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County Council March 30

To grant SPCA $2.3 million to help build new facility
Ire over State's attitude to Juvenile Detention Services
Warwick Jones

It was a lean agenda before the Finance Committee yesterday. Unfortunately we were unable to cover all of the proceedings. Council met for an executive session before the two last items. A need to attend a meeting elsewhere (a presentation by the SCDOT on the proposed Port and access road) forced us to depart before Council worked through the agenda.

The relocation of the John Ancrum SPCA has been a saga, and only relatively recently resolved. The existing facility is inadequate and is also in the way of the construction of a new jail. A number of sites were considered and with the exception of that in North Charleston, were unsuitable, largely because of opposition from neighborhoods. The SPCA was before Council last to request a grant of $2.3 million to help construct its estimated $8 million new facility.

All in favor of the grant
There was no opposition to the grant. But there was much discussion as to where the money would come from and the obligation of the SPCA. Council member Bostic, who spoke first on the grant, said that the SPCA should not expect any further grants towards construction. Council member Condon said that the amount was large but the SPCA was doing a good job and if the County had to take up the responsibilities of the SPCA, it would cost the County considerably more.

A bond issue or reallocation of funds?
Chairman Stavrinakis was happy with the grant but only if it did not lead to a need to increase property taxes. Staff suggested that there were two alternatives for raising the money. One was by attaching the amount to a proposed bond issue, the other by reallocating money, specifically that set aside for a Juvenile Detention Center. Because of logistical and other reasons, the money for the Center would not be needed for some time and could be utilized to help fund the SPCA. Staff also said that attaching the amount to a bond issue could possibly lead to a need for a tax increase.

Need for a right to equity
Council member Scott suggested that in return for the funds, the County should be given some right to equity in the property. If for some reason the SPCA should fold, the County could recover some of the funds.

Council agreed to ask Staff to look at the funding alternatives, and the right to equity in the facility structure. An opinion should be available for Council before the next meeting.

State should be paying for Juvenile Detention services
The Juvenile Detention Center also came up in the wake of the SPCA discussion. Staff pointed out that the new Detention facility would be paid for by the County. Yet, the State met the costs of Juvenile Detention services in all other Counties. In a sense, residents of Charleston were paying twice. Apparently, the State has been approached in the past to at least make some contribution but it has refused. Council member Fava suggested that the County refuse to consider building the new facility unless the State makes a contribution.

Council broke for an executive session to consider the two last items of the agenda - hiring of a Financial Consultant and Diversity Policy.

Goal of 10% for minorities in hiring for County
In relation to diversity, a memorandum prepared by Staff included the following. "Charleston County also recognizes that diversity and inclusion are prominent factors that can maximize the success of the workplace. Therefore, Charleston County sets a goal of 10% for minority representation for positions earning in excess of $50,000 annual base pay in the County government. Workplace diversity will be accomplished through the implementation of the Work Force Diversity Plan, affirmative-action plans, and by providing cultural sensitivity and awareness training for employees. Additionally, County Council will ensure that all County board, commission, and committee appointments reflect the diversity of the Charleston County population".
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