By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Parliamentary obligations were dispatched with haste by Seabrook Island Town Council to open its April 23 meeting at Town Hall. The Town’s leadership seemed anxious to get to one of the most important parts of the day, and hop-scotched to a latter point on the agenda. Council promptly recognized License and Permit Specialist Lynda Stearns for 20 years of service to Seabrook.
Town Administrator Joe Cronin commended Stearns’ commitment and loyalty, observing how rare it is for someone with her skills to spend so much time with a single employer in the 21st century. “It’s worth noting; Lynda started with us when she was 16,” added the Mayor to appreciative chuckles. Attendee’s pivoted back to Stearns with window rattling applause, congratulations, and praise.
Mayor Ron Ciancio then shifted to the financial report for March.
Seabrook’s overall balance continues to ebb/flow just shy of the $5 million mark, currently at over $4.888 million, said the mayor. The Town generated over $180,000 for the month of March and a total of $398,000 for the year, or about 20% of the annual budget. They are currently over $92,000 ahead of where they were at the same time last year. Expenses for March were $173,000, up to $375,000 for the year, or about 19% of annual budget.
The Club’s Long Range Planning Committee continues to redefine “long term” as it struggles to schedule a meeting.
Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem John Gregg said, again, the Club’s Long Range Planning Committee did not meet last month, and had not scheduled anything for next.
Gregg also reported that the Public Safety Committee continued its work on updating the Town’s comprehensive emergency plan.
Although the committee does not expect to be done by the original target date of May 13, they do expect the blueprint to be done by early June. Updates will include lessons learned from earthquake and winter storm scenarios, including the logistics of a volunteer sign-up push as a dry run for an unanticipated disaster, (e.g. earthquake, winter storm).
Gregg then turned to the Town’s hazard mitigation plan. Work on the project began in 2018 and is now complete.
However, it now involves the county as part of a regional wide effort. The milestone means Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant monies are now available to Seabrook without additional effort on the Town’s part.
Gregg concluded his report to council by reporting the disaster recovery council began work on a hurricane based preparedness exercise, tentatively scheduled for early June, and new flood rates precipitated by FEMA would go into effect this August.
Councilmember Crane announced the Town’s new website was launched prior to the council meeting. He thanked the Town’s staff for their long and determined efforts to architect a site that is easily navigable and a fresh face for the Town.
Work on an editorial policy for the Town’s use of social media continues, and he encouraged residents to send comments to Council through the site’s “Comments” feature.
Councilmember Wells repeated his request for volunteers to help with this year’s Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network’s dolphin education program. Kiawah and Seabrook residents were all invited to an organizational meeting scheduled for May 1 at the Seabrook community center. Although the “season” will start soon after the meeting, his plea suggested it’s never too late to volunteer and learn more about our Lowcountry dolphins.
Councilmember Finke called attention to a bill championed by Senator Campsen and Representative McCoy in the SC legislature. H387 is designed to condemn/ oppose/prevent offshore drilling, seismic testing, and the construction of any land-based infrastructure in the Atlantic needed to support processing fossil fuels. Finke moved to empower the Mayor to send two letters of support to each of the elected officials, and a third letter to Congressman Joe Cunningham, who introduced H1941 – a measure that would eliminate further oil exploration in the Atlantic and Pacific.
The motion was seconded and passed unanimously. Mayor Ciancio stressed that Seabrook was again taking action to protect Seabrook’s beach and residents, before turning to his own section of the agenda.
The Mayor opened his remarks by recounting a recent visit by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The visit was a response to a petition submitted by a group of residents seeking to amend the Town’s Beach Ordinance/leash laws. Mayor Ciancio cited section seven of the Endangered Species Act, invoked by Fish and Wildlife to remind residents [for at least the past five years running] that protecting vital habitats was critical to getting the permits necessary to perform periodic renovations along Captain Sams Spit. The Spit is home to an array of wildlife including bottlenose dolphins, the endangered piping plover, and is a rest stop along the 18,000 mile annual migration path of the red knot. The “birders” group is scheduled for a presentation to the ways and means committee on the same topic next month.
The Mayor closed his comments by announcing the formation of a steering committee to guide updates to the Town’s development standards.
Eight-15 meetings will be required over the next year and a half. The Town is hoping for 7+residents, one member of the SIPOA staff, and councilmember Crane serving as the legislative liaison, he said.
Town Administrator Joe Cronin made relatively short work of his report this month. Beach patrol is gearing up and already writing a number of warnings and citations, mostly leash law violations. He said the Town is busily working to reset the bouys used to mark the pet area. He then gave a recap of the goings on with the Town’s vehicle purchases. He concluded the topic by getting the permission of council to sell/dispose of the remaining “old” Tahoe as soon as at least one of the new vehicles is delivered.
Miscellaneous announcements included;
- Seabrook’s remaining “shredding day” is Oct. 11 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
- PIV Planning Group will be hired for $86,000 [$40,000 x 2 budgeted over 2 fiscal years] to spend the next 12 -18 months updating the Town’s development standards
- Seabrook will again be hosting Disaster Awareness Day on Friday, June 14 at Seabrook’s club house and features their signature free lunch.
Seabrook resident and Seabrook Island Utility Commissioner Tim Morawski reported normal operations at about 34% of capacity for the water company. A 16% dip in water usage produced a $5,000 budget shortfall for a $7,600 shortfall for the year, but there was some good news, too. Johns Island Water Company announced what amounts to a $4,000 reduction in charges to SIU, and FEMA will be providing funding for emergency generators. He concluded by saying Hawthorn, SIU’s contractor, would not be accepting a new contract for work adjacent to the Town.
The question of Seabrook’s leash ordinances surfaced during citizen’s comments again this month. There was a difference of opinion about what Fish and Wildlife said to the Town, and the Mayor declined efforts to rush an amendment, though he is bringing any/all concerned parties to comment on the topic in one month increments.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
The next regular meeting of Seabrook Island Town Council will be held Tuesday, May 28 at 2 p.m.