Mayor Bill Holtz reported on the year-to-date financials, noting that revenues are above budget by $68,272.74, coming to $742,821.38, which is better than last year-to-date by a little more than $10,000. Expenses year-to-date are under budget by $69,024.04, coming in at $432,169.56.
“Considering the economy, we’re doing well,” said Holtz, though he did point out that both the state and county are tightening down on the amount of Accomodations Tax (ATAX) funds they are sending back to the town. For example, said Holtz, the town received $4,888 from the county for February through July of this year, whereas last year, the town received a little over $9,000 for the same time span.
“Even though we’re giving you bright financial picture, there is concern with funding from the state and county,” said Holtz. “Because of this, we’re going to be setting our budget for lower ATAX next year and there will not be a recommendation to give funds back to citizens this year, either.”
Councilman Sam Reed asked how the state and county determine how much the municipalities receive from ATAX funds and Town Administrator Randy Pierce replied that it was arbitrary. “They have been generous in the past with what they give back, but they’ve cut it back twice now,” said Pierce. Councilman Terry Ahearn concurred, and noted that the state hasn’t cut back yet on what they send, “but I don’t anticipate bright and shiny things coming down to the municipalities,” the Mayor remarked.
Speed bumps and supporting CERT
Resident Ed Dear commented on the lack of regard for the bike crossing from the bike path to Bohicket Marina, which is located near the BB&T bank. “I think one guy today put on more gas when I was about to cross, but I made it in time,” said Dear, half-joking. Along with suggesting that the town paint the crosswalk lines so that they reached all the way to the curbs, Dear asked about the possibility of a speed bump. “It might not be that effective at 35 mph, but if they go over it at 45 mph or more, it will let them know,” said Dear. Mayor Holtz stated that it wouldn’t be a problem to do the restriping, as they will be doing improvement s to the sidewalk on the Marina side of Seabrook Island Drive in the near future, and they would also look into the feasibility of a speed bump, though he did note that some residents had concerns over the possible noise created by people passing over the bump. “We don’t want to put it in and find we have to take it back out again,” he pointed out.
Resident and CERT volunteer Beverley Baird put it simply when she stood up in front of Council and stated, “I’m here to ask for money.” When CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team) originally formed, the Town pledged funds to help continue the program. While CERT is a line item on the POA budget, Baird asked if the Town could donate $2,000 directly to Lowcountry CERT to help pay for training expenses. After a short discussion, it was determined that if Charleston County sent the Council a “request for donation” letter, then the Town could legally donate the funds directly to Lowcountry CERT. Council approved the donation, pending receipt of the letter, unanimously.
Roads on hold and MASC report
While everything is pretty quite in terms of the Johns Island roads issues at the moment, Councilman Sam Reed reported that the SC DOT is reviewing what has been nicknamed “The Rawle Plan”, a shortened version of 526 which leaves James Island out of the route. Reed did note that he heard the new plan is being opposed by the Coastal Conservation League.
In other news, Reed reported on the recent Municipal Association (MASC) meeting, noting that the Association briefly discussed a period of mandatory training for elected officials, which he opposed. “If you’re elected, you’re elected by the people and if you’re not doing your job, you’ll be voted out,” said Reed, in explanation. The group also talked about the TRAC commission and their opposition to TRAC possibly dictating how taxes should be disseminated to the municipalities, as well as the issue of legalizing golf carts on roads.
Town consults with visibility consultant
Councilman Terry Ahearn noted that the Ways and Means committee met with a visibility consultant about bringing more attention to Seabrook Island, and the consultant agreed to come back with a proposal for a six month, short term initial contact. The proposal should be ready for the December Town Council meeting, and Ahearn hopes that the ATAX committee will approve the funding for the project. “If not, then that opens us up to finding the funding elsewhere, or not going ahead with it,” said Ahearn. Holtz reminded Ahearn that he will be in charge of coordinating with the website committee to make sure the visibility consultant doesn’t overlap with anything the website team is doing, and vice versa.
New and improved website by year’s end
Councilman Jerry Cummin was happy to announce that the website committee has signed off on the first couple of phases of the website design with Obviouslee Marketing. The next step is to review the website setup with the various island entities to see what, if anything, is missing or should be changed. Ideally, said Cummin, the new site should be up and running by the end of this year.
Councilman Rob Savin suggested that the town also discuss offering a one-day trip to Seabrook for folks who arrive in town for cruises. Katie Chapman of the Charleston Visitors Bureau pointed out that the CVB has a webpage featuring such deals, and offered to work with the Town to include a Seabrook one-day package.
Designating helicopter landing areas
Mayor Holtz reported that he recently met with members of the Roper Hospital Foundation, who asked about the possibility of the town designating an area as a helicopter landing pad. Holtz noted that the Town Hall parking lot was originally going to used for that purpose, but suggested that Kiawah and Freshfields should also look into designating helicopter landing areas.
“Safety and Security will organize how we do it if it should come up,” said Holtz, noting that the Foundation still needs to work out a lot of procedural issues before establishing landing pads in the area. The landing area would not need to be built, Administrator Pierce noted, just designated for the use.
Lastly, the Mayor reminded Council and those in attendance of the Town’s annual Christmas Soiree, which will be held this year at Town Hall on December 16 from 12 – 2 p.m.
“Everyone’s invited as long as bring a new, unwrapped toy,” said Holtz. “I know it says ‘Toys for Tots’, but I would like one, too,” he joked with a smile.
Second reading of budget: Ordinance 2010-02
Administrator Pierce ran through a handful of the more unique items on the 2011 budget, noting that they dropped their expected annual income from county ATAX by half to $8,000, and elaborated on the funds set aside for website construction, pointing out that this coming year’s budget for the project is $20,000, which has been added to the $8,000 remaining from this year’s budget, so it will be listed at $28,000. Pierce added that the budget includes the cost of video production, so that the web committee won’t have to come back before council and request funding. He also noted the monthly fees budgeted for the disaster prep satellite phones and 800 MHz ham radio, as well as the funds set aside for future disaster prep drills, “but other than that, It’s pretty standard,” said Pierce.
Council approved the budget unanimously and at the same time, unanimously approved the amount of $8,811 to be moved from the general fund into the emergency fund in order to keep it at its standard amount.
Quite a bike path
Councilman Cummin briefly remarked on how well Sunburst Landscaping is doing with keeping up the sides of Seabrook Island Road and the bike path, and Mayor Holtz agreed that they are doing an excellent job. Holtz also noted that the Town will be using a $100,000 to fix the sidewalk on the Marina side of Seabrook Island Road, and the barrier poles along the side of the road will be replaced with a proper barrier, similar to the ones within the gate on Kiawah Island.
Friendly and cute to boot
Katie Chapman, head of Media Relations for the Charleston Visitors Bureau, thanked the Council for meeting with a traveling writer, Chiles Larson, while he was in town last week, and announced that Be A Tourist In Your Own Town tickets are now available, and feature 28 attractions and 22 restaurants. She was also happy to announce that Charleston was recently designated the Friendliest, as well as the Most Attractive, city in the United States, according to Travel + Leisure magazine. The designation was discussed both on the Today Show by Al Roker, and on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.