Memorial Day has come and gone along with the anticipated traffic and parking challenges of a summer holiday weekend. As a result, I attended a joint meeting with Charleston County Chairman Elliot Summey, the Dorchester, Charleston and Berkeley Council of Governments Executive Director Ron Mitchum, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon, along with the mayors of Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island. We were all there to discuss new strategies to better manage the traffic backups that occur when thousands of people are making their way to the beach during the summer weekends and are causing a public safety concern.
I’m pleased to say that Ron Mitchum stepped up and is working on a mobile app like the SCDOT511 that will alert tri-county residents when our beaches and parks are full. This app will help people plan their beach day to determine when it’s a good time to come to the beach. The coastal communities simply cannot safely accommodate the growing number of residents in the tri-county region all at the same time. I want to thank all those involved in finding a solution to this growing challenge and to both the Sheriff’s office for their help on these weekends and to Charleston County Emergency Medical Services for stationing several vehicles on the beaches to quickly respond to the constant calls for service.
I’d also like to add that the City’s Managed Beach Parking Plan, which is enforced year-round and requires parallel parking only along Palm Blvd. between 21st and 41st Ave., is working extremely well. This parking plan provides free beach parking to daily visitors while protecting our residential neighborhoods.
I’m extremely pleased to announce that Desirée Fragoso has been named our permanent city administrator. She has been the interim administrator for the past 13 months and after a rigorous hiring process, proved herself to the best candidate out of more than 100 people who applied. Desirée is not a newcomer to island living, she is from Puerto Rico and joined the City as the assistant city administrator in 2015.
She has a master’s degree in public administration from the College of Charleston where she received the Outstanding Student Award for academic achievement. She is married to her husband Gabriel and we are so happy to have them as part of our City family.
Now that the City has filled the major job vacancies, it is time for us work on the 3 major projects; drainage, the major repairs to our Public Safety Building and the Marina. These are not the only projects the City is working on, but I highlight these as the major ones that require significant funding. The City will continue to address drainage infrastructure needs in phases. We just wrapped up Phase II and are now working on the design and funding for Phase III, which involves improvements to the outfalls located at 31st, 36th and 41st Aves.
The repairs to the Public Safety Building will start after the first of the year and will potentially take up to 10 months to complete.
Regarding the replacement of the marina docks, many components still need to be in place before this project comes to fruition, such as, funding and the necessary permits from the regulatory agencies. The City has been advised that obtaining such permits could take up to a year. While we have these huge projects we need to plan for, they will be drawn out over time and over several budgets. We need to be proactive and plan in advance knowing what funding we need for each coming fiscal year.
It is obvious that we will need, either this year or next, a tax increase in order to fund future drainage improvement projects. Please look at your tax bill and see the portion that the Isle of Palms receives. In my case, my total tax bill is $5,500, but the Isle of Palms’ share is less than $1,200. That means I get police, fire, sanitation and recreation services for less than $100 a month. A steal! We have the lowest millage rate around, mostly because tourism revenues support our operations. However, due to the issues mentioned above, and limited sources of revenue, we will, at some time, have to raise taxes, but they will still be lower than our neighboring cities and towns.
On another front, the 3 coastal mayors, Tim Goodwin of Folly, Pat O’Neil of Sullivan’s Island and myself submitted a joint letter to SCDHEC opposing seismic testing for offshore oil and gas. I also want to mention that City Council just recently approved second reading and ratified an ordinance to increase the minimum lot requirements that would allow a property to subdivide to slow down density and help protect areas that are vulnerable to flooding. Council also approved first reading of a bill that proposes to reduce the maximum lot coverage from 40% to 35% in the SR-1, SR-2 and SR-3 zoning districts and require driveways, sidewalks and swimming pool surrounds to be of pervious material. We are making these changes to become the leader in resilience.
City Council also had second reading of an ordinance that allows those with disabilities to use golf carts to access the beach. The user of the golf cart must always have on hand the state-issued golf cart permit and handicap placard.
As you know, the City of Isle of Palms was the first beachfront community to ban single use plastic bags at point of sale and recently the City expanded that prohibition to include other plastic products, such as, plastic straws, and Styrofoam® containers and coolers. City Council approved first reading of an ordinance that proposes to ban the use of these products on our beaches. Both Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach have similar ordinances in place and we want to be consistent and further reduce the amount of garbage that is left on our beaches by prohibiting their use altogether.
It was another busy month, but with the major vacancies having been filled, we are now getting down to doing what we were elected to do, to provide our residents with city services while doing our best to keep our costs down and to maintain our city assets. Please remember, this is an election year, if you have ever thought of giving back to your community, think about running for council. Enjoy your summer and be safe!
Jimmy Carroll, Mayor