Highlights from the Town Council Meeting on October 24, 2017

Mayor Ron Ciancio began the meeting with approval of the minutes of recent meetings and a review of the Town’s financial statements for the month of September

Councilman John Gregg reported that the Disaster Recovery Council (DRC) met on September 27th for an after-action review and discussion about the Seabrook Island community’s response to Hurricane Irma.  Then, on October 16, the Public Safety Committee considered the revisions proposed for the Town’s Comprehensive Emergency Plan that had resulted from the after-action review.  The DRC will meet again before year-end to plan for a January 2018 hurricane-based exercise.  The Public Safety Committee heard reports from The Club’s Strategic Planning Committee about its intent to establish a focus group on Club Dining and from SIPOA’s Planning Committee about an upcoming Sea Level Rise Impact Study, which will extend work of the 2016 High Tide Impact Study to evaluate what might be done to mitigate effects of storm surge, higher than normal tides, and higher annual rainfall.

The Town is renewing its Municipal Site Plan agreement with the air ambulance service, AirMedCare, for calendar 2018 at a price of $9,269.  The terms and price are the same as the 2017 agreement, which ends on December 31.  Mr. Gregg noted that, while AirMedCare had not been called upon to render services on Seabrook Island in 2017, they did respond to a number of calls on Kiawah and Johns Islands.  58 Seabrook Island households are currently members of this service at a price of $35/year for the entire household.

Councilman Jody Turner reported progress on the initiative to address concerns about the danger posed to beach walkers and cyclists from fishing poles left unattended on the beach.  He published a letter on Tidelines asking for comments about a potential Town Ordinance that would require anglers to be within 30 feet of their fishing poles and placement of poles relative to the “high-reach” water line. (See https://tidelinesblog.com/2017/10/09/proposed-new-rules-on-shore-fishing for more information.) Since he received no comments in opposition to the idea, he has asked the Town’s lawyer to draft an Ordinance stating these requirements and recommended that the draft Ordinance be put up for Council review when it is available.

Mr. Turner also reported limited progress on his effort to reach the author of the letter received some months ago from NOAA Fisheries regarding people on Seabrook Island harassing the strand feeding dolphins.  (That letter included a recommendation for Seabrook Island to implement a “Dolphin Conservation Education Program” that would involve trained Seabrooker “educators” interacting with beach goers between Memorial Day and Labor Day during prime strand feeding times to explain the importance of maintaining distance from the dolphins.)   From feedback received at his talk on the subject at SIPOA’s Get the Scoop meeting on October 16 and from participating in SIPOA’s Environmental Committee, Mr. Turner has learned that a number of residents are interested in taking on this educational responsibility.  He recommends that monitoring the stranding area for interference with dolphin activity be defined as an official responsibility of the Beach Patrol, which is in full operation during the May-September time of greatest concern.  Councilman Turner reminded the group that interference with strand feeding is a topic of Federal law, specifically the Marine Management Protection Act, so the Town’s representatives can issue warnings but cannot go further.  Mr. Turner recommended that Mayor Ciancio write a letter to NOAA that explains the responsibility of our Beach Patrol to monitor and address situations of pedestrian interference with dolphin strand feeding.

Councilman John Wells said that preparation of specifications for an RFP to address storm water drainage along Seabrook Island Road between the gate and the traffic circle is nearly complete.  Contractor selection should occur in December, and work should begin in January.  The paperwork required for the Town’s application to OCRM for a permit to repair four flapper gates in the same area has been completed, but we should expect a 3-4 month turnaround time for a response.

Council approved a $6,630 proposal from the Town’s landscaping company for development of a plan for grading Seabrook Island Road’s existing roadside between gate and traffic circle to improve the drainage and minimize, to the extent possible, ponding on either side of the road.

Mr. Wells noted that the FY18 budget includes no funding for advertising or public relations.

Councilman Skip Crane briefly reported on highlights of the October 16 SIPOA Board meeting and Get the Scoop session, noting Councilman Turner’s presentation about the beach (fishing and dolphin strand feeding) and Director Guy Gimson’s presentation on Seabrook Island’s extensive storm water drainage infrastructure and issues that SIPOA and The Club are currently working to resolve.

Utility Commissioner Jim Bannwart reported that SIUC’s operations are normal, returning to pre-Irma conditions, and they are within permit limits on treatment.  Finances for the month of September were in the red due to the expense of equipment rentals required to deal with effects of Hurricane Irma and also to reduced water usage during  past several months as of result of heavy rainfalls.  SIUC’s FY18 budget includes two additional backup generators for the pumping stations, bringing the number of generators to four.  Mr. Bannwart also reported that the Commission has begun to evaluate ways that customers could pay their bills online; there will be more news on that when information is available.

There were two ordinances for second reading.  In introducing Ordinance 2017-03, An Ordinance to Adopt the Town’s 2018 Budget, Mayor Ciancio noted that Council took a conservative approach to income, and then he briefly described some elements of the expense side:  wages and benefits allow for a new part-time employee; hours were increased for the Beach Patrol; and there is a one-time expense to paint interior and exterior of Town Hall, refurbish the conference room furniture, and increase the Reserve Fund to purchase a new Town vehicle.  The only change in the budget from that introduced with the first reading of the Ordinance was a reduction of $30,000 in the amount allocated in the budget for beach patrol.  The mayor stated that the difference between the amount allocated in the budget and the cost of the beach patrol would be paid for from State Accommodation Tax Funds, which the County had been holding in error, and recently remitted to the Town.  The mayor noted that Town staff had worked diligently to convince the County that ATAX funds it had received two years ago should rightfully have been sent to the Town.  The Mayor said that the noted change would result in a corresponding reduction in the total expense line and an increase in the net income line of the budget.  The Budget Ordinance was passed unanimously.

Ordinance 2017-04, An Ordinance to Rezone 2944 Cap’n Sams Road, 2606 Seabrook Island Road, and 2445 Seabrook Island Road also passed unanimously following its second reading.

Mayor Ciancio introduced Resolution 2017-05, Authorizing the Execution of Intergovernmental Agreement.  The terms of the proposed   agreement with the Charleston County Public Works Department states that the County will provide the Town with both “Basic” and “Special” public works services.  The first $5,000 of basic services (e.g., filling of potholes) is to be provided by the county at no cost; the cost of any required additional “Basic Services” and any “Special Services” would be agreed upon by the Town and the County on a case by case basis.  The motion to adopt the resolution passed unanimously.

Mayor Ciancio closed the meeting with an expression of gratitude to Councilman Jody Turner, who is not running for re-election, for four years of service and his significant contributions to Town Council.

Official minutes of this meeting will be approved at the next Town Council meeting (November 28, 2017) and published shortly thereafter on the Town’s website.

-Submitted by Tidelines Staff

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