By Gregg Bragg, Senior Staff Writer for The Island Connection
The Mayor pointedly opened Seabrook’s Nov. 28 town council meeting by asking about Freedom of Information Act compliance. The wink to last month’s proceedings seemed lost on most participants, however. Introductions of the newest member of Seabrook Island Town Council, Jeri Finke, and the new town administrator, Joe Cronin, were greeted by pleasant nods of support. Financials for the month of October were also met with blanket approval, as the town delivered the latest example of fiscal prowess. The general fund boasts a balance of $4,644,451 compared to liabilities of just $5,000. Revenues for the month were $23,000 ahead of projections on income, just shy of the one million mark for the year. Likewise, expenses for October were under projections by $12,000. And yes, Seabrook was still in the black after paying the Mercer Group for finding the new town administrator, and paying the Charleston Symphony Orchestra for regaling residents during the celebration of the town’s 30th year of incorporation. Year to date, expenses are still well under projections, flush with $400,000 in funds transferred to pay for road renovations. The money is still expected to be spent.
Or is it? Councilmember John Gregg said the club’s long range planning committee met Nov. 9. Capital improvements placed high on the agenda and a strategy is being formed, thinking of action items with a shorter, one-year time frame. Second on the list of priorities is the notion of hiring an outside consultant to address declining approval of the club’s food and beverage operations. He also said a volunteer had come forward who will attempt to maximize parking within the existing footprint. Gregg said changes to the town’s comprehensive emergency plan continued during his meeting with the public safety committee Sept. 27. Consultant Scott Cave provided a report in the wake of Irma, and made recommendations which may alter the way damage is categorized in the future. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 13 in the town hall conference room. Public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency comprised the next four sections of Gregg’s report. The town is appealing for additional funds for Matthew debris removal after discovering insurance would not cover removal of a downed tree on municipal grounds. He also said costs incurred after Irma had been deemed eligible by FEMA, but added a note of caution about the certainty, timing, and amount of any award. Both the town and the utility (SIU) have applied for grants from FEMA to offset the rental of generators and by-pass pumps. The town also applied for a “mitigation grant” from FEMA to help with renovations along the main entrance to Seabrook. The process was initiated through the town’s connections with Charleston County Building Services, in what would be a real coup for Seabrook.
Eight drainage control “flapper gates” between town hall and the traffic circle require repair/replacement and the indicators for approval remain good, said Gregg. The grant, if approved, would provide the town with $158,352.75 for that part of the project, nearly 40% of the $400,000 the town has set aside for the effort.
Gregg then made a motion to approve $175,000 for a “census plan” with AirMedCare, the medical evacuation helicopter service. The measure passed unanimously, and will extend services for employees of the town to anywhere they might be, provided AirMedCare is the service used. Gregg concluded his report with the announcement the town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan had been adopted by Charleston County. It was the existence/ acceptance of this plan, which was responsible for reducing Seabrook’s flood insurance rating factor from 7 down to 5, reducing flood insurance by 25%. Gregg concluded his report by ultimately responding “yes” to the mayor’s asking if Seabrook’s primary responsibility to the county was communication. Councilmember Skip Crane reported on Communications and Strategic Planning. He said the group met on Nov. 15 to review committee objectives, and the resources required to accomplish them. “The Committee will reach out to the community for volunteers with skills and experience as needed,” he said. Objectives include; ensuring proper communication of the affairs of the town, promoting of town events, maintaining and updating of the Town’s webpage, developing content for the town’s social media sites, coordinating council’s monthly contribution to The Seabrooker, and delivering information notices and press releases for the mayor’s review. Committee accomplishments in November, said Crane, include; updates to the Town website, developing a letter to the Post and Courier newspaper in response to their op-ed on the proposed Beachfront Jurisdictional Line Revisions, and producing a schedule for submitting articles to The Seabrooker in 2018 for council’s review. The committee will meet next in January at a date and time to be announced. The preliminary agenda will start with establishing standards for communications through social media. They will also begin work on council’s annual, long range planning session. Councilmember Jeri Finke had no report, and councilmember Wells was on sabbatical, clearing the way for some administrative procedures by the mayor. John Gregg was appointed to a third, one-year term as mayor pro tem. Mayor Ciancio then appointed Joe Cronin as both Zoning Administrator and Town Administrator. The mayor’s third duty was to renew the existing contract for beach patrol. He then turned the mic over to Cronin for some detail. Cronin said there had been only one response to the town’s request for proposal. Island Beach Services is now reviewing a contract that stipulates more and longer days in 2018 for the town, and he expects to have a final draft on the mayor’s desk in short order. Leon Vancini delivered the SIU report for the vacationing chairman Jim Bannwart. He said the utility experienced a banner month in October, and that cash flow was strong. He added, if SIU gets the FEMA money it hopes for, the utility would apply the funds to the purchase of generators and pumps already in the capital budget for 2018. He also warned residents their next bill would include information on a program to pay bills electronically, for a fee. “We have four people we expect to be fielding 450 calls,” he grimaced for patience. SIU’s was the last report and attention turned new business. The first reading of Ordinance 2017-05 met little resistance. The measure rezones 2718 Old Oak Walk for transfer to the Greenspace Conservancy (GC). Jeri Finke, newly elected councilmember and still president of the GC, asked if she should recuse herself. The mayor agreed it would be a good idea, but the act passed comfortably. Ordinance 2017-06 was also read for the first time and dealt with employee benefits. The action is particularly germane in light of Randy Pierce’s retirement. 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. The measure passed unanimously. Seabrook resident Lynn Crane asked the only question during citizen’s comments; could the AirMedCare benefit be extended to employees of the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association? The collective answer was “no,” because they were not employees of the town. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Seabrook Island Town Council is scheduled for Dec. 19.