By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The gavel tapped for order at exactly 2 p.m. to start the March 1 meeting of Kiawah’s town council. There were two sets of meeting minutes.
Ratification of the first was deferred while the second set was approved with changes opening the door to the first round citizens’ comments. This month’s installment came with the new feature of being limited to discussion of items on the agenda. Wendy Kulick was first to test the water.
Kulick had a slew of questions for council, including those pertaining to overpayment of town employees. “Previously, the Town has reported that one employee who was overpaid has not yet signed an agreement to repay monies which were not earned. Has that agreement been signed and has that employee begun repaying the Town? If the answer to this question is no, how is this anything other than insubordination? And if it is insubordination, why has this employee not been disciplined, up to and including termination?” Council responded saying that an agreement was still being worked on.
“In the past, questions have been raised whether Mr. Rhoad has been overpaid as the Town’s Attorney,” Kulick said. “If so, how much was the overpayment? Has all or part of it been repaid by Mr. Rhoad, as he announced he would do if that turned out to be the case?” Council responded that Dennis Rhoad has repaid the town the $26,000 he owed.
Kulick would conclude her time at the podium by requesting some land [at the new municipal site] for “a” farmer.
Fred Peterson, Kiawah resident and chair of the town’s Planning Commission, was next with a couple of questions. He was concerned with the speed limit coming off the traffic circle. The entrance to the new municipal center is very close to where the circle enters Betsy Kerrison Rd. and “was an accident waiting to happen.”
Councilmember Labriola assured him the issue was known and solutions were under review. Peterson also questioned the wisdom of driving under the large tree located on the property saying he had never been accused of being a tree hugger.
Representatives of architectural firm LS3P explained away the issue, saying the driveway and parking lot carefully skirted the tree’s “drip line.”
SAFEbuilt Regional Manager Roni Abdella made the final contribution to citizen’s comments. SAFEbuilt had drawn unfriendly fire during the town’s January retreat and a vote to continue the contract was on the agenda. The company has been providing building inspection services as well as post disaster assessments of the island’s infrastructure for some time.
Abdella argued SAFEbuilt prices were fair, consistent with the profit margins of any other vendor and therefore, their contract should be extended.
Ordinance 2016-02, a measure to rezone the site of the new municipal complex and facilitate development of the plot was given a first reading. Materials also included a letter from Kiawah Island Community Association chair Dave Schoenholz, making an official offer of $1.575 million on the existing town hall.
Councilmember Labriola provided some details of the negotiations, starting with the comment that the town had received appraisals as high as $3.4 million.
The value of appraisals reflected lease income from KICA however, and when the lease amount was removed, KICA’s offer was more compelling. Enhancing the offer is the consideration of KICA’s solvency. KICA has the money on hand and therefore is not obliged to solicit the approval of its membership, adding to the certainty of the deal. Although KICA’s final offer was $25,000 less than a previously rejected offer, the motion to accept the $1.575 million figure was unanimous.
The municipal center was the next item of new business. Quite a bit of wrangling and debate resulted in general agreement on a cap of $9.25 million for the project (including furniture etc.). Dates of execution are still to be negotiated so the town doesn’t find itself homeless for any period of time. The motion passed in a 4-1 vote with councilmember Weaver voting against the measure. The accompanying motion to proceed in selecting a general contractor, however, passed unanimously.
New business concluded with a unanimous vote to renew the contract with The Greenery (landscape maintenance) however, the contract with SAFEbuilt was not. Stephanie Tillerson made the staff recommendation that the town had, and/or could get the expertise to conduct inspections in-house, rendering the agreement with SAFEbuilt unnecessary. The contract will end on June 30.
Committee reports of particular note included councilmember Weaver’s comments on the St. Johns Fire District.
Recent meetings of SJFD revealed the need for a review of capital assets. The review resulted in the decision to replace many of their fire stations including stations four and six (the Kiawah locations).
Weaver was all about the upgrades, saying expanded facilities would allow for an additional person on each apparatus, which will benefit Kiawah residents.
Kiawah resident Diane Lehder led off the second round of citizens’ comments.
She said some time ago, the town started paying employees an added “commuting allowance” because of high gas prices.
Lehder wanted to know if the additional allowance was still being paid. Lehder also wanted to know if the town knew anything about survey-like flags on the beach down to the water just east of Beachwalker Park. “Do you have any idea who placed them or what they are for?”
Dennis McGill was next and reminded council he had sent them a number of letters and was perplexed they had not been read into the record as part of the “correspondence” section of the agendas.
He went on to say the description the town used to describe executive sessions was too vague and not consistent with case law regarding the matter. He also recalled the town hiring two communications consultants. Paying them should have required a vote of council he never witnessed. He wanted to know if and how they had been paid, since no votes were taken on the matter.
Wendy Kulick opened her comments by praising councilmember Labriola, who chairs the municipal center committee.
Kulick applauded its open nature and again expressed her hope it would become a model for all of the town’s activities. Council went into executive session.
They returned without “taking any votes or making any decisions that would bind the town to a course of action.” The meeting would then adjourn.