Pawleys Island needs more money to pay for future beach renourishment. There’s also a potential future shortfall for ongoing operating costs.
Because of these needs, Town Council last year organized an ad hoc Financial Planning Committee. The group has met several times to explore ideas and options. A planned meeting on Monday morning ended up being postponed, at least in part, because some members believed they didn’t have enough notice of the meeting and didn’t get agenda information ahead of time.
Former Mayor Bill Otis – who’s in an advisory capacity to the group – also pointed out that there was not enough advance notice to be in compliance with the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.
“So, I don’t think this is appropriate,” Otis said. “I think this meeting should be adjourned, and we have a meeting on an alternate date.”
Josh Ricker is co-chair of the committee, along with Town Council member Sarah Zimmerman. Mayor Jimmy Braswell is an ex officio member of the committee, and Councilman Guerry Green is also a member. None of those Council members was at the meeting. Councilman Rocky Holliday is not part of the committee, but came to the 10 a.m. meeting in Town Hall as an observer.
Ricker sent out an email notice of the meeting at 7 p.m. Sunday, but the FOIA law requires at least a 24-hour notice.
Green replied back to Ricker stating that the short notice was unacceptable.
“This is too important of an issue to suggest bringing before the committee with such short notice," he wrote.
Green also said the idea of a mid-Pawleys Island beach access – which Ricker mentioned would be up for a vote at the Monday morning meeting – had not been discussed. Green said he and others needed more time for a discussion.
Other members who came to Town Hall for the meeting also said they needed more time and more notice.
Mid-island beach access
During discussion, Ricker gave printed copies of a proposed “Additional Beach Access Recommendation” to members present. Several said they had not seen an email with the proposal.
With the current beach renourishment project that is set to begin this fall, Ricker noted, the middle part of the island doesn’t have sufficient public beach access points. The proposal would be to consider leasing or purchasing property to create a beach access point.
By doing that, Ricker said, the Town could immediately gain access to an additional $1.15 million from the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism for its current renourishment project.
In the recommendation Ricker presented, he noted additional beach access would enable more day visitors to have a way to utilize the beach. It could also reduce some of the congestion at the south and north ends of the island, he said.
Procedures and policies
Several members raised questions and offered comments about procedures, notice and agenda for meetings and the like.
Holliday asked if he could offer some comments.
“There’s been a lot of discussion today about procedure,” Holliday said.
“The committee is working at the request of Town Council, with a responsibility to report to Town Council. That procedure was not followed in the Town Hall meeting (held on the Saturday before Easter). It almost sounds to me like this committee didn’t have input into this,” Holliday said.
“I would propose that in the future, before any public presentation, that Council has the opportunity first to see where you are at.”
Ricker acknowledged that only the mayor saw the presentation before Ricker gave it at the Town Hall meeting.
“Well, Jimmy is only one of five,” Holliday said.
“So, I’m hearing that I made a mistake,” Ricker said. “I need to send out enough notice. I will send out the information.” He also said that he has recorded audio of meetings and he would make sure minutes are shared with committee members.
Otis said to Ricker, “If you’ve got questions, (Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri) has a lot of information on the Freedom of Information Act.”
“We’ve always in the past, just followed that – if it’s something that Council puts together, we’ve just followed FOIA,” Otis said.
There was also some discussion about who voting members of the committee are. Betsy Altman asked about this. She does not live on the island, but she and her company represent many property owners who rent out their beach houses.
“I would like to ask that you (Ricker) and Jimmy (Braswell) address whether or not Betsy is a voting member,” Otis said. “She does represent a lot of property owners.”
Members present agreed that a possible next meeting date would be Thursday, May 9, at 11 a.m. Ricker was to confirm that date and time to the full committee.
FOIA is for everyone
The South Carolina Press Association publishes a booklet outlining the Freedom of Information Act for elected and appointed government officials. The FOIA applies not just to media, but to all people in the state.
Here’s a link to details about the law: http://www.scpress.org/Documents/2017FOIBook.pdf