By Susan Hill Smith, Island Eye News Staff Writer
Isle of Palms City Council approved spending up to $489,000 on 14 items with one vote Aug. 23, though three members joined in opposition after failed attempts to separately consider the expense of fire department walkie talkies, murals for the Front Beach restroom building and architectural plans to expand the recreation center with a better fitness/cardio room.
Mayor Dick Cronin read through each item at the council’s monthly meeting, offering some explanations, but there was otherwise little conversation before they came up for a collective vote.
Councilmember Jimmy Carroll unsuccessfully tried to separate out funding measures for the public restroom murals and fitness/ cardio room plans with a failed amendment, while Councilmember Jimmy Ward’s attempt to also pull out the walkie talkie contract—the costliest item with a potential price $200,000 tag—went nowhere, too. In the end, the motion for fund all 14 items passed 6-3 with Councilmember Sandy Ferencz joining Carroll and Ward in voting against it.
After the vote, Carroll expressed concerns about paying up to $10,000 for Gretta Kreusi to paint three murals on the exterior walls of the Public Restroom at Front Beach as the city searches for a way to make extensive upgrades to the facility. Carroll likened painting a building that he said needs to come down to “putting a Bandaid on a broken knee.”
Mayor Pro-tem Barbara Bergwerf pointed out that all the measures were discussed earlier in August during the Ways and Means Committee meeting, which all members of council reportedly attended.
At that time, City Administrator Linda Tucker had suggested the mural as a substitute for plans to place a sculpture at the end of 10th Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, saying that the city was fortunate to have a muralist Gretta Kreusi living on the island and that her work could help “beautify the eyesore at Front Beach,” referring to the bathrooms.
Kreusi had presented the committee with plans for three of the restroom building’s walls including a nostalgic postcard-like image with “Greetings from the Isle of Palms, South Carolina” on the front.
Kreusi, who said she has done murals around the world, offered to paint the mural for $6,750, which she said was far below her normal pricing, because this is her hometown. When Tucker checked the area for pricing, she found costs estimated at $18,000 to $20,000.
At council’s Aug. 23 meeting, Carroll also questioned whether the current fitness/cardio room is being used enough to merit expansion and the potential costs down the line but others countered that current facilities don’t meet residents’ expectations.
The council’s vote allows the city to award a contract of $7,500 from the Recreation Building Fund to an architect to develop a plan to expand the Isle of Palms Recreation Center for an improved fitness/ cardio room. Councilmember Carol Rice said the move is to “look at what we could do” and “have some vision” while pointing out that yoga classes grew in popularity after the new Isle of Palms Recreation Center was built with a separate room designed for fitness classes.
Other measures approved for funding with the vote include:
• $125,750 to for a change in scope of work Coastal Science and Engineering because of the need to find new borrow sites for beach restoration efforts after two promising sites for sand dredging have been revealed to be in a historical area of Civil-War era shipwrecks.
• $19,171 for 19 Apple iPad Pro tablets for the council, department managers and administrative staff, which should eliminate significant paper use.
• $18,314 for body cameras for police officers, which will be offset by a $9,600 state public safety grant.
• $26,467 for a police sedan, $31,375 for a 4×4 Ford F150 Super Crew Cab truck, $27,341 for for an unmarked SUV and $431 for an over-expenditure for a new rescue truck.
• $6,000 for two solar-powered radar speed signs.
• Up to $14,000 for Microsoft 365 licensing software, email hosting and archiving.
• Up to $3,500 for Civil Site Environmental to review documents related to drainage revisions between Palm Boulevard and Palmetto Drive.
• $1,000 to promote surfing on the island as a healthy, family oriented activity on the Carolina Coast Surf Club cam.