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Sullivan’s Island Mayor’s Message: October 2019

Dear Island Neighbors,

First, a few quick items, and then a recap of Hurricane Dorian.


 Or maybe not. But you no longer have an excuse for not observing the meetings of Town Council and our Committees. With our new website (  we now can live-stream them and archive them for later down-loading. 

Please go to the Town’s website page for meetings,or from the home page dropdown, choose Government > Meetings and Agendas) to look for your meeting of interest; if there is a camera icon, click on that and go to the video feed. You might have to click on the feed twice to get it to run for you. After it’s going, you can use the full-screen double-arrow icon to open the video window further, and then do what your computer requires to zoom in more on the video itself.

We apologize for the current audio quality and are working to improve that.


 As have residents of most of our neighboring cities, we have seen quite a bit of tree-cutting by Lewis Tree Service, the contractors of Dominion Energy. This is a long and complicated story, but suffice it to say that the company and its contractors are supposed to follow two sets of standards, one designed to protect the power lines and the other to protect the trees. The result has been hard for a number of us to accept quietly. Be assured that the Town leadership (elected and staff) did meet several times with representatives of Dominion and Lewis, as did leaders of our neighboring communities, to try to ensure that the cutting respected our environment. However, when it comes to trees rooted or growing in the state-owned rights of way in which our electricity comes to us, local government has little say. It’s an area of law largely governed by the South Carolina Public Utility Commission. Here’s a link to their complaint page: http://bit. ly/2VanCEo.

“Why not go underground?” asks almost everyone. Town Council will have a representative of Dominion Energy meet with us to discuss the pros, cons and costs of underground wiring. And the costs of

finding out what the costs are.  They will join us at our Regular Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19. This is an open meeting that starts at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.  Stay tuned via the Twitter and email routes noted below for a reminder.


 A long-time resident who has recently seen one dog hit by a vehicle on Middle Street and others surviving near-hits, asks me to ask you to do this:

Please keep your dog on leash to prevent him/her from dashing into harm’s way in chasing the latest tempting squirrel.

These pet vs. vehicle events can cause a lot of grief for pets and people. If you own a dog, you can help prevent them, by keeping Fido under control.


…that this is Fire Prevention Week.

Here is important information to help you and yours stay safe:


Hurricane Dorian seems longer ago than the calendar indicates… except for the overturned oaks in my backyard waiting to be lifted back into place. Again. (See: Hurricane Matthew) Maybe I should get some big hinges for them.

But on a serious note… You will never know what a smart, dedicated and well-trained Town staff we have until you spend a hurricane with them (including runup, event and aftermath). Which I was privileged to do for Dorian last month.

You may recall Dorian’s slow and uncertain approach. Someone likened it to “being stalked by a turtle.” All told, Dorian required about 10 days of preparation, stand-by and clean-up by staff, with daily conference calls with the Tri-County Emergency Operations team. During that time, staff members were often away from their families and home for days at a time, or on station to protect and serve the Island for 12 to 18 consecutive hours. Not that this restores those hours to our employees and their families, but you should know that staff keeps scrupulous time records so we can get reimbursed by FEMA for these and other storm-related expenses. Final numbers are not in but they will be well north of $60,000.

This is the fifth year that it has been necessary to go through the weather emergency drill. Our great Town employees and volunteers in all departments know their responsibilities and perform them well during these times.

 It was reassuring to hear from other governmental officials who contacted us to ascertain our needs. Thanks to Governor Henry McMaster, Congressman Joe Cunningham, State Senator Chip Campsen, State Representative Mike Sottile, and Charleston County Council Chair Elliot Summey. (In fact, County Council Chair Summey made a midnight visit to Town Hall during the storm.)

Our storm-related debris was very expeditiously picked up by contractors working for Charleston County.  While the Island, as a whole, was fortunate to experience very limited damage, FEMA estimates that approximately 14,500 cubic yards of organic material were collected here (Enough to fill 4 and a half Olympic swimming pools). The contractor accomplished the work in just about 2 weeks.

As with every hurricane, we should note the lessons it taught, and at the same time avoid thinking that the next hurricane situation will bear any resemblance to the last one. Please review with your family what y’all did that was right, and what could have been done differently, so you can update your hurricane plans.

Here are a few suggestions that I have seen validated in all of our recent hurricane situations:

As above, you and your family should review and update your hurricane plan. And if you don’t have a plan, please make one, now.

Please do not dismiss emergency officials’ warnings based on what happened during the last storm.

 Please rely on valid sources of information related to the storm when making decisions. Governmental offerings such as the NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center should be your primary source for information about the current and predicted characteristics and threat of a storm. Responsible cable channels such as the Weather Channel are right up there as well, as are our local TV and radio stations.

Choose your social media carefully for hurricane info.

During Dorian, Town Administrator Andy Benke sent out Town-related info on a daily or even twice-daily schedule…including one post at around 1 a.m. in the midst of the storm. Those updates and other info were also posted on the Town’s Twitter account (@TownofSI). Please follow the Town on Twitter, or even its mayor (@oneilpm1). You can get Andy’s Town emails throughout the year by asking to be added to the list; just email Andy with your preferred email address, home address and cell number at

See you around the Island!

Pat O’Neil, Mayor

843.670.9266 |

 | @oneilpm1

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