Mayor Holtz read through the financials, noting that “we’ve had a good month as some checks have come in that didn’t come in July.” Revenues are $21,248 above budget, and the year-to-date is less than $1,000 behind last year, coming in at $629,539.96. Expenditures are under budget by $65,900.62, and excess of revenues over expenditures is $275,599.68 for this year-to-date; only $22,839.73. “In a very difficult year, we’re holding our own,” said Mayor Holtz.
“I’m here with bad news,” said Joe Hall, Chairman of the Utility Commission. Last Wednesday, the Utility Commission voted unanimously to change the rates for water and sewer: about 8% across the board, with the exception of sewer, which will go down about 1.5%. Hall explained that, over the past 14 years, Charleston Water System has increased water rates by 49%; an average of 3.5% per year. In the past, the Utility Commission was able to subsidize the cost of the increases with franchise fees from cell towers, and cutting out power and labor by switching from manual to automated systems. “We knew about this last year and probably should have done it then, but we’re doing it this year.”
Hall further explained that the underlying cause for the increases from Charleston Water System is development. “Right now, they don’t have enough pipeline under the Ashley River to get to West Ashley and us, so they’ll probably be adding a new line in the next five years,” said Hall. “The cost to do that is about three times as much as placing it under solid ground.”
“So what does this mean?” asked Holtz. “It about a $96 per year increase,” said Hall.
“It’s part of the cost of living out here,” said Holtz. “When rates go up, about $100 a year, it’s not great, but it’s not horrible. That’s about $10 a month.”
Fighting for 526
“Our emphasis has been on encouraging the completion of I-526,” said Councilman Sam Reed. “We’re hoping that it happens, but we don’t have a crystal ball, so we can’t say what will happen, but odds are it will eventually happen. If that happens, then the proposed Greenway would be much more palatable and necessary.”
Holtz briefly discussed a letter from County Council member Colleen Condon, which basically stated that if they think the $400 million [allocated for I-526] is going to stay in Charleston if we don’t do anything with it, then think again. “I did give her facts to consider,” said Holtz, “and pointed out what will happen if nothing is done.” He stated that he feels another exit/entrance is needed off of Johns Island, “and I’m astonished about James Island,” pointing out the 3 to 2 opposition to the extension. “If someone is willing to give you $400 million to help your traffic and you say no, I don’t understand the rationale.” Said Holtz.
Councilman Reed noted that a letter, signed by all of the council members and the mayor, would be sent to the project manager for I-526 in the next day or so.
Councilman Terry Ahearn discussed a recent meeting with members of Greenbriar Consulting, a company which helps improve community visibility. “They have a lot of experience with places like ours,” said Ahearn, pointing out that they have helped to promote communities with golf courses, marinas, and other assets combined in one area; and the areas are often located off the beaten path. When asked to come up with a proposal on helping to make Seabrook Island more visible, however, the company was apparently confused with Seabrook Island’s governmental structure, so the Visibility Committee has requested a new proposal with more specific guidelines, including creating a recognizable brand for the island; media relations – keeping the island’s name in the public; a video presentation which would also work with the website, and a slicker online brochure touting Seabrook Island.
“Sounds like there are a lot of things they can do, but expensive,” said Councilman Jerry Cummin as he looked at the initial proposal.
“All these things are very helpful, but very hard to measure,” said Holtz. “Until something happens, like houses beginning to move, there’s a cost to being visible.” The Mayor did note that they are currently working on a phase 1 in increasing island visibility with the new website, and will most likely follow up with video postings.
Town website update
Councilman Cummin reported that the website committee met with their website designers, Obviouslee Marketing, and are currently gathering photos for different areas of the website. One suggestion was to have the Seabrook Camera Club send in photos for use on the site. “There’s a lot of talent in the club and we’ll take whatever comes in,” said Cummin, “Though you can’t have thin skin, because everyone probably won’t make it on the site.” Cummin asked that any pictures be submitted on a disc so that they are easier to use and review.
Council meeting date changes for November and December
Mayor Holtz noted that he will be going to visit family in Seattle for Thanksgiving, so he asked to move the November meeting to November 16, and in December, the meeting date falls on December 26, so he suggested moving it to December 14. Council approved both date changes unanimously.
Town Holiday Party
Mayor Holtz also announced that the date for the Town’s annual Holiday Party will be December 16, “with Mrs. Hamby in full glory,” he smiled.
Domestic Abuse Awareness Month
In recognition of October as Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, Mayor Holtz read a resolution acknowledging the designation. Council approved the resolution unanimously.
Goodbye, Martha Harris
Council unanimously thanked Martha Harris for her many years of service as the island’s representative for Berkeley Electric. “Martha, you’ve been wonderful over these years, and Berkeley Electric has been very supportive of our town,” said Holtz. “If there was a problem, you always addressed it. We really appreciate you working with us quietly, getting it done. I hope your replacement is as good as you, and we do have a cake for you,” he smiled. With that, Town Clerk Faye Allbritton brought out one of her famous, delicious yellow cakes with chocolate frosting with a simple inscription reading, “Martha, we’ll miss you.”
Charleston Visitor’s Bureau report
Katie Chapman of the Charleston Visitor’s Bureau reported that this past Restaurant Week went incredibly well and all of the restaurant were very happy. The new Red’s Ice House at Bohicket Marina participated, along with more than 40 new participating restaurants. She also noted that they are waiting to hear the details for the new Southwest Airlines and will announce spring flights this fall.