By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Mayor Ciancio looked over the top edge of reading glasses to check the clock, quickly did it again, and then a third time, anticipating the start to the April meeting of Seabrook Island Town Council. He began the meeting with a grin and got right to business. Three sets of minutes were reviewed and approved before discussions bled into the financial overview for the month of March.
Strong as ever, the mayor reported revenues which were over $72,000 above projections for the month, bringing the year to date figure to over $94,000 above estimates. He credited the windfall on accommodations tax money received from Charleston County and increases in business license fees, especially class 7 and 8 type licenses. SITC also spent $31,000 less than anticipated for the month ($82,000 less for the year). The savings had something of a string attached since the big ticket items the funds are allocated to are still on the horizon, cautioned the mayor.
Councilmember Gregg had a very busy report starting with the Seabrook Island Club’s long range planning committee.
The group has begun work on their strategic plan for 2017. Step one in the process, he said, was to reconsider the 2016 plan and “chairs would be asked to conduct their own assessments.” Resulting components will then be brought to a planned development session to be held in the June/July time frame.
The Safety Committee met in April, Gregg continued, and is in the process of making changes to the Comprehensive Emergency Plan. Updates will be ready in mid-May. This will give SITC the opportunity to test any changes during emergency preparedness drills scheduled for June 6 and 7 of this year.
Gregg then justified continuation of the “stand-by” agreement SITC has with Philips & Jordan Debris Management.
The existing contract allows for two, one year extensions to remove debris, paid only as needed (e.g. stand by) in the event of a disaster. Failure to renew the contract would require repeating the competitive bid process completed last year, possibly in the midst of an emergency argued Gregg. He then made the official move to approve continuing the contract. The motion passed unanimously but Gregg was just getting warmed up, taunting attendees with a “surprise.”
The normal rotation for the annual Disaster Awareness Day would have put this year’s installment on Kiawah.
However, Kiawah has had a tough couple of years, is still on-boarding new staff and consequently, the decision was made to hold the event on Seabrook for a second, consecutive chapter.
DAD boasts vendors with tables of information designed to educate participants (not to mention the ever popular Hurricane Habanero hot sauce), expert presentations on emergency preparations, door prizes, an all-day raffle and “FREE LUNCH,” said Gregg in a mock bellow to the delight of everyone who saw it coming all the way from last year. SITC spent less than the budgeted $6,000 last year, but Gregg kept the prudent figure (to be augmented by $1,500 from Kiawah) when he moved to approve the expenditure from the Emergency Preparedness Fund. The motion passed unanimously.
Councilmember Turner reported attending Earth Day on Seabrook. He took the opportunity to hand out information on Seabrook’s beach and a map detailing which activities were encouraged where.
He had also been in touch with Seabrook resident Dennis Nagy. Turner wanted to give SITC a heads up about a plan Nagy and others had been working on to upgrade boardwalk #1. The changes, including extended ramps and mats to make deep sand more passable, were all behind the high water mark but may still require legislative action, he said.
Turner concluded his remarks with a surprise. Representatives of a local conservation group had contacted him with the idea of starting the “Seabrook Shorebird Ambassador Program.” Tuner said his hope is that Seabrook will take the lead on the project instead of leaving it to the outside group to manage. He forwarded the idea to the Seabrook birders group for feedback, likes the idea and wants SITC to be aware. Councilmember Wells had an ambassadorial idea of his own to present.
He said he would need as many as 20 people to participate in the still hypothetical Ambassador Program. Volunteers for the program would greet and/or make themselves available to Seabrook visitors/guests with information on all things Seabrook. Wells even floated the idea of volunteers wearing buttons with “ASK ME” in large print. The mayor got some laughs when he sniped, “didn’t that used to be the Hari Krishnas?” Wells hope was the town could look for and provide names of prospective participants for the cost free plan which SITC approved unanimously.
Wells continued his report, saying Obviouslee Marketing would be retained through the end of the year. Changes would have to be considered in the interim, if all of Seabrook’s governing entities agree and want to engage the same advertiser, as previously discussed. Wells then moved to give the mayor authority to contract with G. Robert George & Associates to fix drainage issues. The motion passed unanimously.
Mayor Ciancio said Judge Scarborough had entered an order of foreclosure on 1126 Ocean Forrest Dr. and expects action on or about June 7. Wells Fargo will then control the property and claims liens plus costs in the amount of $5.6 million.
Depending on any other bids and a final look at the property, Wells will act to tear it down or fix it up.
The Department of Transportation responded to a letter from the mayor (also Kiawah) sent two months ago regarding the safety of Main/Bohicket road.
SCDOT has outlined some requirements for the requested survey and although the official response isn’t expected until June, will take several actions in advance;
1. Replace reflectors
2. Continue marking trees within 8’ of the road
3. Use different markers for trees within 2’ of the road
4. Maintain the 18’ boundary
Again with the April surprises and not to be out done, Ciancio announced the Charleston Symphony Orchestra has agreed to play Seabrook’s 4 of July celebration (scheduled for July 3). The CSO will set up on the club’s driving range and finish their performance as the fireworks start for the low, low price of $15,000 (technically unbudgeted). The community association has already agreed to help with parking or shuttles as needed, and the CSO has agreed to not one but two “rainout” dates, as needed, said the mayor.
Ciancio concluded his report by announcing plans for a meeting on roads on May 12. State Senator Chip Campsen, State Representative Peter McCoy and SCDOT representative Robert Clark will be on hand to discuss roads in general and I526 specifically, said the mayor. His plans include Kiawah elected officials and possibly Kiawah residents as well.
Town administrator Randy Pierce reported only the search for off-site storage of documents for SITC.
Ordinance 2016-05 passed a first reading unanimously and designated 2531 High Hammock Rd as greenspace.
Ordinance 2016-06 also passed first reading unanimously. The measure was an amendment to the budget and designated;
1. $54,000 for Eadies Construction and its work to examine and clean drains along Seabrook Island Rd.
2. $244,000 for G. Robert George Engineering to reline and repair the drains along Seabrook Island Rd.
3. $20,000 for the CSO and related expenses SITC will be left with more than $1.5 million in reserves despite the exigent expenses.
Deputy Chief Jackie Stanley of the Saint Johns Fire District announced the availability of free, upgraded smoke detectors for any residents who call 843.559.9194.
Seabrook resident and recently elected property owner’s board member Phil Squire asked how franchise fees worked. The mayor responded the fees from applicants (e.g. Comcast, AT&T etc.) were collected by the state and redistributed to municipalities. The funds paid by applicants provide them with the right to provide services, said the mayor.
No records were harmed in the making of this meeting and there being no further business, the assembly adjourned after 49 minutes.