By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The public hearing scheduled by Seabrook Town Council for April 28 was completely uneventful.
“We are still doing fairly well for the year,” said the mayor. Revenues for the month were $55,000 ahead of budget and a total of $67,000 ahead of budget for the year. Expenditures were another matter and showed a blip of $29,000 more than expected. Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Ron Ciancio chimed in, describing a call he had handled from the Conde Nast collections department. Despite Caincio’s assurances Seabrook was “good for it,” the money changers were not deterred. Conde Nast insisted on an “unexpected” down payment of $25,000 for their part in the “Make It Uniquely Yours” campaign, accounting for the bulk of the “extra” expenditures for the month.
Citizen Presentations were kicked off by Brent Lewis, Department of Transportation (DOT) Program Manager, Lowcountry Region. Lewis was there to inform council the Burdens Creek Bridge outage had been delayed until the summer of 2016. The tone suggested DOT was still there to help and listen, but had already considered every alternative, every detail and every combination. Owing to the sites archeological significance (e.g. The Battle for Burdens Causeway islandconnectionnews.com/?p=1728) options were severely limited and the project would have to move forward.
Joe Elmore, CEO of Charleston Animal Society stepped up to present a review of 2014. His very long presentation is best summarized in a list.
1. Pictures of kids and puppies and kittens pitching the virtues of a “NO KILL” community.
2. MISSION – to prevent cruelty to animals.
3. They will not rest until a home is found for every abandoned, abused or unwanted animal.
4. They handle 90 percent of strays in Charleston County.
5. They are the number one spay/neuter provider in South Carolina.
6. They are one of only three “NO KILL” communities in the south.
7. Their free periodical “CAROLINA TAILS” is available everywhere. Please look for a copy.
8. Charleston County is first in the deep south to be recognized as a “NO KILL” community.
The presentation was quite thorough and good news for animal lovers. More information and ways to help can be found by visiting the Charleston Animal Society at 2455 Remount Rd, N. Charleston or their website www.charlestonanimalsociety.org.
Councilmember John Gregg was next to report on the topic of Community Relations with the Seabrook Island Club.
Much like councilmember Romano’s remarks about the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association, the now familiar 9 topics are still being discussed. Presently, little is known about how the topics translate into actionable items.
However, focus groups are forming in both groups to discuss and define exactly that. Effectively a “conference committee” will then be formed to reconcile any differences. For their part, town council is participating in the process and as a direction emerges, is prepared to act accordingly.
Councilmember Romano had some additional comments on the gateway committee. The objective of the gateway committee has always been “get ‘em through the gate,” said Romano.
However, attempts at temporary cards had failed, unable to be read by the scanner, pushing island guests back to the slower, manual process representatives were trying to rectify. He informed council the project would have to be postponed and perhaps addressed when SIPOA builds the new gatehouse, requiring an entirely new system. The clearly disappointed councilmember could only warn his colleagues the final solution could end up being more expensive than previously hoped.
On public safety, John Gregg continued announcing disaster awareness exercises had been scheduled for June 2-3.
The activity coincides with Charleston County’s planned hurricane exercise, scheduled for June 3. Disaster Awareness Day has also been scheduled and is planned for June 11. The half day event will be held at the Seabrook Island Club.
SIPOA has already been approached about expediting gate access hoping visitors will be allowed on Seabrook for the asking.
Increasing participation of Seabrook residents is one of the primary objectives for hosting the event. The half day session will include expert presentations, informational booths, door prizes, drawings for more prizes throughout the morning and free lunch. A discussion about having one of the larger fire engines at the event or even providing rides was considered. However, Seabrook Fire Commissioner Sue Holloman guided council toward the idea of the engine being more of a static display for insurance reasons. Councilmember Gregg then moved to approve $6,000 for the event.
Gregg said he hoped to spend less and reminded colleagues Kiawah would be contributing. However, the thinking “asking for money once was better than asking twice, and you don’t have to spend it” prevailed in the end. The motion passed unanimously.
Councilmember Turner returned to the oft mentioned subject of signs for the beach in his role as communications liaison. Two mock ups were available for council’s consideration. There was a lot of information on the signs, which were still perfectly legible, succinct and well received. Further action on the proposed signs was deferred until costs are assessed but action on offshore drilling forged full steam ahead.
Turner had also accepted the assignment of learning more about offshore drilling. Consulting a raft of resources, it was a visit to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which seemed to have the biggest impact on the councilmember. Consequently, Turner proposed a resolution opposing oil exploration and related seismic testing, while allowing unrelated seismic testing.
The resulting debate went on for quite some time and long enough to make conservationists in the room squirm.
A great deal of attention was given to a recent SIPOA survey of Seabrook residents. The unofficial results said fully 80 percent opposed offshore drilling.
When it looked like the motion might stall out or be delayed, Fire Commissioner Sue Holloman reminded council of the BOEM deadline for public comments, scheduled to expire in mere days.
Mayor Ahearn, with oil and gas industry experience on his resume, had been circumspect but eventually said he hadn’t shared his personal opinion “because otherwise, I wouldn’t sign it [John Turner’s proffered resolution].”
Significantly however, Mayor Ahearn went on to say he was “glad to represent Seabrook.” Council would represent their constituents with a unanimous vote, passing the “Turner Resolution.” The final version reads; “The Town of Seabrook Island opposes both (i) the inclusion of the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic planning areas in the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, and (ii) the use of seismic analysis as part of geological and geophysical exploration in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. The Mayor is directed to forward copies of this motion to applicable federal and state elected officials.”
Councilmember Ron Ciancio explained proposed amendments to building code were intended to simplify the process. However, he and city attorney Brown wanted to work out some details before the ordinance was read.
The ATAX committee had failed to produce a quorum at its last meeting. Consequently, the $20,000 for fireworks would have to come out of the general fund.
On the topic of advertising, the $150,000 budget item would be reviewed with both the club and SIPOA before determining a direction for next year.
Town Administrator, Randy Pierce reported “Fourth of July” fireworks were scheduled for July 3 with a rain out date of July 5.
Utility Commissioner Jeff Bostock reported a slight profit for the month and advised council four more lines had been requested by Freshfields for four new buildings.