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Citadel News Service
12 Aug 2016

Professor Russell Sobel assists with Seabrook Island economic impact study

As seen in The Island Connection's Seabrook Island Town Council Report: July 2016, Aug 11, Written by Gregg Bragg

They say records are made to be broken. Town clerk, Faye Allbritton hinted at a short Seabrook Island Town Council agenda for July, and it would prove prophetic. The meeting began on time and ended in 35 minutes, besting the previous record by two minutes.

Mayor Ciancio reported revenues for the month came up $8,000 short of expectations. He attributed the shortfall to an unexpected dip in class 8 business licenses. However, SITC is still above revenue projections by more than $140,000 for the year. Mitigating the projections, SITC spent $10,000 less than expected in June and has $113,000 less than expected for the year.

Councilmember John Gregg said the Seabrook Island Club met on July 21 to go over the 2017 strategic plan. The goal at this early stage is to develop an objective statement for the plan being considered. When the plan achieves more structure, it will be distributed for review.

Gregg also said The Seabrook Island Property Owners group has reviewed the flooding preparedness booklet recently embraced by SITC. The document has been reviewed by the governing entities on Seabrook, some members of the public and the county. Changes have been made to dovetail with recommendations which fell out of Charleston County’s review and their changes have been incorporated. Further action items will be forthcoming.

Gregg continued with a report from the public safety committee. More as a matter of formality, SITC put its Municipal Site Plan with AirMedCare for emergency air transportation out to bid. It was a formality because AirMedCare is the only provider of such a service with reduced fees for municipal members. Predictably, only one response was received. The issue was coverage for the remainder of 2016, which seems to have been worked out. SITC now plans to incorporate the service into the regular budget cycle for 2017, which starts later this fall for the next calendar year. The contract, said Gregg, should be ready for a vote of council by August, but there was another consideration from the public safety committee.

Phillips & Jordan have a standby agreement with SITC for debris removal in the event of calamity. Part of the agreement which has not been fully considered, however, is access to the island.

How do you get ‘blue tarping’ and debris removal personnel on the island in the required droves when no one is available to work the drawbridge? Gregg concluded his report by saying concerned parties would continue working to provide a way to allow contractors on the island when people are not.

Councilmember John Wells said he tried to get in touch with Bob George 10 days ago (e.g. the engineering firm selected to resolve drainage issues along the parkway). He was informed George was out sick. Wells still expects to resolve the final details of the work on the road from [town hall to the circle] as soon as possible after contact is made.

Wells continued with a report on advertising/website. He said the club was the number one referrer to the town’s website. Eighty seven percent of the visitors were “organic” (e.g. first time visitors). The club now has a list of reasons to come to Seabrook available. He went on to describe a recent change in the way Southern Living was using card ticketing to advance Seabrook. The concept is to tear a perforated card out of the magazine and return it to Seabrook, checking boxes on the card to indicate subjects the reader wants to explore.

Councilmember Skip Crane reported delivery of and the beginning of the review process of the results from the SIPOA survey. He also said Bohicket Marina is planning to add some pilings.

He concluded his report by saying SIPOA had worked out some issues with Camp St. Christopher, though he did not elaborate.

The mayor reported he, with help and support from Kiawah, contacted Russell Sobel to do an economic impact study.

Sobel is a professor of economics with the school of business at the Citadel. The mayor met with Professor Sobel to set the parameters of the study. The study will begin in September and will take not one but two semesters to complete because the scope of the study demands additional time. Sobel asked for $500 reimbursement of expenses (which passed unanimously).

The study will examine the spending patterns of Seabrook/Kiawah residents in Charleston and on Johns Island, how many jobs are created as well as volunteer hours and taxes contributed to both regions.

The study will also examine the spending habits of people visiting Seabrook/Kiawah both on Johns Island and in the city.

The mayor estimates between 1,000 and 15,000 jobs are created by the two islands, but is looking to Sobel for some objective way of determining the actuals.

The mayor also reported he and the mayor of Kiawah, along with consultant Paul Roberts, met with City of Charleston Mayor Tecklenburg to discuss roads and traffic congestion. Widening Main road all the way to the Betsy Kerrison has been listed as a priority project. However, the contingent from Seabrook and Kiawah was there to pitch the cross island parkway, saying it was not only less expensive but also less invasive.

The town administrator’s report included some excitement. Apparently, no one was aware a boat had run aground on the North Beach area of Seabrook, so he brought everyone up to speed. A recent Army discharge enrolled at the College of Charleston, he had time for an adventure before classes started and decided to buy a boat and go for a sail. Rough weather drove him into Captain Sams and everything was fine until his anchor line broke. Nearly a week passed before a kindly tide and a friend with a power boat helped him off the sand and back into the water. Hey, it happens to all of us.

The waters weren’t much calmer for the utility this month. The Seabrook utility fell short of budget expectations. $44,000 worth of impact fees from Freshfields and Cassique had not come in when anticipated but Jeff Bostock reported this wasn’t a problem and would take care of itself in short order. The mayor got some laughs when he quipped – “We’ll take a check, it doesn’t have to be cash,” but there was more.

Chlorine residuals in fresh water are low, said water commissioner Jeff Bostock. However the readings, which are taken every day appear to level off, often in the course of the same day Bostock continued. The same cannot be said for coliform bacteria in wastewater. Those readings have been equally difficult to track, here today and gone tomorrow, but have been higher than the ideal. Because the readings were hard to pin down, no alarms were raised but the Department of Health and Environmental Control had also noticed. This is a “three strikes and you’re out situation,” said Bostock and DHEC has invited representatives of the Seabrook utility to a meeting. Although Bostock does not expect fines, he did say Hawthorn’s contract includes paying them if the utility is found to be at fault by DHEC. He also reported the pump for Seabrook’s deep water well is broken but redundant water sources have and will keep the golf courses green until the problem is fixed.

The only action item on the agenda was a temporary use permit associated with the Fleming Tennis Tournament. Because the event stretches across more than 72 hours, a vote of council was required to approve a shade tent, 3 banner signs on or about October 4 through the 9. There were two motions to approve and two motions to second the resolution. The measure passed unanimously.

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned in a heart pounding, record breaking 35 minutes.

Council convened its first Executive Session in over two years. However, no decisions were made and no votes were taken.

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