By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Seabrook Island Town Council held another public hearing prior to its September meeting. It was more like an exercise in quiet time, as no comments were made on Ordinance 2016-08. The measure removes durational limits placed on political signs currently restricted to 30 days before and two days after an event. This is not the case with other, non-political signs on the island. Silence prevailed as it has in so many recent hearings. However, it wouldn’t last.
The council meeting began and no sooner was the pledge finished when Mayor Ciancio exercised his mayoral prerogative. Mayors set agendas as part of the job, and he made it clear he would broach no changes related to motions such as a “Duke Football Appreciation Day,” clearly directing the comment to stunned council member Skip Crane. The mayor continued with parliamentary obligations by approving three sets of minutes, before turning to the financial report for the preceding month.
August was not the best month ever for Seabrook. The island collected $1,800 less in revenue than projected, which the mayor attributed to a lower than expected local option tax. Also, Seabrook spent $19,300 more than anticipated with the overage ascribed to tourism and advertising expenses. The mayor’s crystal ball budget, despite the small flutters in anticipated numbers, is still well in the green for the year as both revenue and expenses bear witness. Seabrook continues to spend less and produce more during the same period last year and is $373,000 ahead of budget for the year.
Elizabeth Moffly was then introduced by council as a Republican/Libertarian candidate for Charleston County Auditor.
She took the floor saying she previously served Charleston County as a School Board Trustee and said, “I look forward to representing our community again as Charleston County’s Auditor.” Moffly continued, “All tax collecting entities, such as the school district, [need] an accurate accounting of anticipated tax collections so they can have balanced budgets. Accountability, communication, and transparency are key attributes to being an effective auditor.”
Councilmember John Gregg was first to deliver a committee report starting with public safety, which had a very busy month. However, he started by saying that the Seabrook Island Club met earlier in the month to work on a 2017 strategic plan. As a result, goals will now be added to the skeleton plan, designed to advance/ achieve the objective.
Public safety, Gregg continued, has designed a refrigerator magnet with emergency numbers listed prominently for easy access. Public safety has also completed negotiations for a “right of entry” agreement with the community association to allow clearance of roads clogged by storm debris. Consideration was also given to access roads to the utility site, but PS determined access to SIPOA roads would be sufficient to assist the utility with clearing their lift stations. But the news from PS wasn’t all good.
Gregg then announced that longterm PS member Steve Bottcher was leaving Seabrook and resigning from the committee. He endorsed Ed Maher to replace the retiring Bottcher for a term to expire in November 2017. Maher’s candidacy enjoyed unanimous support.
Gregg concluded his report with a recap of the contract with AirMedCare, with some changes to a press release approved by Ways & Means.
The “alleviation benefit” of the agreement with AirMedCare seems undeniable. Gregg said, “If any Seabrook resident requires helicopter evacuation anywhere in Charleston County, and AirMedCare provides the service, costs will be limited to one of two costs: the insurance limit of the patient or the Medicare allowed limit.” This is a stark contrast to costs for the service outside the agreement, which can run $25,000 or more per ride. Gregg then moved to approve the updated press release (available at town hall) for the service, which was ratified unanimously.
Councilmember John Wells reported on two items. He said George Engineering Associates (e.g. the firm selected to resolve drainage issues along the parkway) began work on contacting property owners along the planned work area. There are nine different property owners along projects’ route, he said. Those stakeholders will be asked to approve the work. The effort should take four months, and George Engineering has agreed to provide weekly updates. Wells concluded his report by saying Obviouslee and Hammond advertising agencies met to transition all future tourism related work to Hammond. The endeavor is proceeding apace, and bi-weekly reports will be provided to council.
Councilmember Crane, meanwhile, had been thinking all this time and wasn’t about to let the mayor’s “Duke Football” comment pass unanswered. Poker-faced, he wondered aloud if the mayor would entertain a day of mourning for Notre Dame Football, but no decisions were made, and no votes were taken. He then informed council a plan for a new SIPOA gatehouse has been approved and Charleston County would be spraying for mosquitos.
The mayor shouldered the task of reminding the room that Jeff Bostock had resigned as Seabrook’s utility commissioner. He then made the official motion of nominating Tim Morawski for a term to expire in November 2019.
“Tim has 37 years’ experience working in the utility [or related] business,” said the mayor on his way to winning unanimous approval of the appointment.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is in the process of updating its Flood Insurance Rate map, said the mayor. There will be meetings and rumors of meetings conducted by FEMA leading to a “Letter of Determination” and a final completion date in the spring of 2018. Public comments are encouraged during the meetings to be announced and/or online by visiting www.fema.gov/preliminaryfloodhazarddata, said the mayor before turning to the new utility commissioner for his report.
Morawski shared some previously reported news. Three wastewater violations resulted in a meeting with the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The meeting in turn resulted in a fine totaling $4,200, later reduced to $3,360 on appeal. Morawski added that $52,000 worth of repairs to Seabrook’s deep-water well would sting budget projections more than a little. However, his responses to questions from The Island Connection seemed to mitigate the dire sounding report. Yes, insurance would cover all but $1,000 of the well repairs, and, yes, Hawthorne Services, Inc. (contractor for Seabrook’s utility work) is responsible for paying the DHEC fine.
The single item of old business was Ordinance 2016-08, now ready for a second/final hearing. The measure was born of an inconsistency, placing limits on the amount of time political signs that may be displayed without similar limits on other signs. The mayor indicated the discrepancy put SITC in an actionable position best avoided and moved for a vote. The motion passed unanimously.
St. John’s Fire District representative Gavin Gilcrease announced a barrage of activities for early October’s “Fire Prevention Week.” More information is available by visiting stjfd.org.
There being no further business or college football-related measures, the meeting was adjourned.