By Susan Hill Smith, Island Eye News Staff Writer
Isle of Palms has billed itself as a “perfect” place to experience the Great American Eclipse in August, and the city is already planning for a Front Beach celebration of the celestial event.
“This is an opportunity that I don’t think any of us will live to see again,” said Recreation Director Norma Jean Page as she addressed Isle of Palms City Council at its regular monthly meeting Jan. 24.
She envisions an event similar to the city’s Front Beach Fest in March and its Holiday Street Festival in December. While the eclipse street festival will not have carnival rides, she said, it will have Jump Castles and other children’s activities, along with live entertainment and “all the other things that we include in our other street festivals.”
“Understanding that all the hotels and rental properties are filling up, we need to show the folks how Isle of Palms parties,” she said, adding that her staff is already considering a commemorative T-shirt design. “We think this is a great opportunity to promote the beach and promote the eclipse.”
Council unanimously approved the Recreation Department to spend up to $15,000 from Accommodations Tax (ATAX) funds on the event, which is in line with the expenses of the city’s other street festivals.
However, that does not include overtime for city workers, including the added staffing for police officers at the event.
One unclear point is whether Isle of Palms’ official party will be held the day of the eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21, or the Sunday immediately beforehand, which might allow more locals to attend.
Isle of Palms officials wanted to take school plans into consideration and did not know at council’s meeting that Charleston County School District had just set the start date for its 2017-18 calendar as Aug. 22 in a conscious effort to avoid eclipse, which would otherwise take place around elementary school dismissal
Since kids will not yet be in school, it appears more likely that Isle of Palms will schedule its festivities on eclipse day.
The total eclipse will be the first since 1918 to cross the continental U.S. coast to coast, according to the Great American Eclipse page on the Isle of Palms city website, which shows the narrow slice of the country that will experience the event.
“The shadow will first touch Oregon at approximately 10:15 in the morning and South Carolina will be the final state in its path at approximately 2:36 in the afternoon,” the website says. Isle of Palms should be completely covered in the eclipse shadow around 2:46 p.m.
NEW MAYOR PRO TEM
Councilmember Patrick Harrington will serve as mayor pro-tem after a 5-3 vote in his favor. Councilmembers Jimmy Ward, Jimmy Carroll and Sandy Ferencz voted against the measure and instead for Carroll, who recently declared his campaign for mayor, to take on the role.
Harrington did not attend the meeting. “I’m not sure he knows what he’s getting into,” chuckled Mayor Dick Cronin after the vote.
ISLE OF PALMS MARINA FIXES
Council voted unanimously to repair the bulkhead at the Isle of Palms Marina, which will be done in tandem with an underground fuel tank replacement, starting no sooner than Oct. 1. Bulkhead repair costs, estimated up to $310,000, will be included in the fiscal year 2018 budget.
City Administrator Linda Tucker indicated that Tropical Storm Joaquin may have exacerbated problems with the bulkhead, which has suffered some underground seepage that has caused it to sink and sag, and is investigating whether insurance might cover some of the costs. These bulkhead repairs are not included in developing proposals to overhaul the marina.
Council also voted unanimously to reimburse Morgan Creek Grill up to $15,500 to redirect water runoff from under the restaurant, which could be contributing to problems with the bulkhead. The restaurant leases its location in the marina complex from the city.
Council approved spending $7,500 in ATAX money for more expensive beach trash barrels that will require less maintenance. In the past, the city purchased translucent white trash barrels, painted them a bright yellow and added a signature palm tree design.
Public Works Director Donnie Pitts explained that the barrels had to be routinely removed and repainted when the yellow color faded, but because the the new cans will arrive in a high-grade yellow plastic, they will not require any painting except for the design.
During the discussion, Pitts explained that the city lost up to 40 percent of its 175 beach access barrels during Hurricane Matthew, which prompted Councilmember Ted Kinghorn to suggest the city investigate ways to anchor the barrels so they aren’t swept out to sea but can still be picked up for trash collection.
Efforts to replace missing signs identifying beach access points are also underway and should be finished by the time beach crowds arrive in spring.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
A representative from the South Carolina Aquarium visited to commend the Isle of Palms leaders and community, including Island Turtle Team volunteers, for efforts to protect and promote marine life and the environment.
The comments included praise for the island’s ban on singleuse plastic bags, which faces an uncertain future due to potential state legislation that could block municipalities from imposing such restrictions on businesses. Mayor Cronin indicated that city had written state lawmakers involved in the discussion to voice the city’s concerns. “We want to be able to continue to protect the wildlife and the creatures that inhabit our community.”
Several events and activities at The Windjammer received city sponsored event status including its Feb. 18 Polar Plunge, volleyball tournaments on May 6 and July 8, and spring and summer youth volleyball leagues.