By Gregg Bragg, Island Eye News Staff Writer
The pledge was recited and prayers were offered to open the Sept. 25 meeting of the Town of Sullivan’s Island Town Council (TOSI). Credit/blame goes to Hurricane Florence for a week’s delay holding this month’s gathering, normally scheduled for the third Tuesday each month. The meeting was well attended, despite the forced reschedule and a lengthy agenda. Reasons for the abundant participation were quickly apparent.
Citizen’s comments led the way, and single use plastics topped the list of concerns. Mayor O’Neil sent a letter to constituents late last summer saying it was time for TOSI to do something about the very complex issue. Councilmember Rita Langley and the rest of TOSI defined the “something,” and had a plastic banning ordinance on the agenda for its first of three readings. Despite TOSI’s celebrated intent to join a growing list of coastal communities to ban single use plastics, residents weren’t taking any chances.
Island resident Sherry Coish has been living on the island for 40 years. The avid walker says she picks up all the plastic trash/bags she would ever want (for home use/recycling) while touring the island. Her observation made the reason for supporting ordinance 2018-06 crystal clear.
Allison Bourland showed up with the consummate 8″x10″ color glossy pictures with circles and arrows…” of plastic trash littering Sullivan’s Island. She didn’t bring enough for everybody, so the stack had to be passed amongst the crowd. Faces twitched and noses wrinkled in witness to the mess, as each attendee took a turn with the photographs. Bourland didn’t need to say much else. However, it seemed like nothing could stop the next presentation.
Izzy Leitch is a young woman with uncanny public speaking skills. Accompanied but unassisted by her parents, Leitch towered at the podium. She cited facts harvested from National Geographic, the American Chemistry Council, and others to make the point; it isn’t just litter her generation is worrying about so much as the animals poisoned by plastic waste.
“Single use plastic has a [useful] life span of 12 seconds,” she said, emphasizing the centuries it takes that waste to degrade.
Council chambers were also well stocked with friends, family, and future co-workers of Robert Tennant and Carlos Hernandez. Both were sworn in as the newest members of the island’s 11-member police force. Newly minted police Chief Christopher Griffin (sworn in on January 18, 2018) held the bible while Mayor Pat O’Neil administered the oath of office. A break for executive session thinned the crowd. Ordinance 2018-05 unanimously passed a second reading (Reese recusal), when council reconvened.
The measure grants Ward V.B. Lassoe a temporary access easement over a portion of town property to build a dock. The agreement results from legal action between the two parties and stipulates Lassoe must comply with all state regulations.
Ordinance 2018-06 is the “Plastics Ban.” The act passed its first reading unanimously and “…is adopted to improve the environment of the Town of Sullivan’s Island by requiring the use of reusable checkout bags and recyclable paper carryout bags and food containers, banning the use of single-use plastic bags for retail checkout of purchased goods, use of polystyrene food containers, Polystyrene cups and plastic straws. Further, to improve and maintain the pristine beach and ocean Environment of the Town of Sullivan’s Island, single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, polystyrene coolers, and polystyrene food containers and cups will be prohibited…” according to meeting materials. TOSI’s exercise in leadership could put pressure on Charleston, Kiawah, Seabrook, and Edisto to consider similar ordinances.
A first “title only” reading of Ordinance 2018-07 passed unanimously. The measure clarifies “non-conforming use of historic accessory dwelling units.” Although the measure includes a grandfather clause, any future changes in height, setback, yard, area and other requirements can be done only at the risk of losing their “historic significance,” designation. The legislation is still a work in progress.
Council voted unanimously to base utility fees on Residential Equivalent Units (6,200 gallons) instead of meter size. The measure effectively raises utility rates, if slightly, but enables TOSI to keep up with the cost of providing residents with water and sewer services.
Applied Building Services won a $34,500 contract to rehabilitate the Town’s fire station with unanimous support. Just as council was about to approve a separate $6 million contract with Arcadis Design and Consultancy, a hand shot up. Given the large amount of the expense, resident Bing Coish asked council to elaborate.
Greg Gress, manager of the Water and Sewer Department was ready with an answer.
He said this was the second phase of in-flight improvements to the Town’s water, sewer and drainage system, which could yield a 60- 70% improvement in efficiency. The effort will take approximately 9 months to complete, he concluded. The expense was approved unanimously.
Mayor O’Neil opened his remarks by thanking Gress, along with all the Town’s departments for a job well done in preparing for Hurricane Florence (later echoed by council member Clark).
“It didn’t hit us, but we were ready,” he said. The mayor concluded by reminding attendees October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. “A friend and co-worker, one of the fittest people I know, was [recently] diagnosed,” he said, before the town administrator’s report.
Andy Benke reported on several items (discussed above), along with several additional announcements.
- Although meeting materials indicated there had been no correspondence with the Town, the rescheduled meeting was enough time for TOSI to receive 17 pieces of mail, said Benke without elaborating.
- Old Bridge Assessment – Chris Iser and Tara Allden of Kimley Horn have rescheduled their presentation on the structural assessment and rehabilitation findings for the Town. The new date could come as early as Oct. 16, but may be delayed until November.
- CWS management and engineers will give a brief presentation during TOSI October workshop on initial plans for a water main through Middle St.
- State Senator Sandy Senn has been asked to chair a new ad hoc taskforce to address countywide flood prevention. The first meeting is scheduled for Oct. 15.
Committee reports were a patchwork of announcements, which included news the Town’s auditors would be in town in November. Meeting materials include granular detail of the town’s finances and can be reviewed by visitingsullivansisland-sc.com.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Sullivan’s Island Town Council is scheduled for Oct. 16 at 6 p.m.