By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Mayor Pro Tem John Gregg presided over the Seabrook Island Town Council (SITC) meeting of May 28 in the absence of Mayor Ron Ciancio. Gregg confirmed the Town had complied with the Freedom of Information Act’s notification requirements, and approved the minutes of last month’s Council meeting. He then moved to Seabrook’s financial report.
Seabrook’s closing statement for the month of April shows an overall balance of $4.939 million, adding nearly $50,000 to the Town’s reserves since the last statement. The Town generated $104,000 in revenues for the month and is sitting at 26% of annual budget. Although the revenue percentage could be higher at this time of year, it should be noted that expenses are currently sitting at only 22% of annual budget. Expenses for the month came in at just over $53,000, with the difference accounting for the Town’s ballooning fund balance.
Gregg said the club’s Long Range Planning Committee still has no plans to meet. This month, however, he proffered the notion; progress on previous plans is the reason for the group taking a breather.
New decks, improved pool access, and improvements to Crooked Oaks Golf Course are well past planning and well into the action phase. Gregg doesn’t anticipate the group taking on more projects until their plate is empty.
Gregg also reported the Public Safety Committee presented a working draft of the Town’s comprehensive emergency plan at a meeting held May 13. The group completed their blueprint slightly ahead of last month’s forecast, and expects to have a finished product ready for public hearings/review in time for hurricane season (June 1).
Additions include lessons learned from earthquake and winter storm scenarios, as well as the logistics of creating a volunteer squad in the event a disaster cuts the island off from outside help.
Gregg then moved to renew a stand-by contract with Rostan Solutions for debris monitoring services. It quantifies and documents the clean-up effort following a disaster, and facilitates claims for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It should not be confused with the stand-by agreement the Town has with Phillips and Jordan to actually clean up debris following a disaster. The Rostan contract won unanimous support for a two-year renewal.
Gregg concluded his report by mentioning Disaster Awareness Day. The event is again being hosted by Seabrook in the Atlantic room of the clubhouse, and is scheduled for June 14 from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. Prizes will be awarded and will feature a combination flashlight/ radio/siren, powered by a hand crank so batteries aren’t required. Attendees will also be provided with lunch and although the joke may be past its peak of freshness, the mention of free lunch still draws nostalgic chuckles.
Councilmember Crane thanked the mayor pro tem for his turn at the dais, then described the Town’s current development standards ordinance as “chaotic,” and in need of attention. The Town has entered into a contract with PIV Planning Group ($86,000 – $40,000 x 2 budgeted over 2 fiscal years). Crane will be chairing the committee and working with resident volunteers and representatives of the Seabrook Island Property Owner’s Association. The group will spend the next 12 -18 months making sense of and updating the Town’s code. “I am always amazed but never surprised by the level of volunteerism on Seabrook,” he said at the conclusion of his report. Councilmember Wells also thanked the mayor pro tem for his turn to address residents. He said his committee was busy finishing up the drainage project along Seabrook Island Rd. that has consumed so much time and resources during the last year. He finished his report: new signs and buoys would be added on Seabrook’s beach.
Councilmember Finke reported briefly that Seabrook’s ordinance to ban plastics may be ready for a first reading as soon as the next council meeting.
The mayor pro tem opened his remarks by recounting a visit to the Ways and Means Committee by the Seabrook Island Birders. He described a tepid response to proposed changes in the Town’s beach ordinance/leash laws.
He went on to say the current ordinance resulted from years of work balancing the interests of approximately a dozen groups on the island. He gave a few examples; red knots are not indigenous to the island’s critical habitat area, but they frequently layover on Seabrook in each direction of their annual 18,000 mile migration and are endangered. Piping plovers and loggerhead sea turtles are indigenous, and are endangered, he said. Furthermore, he noted Seabrook is one of only a handful of places on Earth where dolphins strand feed, to emphasize his point.
He cautioned the Town could not simply acquiesce to a petition received earlier this year, proposing TOSI do just that and said the meetings will continue until everyone has weighed in on the acceptable uses of “their beach.” There is no schedule and everyone is invited to attend, as always.
Town Administrator Joe Cronin made relatively short work of his report this month. Beach patrol has written a total of 173 citations/warnings so far this season, with the mass majority of those being violations of the leash law. The Town is generating weekly reports, available by visiting TownOfSeabrookisland.org/beachpatrol.html.
Other items in Cronin’s report were:
- Seabrook’s remaining “shredding day” is Oct. 11 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
- The Town has taken possession of both of their new vehicles
- The winning bid on the Town’s old Tahoe was $1,075
- The Town’s comprehensive plan is on schedule for an on-time delivery
- Seabrook will be hosting Disaster Awareness Day on Friday June 14, at the club house
- New signs and buoys will be installed by the end of May
- There will be new trash cans added to the beach, although their placement is currently being debated
The Seabrook Island Utility (SIU) reported normal operations, running at about 35% of capacity last month, according to commissioner Tim Moraski. Despite some declines in water usage, SIU experienced a windfall $29,000 in income for the month of April, putting the utility in the black for the year to date. SIU is fixing the sewer main collapse in front of the clubhouse and is currently searching for a replacement comptroller.
Moraski concluded his report by saying they are keeping a close eye on county council’s deliberations, which could obligate SIU to expand its service area.
The question of Seabrook’s leash ordinances surfaced during citizen’s comments again this month. Seabrook resident Jim Dobson asked Council when the buoys would be up, and was told they would be in place by the end of May. He also wanted to know if he and his fellow petitioners could get an invitation to the Ways and Means Committee meetings, and was told they were public meetings. He concluded by asking if his group, Dog Action Working Group, could also present to the committee, and was told they can.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
The next regular meeting of the Seabrook Island Town Council will be Tuesday, June 25 at 2:30 p.m.