By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Seabrook Island Town Council (SITC) seems to have found the sweet spot between civic engagement and short meeting times. Council chambers were brimming with attendees for the SITC September meeting and council rewarded participants with a renewed efficiency despite a lengthy agenda. Mayor Ron Ciancio expressed his thanks for the turnout before addressing parliamentary obligations, and turning to the financial report for the month of August.
It’s been a “spiky” kind of year for predicting cash flows at Town Hall; a month of famine followed by a month of plenty. This month’s numbers rectified last month’s dip the way it has all year. Revenues for August beat projections by $140,000 as the result of checks arriving for franchise fees from the Municipal Association of SC, local option sales taxes, and category 7&8 business licenses. Expenses, meanwhile, were $22,000 below estimates. The abundance put Seabrook across the $5 million mark in total reserves, said the Mayor, who introduced a guest speaker for the first round of Citizen’s Comments.
“My name IS [emphasis hers] Katie Arrington,” she said before soliciting questions from residents.
Councilmember John Wells prevented an emerging awkward moment by asking if Arrington was feeling better [following a car accident earlier this year]. “I’m wearing heels, which the doctors said I would never do again. You can’t keep a woman out of her heels,” she said to a smattering of chuckles before leaving the meeting.
Councilmember John Gregg’s report included;
- The ad hoc committee assembled to revise SITC’s employee handbook has all but completed their work, which will be ready for review in the near term.
- The club’s Long Range Planning Committee continues looking to the future by collecting and weighing topics to discuss in 2019, along with a survey to facilitate their quest.
- The Public Safety Committee met on 9/10 with a focus on emergency debris removal and emergency housing. The epicenter of an emergency preparedness exercise held in June was earthquake response. The work revealed unaddressed details including; power, water, sewer, propane supplies, and getting staff back to the island. Gregg assured attendees nothing was going to slip through the fissures. Planned communication mediums for seismic events, for example, include; Tidelines, the code-red system, and e-blasts. The group is also working on documenting guidelines for such events. The finished product will be incorporated into the comprehensive emergency plan available through the Town.
Gregg concluded his report by saying SITC has already filed for public assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs incurred in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.
Councilmember Skip Crane announced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be holding a licensing class Oct. 24-25 for those interested in using amateur radios. He concluded his report by saying the Town’s new website is on its way as old content was being migrated and augmented by new content, with an expected completion by the end of the year.
Councilmember John Wells made short work of his report again this month. He said construction on Seabrook Island Rd. has begun, evidenced by the many orange construction cones lining Seabrook Island Pkwy. He then announced the dolphin program was coming to a close for the season with metrics to follow.
The Mayor’s report consisted of an announcement SITC will be reviewing its time share ordinance. Fractional ownership in ¼ shares is permitted on Seabrook, but “timeshares” are not. The Town will be looking for a more specific definition of terms and how to manage them to SC state standards before the end of the year.
Town Administrator Joe Cronin said the budget is 95% done and will be ready in plenty of time for the Town’s workshop on 10/11. He provided the year-end Beach Patrol report saying 134 warnings were issued and only three citations. The bulk of the infractions were committed by visitors, and only 35% of the activity involved Seabrook residents [the full report is available through the Town]. The contract with Beach Patrol includes the option to renew for up to two years in one-year increments, and is currently under review.
The Mayor chimed in to add that enforcing Town ordinances is a vital part of Seabrook’s ability to get the permits required to re-nourish the beach as needed. Beach Patrol, in turn, provides documentation of those efforts, and helps make the Town’s case. The Mayor then turned the mic back to the Town Administrator.
Cronin wrapped up with some details of Town Hall renovations and an upgrade to the Town’s Wifi.
Jim Bannwart said the utility experienced normal operations, and had received $25,000 from FEMA to mitigate the cost of coping with Hurricane Irma, which helped with SIU’s bottom line.
There were four measures for second reading on the agenda:
Ordinance 2018-06, rezoned 2460 Seabrook Island Rd. as a conservation easement, and passed unanimously. Finke abstained from the vote, and there was no debate on the measure, which passed.
Ordinance 2018-07 clarified Seabrook’s leash law. SITC said they consulted with residents including members of the pet friendly Sea Dogs group, and determined electronic collars would be prohibited. There was neither debate nor comments this month, and the measure passed unanimously as written.
Ordinance 2018-08 is a measure designed to strengthen fishing restrictions, and empower Beach Patrol to protect the public from untended lines or fishing too close to recreation areas. The measure passed unanimously.
Ordinance 2018-09 is a measure designed to define what materials can be used for “fences.” SITC code prohibited some materials the Community Association’s Architectural Review Committee didn’t. The ordinance is intended to sync the two definitions, but was tabled to give the planning commission a chance to better review the proposal.
Seabrook resident and regime president Steve Glickman used the second installment of Citizen’s Comments to request a grandfather clause be added to ordinance 2018-09. The Mayor explained such a clause was SITC’s intent all along. “It’s been 50 years since law school [rolling his eyes and grinning] but what you’re talking about is ex post facto, which does not apply here.”
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned in less than 45 minutes. The next regular meeting of the Seabrook Island Town Council will be Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 2:30 p.m.