I hope this message finds you well on this Memorial Day weekend.
I regret to inform you that KICA has had its first employee test positive for COVID-19. This is a behind-the-scenes employee with no direct member interaction. The employee had worked in The Sandcastle on May 15th, before it reopened to members. The Sandcastle is routinely disinfected and has been cleaned 15 times since the employee was last in the facility. The employee was briefly at the main security gate on May 18th when the symptoms began, stayed home from work and was tested on May 19th, and received positive test results on May 22nd.
We are grateful that this particular employee followed our protocol by staying home from work at the onset of symptoms, notifying Human Resources, and seeking medical advice. These actions likely prevented the spread of the virus. We have performed contact tracing for 5 days prior to the positive test and all employees with a potential exposure have been notified.
Prior to the limited Sandcastle reopening, KICA consulted MUSC for guidance on facility operations, cleaning protocols, and other protective measures. This includes procedures for when employees stay home from work, how to monitor for symptoms, and the types of protective equipment to be used while working. As part of these procedures, all member-facing staff have been wearing masks and practicing social distancing since facilities began a limited reopening last Monday. The Sandcastle and other KICA facilities are routinely disinfected.
While we don’t believe there is cause for alarm, this serves as a reminder that all in our community need to remain vigilant and do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
I wish you all a Happy Memorial Day.
KICA Chief Operating Officer
Members are now welcome back to The Sandcastle in accordance with the governmental guidelines. This limited opening is Phase 1 of a three-phased approach. Prior to reopening, KICA engaged health experts from the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) re|IGNITE team to evaluate association facilities. The MUSC team provided KICA with recommendations for a phased reopening in alignment with the CDC, DHEC and accelerateSC plans. While Phase 1 is the most restrictive, it is critical for moving forward with amenities access. We ask for your patience and understanding as we create a safe but welcoming environment for you.
The Sandcastle is a second home for many of our members and we are taking every precaution to ensure the wellbeing of our members and staff. The Sandcastle has been deep-cleaned and sanitized. Multiple sanitation cleanings take place daily to ensure safe and comfortable environments. Hand sanitizer is located throughout the building and is clearly marked. Staff members providing services to members wear PPE masks, and KICA’s safety coordinator is temporarily stationed at The Sandcastle to oversee the precautions that have been put into place. Members are not required to wear masks, but masks can protect against COVID-19, and help prevent the spread. Although these health precautions have been implemented, members entering The Sandcastle must assume the responsibility for their own health and must abide by social distancing guidelines to protect others.
The amenities in Phase 1 of The Sandcastle’s reopening include the pools, the Castle Grille and the Sandbar. Use of the pools requires advanced reservations, and Castle Grille is offering take-out only options to pool guests, with the option of online ordering and payment. The Sandbar allows walk-up ordering with no seating at the bar. No members will be permitted to use The Sandcastle without a reservation. In Phase 1, member guests are not permitted, fitness classes and the strength and cardio room are closed, no events or group meetings are taking place, and the upstairs lounge, meeting rooms and veranda are closed. All members must check in at the lobby. Pool gates are locked, and therefore there is no access to the beach at Boardwalk 8A. Boardwalk 8B, to the left of The Sandcastle from the parking lot, can be used to access the beach.
The Sandcastle pools are open in Phase 1 with modified procedures. Advanced reservations are required for use. There are pool sessions daily, with lounge chair and common surface cleaning preceding each session. Reservations may be made 48 hours in advance, and only one reservation per household may be made per day. Reservations may be made for up to 6 household members. In accordance with DHEC guidelines, the Family Pool has an occupancy limit of 75 members and the Oceanfront Pool has an occupancy limit of 30 members. Reservations may be made online at kica.us/sandcastle. Instructions on how to use the reservation platform are also available there.
Check-in for the pool takes place in The Sandcastle lobby. There is no access to the pools or beach through the pool gates. When you check in, you will need to provide the names of each household member in your reservation and a staff member will confirm your time slot without contact. Lounge chairs are appropriately spaced to allow for social distancing and are sanitized between pool sessions. Pool toys and floats are prohibited to maintain a sanitary environment. No glass is permitted in the pool area. When using the pool, please maintain a respectful distance of at least six feet between other community members.
The restrooms at the family and oceanfront pools are open for the use of members at each pool. Restrooms are cleaned and sanitized before each reservation session.
The Castle Grille is open, offering a limited to-go menu from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Orders and payment may be made online — visit kica.us/sandcastle for the link. Orders may also be placed at the service window. Only credit card payments will be accepted. The Sandbar at the oceanfront adult pool will be open for walk-up drink service. Credit card payments will be accepted and there will be no bar seating at this time. Charge-on-account is not available.
LIMITED MEMBER SERVICES
Limited member services are offered at The Sandcastle during Phase 1. Members are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
NO FITNESS CLASSES OR GYM ACCESS
Based on the MUSC health experts’ recommendations, the strength and cardio fitness room is closed in Phase 1 due to the confined space. No fitness classes are being offered. Online workouts with Sandcastle instructors are available here.
NO CLUB MEETINGS OR PRIVATE EVENTS
The Sandcastle is closed to club meetings, group activities and private events in Phase 1. The upstairs meeting rooms and restrooms are closed.
UPSTAIRS LOUNGE AND VERANDA CLOSED
The Sandcastle’s upstairs lounge area and outside veranda are closed in Phase 1.
Due to sanitation concerns, the outdoor playground in the pool area is closed in Phase 1.
We are thrilled to be able to welcome you back to The Sandcastle, even on this limited basis, and ask for your patience as we all navigate this unprecedented situation. Phase 1 is a learning phase and changes may occur as we find out what works. We’ll communicate any changes, including our plans for moving into phases 2 and 3, in our weekly email newsletters.
For decades, KICA has produced the monthly Digest newsletter to share community news and stories. In 2011, the association began publishing Digest online in addition to the print edition to accommodate the growing segment of those who preferred to get their news online. Today, 93% of members get their association news from KICA’s weekly emails, and 60% also use KICA’s website, where Digest is available online.
Due to printing and mailing costs, the print edition of Digest is KICA’s most expensive communication method by far. In March, when the coronavirus pushed all of us to realign priorities and define a new path forward, the print Digest was identified as a smart way to cut costs without eliminating an essential service.
Going forward, you’ll find Digest newsletters on KICA’s website and we’ll also share articles through association emails. If you’re feeling nostalgic, Digest newsletters can be downloaded from the website and printed at home. The final mailed print edition of Digest was the April newsletter.
May’s digital issue features a letter from, as well as an interview with, board chair Diana Mezzanotte, a look at the sea turtles that visit the island each year, and an exploration of some of the island’s early inhabitants, the Vanderhorsts. You can also get some recommended reading from the Sandcastle Book Club, a look at Kiawah’s first quarter real estate trends and more.
Last week, Kiawah experienced a tragedy when a woman lost her life after approaching a mature alligator. Concerned community members immediately reached out to ask how we make sure this does not happen again. The answer lies in sharing information about alligator behavior and our island’s alligator management practices, and engaging the participation of every community member and entity to foster a safe environment.
Our community was intentionally developed to integrate closely with the island’s natural abundance. Here we coexist with our island’s wildlife, including alligators. This proximity to alligators requires vigilant awareness, respect and caution.
The most effective actions to prevent an alligator encounter include:
DO NOT APPROACH AN ALLIGATOR. MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY AND GUESTS ARE INFORMED.
Alligators are naturally fearful of humans, and will not likely approach. Most commonly, alligators are approached by humans because of their novelty – to see them closer or to take a picture. This is incredibly dangerous. Even more risky behaviors, that are also illegal, include feeding, baiting, taunting or harassing an alligator. These crimes are punishable by fines or jail time, and if witnessed, should be reported to KICA Security at 843-768-5566. Our community must adopt an attitude of respect toward alligators, including discouraging and reporting dangerous human behavior.
REPORT CONCERNING ALLIGATORS.
If you are concerned that an alligator has lost its fear of humans, report it immediately. (Call the town at 843-768-9166 during business hours, or KICA security after-hours at 843-768-5566.) An island biologist with alligator behavior expertise will evaluate the alligator. If the alligator approaches and shows no fear of people, it will be euthanized. The safety of our community members is the highest priority.
Along with individual actions, the alligator population is carefully managed in a collaborative effort by the community association and the town. After last week’s tragedy, concerned community members have questioned if there are too many alligators and have shared ideas like eliminating some or all of our alligators.
In 2019, the town formed a committee of community members and alligator experts to audit Kiawah’s alligator management practices. In February 2020, the committee recommended increased alligator safety and educational communications, but had no changes to the island’s management protocol. The committee confirmed that Kiawah’s alligator population is healthy and self-regulates, and any culling could disturb this balance and increase alligator issues.
While KICA and rental agents already actively share information about alligators with guests and visitors, all community members must do their part to ensure their own guests and family members are acting safely. Community members are also asked to continue to report concerning human or alligator behaviors. In the coming months we will provide you with more information and resources to support safe living on our island.
We are pleased to announce that an overwhelming 82% of voters cast their ballot in support of the special assessment required for infrastructure improvements that will mitigate Kiawah’s commonly recurring flooding issues. The vote passed with the participation of 59% of community members. Alleviating hazardous flooding and maintaining passable roads in many heavy rainfall scenarios is an exciting step forward for our barrier island.
It is heartwarming to see the community support this effort with such unity. In these difficult times, the community came together for the common good. We had close to 200 people participate in flood mitigation discussion meetings, either online or in person (before lockdown). Many of you also submitted your questions to the association so that you could make an informed choice. We appreciate the time and effort made by each of you to research, question and participate in the vote to select a path forward for our community.
KICA has received the appropriate permits to begin work on Project Two, the new outfall at Pond 30, and Project Six, where an inlet will be dredged near Trumpet Creeper Lane. Project Two will have the greatest overall impact, mitigating many hazardous flooding issues that occur in central Kiawah. According to current construction timelines, this project will be complete by the end of the year. All projects are scheduled for completion by the end of 2022. The association will provide updates to the community throughout the project timeline, and the effectiveness of the infrastructure solutions will be evaluated and reported.
The first special assessment will be billed on June 1 and due July 1. Members will have the option to pay the single-year amount of $65 per unimproved property or $130 per improved property, or the full 5-year total special assessment.
We want to thank the community members who were part of the task force. Barry Abrams, Rajan Govindan and Chris Widuch all participated in our planning meetings and made valuable contributions to the final plan. We also had tremendous staff support. Shannon White, Jane Ovenden, Will Connor, Lucas Hernandez and Leah Burris spent countless hours working through the details to analyze the issues, make recommendations and communicate the final plan. Our outside engineering firm, Stantec, made themselves available whenever needed and provided excellent technical support. None of this progress would be possible without the initial planning and continued support of the KICA board members.
Finally, we want to thank our island partners who provided insights and support to our efforts. The Town of Kiawah Island, the Kiawah Conservancy and Kiawah Partners all came together for the benefit of the community. We all have a role to play in the health and stability of our island. Each entity contributed to the final outcome, and are committed to moving forward together to create an adaptive water management strategy for Kiawah.
Again, we are grateful for the support of everyone involved in this project and we hope it is a model for how significant decisions are made in the future.
Water Management Task Force Chair
KICA Board Treasurer
KICA regrets to inform the community that just before 5 p.m. today, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies responded to a report of an alligator encounter with an adult female in the area of Salt Cedar Lane. The incident resulted in the female’s fatality. CCSO deputies, the SC Department of Natural Resources, and the Charleston County Coroner’s Office responded to the event. The alligator was retrieved and terminated. This incident is still under investigation, and any additional information will be communicated to the community.
Dear Kiawah Property Owners,
We are in uncertain times as the country faces medical and financial upheavals that are unprecedented. KICA will not be immune from those uncertainties and will likely face:
– Lower transfer fees on real estate sales (this represents 1/3 of our Major Repair and Replacements budget)
– Lower commercial gate access fees
– Lost ballroom rentals, shuttle fees, other user fees and interest income
Utilizing assumptions based on the 2008 downturn, staff estimated the overall loss for 2020 could exceed $1 million. Because of the uncertainties and possible significant losses, in March, the board directed staff to develop a contingency plan to reduce the overall operating budget by ten percent. Since KICA is primarily a service business, its largest expense is payroll. Thus, cutting payroll is the only meaningful way to reduce expenses over the long term. Most other expenditures can’t be eliminated, only possibly deferred. For example, a road or drain that needs to be repaired will not go away. At best, the expense can just be put off to a later date.
While waiting for the ten percent contingency plan, we put in place a hiring freeze and furloughed workers who couldn’t work from home or perform their responsibilities in line with physical distancing requirements. However, other personnel who work in security, landscaping, maintenance, finance and administration are essential and remain at work.
You should also know that KICA’s reserve funds are dedicated funds that primarily support the maintenance of infrastructure on the island (major repairs and replacements). We annually bring in an outside expert to assess the spending requirements of maintaining our existing assets. In other words, these funds are not used for ordinary operating expenses and any spending from those reserves will have to be repaid in the future. In essence, taking from the reserves is simply not addressing the problem and just passes the problem to future boards.
Against that background, and in order to keep all options available in this unsettling time, we asked staff to apply for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) if they believed that KICA fit the PPP criteria. KICA’s PPP application for $1 million was submitted on April 4. It was approved, and on April 17, KICA received the funds. The Finance Committee met on April 22 and asked that a communication to the members be drafted to explain the economic consequences of the pandemic on KICA’s budget. That communication was posted on KICA’s website on April 23 in anticipation that it would also be sent by email to all property owners.
However, that same day, the Small Business Administration issued new PPP loan guidance and it became clear that the proceeds of the PPP loan program had been exhausted, depriving many of the small businesses that needed it most. As a result, the board decided to hold a special meeting on May 1 to evaluate whether KICA should keep the money under the ever-changing circumstances and new guidance. By mistake, the April 23 letter was not removed from our website for another four days. During that time the letter was brought to the attention of the Post and Courier.
Last Tuesday, the Post and Courier sent an inquiry to KICA, and we sent the following written response: “The Kiawah Island Community Association has taken a number of steps to address the economic uncertainty associated with COVID-19, including applying for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Loan, which was funded in mid-April. Our board is in the process of assessing our funding needs moving forward.” The story does not include this statement and, as published, erroneously suggests we had made a decision to keep the funds.
In hindsight, we should have communicated to you earlier. We made a mistake in thinking we had time to discuss this on May 1 and then share our decision with the community at our public May 4 board meeting. We sincerely apologize. We also regret the negative attention this has brought to Kiawah Island.
It is important to remember that Kiawah Island is a more diverse economic community than is publicly presented. We have approximately 1,300 owners who rely on rental income and we have many residents who have suffered either employment or other financial losses. However, as a community we will survive without the Payroll Protection Loan. Therefore, today the board voted to return the loan because we understand that our sacrifices will be significantly less than small business owners who are struggling to survive. As we move through 2020 and into 2021, we will make every effort to minimize costs without affecting services. However, depending on the course of future events, some services may need to be reduced and/or additional assessments considered.
We will be sure to communicate as we progress through this financial uncertainty.
Like so many of you, KICA and other island entities are rapidly adapting due to the serious threat of coronavirus. Operational adjustments have been made daily over the past couple of weeks. In the April issue of Digest, we share a brief look at what the association and other island entities are doing.
Learn about the water management vote that opens, Wednesday, April 1 and how your community association is making responsible financial decisions.
You can also read about a fascinating annual visitor to Kiawah Island — the Red Knot. These birds are on the island each year from March to May.