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Mayor's Greeting- July 2024

Fri, 07/05/2024

Mayor Pat O'NeilDear Island Neighbors,

Get ready for our traditional events marking Independence Day, which is on Thursday this year and so will likely give lots of lucky folks a 4-day weekend!

In other words, expect tons of traffic for four straight days.

Councilmember Ned Higgins, Chair of the Council’s Recreation Committee, tells us what’s in store at the start of the big day:

“Our Independence Day celebration kicks off in the morning with the Golf Cart and Bike parade.  It’s always fun to see the imaginative decorations that folks create to adorn their golf carts and bikes. There will be prizes for the best decorations, but to be considered you must register at Town Hall before the 4th, or on site no later than 8:30am. But you don’t have to register to simply join the fun in the parade...just show up. The line-up starts at Sunrise Presbyterian Church at 8:30.  The parade begins at 9 AM right after the National Anthem, and ends at SI Elementary School where the best carts/bikes will get ribbons.”

Later in the day we’ll have the Party in the Park. Middle Street along Stith Park will be closed off to vehicular traffic and parking at 4:30, the music will start around 6:00 and Fireworks! will begin around 9:00 PM. (Sorry, no pets are allowed in the Park.)

More information on all this is at the Town’s home page: . Scroll down to “Upcoming Events”.

Please remember: If you like fireworks, enjoy the Town-sponsored show. Otherwise, fireworks are always illegal on the Island.

At our June Council meeting we had the opportunity to salute our long-time (21 years!) Town Administrator Andy Benke as he transitions to retirement. Thank you, Andy, for your tremendous contributions and leadership throughout your time at the helm.

I also had the privilege of swearing in our new Town Administrator, Joe Henderson, who has already served the Town for 11 years as Director of Planning and Zoning and later as Deputy Administrator. Joe will be issuing a more comprehensive statement as he begins his tenure, but I invited him to share a few words with us here:

“It is with great enthusiasm that I assume the role as your next Town Administrator! I am deeply honored to have been entrusted with this crucial role and look forward to continuing to serve the Island’s residents.

“Since my hire in 2013, I’ve grown to understand the many issues, challenges and needs of the Town’s residents and believe we have a dedicated and talented group of Town employees, volunteer board members and Council members to work with in addressing these challenges and needs.

“I appreciate the opportunity and trust that Council has bestowed in me. I look forward to ensuring our team continues their tradition of professionalism, responsiveness and courtesy toward all community members.“

As you are no doubt well aware, a few months ago Dominion Energy, as part of their quinquennial (my new word!) vegetation “trimming” to maintain powerline clearance, indicated that they would be removing about 523 palmetto trees that they deemed threatening to our power lines. These trees were marked with spray-painted white dots.

That went over about as well as you would have predicted, given that Sullivan’s Island is where the palmetto earned its place on our state flag and in our hearts. (If that doesn’t make sense to you, please Google “Battle of Sullivan’s Island”.)  Fortunately, we have had some very powerful support in trying to mitigate this loss of our treasured palmettos, including especially Senator Chip Campsen, Secretary of Transportation Justin Powell and his fine SCDOT staff, and Representative Joe Bustos. This led to an on-site meeting a few weeks ago of Secretary Powell and his SCDOT team, Dominion South Carolina President Keller Kissam and his team, and our Town team (Administrator Joe Henderson, Director of Resilience and Natural Resources Rebecca Fanning, Zoning Administrator Charles Drayton, and Mayor).

As a result, a TEMPORARY stay of execution was obtained for about half of the targeted palmetos. The other unlucky trees that are considered to be high-hazard to the power lines, and thus are to be removed urgently, have acquired second, red, markings. (So if you thought we were getting a bunch of liquor stores on the Island, sorry, but this is where all the red dots came from.) The fate of the other palmettos is uncertain as of now, but removal of the high-hazard trees will start around July 8.

Some other very positive tree-related developments may result from all this in the near future, so stay tuned.

Also, the Town is exploring the possibility of engaging an engineering firm to investigate how we might pursue “undergrounding” of some or all of our power lines. This is not definite as of now, as we are proceeding incrementally and carefully. We can say with certainty that any projects to move our powerlines underground will be both expensive and lengthy.

However, one clear takeaway for now is to consider overhead power lines when planting in your yard, and to avoid any private planting in the DOT right of way.

See you around the Island!

Pat O’Neil
843 670 9266
Twitter: @oneilpm1