By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Those arriving 5 minutes early to the May 24 meeting of Seabrook Island Town Council were treated to a pair of public hearings. Ordinance 2016-05, a measure to rezone 2531 High Hammock Rd for conservation received no comments nor did Ordinance 2016- 06. The second measure provided funding for drainage/road repairs, as well as money for the Third of July celebration. Neither seemed as necessary when the budget was being drafted as they were obvious after the budget process was complete. Both topics were slated for second readings later in the day and the lack of discussion made for an early start to our regularly scheduled broadcast.
Town clerk Faye Allbritton confirmed compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and council followed by approving two sets of minutes. Mayor Ciancio never broke stride and held fast to a trend of positive financial reports. SITC brought in more revenues than expected, the product of more accommodations tax money and increases in business license fees, especially class 7 and 8 type licenses.
SITC also spent less than anticipated again for the month of April, with lower than expected legal fees getting credit for the fiscal conservation.
Councilmember Gregg delivered his report on the Seabrook Island Club’s long range planning committee. Work continues on its strategic plan for 2017.
Committee chairs conducted internal assessments and the resulting categories; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats were bookmarked for a development session to be held in the June/July time frame. The categories will be further defined and filled in for inclusion in the new plan.
The Safety Committee is considering AirMedCare for residents of Seabrook, said Gregg. AirMedCare is a program which has recently gained a beachhead on neighboring Kiawah Island. It is network of air ambulances with multiple bases in 32 states, including South Carolina.
Municipalities pay a subscription fee to be included in the appropriate service area. Seabrook residents, for example, would then receive air ambulance services for life/ limb threatening illness/injury paying only what their insurance provides per incident. Costs to uninsured residents would be capped at what Medicare would allow for the service. Gregg concluded his remarks by recommending the updated volume “Are You Ready for a Flood.”
Councilmember Turner reported attending a meeting of Seabrook’s Community Emergency Response Team captained by John Reynolds. Seabrook Fire Commissioner Deb Lehman attended the same meeting and noted a particular issue: When the Sea Rescue unit launches from Bohicket, it leaves a gap in coverage and the deputy on Seabrook’s beach should be informed. The observation gave rise to wondering if additional resources might be needed.
Turner also reported a collaborative meeting between the Seabrook Birders Group and the Sea Dogs. The two groups are now working together on and concerned about enforcement of beach ordinances, once again making the case for an extra employee. Responding to a question from the gallery, the mayor reminded attendees the efforts of fellow citizens to enforce beach ordinances did not go well in the past and he prefers the authority imbued by third party status of an employee.
Councilmember Wells opened his report by saying Seabrook was advertising/ promoting several events: The Alan Fleming [tennis] Tournament, The kiosk at Bohicket, The Billfish Tournament and the Fourth of July celebration. Seabrook has ads in both Southwest Magazine and Southern Living Magazine. He also followed up on last month’s ambassadorial idea. He reported 10 more than the 20 person minimum have stepped up for the ASK ME program. Volunteers for the program will be available to Seabrook visitors/guests with information on all things Seabrook and yes, there will be hats and buttons. Wells then reported the Gateway committee would conduct a special meeting in June to approve engineering contracts. Skip Crane was back at the dais this month, looking tanned, rested and ready.
He didn’t miss a beat, however, and informed council the opinion survey conducted by the community association was under review and would be presented to the board next month.
Recent planning commission efforts produced the motion to approve a temporary use permit in support of The Governor’s Annual Invitational Billfish Tournament–June 1-4, 2016, which required SITC attention and got it. The measure passed unanimously.
Mayor Ciancio expressed some disappointment only 70 attendees had participated in a special meeting held at town hall on May 12. Sen. Campsen, Rep. McCoy, and Robert Clark of the South Carolina Department of Transportation were the guest speakers invited to discuss local roads. Presentations were followed by a Q&A session which lasted for an additional hour.
The mayor also reported working with the mayor of Kiawah to request the Cross-Island Parkway/Greenway be added to the County’s list of priorities. Ciancio then made a motion to approve a resolution in support of completing I-526.
Mayor Ciancio noted Kiawah had taken similar steps but also took a moment to acknowledge Seabrook resident Glenda Miller. Miller, it seems, had anticipated and objected to the resolution in a letter to SITC the mayor characterized as very thoughtful and well considered. However, the measure passed unanimously.
Town administrator Randy Pierce reported the fourth Loggerhead nest on Seabrook for the year before turning to the topic of the Disaster Awareness Day.
This year’s installment will be held at the Seabrook Island Club on Thursday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. DAD boasts vendors with tables of information designed to educate participants, expert presentations on emergency preparations, door prizes, an all-day raffle of prizes and includes, as ever, “Free Lunch,” said Pierce to grins from attendees and echoes from councilmember Gregg. SITC spent less than the budgeted $6,000 last year to host the event and funds will again be augmented by $1,500 from Kiawah.
New business consisted of Ordinance 2016-07. The measure authorized issuance and sale of up to $4 million worth of private, general obligation bonds. The mayor explained the act was a matter of course saying such authority had been on the books for some time but never used.
The emergency measure is a date adjusted duplicate of past iterations intended to facilitate recovery from a disaster (e.g. something as simple as debris removal could be approved in days with the measure in effect or in months without it). Old Business consisted of second readings of the two ordinances mentioned earlier.
Ordinance 2016-05 passed a second reading unanimously and designated 2531 High Hammock Rd as greenspace.
Ordinance 2016-06 also passed second reading unanimously. The measure was an amendment to the budget and designated;
1. $54,000 for Eadies Construction and their 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 Charleston Symphony Orchestra and related expenses. The CSO will play Seabrook’s Fourth 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. 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.
SITC will be left with more than $1.5 million in reserves despite the exigent expenses. Seabrook resident Rob Savin had a lot on his mind including;
1. Could volunteers enforce the beach ordinance?
a. Per the above, the mayor reiterated his preference for professional help
2. Could the Bonds requested through ordinance 2016-07 be made private?
a. Public bonds were not used in an effort to avoid months of process which could slow recovery from a disaster
3. On the subject of roads, Savin characterized the entire issues as “circular” and asked if there was a plan.
a. The mayor responded with a long list of state officials he and SITC have already contacted during his administration and in the past. The litany of efforts cited by the mayor elicited assurances from Savin he didn’t blame the mayor. Ciancio acknowledged the comment and concluded “We do what we can do.”
Heather Patton of the Seabrook Island Property Owners Group said SIPOA had sent out a letter refreshing recipients on the beach ordinance which included the map developed by Council Member John Turner last year. She said the “handout”would be included in all weekly rental packets in the future.
Seabrook resident Cherie Squire asked about a recent accident just outside the Seabrook gate. Deputy Chief Jackie Stanley, St. Johns Fire District, said injuries had resulted from the head-on collision of two cars but no fatalities adding “seat belts and air bags saved their lives.” There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.