By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
The town of Seabrook Island hopes to recover more than $16,000 in pandemic-related expenses through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Town Administrator Joe Cronin announced at the Seabrook Council’s Aug. 25 meeting.
Cronin reviewed a number of grant requests made by the town through the CARES Act, which has precipitated a number of grant-worthy expenses, and he left no stone unturned. Possibilities include sick leave, equipment to enable remote meetings and enforcement and communications expenditures, all worthy of reimbursement, he pointed out.
Cronin kept a promise made by the Council to review the effectiveness of last year’s beach ordinance as it applies to pets. Residents interested in submitting comments can do so through the town’s website, and comments will be collected over the next several weeks. He concluded his presentation by getting a jump on discussion of the town’s Christmas party.
The end of summer is when the town would normally begin preparations for a party, but he doesn’t see things changing before the end of the year and suggested that the event be canceled. He also floated the idea of a drive-by type arrangement and a method to preserve collecting for the Toys for Tots program, which seemed popular among Council members. The idea of home-baked solutions was also suggested as “something to do” during the pandemic.
Council members also learned at the meeting that the town’s fund balance for the period ending July 31, 2020, was $5.366 million or about $370,000 more than during the same period in 2019.
Revenue for July was $110,122, adding to a year-to-date total of about $814,000.
The running total represents close to 67% of the revised 2020 annual budget, which was reduced by $154,000 in July because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expenditures for July totaled $69,000 and costs for the year as of July 31 were just over $482,000, or about 40% of the 2020 revised annual budget. Expenditures for the year are about $285,000 less “compared to the same period in 2019, owing primarily to there having been no expenditure for the roadway project during the period this year, no capital expenditures during the period this year compared to $67,465 in the same period in 2019 and more than $30,000 less in engineering charges compared to 2019,” said Mayor John Gregg.
David Irwin, the town’s auditor and a partner in the firm of Mauldin and Jenkins, was effusive with his praise, saying Seabrook’s funds are the envy of most any municipality, with at least four years of reserves on hand at all times. The mayor categorized the report as opaque and followed with a battery of questions. Contributions to retirement plans hadn’t been included, but Irwin thought they should be, for example.
Council Member Skip Crane said the Public Safety Committee met Aug. 10 with a focus on both the pandemic and Hurricane Isaias. He said committee members were following the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control website for updates as a way of illustrating the gravity of the situation to Seabrook residents. Crane was proud of the way the committee responded to the hurricane, and that raised the issue of the town’s comprehensive emergency plan. Updates to the CEP are later than usual because of the coronavirus and extended negotiations with eGroup for the continuing services of Scott Cave. The committee discussed various scenarios the town should consider for its next emergency exercise, Crane added.
He concluded his report by mentioning that the Development Standards Ordinance advisory group continues to meet and “has developed 18 proposed articles and returned two specific policy decisions by Council to the group.”
Council Member Pat Fox reported that testing of the town’s shortwave radio antenna didn’t go as well as hoped. She said the antenna works fine everywhere with the exception of the cable into the conference room. Repairs are underway.
Council Member Jerry Finke announced a victory of sorts in her efforts to resist seismic testing off the coast of Seabrook and the rest of South Carolina. The judge handling the case demanded additional documentation and gave proponents 10 days to produce the required documentation. Finke said there is some doubt about what would happen if the information was not provided to the court by the deadline and speculated that if a new administration is elected in November, that might change the whole dynamic.
The mayor took the reins and said that Cave, consultant to the Seabrook Council since the advent of the town’s CEP, is now doing business under the name, eGroup Holding Company LLC. The change necessitated a vote of Council to continue Cave’s many contributions to Seabrook’s emergency preparedness, which was provided unanimously.
The mayor’s report included an extensive retelling of events from the Councils Ways and Means Committee.
1. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has finalized the flood insurance rate maps first proposed in 2016.
2. The town followed its CEP in response to tropical storm Isaias by participating in daily Charleston County Emergency Management Department conference calls, beginning July 31.
3. Finke commented regarding a memo issued by the Short Term Rental Ad Hoc Committee, noting that the conclusion of the committee is that it would be desirable for the town to pursue regulation of occupancy of all rental properties. The committee concluded regulation of parking would be unnecessary if rentals were controlled.
4. Councilman Barry Goldstein agreed to prepare an item for publication in Tidelines encouraging an end to the use of second generation rodenticides within Seabrook. The article will recommend alternative rodenticides; a list is available on Kiawah’s website.
In other action, Ordinance 2020-05 passed unanimously on an emergency basis. The measure was thoroughly debated and extends requirements for social distancing and wearing face coverings at all business establishments within the town; puts limits on the size of groups; and extends the expiration date for active building permits. The ordinance will be in effect for an additional two months.
Ordinance 2020-07 was read for the first time. The measure would allow for “community message board/signs” and “electronic variable message displays.” It would modify the definition of arterial streets.