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County Council Meeting September 5, 2006

Issue over law enforcement charge to Town of James Island
A higher diversity Goal? Some welcome road repairs
Warwick Jones

What should the County charge if it provides services to the newly formed town of James island? Council, meeting as the Finance Committee, had few issues with the new policy for Services to Municipalities drawn up by Staff until it came to Law Enforcement. After some heated exchanges between Chairman Stavrinakis and Sheriff Cannon, Council decided to mull over the proposal for law enforcement but voted to accept the other proposals.

Staff was instructed some months ago to work on a new policy for Services. Instructions came after a presentation by Staff, which indicated some serious holes and inconsistencies in the existing policy. And of course, the review of policy in the first place was prompted by the likely formation of the Town of James Island.

Two categories of municipalities
In explaining the proposed new policy, Deputy Chief Administrator Bustraan noted that there were 16 municipalities within the County. Four have populations over 20,000 - the City of Charleston was the largest with a population of 100,000, followed by North Charleston with a population of about 85,000, Mount Pleasant, with almost 60,000, and James Island with approximately 20,000. The remaining municipalities were relatively small with populations less than 5000, and in the case of McLellanville and Rockville, only a few hundreds.

The new policy was based on the philosophy that municipalities with over 5000 persons should provide their own basic services. Those municipalities with a smaller population could look to the County to provide the services. But if special services were required by either large or small municipalities, they would not be provided cost free. Also, a service would not be made available to the small municipalities if the municipality already provided it - such as to the Isle of Palms which has a Public Service Department.

Three categories of services
Staff broke down its proposed policy into 3 sections - Planning, Public Works, and Law Enforcement.

Planning encompasses zoning and subdivision, ordinance administration, site plan reviews, and permit issuance. The County expects the large municipalities to provide these services. But if the municipality makes a special request of the County, it will be charged 50% of the cost. For the smaller municipalities, the County will continue to provide the basic services. But if special requests are made, the municipality will be charged half of the cost

The proposal for Public Works was somewhat similar. Public works involve construction and paving, pothole and shoulder repair, drainage, engineering, surveying, tree trimming, traffic and drainage studies, and permitting. The large municipalities are expected to look after their own basic services. But if there is a special project requested, the municipality must bear the cost of materials. In the case of small municipalities, the County will continue to provide the basic services, but the municipality will be charged for the cost of materials used in Special Projects.

Reviewed through budget process
Chairman Stavrinakis noted that special Planning and Special Project requests would not be provided "on demand". The County would make no charge for Planning requests that were minor. But those which would involve a significant amount of staff time must be requested through the annual budget process. Special Projects would also be reviewed through the budget process. This review would enable the County to assess the merits of any project and allow the County to consider its ability or desire to meet the request.

Law enforcement proposal stirs Chairman
This all sounded fine to Council and it endorsed Staff's proposals. But Law Enforcement was something else. Staff proposed that all municipalities fund the full cost of law enforcement beyond current staffing levels. But as it is now, specialized teams and assistance would be provided free.

Chairman Stavrinakis was very unhappy with the proposal. He said James Island should pay for all of the cost of law enforcement. It was not fair to the rest of the County that the citizens should subsidize the law enforcement costs of the new town.

Sheriff rises to defend proposal and agitates for "consolidation"
Sheriff Cannon rose to address the issue and took the opportunity to introduce another issue - consolidation. He noted that there is the equivalent of about 26 officers allocated to law enforcement on James Island. He didn't seem concerned about the possibility of subsidy, it already existed, he said. Take the case of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands. They paid a hefty proportion of the County's taxes which was used such things as financing the jail, EMS and law enforcement. The residents of these communities drew on the services very lightly compared with other communities.

Consolidation of the law enforcement services of the County and municipalities was very important, the sheriff said. It would lead to cost savings and a more efficient and effective service. There was always a reason found "not to consolidate". He would like to see the issue of "consolidation" placed as a referendum question in 2008. He would also be happy to stand up with Mayor Riley and debate the issue.

Motivation of Chairman questioned
Then it got a little ugly. The Sheriff suggested that the proposal that the County should not pay the full cost of law enforcement was a backdoor way to defeat the James Island decision to form a town. Chairman Stavrinakis retorted "You're wrong!"

Mayor Riley has opposed the formation of the Town of James Island and the City has initiated legal action to stop the formation. Considering the close association of Mayor Riley and Chairman Stavrinakis, the Sheriff's suggestion may have some merit. But then again, it does not lessen the legitimacy of Chairman Stavrinakis's concern. He also warned Council, that it would be stuck with the proposal to pay the cost of the above- current-staffing-levels if it voted for it. It would not be able to go back and change it.

Council member McKeown was the first to say that he needed more time to consider the issue and it seemed that other members agreed. It will be revisited at the next Committee meeting.

Diversity goals being achieved and may be raised
The County has a diversity goal of 10% for minority representation in high paying positions and in Procurement. Presentations made yesterday by Messrs. Barret Tolbert and Stan Currie indicate that the County is generally exceeding these goals. And County Chief Administrator Canterbury indicated that in the light of the Disparity Study that was likely to be presented to Council shortly, he may suggest the target be raised to 20%.

Mr. Tolbert who heads the Minority Business Program noted that in 2005, only 2% of County business went to minorities. In fiscal 2006 it had risen to 18%. Of the 18%, roughly half were women and the other half, racial minorities. He attributed the increase to a more active County program, more effort to training folk and greater effort to inform the public. He also spoke of a new partnership between the County, First Federal and The Local Development Corporation to assist small businesses to obtain contracts with the County. The focus is on bonding and lines of credit

Mr. Currie who heads Human Resources noted that at the beginning of 2005, women and racial minorities made up 8% of all those employees earning above $50,000 on County Staff. At July 7, the number was equal to 13%.

Some sorely need resurfacing to be undertaken
Downtown travelers will applaud the decision by Council to move ahead with some major road paving contracts. The condition of Morrison Drive before the entrance to the new bridge must be close to the worst amongst major roads on the Peninsula. Council is spending funds that come from a $ 4 million allocation from the half-cent sales tax and from funds allocated from the gas tax. No estimate of costs was given by the County. The projects are as follows:

• City of Charleston - resurfacing Morrison Drive from the new Ravenel Bridge to Meeting Street (0.75m). Along Meeting Street, from Mt. Pleasant to Romney Street (0.43 m)
• Mount Pleasant - 3.5 miles of resurfacing along Mathis Ferry Road from US17 to I-526, and along Long Point Road from Whipple Road to US 17 (2.1m).
• North Charleston - resurfacing of 2.44 miles along Dorchester Road from I-526 to Rivers Avenue.

Council also approved a number of Small Projects with a contract value of $1.7 million. The largest amount was $500,000 allocated for Grimball Road Bike Paths - Phase 1. This is on James Island. Other projects were mainly sidewalks and drainage projects distributed amongst the municipalities.

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