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Sullivan’s Island Town Council Meeting: May 28, 2019

By Gregg Bragg, The Island Eye News Staff Writer

Sullivan’s Island Town Council scheduled not one, or two, but three meetings on May 28 at the 6 p.m. time usually reserved for regular council meetings. Public hearings for the 2019 fiscal year (July 1 – June 30) Water and Sewer budget, and the overall TOSI budget for the same period were scheduled ahead of the regular council meeting.

However, Town Administrator Andy Benke interjected with the news; Dominion Energy (think SCE&G) would be on the island pruning bushes/ trees/etc. around local power lines, before the Council’s agenda got underway. Benke said the power company’s efforts were a matter of public safety, effected every five years, and conceded the activity was often the source of some angst/ surprise to residents. He introduced electric company representatives Mark Chaplin and Mark Branham to better explain the details including dimensions of the trimming.

The two Dominion agents assured attendees they wouldn’t be trimming any more than necessary, and said they were guided by ISA best practices/ANSI-300 standards. The technical names mean they will be trimming 10’ on every

side, 20’ above the lines, and 10’ below. Post cards alerting residents to the work have been mailed to everyone on Sullivan’s Island. The cards include a toll free number for those wishing to schedule a meeting with Dominion before the work adjacent to their property begins, and the pair shared the number again at the close of their presentation, (1.800.251.7234).

Mayor Pro Tem Chauncey Clark presided over the official start of the public hearings by encouraging prayers/best wishes to Mayor Pat O’Neil, who was absent from the meeting.

The budget reviews were a high level overview of the year ahead for the Town. The Town increased its overall budget by the max allowed, to cover all manner of things including emergency service radios, which are old enough they are no longer supported by the manufacturer. The budget also includes a debt service on $1.2 million.

Town Administrator Andy Benke added that Sullivan’s Island had issued a $20 million bond some time ago, and the Town will be paying only the interest until 2026. Then the Town’s payments will start applying to the principle. This ultimately necessitated additional bondage (e.g. ordinance 2019-03) later in the meeting. “We’ll be doing this for the next 20 years,” Benke added. Despite it all, the Town managed to balance its budget as required. Although water and sewer rates also increased, Councilmember Bachman Smith was quick to point out the rate increase is less this year than last.

The council meeting started right on the heels of the public hearings. Attendees were led in the Pledge of Allegiance by local scout troop #59. Mayor pro tem Clark told them public service may not be particularly glamorous but is essential, and said he was thrilled to have the scouts participate in the Town’s meeting.

Action items included ordinances 2019-01 and 2019-02, the budget items discussed during the public hearings, as well as ordinance 2019-03. Read in title only, the measure will authorize issuance of a bond “… to provide for the issuance and sale of not exceeding $800,000 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.” All three measures passed unanimously.

The final action item for Council was approval of a distribution of the Victim’s Right’s Funds.

Funds generated by municipal court fines are split with the state, and Town is given some latitude in distributing some of the state’s portion. The Town selected the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at MUSC ($20,000), People Against Rape ($10,000), and Winwood Family Services ($15,000) to receive grants for the second year in a row. The measure also garnered the unanimous support of Council.

The Town made a lot of progress on inflight projects, according the Town’s administrator.

  • TOSI has provided final owner comments to Applied Building Services for repairs to the fire station. The only outstanding issue is Christmas decorations and how to bid out the work.
  • Work on boardwalks at stations 25 & 26 are complete.
  • The Greenbelt Fund Committee approved the new boardwalk adjacent to Sullivan’s Island Elementary School.
  • The Town’s electronic message board has given it’s all and staff is reviewing replacement options.
  • Staff is currently reviewing bids for trimming work in the Town’s transition zone between station 16 and 18.5.
  • The South Carolina Supreme Court advised the Town that the case of Bluestein vs. TOSI (case number 2010-CP-10-5449) would not be heard until later this year, possibly as early as September.

Benke also reported 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 public safety committee is currently wrestling with adding and/or moving cross walks on the island. Committee Chair Chauncey Clark thinks cross walks are a good idea, but also foster a false sense of security (a kid’s going to walk out there thinking cars will stop and don’t), as well as some associated and confusing state regulations that have to be unraveled. The fall out of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration is still on the Committee’s plate, though the details are still be fleshed out. And a new parking strategy is being developed along with revisiting speed limits on the island. The raft of issues alluded to by Clark will form the agenda of a soon to be scheduled workshop.

Councilmember Sarah Church reported the farmers market “… continues to thrive. We’re half way through it, so you better get there while you can,” she emphasized. The market is open each Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at Stith Park until the end of June.

Councilmember Bachman Smith has managed to get repairs of the sewer line from behind the fire station up to Middle St. to the permitting phase.  Although the timing of the work has come into question. Summer is not the best time to tear up roads in a beach community, as he previously cautioned. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

The next regular council meeting of the Town of Sullivan’s Island will be Tuesday, June 18 at 6 p.m.

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