By Katy Calloway, Managing Editor for Island Eye News
The May 23, Isle Of Palms City Council meeting began with a public hearing on the FY 18 budget. City administrator Linda Lovvorn Tucker, went over the proposed budget, applauding the new process used this year that she hopes will continue in the future. Major highlights of the document include general fund increase from $6.3 million to $10.9 million. Capitol improvements that the city has been saving for are finally coming to fruition including $2.2 million for drainage infrastructure between 46 Ave. and 52 Ave. $1 million is allotted for building maintenance including a new roof at the Public Safety building.
$2.8 million is being re-budgeted towards the $15 million beach restoration project at the east end of the island.
Resident Elizabeth Campsen spoke about the Marina Redevelopment Project, a subject that was revisited numerous times throughout the meeting. Campsen expressed disappointment in the decision to leave the jet ski business in its current location. She would prefer to see a passive use of the dock.
She then spoke about the Tidal Wave dock, stating that nearly 20 separate enterprises work at that site. They were office sites in 1999, when the City bought the marina, and that the nature of the businesses has changed.
She recalls residents asking to use the dock for citizens of IOP and Goat Island, referring to Councilmember Rice’s expressed belief that “when it is full, it is full.” Campsen asked that the Town eliminate or reasonably limit non-resident launching from the dock.
“I believe that probably a good reason the site isn’t self-contained is due to the practice of unlimited non-resident launching,” stated Campsen, shedding light on the traffic and parking challenges.
Resident Phillip Smith then expressed disappointment in the marina improvement project, describing the Town’s unwillingness to honor an agreement he says it discussed that would leave the dock that adjoins his property as a passive dock reserved for kayakers and SUPs. He claims on the weekends as many as fourteen jetskis, two ski boats, and up to two parasail boats are launching within 50 feet of his property, during the weekend 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Smith stated his quality of life has diminished and his property is unsalable.
He hopes a referendum on the Marina in August, will address this issue. Smith estimates the income generated by the leased dock space, nets the city $22,000 per year. After offering to pay $22,000 per year to reclaim the dock and resolve the issue, he urged the City to write the referendum and protect the tidal dock. Mayor Cronin acknowledged Smith’s request by stating, “We hear you. I haven’t given up.”
Later in the meeting, Councilmember Jimmy Carroll proposed swift action on the Marina referendum and his willingness to sit on special council.
The Ways and Means report given by Mayor Cronin began with an update on the Marina Enhancement Project. Applied Technology and Management’s Kirby Marshall, presented a $4.8 million dollar plan that includes $1.9 million for “upland” improvements, parking and flow of boats, and $2.1 million for the “marina” side that will replace 30 year old docks, among other things. $800,000 has been allotted for engineering, permitting and contingency.
Overall income is up by three percent compared to last year. FEMA requests following Hurricane Matthew, received $69,000 in reimbursement funding and in May, received an additional $117,000 for beach repair, 75 percent of total cost.
Mayor Cronin proposed the city participate in a solar energy program that could save them $13,000 annually in a program only available to municipalities, churches, and schools.
Participating will allow the Clean Energy Collective/SCE&G Community Solar program to reference the City of IOP as a community solar supporter. Councilmember Ward made the motion to approve, which passed unanimously.
Councilmember Bettelli opened the Public Safety report stating, “Tourist season appears to have already started.” After the administrative news, he disclosed that Saturday, April 8, units responded to a noise violation at a residence and arrested 19 underage individuals for liquor violations.
Councilmember Ferencz reported that twice a week garbage collection starts June 5 and weekly recycling June 7.
Currently, IOP recyclables are being taken to Myrtle Beach for processing, because the facility on IOP has not been built yet.
She then expressed concern that Council may not be making prudent use of ATAX money whose strict regulations require it be spent on “heads in beds.” ATAX money is currently being used with special permission to pay off the marina improvements.
Ferencz emphasized that the marina’s intended use is for residents and not as a tourist attraction. Towards the meeting’s conclusion, council voted on FY 2018 IOP Budget.
Councilmember Ted Kinghorn opposed the budget because he felt it lacked innovation and systems reform, and missed opportunities for non-property tax income. He expressed a fear that the City is setting itself up for future property tax increases. The budget passed by a narrow margin, 5-4.