By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The Town of Seabrook Island Town Council (SITC) meeting began with a jolt on January 24, 2017. Conversations hummed amongst a large group of attendees until the gavel fell. True to form, clerk Faye Allbritton confirmed meeting notices had been filed in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Her confirmation was followed by the approval of three sets of minutes before the mayor delivered a financial report bristling with good news. December financials were as positive as you would expect from Seabrook.
Revenues for the month of had come in $64,000 ahead of projections, while expenses were $1,400,000 less than expected. The surplus was credited to Berkeley Electric, along with business licenses, and the local option sales tax.
Revenues for the year came in $302,000 ahead of expectations, while expenses were $77,138 less than anticipated. This brings the town to $355,704 ahead of last year’s projections. The figure puts SITC back in the position of making contributions to the town’s emergency fund, which is a matter of particular celebration. The near traditional gesture was not made last year.
Surpluses at the time were transferred to the general fund and applied to the costs of upgrades on Seabrook Island Parkway after flooding revealed deficiencies.
Council member John Gregg opened with a report on the club’s Long Range Planning Committee (LRP). The group met January 12 for a strategic planning meeting, and approved the objective statement of their plan. He said it was particularly noteworthy the ability to track progress on their initiatives was being baked right into their solutions. It was suggested the LRP send representatives to other committees in an effort to improve the linkage and communications between groups, said Gregg.
The Public Safety Committee (PSC) met on January 9, and the group is in the middle of deciding on an alternate provider for beach patrol services on Seabrook, said Gregg. Consequently, he was not prepared to officially request approval of a refrigerator magnet (e.g. important/emergency numbers listed) until a new number for beach patrol can be incorporated. The PSC is also planning updates to the Emergency Preparedness Plan based on lessons learned from hurricane Matthew. The storm looms large in developing a general response plan, which will include such items as a prioritized list of roads scheduled for debris removal following an event.
The Disaster Recovery Team held an exercise on January 5 & 6 which will be used to augment the Emergency Preparedness Plan, Gregg added. He continued his report by saying they had already filed a request to the state for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dollars intended as reimbursement for costs related to Matthew. FEMA visited on January 21 for a tour of the island conducted by Tommy West of the Seabrook Island Utility (SIU). The inspection was used to compare costs to claims made on project worksheets, which are currently under agency review. Perhaps because Gregg was having so much fun, he added the story of a late breaking claim.
The town met the January 18 deadline for supplements to this claim, which included damage to the roof of town hall. Two shingles along the crown of the roof had fallen prey to the storm of the year.
The inspections and repairs combined fell below the threshold for FEMA consideration but made a larger point. The stitch in time repairs will add 5 years to the life of the roof, Gregg claimed. This is particularly poignant because the tens of thousands for a new roof is not in the 2017 budget, but the project probably needs to find its way onto SITC’s radar, he cautioned.
Council member John Turner reported there was little to report from the Environmental Committee meeting he attended. He said wild turkeys have been reported on the island, and the group mentioned the possibility of an Earth Day event tentatively scheduled for April. He says he tried to talk them out of it because short notice left little time to prepare. Turner also said the Department of Natural Resources would be on the island next week to inspect the beach, but would not be counting birds until February. He concluded his report by saying that buoys used to mark dog on/ off leash areas have been secured again “like a Maginot Line,” before asking to sit in on the community association’s Communications Committee meetings.
Council member John Wells reported meeting with Lou Hammond and Associates, the firm in charge of the town’s web site and advertising budget.
How much to spend and where to spend it will be decided in meetings scheduled to occur in the next two weeks. Wells also reported meeting with Robert George Engineering Services who has completed final drawings. However, the early February completion date for upgrades to the parkway may be in jeopardy after what Wells described as a colorful meeting with the Ways & Means Committee. Five shovel stopping issues were identified with easements and “encroachments” which must be resolved before any real work can begin. Wells said the Planning Committee will be called on to address the hurdles. For example and by way of responsibility, water that flows under the road is SITC but where is goes afterward affects others, who have to buy in to the effort. Wells then proposed approval of a second task order for Robert George to determine flood mitigation alternatives, elevations and ponding issues, along with some minor word changes to the contract. The measure passed unanimously.
The mayor’s report consisted of three items. His report on the economic study was fairly brief [see story in this issue of The Island Connection]. The mayor also reported meeting with the Charleston County Council’s administrator and planner about a tract of land off Seabrook Island road designated R/4.
The designation means four houses can be built per acre. The mayor told county representatives “if they were going to use Seabrook’s road, they would need an encroachment permit [from SITC],” and vowed to negotiate the best deal possible.
He also told the county representatives he had not been entirely happy with the performance of the sheriff’s office during the hurricane evacuation last fall. He will meet again next week to discuss the matter further.
The mayor also reported meeting with the Johns Island Task Force, a local group which has assumed the initiative in determining road priorities on Johns Island. The mayor cautioned that county council is not bound to use the .5 percent sales tax on Johns Island priorities.
However, a meeting with newly elected County Council Chairman Vic Rawls showed promise with Rawls suggesting some of the half cent sales tax could be used on the shortfall of I-526 (e.g. just the part to Johns Island ). Rawls assured Mayor Ciancio the county cannot take money away from Johns Island to complete all of I-526 (e.g. across James Island).
Tim Morawski, still the newest member of the utility commission, presented his second ever status report to town council. His December report included the announcement Hawthorne Services (utility management) was upgrading software. This month he reported some indirect costs associated with the upgrade; bills were now two months behind. SIU is considering sending two bills at once to get caught up, but as/of this report, SIU was still having trouble printing the invoices, delaying even that solution. The mayor chimed in to recommend SIU make use of Tidelines, Seabrook’s blog, and leverage the community associations email list to get the word out. Morawski reported the utility itself was operating normally.
The sole item of legislative business was ordnance 2017-01, a measure to rezone 1196 Oyster Catcher and 3234 Middle Dam from a single family residential designation, to the agricultural conservation district. The legislation is an effort to transfer both parcels to the Green Space Conservancy and ultimately, the property owners association. The measure passed unanimously.
Town administrator Randy Pierce reported getting calls asking when Shred360 would be back in town.
The shredder of sensitive documents extraordinaire is scheduled to visit SITC on March 3, 2017 from 10:00-1:00 p.m., and again on October 6, 2017 from 10:00- 1:00 p.m., he said.
There was no miscellaneous business, no citizen’s comments, and no further business, so the meeting was adjourned.