By Alysha Duff, Island Eye News Staff Writer
The Sullivan’s Island Town Council meeting on Sept. 20, 2016 began with an unusually solemn ambience as Councilmember Mark Howard led a moment of silence followed by words of remembrance for island native Mary Grace Grisillo. Grisillo was a resident on Sullivan’s Island for 94 years and a lifelong member of Stella Maris Catholic Church. The council reflected on the great impact Grisillo had on the island during her lifetime, commenting that her memory will truly be cherished.
Council then shifted gears to discuss an update regarding the town’s longtime-pending grant proposal to Federal Emergency Management Agency for the 100-year floodplain. Back in 2014, Sullivan’s Island partnered with HDR to capitalize on the ability to receive federal funding for upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment facility, courtesy of the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
The funding would upgrade the facility for protection against seismic and flood events on the island, such as the ice storm that devastated the area in 2014. After waiting two years for approval, the town’s application was deemed inapplicable.
Earlier that day, Mayor Patrick O’Neil, councilmembers Susan Middaugh and Chauncey Clark, along with Town Administrator Andy Benke gathered with FEMA Region 4 officials and South Carolina Emergency Management Division officials to review the 44CFR regulations and application requirements. The officials ultimately denied the application, stating that the proposed facility design must be for a 500-year floodplain instead.
Moving forward, Town Council unanimously agreed to revise and adjust the application, through two phases, to meet the 500-year event qualifications and be considered as a recipient. Phasing out the application will ensure that all expenses for design and construction will be included.
Phase One will consist of engineering professionals reworking the preliminary design, which will be an estimated cost of $22,000. If the design is approved, Phase Two will commence, requiring a “feasibility study” (an approximate four month process) and the finalization of construction drawings and expenses. The council is hoping that in this instance, the second time’s a charm, and a timely one too.
Following the unpropitious outcome of the Hazard Mitigation Grant application was some positive news from Larry Finney and Emily Sobczak of Greene, Finney and Horton—an accounting and tax consultation firm—who presented the FY2016 Financial Audit.
The two informed the council that the town received an “unmodified audit opinion,” for 2016—the best opinion to be received. The town received this rating based on its effective internal controls, financial statements and efficient preparation and management of the budget.
Other key takeaways from the presentation include:
• Total fund balance decreased by $2.6 million to $7.9 million, offset by new Town Hall construction
• Assigned fund balance of $20,000 for William Bradley Memorial
• Unassigned fund balance of $3.2 million, which covers 66% of 2017 budgeted expenditures
• $5.2 million general fund revenue during 2016 – 16% increase from 2015, 16% better than budget
• The Water Fund had an increase in net position from current year operations
• The Sewer Fund had a decrease in net position from current year operations
• Total capital assets amount to nearly $14 million
A man dressed in uniform politely observed his first council meeting until called to recognition by Mayor O’Neil. If you have noticed an new face on the island, it is Officer Gary Erickson. Sullivan’s Island welcomed Offer Erickson from the Isle of Palms, where he provided 25 years of service. Officer Erickson brings a total of 33 years of experience and received the oath of office on Tuesday, Sept. 20 by Mayor O’Neil. His addition to the team completes the island’s police force.
The changes to the police department do not end with a new police officer—the state of South Carolina has approved funding for new police equipment, therefore research and testing for body cameras will begin in the near future.
As for the update on the biggest change (and upgrade) of all, the new town hall building is quickly approaching completion. While 98 percent of the building is complete, remaining items include: carpeting, interior and exterior painting, telephone, IT and security system installations, furniture, signage, landscaping, parking lot, and shutter and gutter installations.
Though it may seem as though there much work left to be done, the majority of the building is nearly finished and council is aiming to wheel away the temporary trailer and christen its new home on Oct. 17.
Additional key takeaways from the meeting include:
• August minutes were motioned for approval and unanimously approved
• The restored Station 26 boat landing is reopen for public use (small watercraft only)
• Council is in discussion over the lease contract with Battery Gadsden—the contract may be extended from two to five years
• Bid proposals are being accepted for the fencing and landscaping of the water plant facility at Station 17 and Middle Streets
• The next council meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016