By Katy Calloway, The Island Connection Managing Editor
The TOKI regular meeting was called to order on June 5 and Mayor Weaver wasted no time in jumping to approve the previous month’s meeting minutes.
Councilmember Mezzanotte had sent a couple of changes to Town Clerk, Petra Reynolds, and the minutes were unanimously approved.
Mayor Weaver’s update included 2 brief items. The 2 candidates for the Charleston County Council seat representing Kiawah, Seabrook, Folly and portions of Johns and James Islands, were present at the candidates meet and greet, held May 30 at the Municipal Center. Weaver noted there was a “good turnout” at the event that heard incumbent Joe Qualey pitch against newcomer Jenny Costa Honeycutt. The Republican candidates responded to about a dozen questions and “really distinguished themselves differently from one another,” remarked Weaver.
The mayor’s second interest item regarded DHEC OCRM’s proposed changes to the jurisdictional line that impacts where along the beach property owners can build.
The public comment period has been pushed back twice and is currently at July 15. The line will be established sometime in September for Kiawah Island. The town had Coastal Science and Engineering conduct a study to help them understand whether or not the proposed changes made sense, and based on those findings, last week the town submitted a formal letter to OCRM that laid out the its position stating that FEMA’s proposed lines are in error, not properly reflecting where the primary dunes are. The town recommended that DHEC return the line to the existing 2009 line, which would essentially keep the jurisdictional line the same. Several property owners have independently asked OCRM to extend the lines more seaward than even the town’s suggestion. Mayor Weaver clarified that in sending the town’s formal suggestion to OCRM, “We weren’t trying to prejudice the views of any separate entity that is privately appealing.”
Opportunity for citizen’s comments related to agenda items brought no residents forward.
Councilmember Diana Mezzanotte introduced five representatives from the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau to update Council on its programs, budgets and current initiatives. They are a nonprofit, destination marketing group that helps communities, such as Kiawah, with their travel and tourism strategies. They are funded in part through the accommodations taxes from Kiawah and 8 other local governments. The presentation included many accolades that reinforced the Kiawah community as a “crown jewel” that attracts an exclusive, high-end vacationer.
The next item was the consent agenda that consisted of five items, none of which needed to be discussed separately. All five items were approved unanimously.
In old business, Council approved the final adoption of the fiscal year, 2018-19 budget. The public hearing was opened, but no one from the audience opted to speak. The public hearing was closed and Council approved to adopt the budget unanimously, with one slight change. The Ways and Means Committee approved the consideration to amend Island Beach Services contract at an additional $1,800 month to cover the lease at 32 Sorel Rd. One of the minority owners of IBS is working with the owner of the property to purchase the property. The approved caveat was that the town will not start paying the additional cost until they close on the lease. The budget was approved unanimously.
The Town Administrator’s report included an update from Rusty Lameo, Facilities and Contracts Liaison, on 3 projects that the town is currently working on. Phase one for the bridge project included some minor repair work identified in a routine, bi-annual inspection. Phase two is the erosion stabilization project adjacent to the bridge, that is not yet underway.
The second project, parkway resurfacing, is underway and an independent company is examining the area from the circle to Beachwalker Dr. The repairs will be made after the report is concluded in the next couple of weeks.
The third project, not yet underway, would put in a right turn lane at Beachwalker Dr. to relieve some of the traffic congestion. It is still in discussion phase.
Town Administrator, Stephanie Tillerson reported that staff performance reviews are underway and will be reflected in a merit increase, typically applied annually on July 1. The budget allows for a 4% increase. A 2-6% increase is usually what is approved. “We have very few that are reaching the max,” remarked Tillerson. A small pot of money, $3,000- $4000, is being requested for Tillerson to provide one-time, cash rewards to an employee, (or employees) for outstanding achievement. Tillerson is confident that additional costs should be able to come out of the current, approved budget, and additional funds will not be needed.
Town attorney, Dwayne Green, arrived just in time to update Council on the proceedings against former Town Treasurer Kenneth Gunnells on May 27. Judge Michael Duffy went through a litany of items in the indictment, all of which Gunnells admitted to, including a scheme between he and the Town Administrator, Tumiko Rucker, to defraud the town. At the time of this town meeting, Rucker had not yet entered a plea.
Green also confirmed the filing of a lawsuit against Webster Rogers, the former auditor for the town, for not notifying the town of fraudulent activity that was going on between 2011-2015. The lawsuit has been filed and served. Doug McMillan is the attorney handling that case on behalf of the insurance carrier.
The property owners of 122 Turnberry Ct. were given until June 5 to respond to legal service, and as of this meeting have not. The lien holder, a former Seabrook resident, also did not respond by the date of this meeting. Attorney Green is comfortable that all parties have been served in the manner they needed to be and is prepared to move forward on the condemnation of the property. (The Island Connection previously reported on this story in the May 11 edition).
There was no report from Councilmember Mezzanotte regarding the Arts Council, whose season starts again in July. The Sea Level Rise Committee is focused on its written report and reviewing a draft. They hope to finalize their report by early September.
Councilmember Koach notified Council of a vacancy on the Board of Zoning Appeals. There are currently no enthusiastic candidates for the position on the board, which convenes about 6 times a year. It is not a time consuming, position and requires a brief training, no prior experience.
Mayor Weaver added that the Johns Island Growth Management Committee has scheduled a second meeting for June 26, at the Berkeley Electric office. It has been six weeks between meetings and the mayor is looking forward to updates.
Wendy Kulick approached the podium for closing citizen’s comments. She praised Council for listening to last month’s concerns about the fire district’s use of land at no-cost while their station was being replaced. She urged Council to make a statement regarding the situation, recognizing that they had no jurisdiction over the decisions.
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Kiawah Island will be Tuesday, July 3.