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Mayor's Message- November 2020

Fri, 11/20/2020

Mayor Pat O'Neil

Dear Island Neighbors,

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, in a year that may have seemed unworthy of thanks, I’m trying to focus on all the things that I am grateful for. (Including the fact that my high school English teachers will not see that sentence-ending preposition.)

As an Islander, a US citizen, and a resident of the planet, I am incredibly grateful to be here, breathing, and more or less able to carry on in work and play in our incredible community. I am thankful for the many instances of community spirit I’ve seen among our Island residents in this trying year.

More than anything else, I have seen this year the lengths to which our fabulous Town employees and volunteers will go to keep us safe and functioning. They have been here for us through all the challenges of the Covid checkpoints and shutdowns and beach restrictions (which cost them far more abuse and stress than you can ever imagine), not to mention the busiest storm season on record. I could not be more grateful or proud of any group of folks than of our devoted Town employees and volunteers.

I asked some of our staff to tell us what THEY were most grateful for this year. Here is a sample of the responses.

I'm thankful that I can continue to enjoy the beautiful outdoors of the Lowcountry. Eric S., Fire Department

I am thankful for the health and well-being of myself, my family, my friends and my coworkers, considering the unprecedented times we are experiencing. Andy W., Water Department

I am thankful for my sewing machine. In this crazy COVID-19 world, my old sewing machine has given me the opportunity to make over 350 masks for first responders, nurses, teachers, my congregation and my friends and family. Mary P., Administration

I am thankful for the staff that has remained dedicated and selfless in their service to the Town during the Pandemic and active storm season this year. Andy B., Administrator

HOLIDAY SAFETY REMINDERS

It looks to me like holiday season preparations are commencing even earlier this year than in previous years. Our Chief of Police, Chris Griffin, reminds us of these important safety tips for the holiday season:

  • If you are planning to have packages delivered, check your porch and remove them so they are not stolen. 
  • Have someone check your mail and remove it from the mailbox so people will think someone is home, or have the Post Office hold your mail.
  • If you will be out of town, ask our police to put your house on watch status. To request this service, just fill out the form here and drop it off at Town Hall during regular business hours. https://bit.ly/SIHouseWatch
  • Use your home alarm and leave lights on when not home.
  • Lock and remove valuables from vehicles, even when at your house.

And Fire Chief Anthony Stith reminds us to check the water daily for your Christmas tree (probably even more important if you’re installing it earlier than usual) and to ditch lights that are old and/or questionable.

BUILDING A STRAIGHT FLUSH

Most of us never think about happens on the other side of the many drains in our house: sink, tub, dishwasher, toilet. In reality, everything that goes down those drains heads through your plumbing for the sewer main (pipe) in the adjacent street right of way. From there it makes its way to our wastewater (aka sewage) treatment plant, which is behind our Town Hall. It gets from your house to the main, and along the main to the plant, thanks to gravity.

As we all know, liquids and other things flow downhill. So we need a system that lets all that flow downhill from your house to the treatment plant. Of course, hills are in short supply on the Island. In fact, the average difference in elevation on the Island from any one point to the sewer plant is not much more than one foot. That is nowhere near what is required for gravity to do its job. So the further you go from either end of the Island, the deeper the sewer main would have to be, to an unmanageable and unrealistic depth.

For this reason, as we go from the ends of the Island, we periodically need to start over again with the downhill slope, by raising the contents of the sewer main to a higher starting point. That’s the job of our five “lift stations”, the little light-colored brick buildings you may never have noticed. They contain pumps that elevate the incoming wastewater enough that the downhill trip can resume from a higher level; a reboot, if you will. The pumps don’t force the wastewater through the system under pressure like a well pump; they just lift it enough to create another downhill trip.

Our current lift stations were built in the 1950’s and 60’s, and so are in need of replacing for many reasons. As you will see, the 2020 versions are not your grandfather’s lift stations. For example, the lift pumps have to be submersible so they can keep operating during flooding, and they need generators that are elevated enough to provide power during events that knock out our Island power supply. Each station needs an antenna tall enough to communicate with the controller equipment at the new treatment plant under construction.

This is one of those infrastructure projects that are completely unglamorous until you need them. Unfortunately, sooner or later we will have the kind of feared event for which this work is being done. When that happens, if you never think about whether it’s safe to flush, this project will have been a success.

See you around the Island, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pat O’Neil
Mayor
843 670 9266
@oneilpm1
oneilp@sullivansisland.sc.gov