By Mimi Wood, Island Eye News Staff Writer
A new Holiday Tree for Front Beach; “Scripted” fireworks, the likes of which the island has never seen; and a 5K Turtle Trot were all highlights of the Isle of Palms City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 26. Standing committee reports were presented after the usual formalities.
From Ways and Means, Mayor Dick Cronin announced that with just one quarter of FY16 left to go, both revenues and expenditures are right on track. Revenues are actually slightly ahead of budget, thanks primarily to tourism funds, expected to be over $4 million by the end of the fiscal year. Parking fees on Front Beach rose from $1/hr to $1.50/hr, also contributing to the increased revenues.
Refinancing the principal balance on Fire Station II with a new interest rate of 1.88%, will save the city over $200,000 in interest on the outstanding note.
The First Reading of the FY17 Budget was entered into the record. The budget does not anticipate any increases in either taxes or fees for residents.
A motion to apply for a grant for an emergency generator for The Rec, as part of a FEMA requirement, passed. Other motions that passed were the expenditure of budgeted funds for a new Holiday Tree for Front Street; at 10 years old, the former tree is looking quite short of festive. Funding for aforementioned 4th of July fireworks passed; less thrilling than fireworks, but necessary none-the-less, was the approval of an award to an actuarial firm, to evaluate the city employees health retirement plan.
An out-of-budget expenditure for an ice machine for the public works employees, to replace a broken ice machine, sailed through unanimously, as did the expenditure of $4,500 to ATM, a marina development firm with whom the city has been working, to generate a third, “Scenario C”, plan for the redevelopment of the Marina. This plan does not include a dry stack, and does involve moving the existing boat ramp. What didn’t pass was a request from the IOP Community Corporation, aka The Exchange Club, for a grant in the amount of $200,000 for an Intracoastal Waterway amenity, adjacent to its building at 201 Palm Boulevard. While we “hope to participate in some meaningful way,” stated Mayor Cronin, “we cannot take funds from citizens and donate them to charities.”
Discussion among councilmembers ensued, regarding the need for an alternative to the Marina for Intracoastal access. Ted Kinghorn observed that The Exchange Club has existing infrastructure for a launch of non-motorized vehicles, and parking; urging council to, minimally, enter into discussions with The Exchange Club, to explore the possibility of how all the citizens of IOP might benefit from such an amenity. As The Exchange Club is in very preliminary stages of this endeavor, the Council left this issue open-ended, for future discussion.
Cronin reported, with hopeful optimism, that Charleston County appears to be on the brink of shouldering the entire expense for new bathroom facilities on Front Beach.
Despite that “reasonable expectation,” Cronin cautioned that “we may need to re-address the funding if Charleston County doesn’t come through.”
Cronin noted that there is no resolution in the inevitable increase in Storm Water Management fees the County is proposing, from $36/year, to double, $72/year. He stated that IOP is on the record with the County in stating its displeasure with the increase, and would like a storm water management plan unique to the island. A self-managed plan, possibly in conjunction with Mt. Pleasant, is not out of the question.
The Public Safety Committee, chaired by Marty Bettelli, reported 14 coyote sightings since the last council meeting, on March 22.
Bettilli addressed an unconfirmed report of a coyote seen with a leg trap attached; he noted that while the city has traps set, they are not leg traps. To date the city has caught zero coyotes. Bettelli proudly reported that IOP is the first, and to date only, beach community that has real-time monitoring of the beach “access road,” the Connector. Props went out to Police Chief Thomas Buckhannon and City Administrator Linda Tucker for their persistence with the SC DOT to get the Connector camera up and running. To use: from the App Store on a smartphone, search “SC DOT 511,” and download. Once on the Main Menu, choose “Cameras,” then “Charleston Beaches.” Camera 100, Hwy 517/703 (Isle of Palms Connector) is the only one currently listed. Sullivan’s Island is in the process of getting one set up on the Ben Sawyer Bridge.
Confirmed by Chief Buckhannon, Bettelli reiterated requirements for Residential Parking Stickers, with particular mention of golf carts. To operate legally on island roads, golf carts must be registered with the SC DOT, just like a car. And, just like a car, this requires proof of insurance. Finally, just like a car, one must possess a legitimate driver’s license to operate a golf cart; the legal age for a driver’s license in SC in 16. The registration and proof of insurance should be on the golf cart at all times, along with a legal driver, when putting around the island.
March saw an unexpected $17,000 expense for a fire engine repair, attributed to water damage from the aftermath of October’s flooding event. Bettelli elaborated that the newer engines, with additional/improved environmental controls, are more prone to maintenance than their predecessors. In concluding his committee’s report, Bettilli stated that IOP will have an EMS and Quick Response Vehicle (QRV) available on the island 24/7 this summer, one of the benefits of living in Charleston County.
The exciting announcement of a Twilight 5K Turtle Trot was Jimmy Ward’s to tell, in his report from the Public Safety Committee.
Ultimately, a motion was made, and passed unanimously, authorizing the event for September 10, to benefit the SC Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Recovery Hospital, also opening in September. IOP is providing the venue for the Aquarium sponsored beach run, with limited support from IOP public services. The tides have been checked, as has the time of sunset, with no resulting conflicts.
Ward also reported on the progress of a golf cart path on the west side of Palm Blvd, between 20th Ave and the Island Center. At this point, the SC DOT seems to have all the information they need to proceed, and the path is in the FY17 Budget. The Carmen R. Bunch Park will open on Saturday, May 14 at 10 a.m. with a small ceremony, unveiling a sign dedicated to Mayor Bunch.
Preliminary costs for underground utilities on Palm Boulevard from Breach Inlet to 11th Ave are approximately $12 million; and from 11th Ave to 21st Ave, $6 million; Ward indicated this is a project that the Public Safety Committee will continue to explore.
Separately, and in conclusion, Ward noted that the Ben Sawyer is soon to be repaved, and IOP is trying to ‘piggyback’ on that project, to have the section of Palm Blvd between 3rd and 7th Avenues repaved, another casualty of last fall’s flooding.
Always full of fun, Jimmy Carroll reported from the Recreation Committee that the third in a series of historical presentations will be held at The Rec on Tuesday, May 10.
Firsthand accounts of Hurricane Hugo will be told by longtime island residents, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Both the Front Beach Fest and the Easter Egg Hunt were “egg-cellent,” despite the weather on the day of the latter.
Summer camp is full, with the first nonisland registrant appearing at The Rec at 3 a.m. the morning of registration, sleeping bag in tow; there was a significant line by 6 a.m.
Patrick Harrington presented a concise synopsis of the Personnel Committee meeting; FY17 budgets were reviewed, and a 3% pay raise was approved for city employees: 1% for cost of living (COLA), and 2% merit. The addition of four new positions was discussed, but no decision was made on the need for additional personnel in payroll, human resources, the police department and a grounds coordinator. The City Treasurer’s job was made full-time. The committee discussed ways that the government could run more efficiently, particularly decreasing the amount of meetings, and managers’ required attendance at said meetings. In closing, Harrington floated the idea of an ad hoc committee of property owners who are not residents, which might serve as an avenue for a different perspectives and new ideas regarding the management of the city.
Last but certainly not least with her Real Property Committee report, Barb Bergwerf reported that not much progress has been made with regard to the $1.5 million FEMA project involving beach repair from that pesky October flooding. FEMA has, however, remitted $11,250, its portion towards the repair of the beach path at 49th Avenue. This project will begin once the city obtains the necessary permit from the office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, OCRM. The Marina redevelopment project was discussed, more so, however, at a roundtable meeting held April 28.The city has gotten a permit for the 47th Avenue beach access path, including a dedicated parking space for those with physical disabilities. Councilwoman Carol Rice expressed concern regarding the sand shifting behind the bulkhead at the marina; consequently made a motion, which passed, to engage the services of an engineer to learn the cost of assessing the bulkhead.
Mayor Dick Cronin acknowledged receipt of a petition from a number of residents to reduce the number of newly installed signs directing beach parking; that situation will be addressed in an ‘after-action’ evaluation, in the fall.
Prior to the meeting’s conclusion, City Administrator Tucker read a Proclamation for Safe Boating Week, emphasizing the importance of the use of life jackets.
Councilman Ted Kinghorn made a motion, which failed to pass, to hold one council meeting annually at Wild Dunes, in a gesture of island unification, and to give those residents living outside the gates of Wild Dunes a glimpse of life on the northern tip of the island. Daylight had not completely receded as the council disbursed, a harbinger of the rapidly-approaching long days of summer.