By Meghan Daniel for The Island Connection
Newly-installed Kiawah Island Mayor John Labriola began the Town Council’s Jan. 5 meeting by thanking former Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem Craig Weaver and Chris Widuch for their service to the island and reiterated his respect for a former town official who recently passed away.
He commended the late James Piet, who served as mayor of Kiawah Island from 1998 to 2002, for “setting the framework that’s made [Kiawah] quite a good community.”
In regard to a virtual meeting with with Berkeley Electric just hours prior, Labriola said: “Communication is clearly an issue that we can all work on and try to improve.” One way he plans to improve lines of communication between the town’s energy provider and its governance and residents is by requesting that Berkeley Electric representatives attend the town’s Public Works Committee meetings.
The mayor provided an update on a recent meeting with representatives from Clemson University regarding the use of second-generation anticoagulants.
He described State Sen. Chip Campsen, chair of the Legislature’s Fish, Game and Forestry Committee, as being committed to doing everything he can for this issue at the legislative level while also remaining confident in the progress that volunteers have made at the grassroots level. Labriola assured the Council that Council Member Scott Parker and Wildlife Biologist Jim Jordan will continue to “shepherd” this issue in their “very capable hands.”
The Council transitioned to discussion of the second and final reading of Ordinance 2020-14, which deals with preventing flood damage. Kiawah Building Official Bruce Spicher explained that an earlier suggestion he made to the ordinance to allow new building projects to utilize the current flood insurance rate map instead of the new map – which will decrease the base flood elevation by 4 feet and will go into effect Jan. 29 – is being struck due to FEMA regulations that prevent a design from utilizing two different flood maps. Spicher explained that a new resolution for this subject, which will require a zoning ordinance change, was scheduled to be presented the following day. The Council approved the ordinance as amended after hearing Spicher’s explanation.
Before Town Administrator Stephanie Tillerson opened a discussion of the town’s emergency ordinance, the mayor announced that the Ways and Means Committee will now meet the fourth Monday of every month and the Environmental Committee will get together the second Wednesday of every month.
Tillerson said she has been on numerous calls with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control representatives concerning the town’s COVID-19 precautions and has reviewed SCDHEC’s plan for COVID-19 vaccinations. She and the Council discussed concerns regarding an observed lack of social distancing and loose enforcement of COVID-19 protocols. In regard to holding businesses accountable for upholding the regulations outlined in Ordinance 2020-09.2, Tillerson said, “We cannot force a private company to enforce the ordinance if they’re being told by corporate not to because of their concerns [about the safety of their staff],” although she added that the town’s code enforcement officers have been asked to monitor high-traffic places such as grocery stores.
The Council also approved a change in its maternity leave policy for town employees. To be consistent with other employee benefits offered by the town, the Council voted to remove language that outlined a percentage of compensation parents would receive for maternity leave proportional to their years of service to the town. The revised version of the amendment approved by the Council states that, after one year of service, parents may receive their full salary for the predetermined duration of maternity leave.
Recommended appointments by Labriola – Dan Prickett as mayor pro tem, Joe Wilson as town attorney, Dorota Szubert as treasurer, Petra Reynolds as town clerk and Sanford Ain as municipal judge – all were seconded by the Council.
Ain will be sworn in immediately following the Council’s March meeting.
Additionally, the Council approved Committee members and assignments for the following councils and committees: Arts and Cultural Events, Audit, Environmental, Public Safety, Public Works and State Accommodations Tax.
Regarding the town’s ongoing landscape project, which is being completed by Outdoor Spatial Design, LLC, Tillerson said everything should be in the ground by the end of the month, and the project will conclude by the first or second week of February. The delay in the project was caused by irrigation problems.
The final topic discussed during the Council’s Jan. 5 meeting was the Sora Rail Road recycling site. The Council agreed that issues with excessive dumping and overflow of recycling bins has become not just an eyesore but a “health and safety issue.” They intend to collaborate with the Public Works Department to determine the costs and plans related to building an alternate recycling space next to the garage at Town Hall that would better accommodate the growing island.
The only public comment submitted prior to the meeting was from Scott Nelson, who expressed his pleasure with the town’s continued focus on attention to public roads. He also mentioned the upcoming “Our World” virtual presentation by the Kiawah Island Community Association.