,413.50 compared to liabilities of $4,760.22.
Expenses saved the month’s bottom line, coming in $34,000 below anticipated spending because of lower court costs, legal fees, road repairs, and maintenance costs. The town has spent $177,000 less than expected this year, and is $12,000 ahead of the same period last year. Newly re-elected Seabrook Island Utility (SIU) commissioner and subsequently elected SIU chairman Jim Bannwart delivered the utility’s report for November. He said the utility generated a net positive cash flow of $6,500 in November. He also noted the backup generator for pump station 2 was online, making it the second pump station to benefit from the added assurance. The “lump of coal,” he said, came in the form of Charleston Water’s notification they would be charging an additional 4% starting in March 2018. Responding to a question from the mayor, Bannwart said the pass through charge would amount to a couple of dollars per month for residents.
Councilmember John Gregg said the club’s long range planning committee hadn’t met since his last report, but he expects a meeting in January. Public safety met on Dec. 11 to review the comprehensive emergency plan. Consultant Scott made recommendations which altered the way damage will be categorized in the future. Ed Maher’s motion to adopt Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for assessing storm damage was accepted. The revised guidelines will be added to the appendix to assist volunteers in the field. There was no update on public assistance from FEMA regarding;
• Additional funds for Matthew debris removal after discovering insurance would not cover removal of a downed tree on municipal grounds.
• The utility’s application for additional grants from FEMA, or a “mitigation grant” to help with the much discussed renovations along the main entrance to Seabrook. However, Gregg said Tommy West, contract manager of SIU, has agreed to a recovery-scoping meeting scheduled for Jan. 15 to quantify overtime hours expended. Gregg concluded his report by reminding attendees that disaster recovery training exercises will be held Jan. 10 and 11 starting at 9 a.m. in council chambers.
The two, half day, sessions will focus on hurricane preparation and recovery. Councilmember Skip Crane said the communications and strategic planning committee would be meeting on Jan. 9. He said the town had increased the number of tweets they send out, which was increasing the town’s visibility.
Crane concluded his report by saying Seabrook would be participating in the annual meeting of the Municipal Association of South Carolina for the third straight year. The gathering is a trove of not only the issues facing small towns, but also solutions to common issues forged by experience. Councilmember John Wells proposed funding a wildlife preservation effort in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Video footage taken on Seabrook prompted concern about human interaction with dolphins feeding at Captain Sams inlet. The estimated $10,000 in funding will pay for NOAA staff to routinely visit the beach at prime feeding times for the purpose of education and protection. The money will be well spent, said Wells, who pointed to the necessity of support from NOAA and conservation groups to approve periodic beach re-nourishment projects. He also said the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association would be approached to help with funding the program. Wells stated he wasn’t sure if Kiawah could be counted on to chip in for the program.
Housekeeping issues consumed much of the agenda, but didn’t take up much clock time. 2018 meeting dates were approved, along with re-appointment of the town’s attorney Steven Brown. Faye Allbritton was approved for another 2-year stint as clerk/treasurer, along with a number of committee appointments.
Reappointment of public safety committee members included: John Gregg, Ed Maher, John Fox, Allan Keener and Rob Savin for terms to expire November 2019
Appointments to the planning commission included;
a. Reappointment of Wayne Billian for a term to expire December 31, 2019
b. Reappointment of Robert Driscoll for a term to expire December 31, 2019
3. Appointment to the board of zoning appeals included;
a. Ava Kleinman to finish David Osborn’s term to expire on December 31, 2020
b. Reappointment of Robert Quagliato for a term to expire on December 31, 2022.
The second reading of Ordinance 2017-05 met little resistance. The measure rezones 2718 Old Oak Walk for transfer to the Greenspace Conservancy.
Jeri Finke, newly elected council member and still president of the GC, recused herself last month, but wasn’t present to raise any eyebrows for the second reading. Ordinance 2017-06 was also read for the second time and dealt with employee benefits in a move the mayor characterized as formalizing a previously informal understanding. The measure clarifies retirees as eligible for town benefits, but without Seabrook contributing the employer portion of premiums, or subsidizing the employee portion the way they do with active staff members.
Miscellaneous business included resolution 2017-07, a measure to temporarily waive Seabrook’s prohibition on the discharge of firearms. Fifty deer will be baited and shot as a part of the island’s deer management plan. The strategy will be executed between Dec. 19, 2017 and March 1, 2018 by Jim Jordan, an employee of the Town of Kiawah Island and owner/operator of Low Country Wildlife Specialists. There was no mention of cost, but the last time LCWS was tasked with the job, compensation was $325 per critter for a total of $16,250.
Asked if the town has considered birth control for the deer population similar to a successful program on Kiawah, Heather Patton of SIPOA replied, saying the solution had been considered by the environmental committee until Jordan informed them the plan would not work on Seabrook the way it had Kiawah.
Harvested meat from the endeavor will go to needy families. There being no citizen’s comments/ questions, and no further business, the meeting was adjourned.