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County Council, October 12

New jail to cost over $100 million, property taxes likely to rise
Success on the Eastside, Board of Conservation Bank chosen
Warwick Jones

There wasn't as much discussion on the new jail as the waiting TV camera teams expected. A PowerPoint presentation had been prepared by staff, but it was never given. Council agreed with Council member Bostic that much of the information was already public knowledge and there was no point in re hashing it. But the handout for the presentation showed that the estimated cost of the new jail was now $101 million, more than 30% over the previous estimate of $76 million. And most likely, property taxes will need to increase to finance it.

We will only summarize the discussion last night. It was fully covered in today's edition of the Post and Courier. The construction of the new jail will take about 3 years to complete, assuming no obstacles appear along the way. One obstacle might be the relocation of the SPCA facility that presently stands on the proposed jail site. A new facility is planned for North Charleston on land that is to be given up by the Federal Government (Navy). It seems that there is a question of "public purpose" and which presently blocks the gift. There is a meeting planned later this month in which Council hopes the Federal Government can be convinced and that the SPCA can move according to plan.

The need for the new jail has been evident for some years. Extrapolating from the existing inmate population, staff projects the need to accommodate 2033 prisoners by 2010. This is about 3 times the designed capacity of the existing jail, and 300 more than the present number of inmates. Clearly the word "confinement" has both a broad and narrow meaning when applied to Charleston County's jail. Very probably there will be a need to a property tax increase to pay for the jail. Staff proposed that $99 million be borrowed. To finance the borrowings, which we presume will be bonds, staff estimated that the millage rate would be raised by 0.8 in fiscal 2009 and another 0.8 in Fiscal 2009.

Council, acting as the Finance Committee, agreed to move along with the process and to call Requests for Qualifications (RFQs). From the list of respondents, 3 would be chosen to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) and from these a contractor would be chosen. As Council member Pryor suggested, the County does not have an option but to move head with the new jail. He also thought that folk would understand the urgency relating to the jail and more accepting of the need for a property tax increase.

Citizen Patrols on Eastside lauded
It was not on the agenda but it came in discussion at the conclusion of the meeting. Council member Darby thanked Council, the City of Charleston and the Sheriff's Department for the support that they had given to Citizen Patrols (CPAD) on the Eastside. He did not comment on how they were working but anecdotal evidence suggests very successfully. The Eastside is now a very quiet place after dark. Council member Pryor and Sheriff Cannon also spoke of the effort and in similar terms. The City of Charleston and the County were working together in harmony and effectively. Council member Pryor spoke of the support and gratitude that residents had shown the patrols. One resident's "face lit up when he learned the sheriff was walking with them". The Council member thought the effort could be emulated in other parts of the County where action against drug dealing was necessary.

Sheriff Cannon particularly noted the major role of the City Police Chief Mullen. He had allocated more police officers to the Eastside and this had made a big difference. Like Council member Pryor he was very impressed with the citizens' effort. The Sheriff also praised the contribution made by Council members Darby and Pryor, and also City Council members Mitchell, Gilliard and Lewis.

Slate of Directors for Conservation Bank approved
The Finance Committee chose the directors for the newly formed Conservation Bank. In a surprise but probably sensible move, a slate was put together by Council member Bostic, with input for other Council members. A motion was then made to accept the slate which was duly seconded and passed. Council member Bostic's action sidestepped a discussion of the merits of each of the candidates. As he and other Council members remarked, the list of applicants was full of very qualified people and it was hard to decide. He didn't say so, but public discussion or the merits of each applicant and their possible exclusion of some notable folk could have been humiliating. The Council member also said that Council had been mindful of people already serving on County Boards and did not want to fill the Board with the same people. It was looking to widen the list of names.

There were nine board position and applicants had to meet certain qualifications for each position except the last. These qualifications are similar to those defined by the State for the State Conservation Bank. The qualifications and the successful applicants are shown below.

1. Board member of a Charitable Organization - Margaret Blackmer of Lowcountry Open Land Trust
2. Owner of rural property - Edwin Cooper, who is also a Realtor with Holcombe Fair and Lane
3. Engaged in real estate business - John Templeton, Realtor and principal of Special Properties Inc., Chair of SC Landowners Association
4. Appraiser of land. - Charles Salmonsen
5. Member of Board of a Charitable corporation - Wilbur Johnson, Historic Charleston Foundation, Trust for Public Land, Attorney with Young Clement Rivers.
6. Board member of outdoor recreation organization - T Hayward Carter, Board member of Drayton Hall Council. Attorney with Evans Carter, Kunes and Bennett,
7. Banker of accountant - Hugh Lane, President and CEO of Bank of South Carolina.
8. Attorney - George Bullwinkel III, Attorney with Nexsen Pruet.
9. "At large"- Thomas Bulwinkle - Home builder

In terms of stature, Mr. Hugh Lane stands out and we predict a role as Chairman of the new Bank.

Your Comments:

Correction: the chosen appraiser was Charles Salmonsen.

Oops. sorry, we corrected our error.

Posted by: Colleen Condon at October 24, 2006 03:09 AM

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