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City Council May 2 2006

Cost of renovating City Hall rises again
Federal funding for more conspicuous street signage
Marc Knapp

Covering City Council meetings has become more challenging recently. Nothing much has happened, and there is little to write about. We expect it will not remain this way. But the problem remains of generating copy on last night's meeting.

If there was a highlight, it was Council member Shirley's request of information from "Miss Legal". We turned to Ms Adelaide Andrews expecting her to be clad only in a legal brief as she responded. Considering the laughter, it seems it was a common expectation and the Council member's face, already a shade red, turned even deeper as he reflected on the slip of his tongue (OK, we are desperate for copy!)

Renovation cost rises $145,000 with another increase likely
On matters of substance, the increased renovation cost of City Hall was interesting. Before Council was a request for approval to spend another $145,000 on renovation. This will take the total estimated cost of the renovation to $7.7 million, roughly $1.5 million more than the original estimate. Councilmembers Fishburne and Shirley questioned the spending and the need for a later completion date.

City staff responded by saying that the change related mainly to security electrical equipment and installation, and some amendments to building and hardware. The spokesman noted that it was common practice for security and communications equipment to be installed by an independent contractor, and not be part of the original construction contract. The City decided that in the case of City Hall, it all would be included under the single contract with NBM. The spokesman also noted that in an old building, problems often were not determined until access to the structure had been gained during renovation. He also anticipated another change-order in relation to the cost of visual equipment, though no indication was given as to the actual amount.

Council member Shirley prodded the spokesman saying that the completion date kept on being pushed back. Two months ago, completion time was estimated at Christmas this year. Now it's March. When really will the building be finished? Occupancy should still be possible by the end of year, the spokesman said. However it may be another two months before work was completed on the exterior of the building. This work related essentially to the marble cladding.

Grant for CSO
Other items on last night's agenda included a grant of $103,500 to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra for its contribution to the 2006 Piccolo Spoleto Arts Festival. There was also the acknowledgment of a grant award of $35,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts towards the 2006 Spoleto Arts Festival.

Federal funding for more conspicous street signage
Also of note was the agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) to fund up to $504,000 for an "Older Driver and Pedestrian Safety Program". The agreement is contingent on a 20% match by the City through in-kind services. Actual funding will come from Federal sources.

We are not sure that the word "older" referred to both the driver and pedestrian in the program's title. But there is no doubt, pedestrians and drivers, older and newer, will benefit by the proposed changes. We also think the City is fortunate in securing federal funding.

Street signs will now be placed at the 103 existing signal locations on the Peninsula using Diamond Grade reflective material. This material would also be used in replacing the 1438 "Stop" signs on the Peninsula. Essentially, the street and "stop" signs will become more conspicuous. Street crossings on the Peninsula will also be made more conspicuous with the use of 380 IES reflective material.

More, but not much more, on drainage and police chief hire
And towards the end of the meeting Council meeting, Council member Fishburne asked the Mayor on an update on progress in relation to drainage funding, and the hiring of a new police chief.

The response was short. The Mayor and staff had met with State senators and congressmen in Washington and they had expressed support in securing federal funding. Progress was being made is seeking a new police chief. If there were a reason for the seeming tardiness, it was that he and others were very comfortable with the performance of the acting Chief, who in turn was comfortable continuing in his role while the search continued. The Acting chief will retire when a permanent hire is made.

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