By Gregg Bragg, The Island Eye News Staff Writer
There was little by way of preamble to the Jan. 15 meeting of the Sullivan’s Island Town Council. Attendance was back to pre-holiday levels. Mayor Patrick O’Neil dispatched parliamentary procedures, and reviewed the rules for making citizen’s comments. He said remarks should be addressed to Council and adhere to a strict 2 minute time limit.
Alice Taylor introduced herself as a former Sullivan’s Island resident, and attorney for Karen and Dean Schmelter. The pool her clients installed at 3217 Middle St. in 2012 required a variance at odds with Town ordinances, which were updated in the interim. Prospective buyers of the Schmelter’s home were reluctant to proceed for fear the updated ordinances would require retroactive compliance at their expense. Taylor asked for a vote of Council to rectify the issue. She didn’t get it at the time of her request, but Council seemed willing to address the issue in the near future.
Resident Dolores Schweitzer came prepared, having already sent a letter “regarding the recently deposited piles of dirt in the field by the station 16 beach path… [to] everyone.”
“I have no objection to a pile of dirt been placed in that location for neighbors to have a source for sandbags in the event of an emergency, or for other yard projects. I also have no problem with passive recreational use in that field,” began Schweitzer. “However, the plan to fill in the field between the maritime forest and the backup to Battery Logan concerns me on a couple points.
“Joe Henderson is well aware of the distress of my neighbors at 1607, 1611, and 1615 Poe Ave. (the Walshes, Cynthia Holmes, and the Jefferies) regarding the severe flooding of their properties during heavy rains. Their presence and vocal concerns at the December 19, 2018, DRB meeting called into question any major building changes in that vicinity which would create conditions where more storm water flowed onto those properties… In the area around that block, drainage ditches fill quickly and water stays for days, rather than being carried away.
“… Battery Logan serves as a retaining pond for our neighborhood, protecting already low-lying properties from stormwater runoff, and as a barrier for storm surge. It is bound by [a] poorly maintained ditch along station 16… to add significant filler to this field and raise the property will create more problems than it mitigates, especially if its only real purpose is to give a little more level ground for people to walk or play games.
“Another point of concern regards some silent, but nevertheless present residents of that field… Linda Lovvorn Tucker was town administrator, on the planning commission, and they were looking for a place to put yard debris after the town dump had been cleaned up. The field behind Battery Logan seemed like a good place, until it became clear that as little as 6 inches of fill would smother hibernating frogs.
“While it may not fully qualify as a wetland, that field is a special place and the prudence of Town Council all those years ago paid off. There are LOTS of frogs and toads that live in that field. I know because I go there every time it rains in summer and fall, just to listen to their symphony of voices…
“Please don’t rush into anything. Let’s do a storm-water study of the area to make sure it won’t push more water onto the properties between Atlantic and Poe Aves., and give neighbors a chance to comment on whether they really want a playing field more than a natural habitat that is a bit quiet now, but teeming with life whenever the rains come,” read parts of Schweitzer’s letter, which she could only refer to while complying with the time limit.
Schweitzer’s comments came at the end of a parade of comments, echoing those made by Cynthia Holmes, Michael Bourland, Joe Church (husband of Councilmember Sarah Church), John Linton, John Kasich and Bob Tressler.
Town Council then read ordinance 2018-09 for the third time. The measure is an effort to keep Sullivan’s Island safer and restricts beverage containers on beaches described as; “It shall be unlawful for any person to have in his possession any beer, or wine, or other alcoholic beverages, whether in an opened or closed and sealed container, on any of the beaches of the Town of Sullivan’s Island, including those unpaved rights-of-way which traverse the sand dunes and beaches of the Town of Sullivan’s Island.” The measure received unanimous support.
Remaining action items included; a unanimous vote against a request from an island resident to extend the privacy fence used to mask the Poe Ave. sewer line replacement project, and unanimous approval of the previous month’s Town Council meeting minutes.
Mayor O’Neil opened his remarks with the tradition of recognizing residents who passed away the previous year. A moment of silence was observed in honor of 15 residents including; Kevin Charles Moore – January 3, Eloise Morrow Tennyson – January 6, J. Reid Anderegg – January 19, Mabel T. Newman – January 28, Richard Allen (Dick) Novak – February 6, Deborah Carter McGibbon – March 16, Ellen McClure DaVega – April 16, Anne Therese Graham, May 11, Kerry Frank Goeden, June 18, Wayt Timberlake Watterson (Tim) – July 18, Lodema Richardson Adams – September 17, John Miles Jordan, Jr. – October 29, Gloria Jean McAlhany Howard – December 6, Sheran Joy Bebergal Goldberg Rittenberg – December 28, and Ethel Swain Backus – December 30, 2018.
Town Administrator Andy Benke had a busy report. He said the “owner review drawings” for work at the fire station were delayed until the end of the month pending completion of associated specifications. He also said staff members Ryan Moulton of the police department, and Andrew Williams with the water and sewer department, have both completed their probationary periods in outstanding fashion and will be moving to full-time status effective with the next pay period.
The HVAC system is in need of repairs and Benke said details will be available for discussion at a soon to be scheduled meeting. He added that the Town’s mutual aid agreement was ready, and concluded by saying staff is reviewing the Hunley-Housatonic Memorial Parade application. The event is planned for Feb. 17.
Reporting for the Finance Committee, the Mayor cautioned there are some red (e.g. negative connotation) numbers on page 67 of the Town’s financial report. He clarified, however, that the numbers were actually the sort of “red” you wanted, as they denoted fund balances on projects which finished below target.
Councilmember Bachman Smith said the sewer replacement along Poe Ave. is 85% complete, but has experienced some change orders. He then urged action on the Middle St. leg of the project and asked for $36,000 for the engineering work. “We need to know what the timeline is by February,” cautioned Sewer and Water department manager, Greg Gress. Approval of the funds will streamline permitting and have the project “shovel ready,” urged Smith. The finds were unanimously approved.
Council then broke for executive session to consider a number of legal/personnel matters, as well as consideration of a bid for renewal from Republic Services for solid waste/recycling. The Town has been paying $14,000 annually for Republic’s services since 2012. The proposed rate going forward will be $17,500. As of this writing, there is was no confirmation of approval from the Town.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. The next regular meeting of the Sullivan’s Island Town Council is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.