By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Kiawah’s November town council meeting started quietly enough with a relatively spartan attendance compared to recent months.
Parliamentary obligations were dispensed and minutes were approved when the agenda was abruptly amended to include room for the announcement that the town had hired a new treasurer. The motion to amend passed unanimously and the item was added to new business.
In citizen’s comments Kiawah resident Dennis McGill reminded council of his several requests to review the resumes of the final candidates for the position.
Citing the town’s municipal code to warrant his claim of entitlement to the documentation, he asked why he had not been allowed to review them prior to the decision. Responses to his emails from council on the topic claimed no decision had been made. He also asked why a forensic audit of 2012 was not finished after nine weeks when the original audit of over two years (2013-2015) had been completed in seven. He concluded by asking why council had not responded to his request for pay information/ observations and was about to drop the mic when a chorus of council members insisted they had responded. In sum, council said both positions (administrator and treasurer) on both occasions (past and present) were “exempt.”
Kiawah resident Wendy Kulick took the stage to welcome Stephanie Tillerson (the newly hired town administrator). She also applauded council for the process used as they moved forward with plans for the new municipal complex, calling it the most open she had witnessed. [Kulick would later tell The Island Connection this was not a comment on or endorsement of the project itself. She concluded her public comments by asking if the town’s Emergency Operations Committee had functioned as planned following recent flooding on the island. Council member Weaver addressed the last item, saying it had not, but was being reviewed for improvements with representatives from all relevant agencies [on Kiawah]. Weaver continued saying the plan did not fit well with a flooding situation and the mayor never declared an emergency.
Lacking old business to cover, council sprinted for a discussion of newly hired treasurer, Dorota Szubert. Although she had no municipal experience and no CPA designation apparent on her resume, initially required by the town, she had been working as an accounting manager for Kiawah Partners Inc. (Kiawah’s main developer) for the last seven years. Szubert is a 1994 graduate of the Academy of Economics, in Poznan, Poland and received a masters degree from the University of New Haven, New Haven Connecticut.
Turtle patrol patriarch and legend Joe Pezzullo was recognized for his decades of work with the endangered species. This was no ordinary recognition, however. Pezzullo was awarded his very own day, Nov. 3 2015, as the second item of new business. “If only I had known sooner,” hooted Joe, although no offer of comp time was made.
Pezzullo, in a note to his zone captains the previous day and eschewing the limelight would say; “I want to thank each one of you for your support and effort these past 9 years that I have been the permit holder for the patrol. We know better than anyone the continuing effort necessary to keep the best patrol going. When you look back at the years our committee has been together, it is amazing how well we worked with one another without disagreements [or] animosity. Your willingness to do what was necessary for the success of the patrol made my job easier.
“Tomorrow, at the Town meeting, I will be publicly recognized. I want you to know and share with all the volunteers, that any accolades given to me, will be accepted on your behalf and the volunteers.”
Proceedings ground to crawl, however, with discussion of the new municipal complex as the last item of new business.
Council walked through a line by line breakdown of the needs for each staff/council person. The line items were a bit cumbersome, though the square footage comparison was easier to digest, since it was separated into just four areas.
Council chambers will be over four times its present size, work areas will be just less than double, the lobby will be only slightly larger than present and the garage will be over four times present size. The $9.622 million needed to complete the project was something of a savings over the $10 million mentioned in previous months and gave rise to a discussion of financing.
Debt service numbers had been worked up for each of several figures. For example, the debt service on a loan of $4 million would run approximately $654,178/year, according to information provided by the town. Additional examples were provided and the entire package is available from the town by written request. November made the fourth consecutive month, council mentioned selling the existing building to the Kiawah Island Community Association, although no mention has been made whether KICA has the funds to purchase the $2.5 million building.
Four months ago, James Bailey, COO of KICA, was in chambers, overheard the comment and seemed surprised by the suggestion. The ramifications of adding to KICA’s ledger, which could cost residents, garnered Bailey’s full attention. He corrected the record at the first opportunity, saying KICA might be interested in discussing the idea, but strongly conveyed KICA’s lack of firm commitment.
The town, however, had apparently resolved $800,000 in unanticipated costs on the part of the Municipal Center Committee. The surprise requirement to scrape the top 2 feet of dirt off the Betsy Kerrison property to remove any remaining fertilizer/chemicals in the soil, had been accounted for and an additional $400,000 trimmed. The motion to accept estimates, proceed to construction quality drawings, and begin to solicit interest from general contractors passed unanimously despite the reservations expressed in previous months by council members Weaver and Wilson.
Stephanie Tillerson gave her first official report as town administrator, despite only a week or so on the job. “I don’t really have anything to report but I did want to inform mayor and council that I’m going to put together the lengthy maintenance and [debris] removal Request for Proposal for the greenery. The contract is due to expire the first of next year …. I’m going to put that out later this month with it due in the second week of December… in an open format. I’m also working on a number of things … through council,” said Tillerson.
The mayor reported the driver of the truck that overturned in front of Cassique is liable for damages and said the company’s insurance company will be billed. He also reported calling for action on the roads, in light of recent flooding.
Following an Executive Session, council came back into open session with the results of the “docks located on Salthouse Lane” issue. The town has officially settled the suit and will not be paying the legal fees of the defendants.
The town’s attorney read three pages of details into the record, being careful to note any differences (e.g. there were two separate defendants). When he was finished, the motion to accept language in both settlement agreements was made, seconded and passed unanimously. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.