By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Awkward silence in council chambers preceded the start of the June 26 meeting of Seabrook Island Town Council. Wandering eyes eventually landed on the clock, confirming there was just enough time to pillory this reporter for an assault on Seabrook’s “never ending candy bowl.” There were plenty of laughs as Mayor Ciancio moved for order, and approved two sets of meeting minutes from the past month.
May’s financials were another step in the black for Seabrook’s streak. The mayor said the town generated $88,000 in revenues for the month, which was $48,000 above projections. He attributed the excess to franchise fees received from Comcast, among other things. Seabrook has generated $453,000 in revenue so far this year (some transferred from 2016), which puts the town $90,000 ahead of the same period last year. Expenses continue to show guardedly good news as well.
SITC spent $50,000 last month, which is $63,000 less than anticipated. The town has spent $325,000 so far this year, which is an astonishing $259,000 less than anticipated.
Cheaper than expected audit fees and less spent on disaster preparation, legal fees and salaries got some of the credit. However, the mayor repeated his caution that the project to fix the Seabrook Island Parkway (SIP) was proceeding slower than expected/budgeted, and accounts for an estimated 50 percent of the savings. “The money will be spent,” said Mayor Ciancio.
Council member John Gregg said the Seabrook Island Club’s long range planning committee did not meet in June, and has yet to schedule a meeting in July. The meeting, he said, will focus on this year’s survey when it does happen.
Gregg said the public safety committee did meet in June and the town’s comprehensive plan came under scrutiny.
Seabrook’s consultant, Scott Cave, worried about the plan’s accounting of storm cleanup lumped together under the heading of debris removal. Gregg hopes further examination will enable the town to finetune their comprehensive plan.
Gregg also reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved payment of the third and final “obligation to reimburse” to Seabrook from the last hurricane in the amount of $16,000 for a total payment to Seabrook of $79864.92.
Gregg then posed the possibility of Charleston County funding assistance for the planned renovations to SIP. Carl Simmons, a 40-year veteran of the county’s building services, agrees the repairs are steps toward hazard mitigation and has begun the application process.
Council member John Turner, fresh from vacation, reported that the black flies in Northern Canada are “awful.”
Council member John Wells gave an update on the accommodations tax (ATAX) committee. Requests for 2018 are now complete. The committee recommends the following allocations: Kick it at Bohicket – $17,000, The Billfish Tournament – $8,000 with an additional $4,200 for parking, and The Alan Fleming Senior Tennis Tournament – $10,000. Requests being received in advance of the budget process was a first for SITC that was applauded by everyone, including the mayor who said, “this is how the process is supposed to work. Thank you.”
Wells concluded his report with an alert to SITC. He said the town would be hosting travel writer Tracey Teo and photographer Wesley Teo for three nights sometime between July 25th and August 5th. Teo writes for a number of travel magazines as well as such newspapers as the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Tennessean. Associated costs will be presented when the total is firmed up.
The mayor’s report was an announcement of Seabrook’s 30th anniversary as a town. He is planning something big in October 2017 to celebrate the occasion. The mayor requested the Charleston Symphony Orchestra visit Seabrook with 46 musicians at a cost of $20,000. The funds were not budgeted for, said the mayor, who was confident this year’s growing surplus would cover the fee without compromising SITC goals. The measure passed unanimously.
Jim Bannwart was back and looking fine for the utility (SIU) report. He reported income of $29,000 for the month and a net of $66,000 year to date. He said operations were normal for the month of May, three of eight manhole covers had been replaced on the island and that SIU had agreed to a one year contract extension with management firm Hawthorne for $264,000. The figure represents an increase of $30,000 over last year’s contract, which he ascribed to hiring an additional accountant. Bannwart concluded his report by saying the new contract would expire in May 2018.
The sole item of new business on the agenda was Ordinance 2017-02. The measure, if adopted, will enable SITC to assess fees for impacts along the Seabrook Island Parkway in areas technically outside the town’s jurisdiction. The first reading of the measure passed unanimously without debate or comment.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned, but not without eyes returning to the clock. The unwritten, long sought goal of a SITC meeting lasting under 30 minutes, whispered about by Mayor Ciancio, had been achieved. The recording of the meeting stopped at 29 minutes and 29 seconds for a new record, and totem of Seabrook’s efficiency.