By Gregg Bragg, Island Eye News Staff Writer
The gavel fell at the very tick of 6 p.m. for the Oct. 23, Isle of Palms City Council meeting. Council chambers were only half full of attendees in contrast to last month’s storm of participation. Mayor Jimmy Carroll welcomed everyone and quickly dispatched parliamentary obligations. There were no comments from the gallery/ residents, so Council got straight to work.
Chris Bullock was sworn in as the newest member of the IOP Fire Department. Bullock comes to IOP by way of the St. Johns Fire District on Johns Island. He told the Mayor he sees IOP as the place he wants to retire to and consequently, his welcome to the family was all the warmer.
Councilmember Randy Bell opened with a recap of the Ways and Means Committee meeting held earlier in October. IOP is currently in the first quarter of FY19 with a 25% target of annual revenues. Although the City is at 23% of budget, it duplicates the same period last year, and revenues will be buoyed as residents respond to property tax bills sent at month’s open.
The advantage of having all councilmembers also serve on the Ways and Means Committee is quick approval of items on IOPCC’s agenda. However, decisions made outside public view fly in the face of IOP’s pledge of transparency.
Protracted debate of five action items revealed the decision making process, which produced unanimous approvals of;
- A survey and appraisal of 1100 Palm Blvd., at the owner’s expense, that will allow the conveyance of a 550-foot tract adjacent to the property, and grant clear title to the current owner.
- A contract with South East Sports & Play to replace the floor at the City’s recreation center with a cushy wood-like/waterproof surface. Although the contract is for $62,000, the City’s expense is offset by a SC Parks and Recreation Development Fund grant of $13,000.
- A 3-year contract to NOVAtime for bio-metric time and attendance software and hardware valued at $28,000.
- $51,000 for additional surveys of in-flight utility work on Phase II of the City’s drainage project.
- Approval of $70,000 resulting from a change order after depth adjustments to drainage along Palm Blvd. to Wild Dunes, and to the lines on 46th, 49th, 51st and 52nd Aves. associated with Phase II.
Councilmember Susan Hill Smith gave a lengthy report of the Public Safety Committee’s activities. The committee discussed IOP being listed in the credits of the National Geographic movie filmed after the committee meeting, additional parking for the handicapped at the beach, the purchase of additional beach wheelchairs, an increase in beach parking activity, golf carts on the beach, a reduction in beach parking revenues, downed power lines and coyotes, reported Smith. However, it was Smith’s report on the city’s dog ordinance, which garnered the most attention.
Ordinance 2018-16 was on the agenda for a vote of Council later in the meeting. The measure requires all dogs to have a written permit from the City and tag (at a cost of $5 for residents and $10 for non-residents) to serve as proof of rabies inoculation. Sounds simple enough, but enforcement using different colored collars and etc. managed to confuse most of Council last month, and October was no different.
No sooner had Smith finished her report than councilmember Jimmy Ward moved to skip ahead in the agenda and vote on the measure while it was fresh in everyone’s mind. The motion was accepted, the vote was taken, and the measure failed to pass by what looked like a unanimous vote.
Councilmember Carol Rice began with a recap of the Public Works Committee meeting. Garbage collections and debris removal were flat in October as a result of the shut-down for Florence. The hurricane still had the department quite busy however, trash cans and recycle bins were removed from the beach in advance of the storm and returned when the threat abated, she said. Rice added drainage mitigation measures are expected to be complete in mid-December, despite their unpredictability and complexity.
Highlighting the point, Rice said drainage issues in the area around 267 Forest Trail revealed no tie-in to existing systems, and might require professional assessment.
She concluded her report by saying the committee was working on an education program on the importance of open ditches, and securing portable bathrooms during storms. Rice also took Council’s temperature for strengthening IOP’s ban on plastic to be consistent with stronger versions recently passed in Mount Pleasant and on Sullivan’s Island.
Councilmember Ryan Buckhannon said the Recreation Committee had 70 employees participate in the City’s Wellness Fair, about 800 participants in the IOP Run/Walk for The Child, and successful execution of the Ghostly Tide Tales at the beach. IOP is looking forward to holding its 7th Annual Holiday Street Festival scheduled for Dec. 1 from 2-7 p.m., Buckhannon said. Items for future consideration include; surfing lessons being offered through the City, better WiFi at the recreation center, and the idea of resurfacing two of the city’s tennis courts since the bid to replace them came in higher than expected.
Councilmember Sandy Ferencz gushed praise for the employee appreciation event held earlier in October. The extravaganza was well run, the food was great and though it took a while for people to adjust to a party on city property, everyone loosened up and had a great time, she said.
Ferencz said delays in getting information on candidates for City Administrator, Chief of Police, and Public Works Assistant had been rectified by recruiting firm The Mercer Group, and that the pace of hiring would pick up in the near term.
Ferencz said the committee had approved updates to the city’s 52 page employee handbook highlighted by a zero tolerance policy for harassment, bullying, and violence statement added, among other items. There was no discussion after the move to approve, and the new guide was approved unanimously. She concluded her presentation by recognizing September Safety Sweepstakes winners; Nicole Morris, Thomas Moline, James Giddens, Tony Sease.
The Real Property Committee has some real issues, according to councilmember Bell. Unlicensed businesses operating out of the marina may be insured at a lower level than their counterparts, and plans for additional parking would require review (to garage or not to garage). He mentioned both items as candidates for the upcoming agenda’s of both the City and the Real Property Committee.
Hill Construction and Trident construction are now the established front-runners for renovation of the public safety building project, but funding the project is causing a scare. The building needs work, but the full extent of the effort may not be known until work begins.
IOP staff member Douglas Carr gave a presentation on behalf of the Board of Zoning Appeals. Carr said he wanted to foreshadow a couple of items currently percolating through City offices including a recommendation for the City’s drainage outfalls. The City solicited proposals to update the drainage along 31st, 36th, and 41st Sts. Two firms were interviewed twice, and deemed qualified.
Acting on those “start from scratch” recommendations will be appearing on committee agendas soon. Carr then discussed the memorandum of understanding with IOP Water and Sewer Commission. Thomas & Hutton is working on a new master plan of the system that is on its way to the Planning Commission for approval.
The sole, remaining item of business before Council was a second reading of ordinance 2018- 17. The measure changes visitor daily parking passes to annual, multi-use passes by eliminating the expiration and tag number, and linking the number on the pass booklet to the address to which it is assigned. The act also allows two free visitors pass booklets/household/year.
Mayor Carroll said the next meeting of Council was scheduled for Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. He warned that Ways & Means would be meeting directly prior to the session, “so bring a turkey sandwich. It’s going to be a long one,” he said. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.