“It has been pointed out to me that we’re one of the few councils that report on our financials, but that’s a problem for other councils,” smiled Mayor Holtz as he opened the December Seabrook Island Council meeting. For the eleven months ending on November 30, 2009, the Town has exceeded the budget for revenues by 72,071.12, coming in at 769,079.41, but still fell short of the $946,266.23 total from last year. Expenditures were $480,001.16, bringing the total in at $12,290.83 under budget. Excess of revenues over expenditures is 289,078.25 versus a budget of 204,716.30.
“We’re ending the year with about $300,000 in excess,” said Mayor Holtz, “which we can use. It’s needed money. It’s less than previous years, but most municipalities are down.”
For the benefit of the newly elected Councilman, Joe Hall of the Water Commission gave the Council a brief, but concise, history of the Water Commission on Seabrook Island. He began by pointing out that the fiscal properties of the Utility are worth approximately $19.5 million. With the Town’s current debt running around $9 million, the net worth of the Town stands at around $10 million; not including the 25% share of St. Johns Water Utility’s transmission lines. He noted that the Town has around 2,000 water and sewer customers in Seabrook, and 500 outside of Seabrook which were in the contracts when Seabrook acquired the system in 1995.
From 1969 to present day, Hall ran through the system’s – and the town’s – owners, including the purchase of the system in 1995 for $5.9 million. The original water system, said Hall, was a deep well next to the water tower which went down half a mile to reach an aquifer which runs almost the entire length of South Carolina and Georgia. Today, however, the water is supplied by the City of Charleston through the Utility Commission’s newly installed 24 inch lines.
“The original contract signed by the Utility was for 1.2 million gallons of water a day,” said Hall. Through the addition of more lines, the Utility was able to get the amount of water up to 1.6 million gallons a day in 1999. “That carried us from 1999 until now,” said Hall. “With the new 24 inch line, we can draw up to 2.4 million gallons a day,” an amount which was specifically calculated to take Seabrook Island through the build out of the island and its current contracts, including Cassique, Kiawah River Plantation and Freshfields.
Over the years, Hall noted that the structure of the Town’s ownership of the Water Utility has saved its customers approximately $60,000 every year. However, for the thirteenth straight year, the City of Charleston has increased the rate for the Seabrook Island Utility Commission by %5, and although the Utility has never changed their prices to reflect the cost hike, Hall cautioned that they might need to change that this year.
According to Hall, the increase would be roughly 5%, or around a $5 per month increase for the average customer. “I’m sure we’ll get some flack about ‘you gave us money, now you’re taking it away’,” said Hall. “But I suspect Charleston will come right back behind us and start increasing rates again.”
“$60 a year won’t kill anybody, but after all that’s just happened, we want to be able to explain why,” said Mayor Holtz, thanking Hall. “We want to keep town informed, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Councilman Ahearn noted that this is a particularly rough time for any sort of cost increase as the Seabrook Island POA announced that its improved lot fee will be going up, as will the cost of Medicare. “And Social Security is going down,” he said. “I just hope this isn’t the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Councilman Sam Reed made a motion that the Town of Seabrook Island participate with other entities in the area to help finance the promotion of safer roads on Johns Island by contributing the sum of $1,000 per month for a period not to exceed six months to the “Sea Island Roads Fund” as of January 1, 2010; the funds to be disbursed as directed by the Chair of the Seabrook Island Roads Committee and the Chair of the Kiawah Island Roads Committee. The motion passed unanimously.
Councilman Reed also made a note about the Greenway workshop, which was held at the St. Johns Library on December 7, pointing out that efforts are going toward putting the Greenway on the County of Government’s Long Range Plan. “It seems likely to happen and will hopefully happen in January,” said Reed.
Following the Greenway meeting, Town Administrator Randy Pierce stated that Charleston County requested permission to place maps and comment forms in the Seabrook Town Hall, as well as the Lake House. “We would love that,” said the Mayor, commenting that he thought that all four routes presented at the meeting seemed acceptable. “We just want the least intrusive route,” he said.
Councilman Rob Savin reported that he and Peirce are planning on accomplishing all of the implementation points of the new Disaster Preparedness Plan within a short period of time. “We got our money’s worth with the plan, but it’s large and cumbersome,” said Savin. “It’s a good plan to invade Iraq, but it’s a bit hefty,” he smiled. Because of this Savin and Peirce have contacted the writer, Scott Cave, about designing an abbreviated version of the plan.
Savin also noted that the plan calls for the formation of both a Public Safety Committee and a Disaster Recovery Committee.” We didn’t think it made sense to have those separate,” said Savin, “so we thought it would be good to mold them into one committee.” In terms of staffing the Committee, Savin recommended that it be comprised of the Mayor, a Public Safety official, Council members, the Town Administrator. Individual groups within the Committee would be arranged according to entity: The Marina group would consist of the Marina dock master, the Town Administrator and a Public Safety official. Camp St. Christopher would be comprised of the Director of Operations, a Public Safety official and the Town Administrator. The Club would be the President of the Club, The Board Member in charge of Operations, John Wilcox, the Town Administrator and Rob Savin, and finally, the POA would consist of the President of the POA, John Thompson, John Wells, Jim Banwort, Ron Bourne, and Lex Gibson.
“Do they agree that this is a good structure?” asked Mayor Holtz. “All of the individuals whom I’ve given a name for, agree,” said Savin, noting that the Disaster Committee will be gleaned from the larger Public Safety Committee.
The Council voted unanimously for the new appointments for the public safety committee, with Holtz elaborating that the Public Safety Committee will be formatted as per Savin’s suggestions for each entity. “This is your baby and that’s how we’re going to do it,” said the Mayor.
Savin stated that the first meeting of the Public Safety Committee will most likely be held in April, after the Club and POA elections have taken place.
Island entity liaison report
Councilman Terrence Ahearn reported that he attended the last Club and POA meetings and talked to the Greenspace organization.
“The Club has basically has taken on the project of a single website,” reported Ahearn. “They’re looking for ways that the Town can be more involved in advertising the Town, etc. But that’s all pie in the sky right now,” said Ahearn, pointing out that they will probably wait until after the elections to start any new projects. He also stated that the POA is considering allowing a commercial business, physical therapy, to operate out of the Lake House, but noted that it would be difficult to pull off.
Finally, Ahearn stated that he will be meeting with the Greenspace organization in January in order to discuss upcoming projects; in particular, looking at the preservation of land along Seabrook Island Road as you approach the gate from Freshfields.
Appointment of Town Attorney, Zoning Administrator and Town Clerk
The Town is required to annually appoint the positions of Town Attorney, Zoning Administrator and Town Clerk. Mayor Holtz motioned for the reappointment of Steve Brown, Randy Pierce and Faye Albritton to these positions respectively. The Council approved the appointments unanimously.
As Cindy Cornwell and John Scofield’s positions on the Planning Commission are set to expire, Mayor Holtz motioned that both of their positions be renewed for another two year term set to expire on December 31, 2011. The Council approved the motion unanimously.
Lastly, Mayor Holtz motioned that Fred Michaeli be appointed to the Municipal Election Commission to replace Sherry Pollard for a term to expire December 31, 2015, and for Donald Ruff to replace Bev Baird on the same Commission for a term to expire December 31, 2011. Both appointments were approved unanimously.
“How do we identify people to fill positions on Committees?” asked Councilman Ahearn. “Is it word of mouth?”
Mayor Holtz replied, stating that it’s not a case of finding candidates. “We have more than enough people to help us out. If anyone wants to be on a Committee, they come see us and we’ll try to get you on.” For example, he said Gene Corrigan has done a great job with the Election Commission and he regularly recommends members for the Committee. “There’s no reason, if we have a whole slew of openings, to put it out there that we need people and ask them to join,” said Holtz.
Town Administrator’s report
“Building 2 unit 10 in the Bohicket Marina is going up for auction on the courthouse steps,” reported Peirce, noting that the auction came about because a contractor has not been paid over $100,000 which is owed to him by the Bohicket Yacht Club. “He’s been patient for several years, but they need the funds,” he said. The building in question is where the Privateer restaurant is currently located. “ I doubt it will go to the courthouse steps. They’ll probably try to settle beforehand,” said Pierce. The Marina has been trying to close a new partnership for eight months, said Peirce, but there have been problems with the partners. However, the Marina apparently has until mid-January to straighten things out before the unit goes up for bids.
The next Seabrook Town Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 2:30pm. Seabrook Town Hall is located at 2001 Seabrook Island Road. For more info, call Town Hall at 768-9121.