By Emma Woodham for The Island Eye News
During the first meeting since Sullivan’s Island was affected by tropical storm force winds and storm surge, the Town Council had nothing but praise for all those who helped keep the town safe during the storm. Councilmember Chauncey Clark asked that being affected by Hurricane Maria be kept in everyone’s thoughts during the invocation.
Mayor O’Neil asked for any public comments, and citizen Emily Brazier, expressed her concern about the damage that Irma had inflicted on the beach. She asked Council if any considerations had been given to rebuilding groins, re-nourishing the beach, or studying the impacts along the coastline. The mayor assured her that the issues are being examined.
General Correspondence was discussed by Town Administrator Andy Benke, and he noted that a letter regarding drainage issues on Station 30 did not make the September agenda because it was received too late in the week. He also added that Dr. Nicole Elko, the Executive Director of the South Carolina Beach Advocates, has asked Mayor O’Neil to serve on the SCBA committee. The mayor plans to accept the offer.
At the close of turtle-nesting season, Mary Pringle sent the council her final newsletter, notifying them that there were a total of eight nests on Sullivan’s Island during the 2017 nesting season.
In the Administrative Department report, Benke stated that one structure on Station 30 was lost due to Irma and that significant damage was done to the dunes. During the storm, the ocean breached the dunes and covered many roads, including the causeway between the island and Mount Pleasant. Estimates put the storm surge on the island at around four feet on top of the six-foot tide. Irma caused over $900,000 dollars-worth of residential damage on the island, and Council hopes that FEMA funds will be released to help with the cleanup. Councilmember Mark Howard asked if the integrity of the boardwalks had been examined, and Benke reported that boardwalks had been inspected and were in good condition, except that some of them were still submerged.
Currently, the boardwalk at Station 29 does not have a usable path and does have significant beach erosion at the end.
The Council discussed theimpact all of the storm water had on the ditches and drainage, and Benke presented a list to the members of areas that should be given attention. Council agreed that estimates should be obtained on how much it would cost to clean out the ditches and drainage in these areas.
During the review of the Recreation Committee meeting, councilmember Sarah Church discussed some landscaping issues in Stith Park that are being addressed, particularly related to the dying shrubbery along the sidewalk. She also added that the resurfacing on the mound held up so well during the storm that the committee no longer feels it is necessary to proceed with the previously discussed drainage work on top of the mound.
Instead, Church suggested that the town work on the drainage at the bottom of the mound and also on the bamboo forest area around the mound, which suffered significant erosion during the storm. A motion was made to jet-vac the drains around the base of the mound and to fill the areas of erosion around the bamboo. Councilmember Rita Langley seconded, and the motion was unanimously approved.
Councilmember Bachman Smith reviewed Water and Sewer, discussing the recent updates on the new sewer plant project.
Engineers formulated a one hundred-year plan and a five hundred-year plan, at FEMA’s request. The one hundred-year plan project could be completed in approximately two years and would cost close to $10 million dollars, but the five hundred year plan would take over three years to complete. However, the five hundred-year plan would likely receive funding from FEMA.
Smith noted that the committee’s current thoughts are that the one hundred-year plan is the best course of action without any FEMA funding.
Councilmember Chauncey Clark applauded the actions of Police Chief Chris Griffin who recently assisted in saving the life of a motorist involved in an accident on I-526. Chief Griffin aided others in pulling the man from his burning car. He added that Uber drop-offs on the island are also a significant problem that the Public Safety committee is addressing because many vehicles are stopping in the middle of the road, often delaying traffic.
Mayor O’Neil moved that the council adjourn to Executive Session to discuss legal matters with the attorney, and the meeting was closed. The next Sullivan’s Island Town Council meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 17.