By Gregg Bragg for The Island Eye News
The parking lot at Town Hall was full well in advance of the June 18 meeting of Sullivan’s Island Town Council (TOSI), and so were council chambers. A busy, two page agenda including bids for work on the transition zone promised plenty of discussion. TOSI often manages a celebratory open to its meetings. This meeting was another case in point. The meeting began with swearing in ceremonies triggered by recent island elections.
Councilmember Bachman Smith won reelection and confirmed his vows to TOSI. New-elected councilmembers Greg Hammond and Kaye Smith swore on the Bible to do their best to represent TOSI. Although Hammond didn’t raise his right hand, the oath of office is probably still valid.
All councilmembers seemed content with election driven shuffling of committee assignments;
Finance Committee Chair: Pat O’Neil Members: All council members
Public Safety Committee Chair: Tim Reese Members: Chauncey Clark and Pat O’Neil
Water & Sewer Committee Chair: Bachman Smith Members: Chauncey Clark and Tim Reese
Administration Committee Chair: Sarah Church Members: Greg Hammond and Bachman Smith
Land Use & Natural Resources Chair: Chauncey Clark Members: Pat O’Neil and Kaye Smith
Public Facilities Committee Chair: Greg Hammond Members: Sarah Church and Tim Reese
Recreation Committee Chair: Kaye Smith Members: Greg Hammond and Bachman Smith IV
Mayor Pat O’Neil then turned to a pair of resolutions honoring outgoing councilmembers:
Retiring councilmember Rita Langely first joined TOSI in 2015. She was the driving force behind the Town’s ban on plastics, led the effort to create and maintain the long and hotly debated “transition zone” for protected land, assisted in instituting the Sullivan’s Island Farmers Market, and worked to block offshore drilling and exploration for oil. “Now, therefore be it resolved that the Town of Sullivan’s Island thanks her for her extensive service and honors her with highest praise at her final meeting, with this resolution…” cited the mayor, as the room erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation.
Retiring councilmember Mark Howard also joined TOSI in 2015. He led efforts to improve the Town’s stormwater system and fire station. Hammond’s experience with horticulture put him in a lead position to create the alley of palmetto trees that greets everyone arriving on the island. He was also instrumental and of supportive of Battery Gadsden Cultural Center’s efforts to communicate Sullivan’s heritage and unique history, read parts of his proclamation. Hammond was also treated to a standing ovation as the mayor concluded by reading “Now, therefore be it resolved that the Town of Sullivan’s Island thanks him for extensive service and honors him with highest praise at his final meeting, with this resolution…”
Action items scheduled for TOSI included:
- Unanimous approval of last month’s meeting minutes
- The third reading and ratification of ordinance 2019-01 (the Town’s general budget)
- The third/final reading of ordinance 2019-02 (the Water and Sewer budget)
- Ordinance 2019-03 was read in title only for the second time. This measure authorizes TOSI to issue a bond “… to provide for the issuance and sale of not exceeding eight hundred thousand dollars Town of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, general obligation bonds, in one or more series; to prescribe the purposes for which the proceeds shall be expended, to provide for the payment thereof, and other matters relating thereto.”
- Sullivan’s is nearing completion of its state required “Comprehensive Plan,” (updates required every ten years) and Council acted to read it into the record in title only.
- Water and Sewer fees were increased for the year (Councilmember B. Smith chimed in to remind attendees the increase was less this year than last).
- The options for exerting more control of St. Patrick’s Day festivities seem to center on having vendors out by 6 p.m. Councilmember Chauncey Clark wants a chance to discuss the matter with the restaurant association before proceeding.
- The Town wants a cross walk(s) at station 21 and/or station 20.5. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has specific requirements (e.g. sidewalk to sidewalk) the town doesn’t technically meet (e.g. sidewalk to dirt path), and negotiations are on-going.
- The Town wants more speed limit signs.
Town Administrator Andy Benke wondered aloud why Folly Beach has so many and Sullivan’s Island so few. Negotiations with SCDOT are on-going.
The tenth action item slowed proceedings down a bit. Councilmember Reese received bids from three contractors interested in beginning work on the Town’s transition zone. He wondered aloud if a special tax might be appropriate for the initial section slated for pruning, said he was opposed to the current plan, and said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to proceed.
Councilmember Church suggested it was time to move on after 4 years of effort, and glossed over the awkward moment by saying the prices were lower than she expected. Her comment on the effort received a tacit “second” from Mayor O’Neil, leaving Reese to detail the bids. Gibbs Landscaping was asking $47,800, HDR design wanted $66,000, and IPW needed $118,000 for the first section of the transition zone. Gibbs Landscaping won the job by a majority vote of Council.
The final action item for TOSI was officially promoting and recognizing “Carolina Day.” Fort Moultrie was built on June 28, 1776 of sand and palmetto logs by then Colonel William Moultrie. He fought a successful engagement with the British, which is also known as The Battle of Sullivan’s Island.
Town Administrator Andy Benke had some good news in his report. The figures TOSI used to budget for 2020 salary increases dropped significantly after the town’s budget was complete. Consequently, even if TOSI raises staff salaries beyond what was planned, there will be a $15,000 windfall the Town’s balanced budget ordinance requires be spent “…on boardwalks,” Benke shrugged. He also mentioned the Town’s water tower was getting a fresh coat of paint.
Just as a reminder, there are a number of openings on the Town’s boards and commissions, with terms starting in September.
Current openings include;
- Three seats available on the planning commission
- Two seats on the board of zoning appeals
- Two seats on the tree commission
- Three seats on the design review board
- A seat on the election commission with an unlimited term
The Town’s attorney made a motion for another fee simple title for the owners of 1118 Osceola Ave. which passed unanimously.
A new Council seated with accompanying changes to committee assignments made for a spartan set of committee reports. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned for an executive session to discuss salaries.