Mayor Bill Holtz reported that the revenues for July were $22,858.02 less than budgeted, but the year-to-date is still $16,568.91 more than was budgeted. Excess of revenues over expenditures is $71,154.95 more than was budgeted for the year-to-date, coming in at $233,040.94, but the Town is still running $77,055.17 behind last year-to-date figures. “$233,000 is a healthy amount to be above by, but last year we were over by $410,000,” said Holtz. “I don’ think we’ll be near that this year, but it will still be a decent year.” The Mayor explained that the funds received from the County and the State are lower than the previous year and that business licenses are running about $24,000 below last year-to-date. “The general picture is we’re doing fine, but every year we’re going down a little bit and we have to watch where we’re spending money,” said Holtz. “The Town isn’t suffering as a financial entity, but we’re not growing, either.”
Potential water rates increase for the island
Joe Hall, Chairman of the Utility Commission, presented copies of the Utility Commission audit to the Council and confirmed a rumor that there could be an increase in water rates around the first of the year. Hall explained that there has been an increase on wholesale water rates, which have gone up 36% since 2000. “We have been able to avoid a rate increase up until recently,” said Hall. “The same volume of water costs about $30,000 more every year.”
Councilman Rob Savin expressed concern over the potential rate increase, and Hall invited him and anyone else concerned about the utility budget to attend the next Utility Commission meeting at Town Hall on Wednesday, September 15, at 2 p.m.
Hall also noted that, while they still have about $50,000 left to collect from FEMA as part of the $1.6 million grant to repair and upgrade pump stations around the island, FEMA representatives had remarked that “of all the projects in South Carolina that have been granted in the last five years, that the situation here [Seabrook Island] is the best presentation they have seen in response back from a town,” said Hall. “We met every deadline and no financial papers were returned. The execution of this was just the way they would like it done and they are tickled to death.”
Welcoming the Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce
Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce co-founder Sherry Hering gave a brief citizen’s presentation to Council, describing the goals of the newly formed Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce (SICC). “The SICC is trying to accomplish some things that the metro chamber of commerce doesn’t do for the outlying areas,” said Hering. “We consider this an underserved area. We want to be a Chamber of Commerce and a visitor’s bureau for Folly Beach, James Island, Johns Island, Kiawah and Seabrook and hope to promote economic development in the sea islands area.” Among the many goals of the Chamber, Hering stated that they will be starting educational programs for small business owners, and hope to form a sea islands restaurant association in the near future. They have already started a list of projects they would like to help the islands within their purview accomplish, and will be doing more for the islands in terms of coastal preservation and ecological programs. In the future, the Chamber hopes to expand to include other outlying areas such as Wadmalaw, Yonges Island, Edisto, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, “but we want to focus on this area and grow from there,” said Hering.
Mayor Holtz thanked her for her time, and while he appreciated the idea of the Chamber, he expressed concern that the town had several organizations to which they wrote checks, but didn’t feel like they were getting much from them other than being “part of a group.”
“I’m a little cynical at this point in the game, but I’m open to being convinced,” said Holtz. “I’m just looking for the positive and would really like the Council to talk about this during Ways and Means. What you’re trying to do is very magnanimous.”
Hering thanked the Council for their time and encouraged them to contact her with any questions or ideas. For more information about the Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce, visit www.seaislandschamber.org.
Rollin’ down the roads
“We had a setback with the Greenway not being put on the long-range plan,” reported Councilman Sam Reed, “but even though we feel like we’ve been treated like stepchildren out here, we’re still working on this.” The Roads Committee already has another meeting scheduled to go over options. “The fact that the county didn’t move this forward isn’t the only way we can move this forward,” said Reed.
Mayor Holtz agreed, noting that he’s now trying to win smaller battles, such as getting cyclists off of roads that don’t have shoulders. “I was totally turned off by the whole procedure and will try to get roads on Johns Island in our lifetime,” Holtz stated. “I am very upset with what happened at Council. It wouldn’t have cost them 10 cents to put the Greenway on the long range plan. I didn’t really want to get into it after the vote [during the County Council meeting] because it would have sounded like sour grapes, but I was very disappointed.”
Kiawah Days on Seabrook a success
Councilman Terry Ahearn, head of the Visibility Committee, reported that anywhere from 20 to 60 cars checked in on the Wednesdays designated for the Kiawah Days on Seabrook initiative and they are considering extending the program into the fall. “People coming in fall might be more likely to consider retiring on our island, so it’s a better way to expose our island,” said Ahearn. Ahearn also pointed out that Seabrook Real Estate has a way of tracking the activities of people who arrive on the island and have seen a great use of the island facilities.
Working on the town website
Councilman Jerry Cummin, head of the Communications Committee, was happy to announce that they had approved a contract with Obviouslee Marketing following a review and several corrections made by the town attorney. The committee is in the early stages of agreeing on the layout of a home page/portal that will give visitors a chance to see what the island has to offer.
Also in terms of communications, a recent communications practice by the Disaster Prep team produced excellent results, utilizing the smaller bandwidth of text messaging to communicate if land lines are down and cell towers are jammed with calls. If even the cell towers go down, however, the Disaster Prep team is training members on the use of satellite phones and have purchased two amateur radio handhelds that are also used around the island by CERT (Community Emergency Response Team).
“We have other radios here at town, but we have a line-of -sight problem, so we decided to get the two amateur handhelds,” explained Cummin, pointing out that at least he and one other person will become certified in their use. “In an emergency, if we’re trying to find out what’s damaged around town, this will help out a lot.”
Power outage sparks new disaster prep ideas
Councilman Savin stated that, in light of the power loss incident last month, the Public Safety and Disaster Prep teams were able to have a practical disaster drill with no injuries and a short duration time. As a result, Scott Cave of Atlantic Business Continuity Services, the designer of the town’s disaster preparation guide, is helping to design a flow chart of the current disaster plan so that steps are easy to find for each type of disaster.
Town Administrator Randy Pierce stated that the cost of Cave’s services would add another $1,250 onto his current bill of $2,500 for creating and implementing a real-time disaster drill, but the Council agreed that it was worth it and approved the expenditure unanimously.
Community Yard Sale
NOTE: We were recently informed that the yard sale will take place on Monday, September 6, instead Saturday, September 4, as was reported during the council meeting. Times and location remain the same.
The Seabrook Island Property Owners Association is planning an island-wide yard sale onMonday, September 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The sale will be held at Town Hall so that people from off-island will be able to attend. Un-purchased items will be donated to Habitat for Humanity at the end of the day. Council unanimously approved the use of the Town Hall parking lot for the yard sale.
Seabrook Island Veteran’s Recognition Day
Mayor Holtz read a resolution proclaiming September 11, 2010, as “a day of recognition and thanks to all veterans in the Town of Seabrook Island.” the resolution will be read in full during a special soiree for island veterans on September 11 by the ocean. The resolution recognizes the more than 290 veterans living on Seabrook, and special plaques will be personally presented by the Mayor to the 21 World War II vets in attendance, thanking them for their service.
“I think it s a great event we’ll be joining in,” said Holtz. “There is a whole event planned, and this is just a small part of it.” Councilman Reed pointed out that the Choraliers would be singing during the event, as well.
Alan Fleming tennis tournament temporary use permit
The temporary use permit for the Seabrook Island Racquet Club from October 6 – 10, 2010 for the annual Alan Fleming Sr. Clay Court Tennis Tournament was approved unanimously.
Charleston Restaurant Week right around the corner!
Katie Chapman of the Charleston Visitors Bureau announced that the Charleston Restaurant Week will be taking place from September 8 – 19, and encouraged everyone to go online and see what will be available and make their reservations in advance. Charleston Restaurant Week encourages local restaurants to offer two- to three- course meals for $30 for high-end restaurants and $20 for casual dining spots. More than 50 restaurants will be participating this year, including the Ocean Room, Jasmine Porch, McCrady’s, Circa 1886, the restaurant at Woodlands Inn and many others. For more information, visit www.CharlestonRestaurantWeek.com
Both Lee Edwards, Republican candidate running for SC House of Representatives seat 119, and Amy Fabri who is running for the district 9 seat on County Council, introduced themselves at the end of the meeting. Edwards pointed out that 526 should be a first priority on the island because of safety issues, and noted that he also supports the Greenway. “I look for republicans to retake the delegation,” he said.
Amy Fabri stated that, she is a James Island native and has been following the Greenway issue since 2008. “I don’t want to make promises on what I would have done, but I am completely up to speed on this project and am very sympathetic to the issues you have,” said Fabri, noting that her husband drives through Johns Island to get to his job on Kiawah.
Seabrook Island Town Council is held the fourth Tuesday of every month. The next Council meeting will be held Tuesday, September 28, at 2:30 p.m. in the Town Hall, located at 2001 Seabrook Island Road. For more info, call 768-9121 or visit www.TownOfSeabrookIsland.com.