Highlights from the Town Council Meeting on March 28, 2017

Mayor Ron Ciancio began the meeting with a brief remembrance of former Mayor Terry Ahearn. He noted that Mr. Ahearn had served on town council for six years, two as Mayor Pro Tem and two as Mayor. Ciancio said that Ahearn had made a significant contribution to the governance of our community during his time on Seabrook Island and would be missed. Mayor Ciancio added that the Town’s flag will be flown at half-staff through the date of Mr. Ahearn’s funeral mass on April 8th.

Councilman John Gregg reported that the Public Safety Committee had considered and approved the draft plan that prioritizes the Town’s road clearing efforts following an emergency. The April 13th meeting of the Disaster Recovery Council (which includes representatives from the Town, SIPOA, the Seabrook Island Club, Bohicket Marina, Camp St. Christopher, and St. Johns Fire District) will be used to assess members’ progress on action items assigned at the February 23rd meeting. Regarding the Town’s request for FEMA public assistance to reimburse expenses resulting from Hurricane Matthew, Mr. Gregg reported that progress is being made and the “project worksheet” dialogue with FEMA is continuing.

Mr. Gregg announced that for the second consecutive year Disaster Awareness Day, sponsored jointly by the Towns of Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island, will be held at the Seabrook Island Club on June 15, 2017. In addition to informative presentations by local and regional Emergency Management officials, there will be displays by vendors of preparedness/response equipment and services. The day’s agenda will include “FREE LUNCH!!” and prize drawings during breaks in the program.

Councilman John Wells said that the Accommodations Tax (ATAX) Committee will review the Town’s contract with the Lou Hammond Group in May, a normal next step relating to Town use of ATAX funds to pay for the contracted work.

The Seabrook Island Road engineering project with Robert George Associates is moving ahead, and Mr. Wells reported on two recent meetings. First, Councilman Wells and Councilman Crane met with management of Bohicket Marina to discuss the Town’s plans for the Seabrook Island Road improvements and identify the complementary work the Marina will have to do on their access road. Secondly, the Mayor and the Town’s Attorney met to discuss easements the Town will need in order to gain access to adjacent property for performing the work. Representatives of the Town will meet shortly with OCRM to discuss the roadway drainage system’s flapper gates and identify which gates may be repaired vs. replaced.

Councilman Skip Crane reported on recent activities of the community groups he meets with, noting that the revised completion date for the Gatehouse is mid-May. He said that he, Mayor Ciancio, and Town Administrator Randy Pierce attended Charleston County’s meeting for municipal government leaders where County and FEMA representatives described the process that will be followed for review and eventual adoption of the recently revised FEMA Preliminary Flood Maps. Mr. Crane also attended the first of the County-FEMA Public Open Houses that afternoon to see how they are conducted. There, he learned from Charleston County representatives that they had received many (“repeat, many”) calls from Seabrook Islanders on the telephone number set up for Flood Map questions—a testament to the Town’s promotion of the Public Open Houses and the County phone number to call with questions. Mr. Crane concluded by saying that Mayor Ciancio had asked Charleston County leadership to hold an Open House on Seabrook Island to provide property owners with an opportunity ask questions about the preliminary flood maps and the approval process. [Note from Tidelines Editor: Following last week’s Open Houses, FEMA is allowing a 90-day period for public comment, appeal, and complaint, before they proceed to finalize the maps. FEMA currently anticipates that the Preliminary Flood Maps will be finalized late in 2018, at which time the maps will become the new basis for flood zone definitions and flood insurance calculations.]

Mayor Ciancio gave an update on status of the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act. As reported in minutes of the Town’s Ways & Means Committee meeting on March 21, Mayor Ciancio has been informed by the South Carolina Municipal Association that the two Business License bills currently under consideration have been referred back to the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee which the Municipal Association saw as a positive step. The Association is working with committee staff and others to remove the license fee exemptions currently provided in the legislation. The exemptions alone are an $80,000 issue for the Town.

The Town has been asked by the Johns Island Task Force and other constituencies to extend its support for renewal of the State Conservation Bank. Unless extended by a new regulation, the Conservation Bank will sunset in June, 2018. Mayor Ciancio noted that the Bank has helped several important conservation efforts in our area, including Angel Oak Preserve, Morris Island, Middleton Plantation, and ACE Basin. Council members indicated their support for renewal of the Conservation Bank’s authorization by unanimously approving a motion to adopt a Resolution supporting Senate Bill S 219, the South Carolina Conservation Bank Reauthorization Act. The Resolution authorized the Mayor to forward copies of the Resolution to Senator Campsen and other relevant government officials.

The Mayor reported highlights of a recent Town Council Strategic Planning Session that was facilitated by William Taylor of the South Carolina Municipal Association. The planning session resulted in the adoption of a number of short term goals by council, including: formation of a committee to identify ways to expand communications with residents following an emergency; establishment of an orientation process for newly elected Council members; and completion of the project for improving Seabrook Island Road between the traffic circle and the SIPOA Gatehouse.

Town Administrator Randy Pierce extended thanks to the Seabrook Island Club for its help in quickly removing a huge piece of shrimp boat debris from our beach near Camp St. Christopher.

Utilities Commissioner Tim Morawski reported that SIUC’s February plant and system operations were well within requirements. Regarding the software conversion problems experienced at the end of 2016, billing has nearly caught up to current time—bills issued on March 28th cover the period ending in mid-April, and one more billing cycle will bring all billing current. Financial reporting is still catching up, but the preliminary reports for January look good. SIUC’s 2016 losses of more than $100K are attributable to Hurricane Matthew and are included in the Town’s FEMA reimbursement request.

Town Council unanimously approved a Temporary Use Permit for Bohicket Marina’s 2017 Invitational Billfish Tournament, which will begin on May 9. The permit is “for the use of tents for food and beverage, vendors, banners, live music, and fishing.”

Official minutes of the meeting will be approved at the next Town Council meeting (April 25, 2017) and published on the Town’s web site shortly thereafter.

-Submitted by Tidelines Staff

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