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City Council, March 6

Hardly worth the long wait
Main items were Bike Path contract and new City Gym
Marc Knapp

Regular attendees of Council meetings were probably confused. Council meetings usually are held every 2 weeks and begin with a meeting of the Way and Means Committee at 4.30 pm. Yesterday’s meeting follows only a week after the last, and began at 5.30 pm. The meeting was brought forward a week to allow Council members to travel to Washington for conferences with House and Senate members. This pilgrimage occurs every year and this year’s is scheduled for next week. The delay in beginning yesterday’s meeting reflected the overlap with the Mayor’s “night in”, when he meets with citizens to hear their requests or complaints.

For those of us who turned up in time, the long wait was hardly worth while. There was little of substance discussed at Council. The only items of note were the contract for construction of the West Ashley River Road bike path, and construction of the new City Gym.

Construction of bike/pedestrian way approved
The plan for creation of a 1.5 mile bike/pedestrian way from Bees Ferry Road to Westbridge Road has been discussed for some time. The delay in construction lay largely with acquisition of “right of ways” and other legal matters. All these things have now been completed and the Council last night agreed to award a contract for the construction to Landscape Pavers at $398,658. Only two bids were received and the other, from Plowden Construction was at $673,000. Council member Fishburne was surprised at the big difference in quotes and the Staff responded by saying they too were surprised as they had estimated the cost at about $540,000.

The Mayor commented that Landscape Pavers was well known and had worked in the area. He also added that the new bike path would be linked to the West Ashley Greenway. He hoped that the City would be able to create more bike paths and link them all.

Council has budgeted $529,000 for the bike path of which $72,000 are “soft” costs. Most of the soft costs have already been incurred. After the subtraction of the Landscape Pavers contract cost, roughly $56,000 remains for contingencies. Of the total budgeted amount, roughly $378,000 comes from City’s general fund and the balance from SCDOT and Federal grants, and the Hospitality Fee.

Citizens want a bigger City Gym
The construction of the new City Gym was not on the agenda but a number of citizens spoke of it during Citizens Participation. All were concerned that the new gym fulfills the need of citizens. Some noted the expected rise in numbers using the gym and the inadequate number of gyms to serve citizens. Many asked that the size of the proposed gym be doubled from 18,000 sq ft to near 40,000 sq ft. Some also asked that a swimming pool be created with a bubble to allow extended use. This was later endorsed by Council member Wilson.

The Mayor made the appropriate affirmative noises saying that there would be meetings with citizens to determine the final nature of the gym. But he promised that it would be “state of the art” But he did not promise any increase in size. He noted that the proposed 18,000 sq ft gym was as large as the site could bear. Yes, there were playing fields (Harmon Field) adjacent that could host an expanded gym but he was not inclined to sacrifice them.

The Arthur Christopher City gym is about 14,000 sq ft in size and is located close to the Citadel. The Citadel Trust has agreed to buy the 2.52 acre property for $2.15 million. The City is to build its new gym nearby but at a Council meeting late last year, the Mayor indicated that the cost of the new gym would exceed the sale price. Under the deal with the Citadel Trust, the City can continue to use the existing gym until its new one is completed.

More conspicuous police presence, and new traffic control system
We also rose in Citizens Participation to comment on the seeming big increase in police visibility. We don’t know what has happened but on many instances in the past I have commented on the dearth of police presence on West Ashley and other areas. But now police seem to be consistently conspicuous. This pleasing change began in the aftermath of the hiring of Police Chief Mullen.

Courtesy of Council member Morinelli, I was shown the new traffic computer control system installed in the Reuben Greenberg Building on Lockwood Avenue. Yes, it looks impressive and new facilities are to be added. We also hope these include cameras to observe possible congestion at pressure points around the City. Staff was confident that it would all work and contribute to an easing of the traffic congestion. I hope they are right but I can’t help noting that this is the third attempt to ease traffic flows in the City. The previous attempts failed or the impact was so slight that they went unnoticed.

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