By Alysha Duff, Island Eye News Staff Writer
The Sullivan’s Island Town Council meeting on Oct. 18, 2016 began at 6:01 p.m. with the pledge of allegiance.
Afterwards, Mark Howard lead an invocation in honor of those who passed away during Hurricane Matthew and giving thanks to those who assisted in rescue and relief efforts.
Fortunately for the town, Sullivan’s Island suffered minimal damage. Mayor O’Neil was incredibly grateful for the local assistance given to the island saying, “We have a magnificent town staff that took care of us during the hurricane. This was my first experience being involved in the hurricane, from planning to recovery and I could not be more reassured of our safety by the hands who were helping.”
Mayor O’Neil noted that a positive outcome of such a negative occurrence is that residents are now more aware and tuned-in to what is happening on the island, specifically via social media. “Before the storm happened, we had below 700 Twitter followers, and after the hurricane we broke 1,000. I am by no means saying we used the hurricane to increase Twitter followers, but I am pleased that now more people are alert as to what is going on in town.”
A $2,500 donation from the Charleston Running Club was presented to the Sullivan’s Island Fire & Rescue Department. The monies were proceeds from the 2016 Floppin’ Flounder, The Fire & Rescue Department has close ties with this race, as the department used to host the race prior to The Charleston Running Club taking over.
Frank Davis, Manager of Raftelis Consultants, Inc., also presented at the council meeting. A presentation that may not be as rewarding as that of The Charleston Running Club, yet certainly necessary, was the Rate Study & Recommendations for the Sullivan’s Island Water Rate Structure. Not only did it spark an interest in the council to consider how their current systems were affecting them financially, leading them to focus on the larger issue, which was how the town’s current water usage system would compare to the proposed system, affecting the island as a whole.
Some of the key takeaways from the presentation regarding a new water rate structure include:
• The current structure would not change, but would be applied differently to certain residents/businesses
• Single family customers would not see a change in water bill however, customers in multi-unit dwellings would see a relative change
• The new system would adjust billing so that different brackets of consumers are being charged differently; example: single family homes with additional guest houses are currently paying the same amount as single family homes alone—this would change
• The base rates for each type of consumer would vary depending on the size/number of structure(s) on the property. For example, restaurants would pay more
The proposal will be thoroughly considered by council before moving forward, as it “will have a significant impact on 176 units on the island,” according to Mayor O’Neil. If the new system is to be implemented, it will be in place by Jan. 2017.
Another new proposal for the town includes developing a prominent sidewalk on Middle Street. “People are using Middle Street as a sidewalk, people are walking a short distance between Home Team and Mex 1 where there are cars going down the street,” said Mayor O’Neil.
Theoretically, the mayor would like to have the town submit a grant proposal to develop sidewalk on Middle Street allowing pedestrians to have a safe stroll. Mark Howard chimed in, “It is a matter of safety and there is heavy pedestrian traffic along the restaurants on Middle Street.”
According to Town Staff, engineering for mapping out the potential sidewalk would be challenging. Many factors would have to be considered in order to develop a proposal, including obstacles such as telephone lines, sewage drains, private properties, etc.
While the sidewalk project begins to grow, a project that has finally reached the final stage is the new Town Hall. After several delays, the final move-in date was Oct. 31. “The move-in date is on Halloween and should be a treat, not a trick,” said Andy Benke. The town has been tricked into thinking the move-in date would be sooner on multiple occasions; however, this is the final date once and for all.
With the furniture scheduled to arrive on Oct. 26-28 and the phones transferring over on the 29, there should be no additional elements delaying the move-in process. This could be the best Halloween treat islanders receive.
Other key takeaways from the September meeting include:
• September meeting minutes were unanimously approved
• The FEMA application for the 100-year floodplain grant has been submitted
• October rainstorm FEMA grant application has been submitted
• There is a FEMA declaration for assistance for the damage done to the island by Hurricane Matthew
• The council has approved that the Battery Gadsden contract be adjusted to extend from 2 years to five
• Water & Sewer committee minutes from September were unanimously approved
• Bids for the Station 17 fence were accepted through Oct. 31.