By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Public hearings were on the agenda for the Town of Seabrook Island Town Council meeting of Dec. 18. The assembly got a fifteen-minute jump on its usual 2:30 p.m. start time.
SITC is calling for a 33.1% increase in revenues/expenditures for fiscal 2019, putting the budget in focus. The hearing produced a variety of miscellaneous questions from a medium sized group of residents before Council turned to its normally scheduled broadcast.
Mayor Ciancio said revenues of $75,000 during the month of November exceeded estimates by $36,000, contributing to a revenue surplus of $214,000 for the year to date.
Expenses were another matter as the bill for renovations along Seabrook Island Rd. is coming due in increments, costing the town $248,000 more than the anticipated monthly average, he illustrated, before shifting to reports of standing committees.
Councilmember John Gregg said the club’s Long Range Planning Committee did not meet as predicted. The next anticipated board election meeting will be held in February 2019, at which time councilmember Finke will be transitioned into place as SITC’s liaison to the group.
Gregg said the Public Safety Committee met earlier in December, and is still focused on the issue of transporting staff to the island in the event of an emergency. He reminded everyone that last June’s emergency preparedness exercise was based on an earthquake scenario. The take away from that test left some question about what to do in the absence of outside help; what if bridges are out, staff is at home and can’t get to the island etc. The committee is producing an inventory of residents willing and qualified to help (e.g. medical backgrounds, backhoe familiarity, experience in a commercial kitchen, etc.). Steps for getting help to the island and what to do until they arrive will be incorporated into the Town’s comprehensive emergency plan, Gregg said.
Gregg said the Town recently met twice with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency about reimbursement for expenses incurred in advance of hurricane Florence. One of the requests (“projects” in FEMA-speak) requires more documentation than the award warranted, and was dropped by SITC. However, the remaining projects continue wending their way through the approval process. This includes an SC Emergency Management Division funding agreement for the payment of federal funds, as well as state monies, if available.
Gregg moved for allowing the agreement under the Mayor’s authority, which was met with unanimous approval. He concluded his remarks with the comment that the Department of Health and Environmental Control would be in town reviewing debris reduction sites on Jan. 9.
Councilmember Skip Crane reported completion of the purchase and programming of the Town’s new HAM radios. The purchase was made using funds from 2018’s budget, he boasted. He also announced SITC’s participation in the Municipal Association of SC strategic planning meeting scheduled for March of 2019.
Mayor Ciancio opened his remarks by saying SITC would look at the cost of raising Seabrook Island Rd. to county standards. G. Robert George and Associates will be tasked with scoping the project for SITC. The matter was broached during last month’s council meeting amidst questions on the adequacy of current repair efforts, given the evolving need to consider flood mitigation. Ciancio’s comment at the time; raising the road any further will be very expensive, and could possibly result in SITC instituting a tax. He went on to say such an effort would be for naught, given the presence of choke points along Bohicket and River roads which the Town doesn’t control.
The Mayor continued with an update of the encroachment permits along Seabrook Island Rd., saying there really wasn’t any news. Required mediation is underway with a decision expected by Jan. 24. If all parties agree with the resulting compromise, the measure will come back to Council for a vote. Otherwise, the matter will be the subject of litigation.
Housekeeping measures made up the remainder of the Mayor’s remarks.
- The 2019 Town Council meeting schedule was approved
- John Gregg was re-elected to another year as mayor pro tem
- Steven Brown won another year as the Town’s attorney
- SITC re-appointed their town clerk/treasurer Faye Allbritton
- The town/zoning administrator Joe Cronin was re-affirmed
- Richard Finkelstein was approved to fill Robert Quagliato’s unexpired term on the board of zoning appeals, which is set to expire at the end of 2022
- Cathy Patterson and Ken Otstot were re-appointed to the Planning Commission, and will be joined by Stan Ullner for terms set to expire on December 31, 2020
- The accommodations tax advisory committee was reappointed en-mass for terms to expire at the end of 2020
Town Administrator Joe Cronin received unanimous approval to renew the Town’s contract with Island Beach Services. Added days/hours for 2019 were the only source of an increase in the contract amount.
Cronin also won limited/temporary approval to suspend the Town’s ordinance against the discharge of firearms. The Town plans to kill 35 deer between the hours of 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. from Dec. 19 to Jan. 31.
Asked if Seabrook’s piebald deer would be spared, Cronin grinned in the affirmative.
The operating report for the Seabrook Island Utility was surprise free, though similar to last month’s account. The utility is down $75,000 for the year. Consequently, there is a rate increase built in to next year’s budget, which roughly translates to $2.80/household/month, with emphasis on Seabrook’s rates being among the lowest in the area. There is also a rate increase expected from Johns Island Water of about $1.20/household/month.
Ordinance 2018-15 was on the agenda for a first reading. Seems SITC was technically out of compliance with its own laws.
Seabrook often exercised what had been considered the option of changing dates when council meetings fell in the same week as a holiday. Turns out, the ordinance on file used the term “shall” move meeting dates for holidays, and would have required such a move for any meeting/holiday conflict. The Mayor was very specific about the technical nature of the affront, but moved to rectify the trifle by using the word “can.” The measure passed unanimously.
Ordinance 2018-13 was back for a second reading. The measure is an effort to make Seabrook consistent with SC’s statutes. Seabrook determines the validity of setback lines for three years, while the state validates them for five. The measure confirms the five-year setback and passed unanimously.
Ordinance 2018-14 is Seabrook’s budget for next year. To summarize; SITC will be building a garage next year, buying new vehicles for the town, continuing with renovations to town hall, and increasing the employer contribution for staff health insurance from 50% to 100% to name a few.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Seabrook Island Town Council will be Jan. 22 at 2:30 p.m