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County Council, November 29

Council mute on Long Savannah annexation
Raises Diversity Goal for Hiring and Procurement
Warwick Jones

Those of us expecting some discussion of the annexation of the Long Savannah development by the City of Charleston were disappointed. There was none. We know that some Council members were upset by the City’s action and the breach of the unwritten agreement with the County not to annex on the rural side of the Urban Growth Boundary. But as a staff member said, what can the County do? There was no legal impediment to the annexation. Council, meeting as the Finance Committee broke for a long executive session over a number of matters. Possibly it also discussed the annexation.

Diversity target set at 20%
Following the success of its Diversity Policy, Council last night voted to raise it target of participation by Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) from 10% to 20% for both Human Resources and Procurement. The increase was unanimously approved.

Council first set a target in 2005 at 10%. But levels progressively above this were achieved in subsequent years. In 2005 only 8% of all employers earning above $50,000 were minorities (minorities and women). At the end of September this year, the level was 16.1%. From the presentation by staff, it seemed likely that the level would rise further over the next few years.

In Procurement, the gains were also impressive. The figure for participation in 2005 was not given but in 2006 was 14.5% and in 2007, 15.2%. But in Q1 of Fiscal 2008, participation was 21%. Spending under Procurement is broken down into 2 categories - Controllable Expenses and Contracts. The latter category is generally much larger that the first and the respective values in Fiscal 2007 were $1.2 million and $9.3 million. Participation of MWBEs in 2007 was 25.1% and 14.3% respectively. In Q1 Fiscal 2008, the participation was 14.1% and 21.5% respectively.

Council member Thurmond questions benefit
Council member Thurmond asked staff as to whether it could measure any tangible benefit from the Diversity Program. The answer, from Staff and Council members was that it was not possible to measure the benefits. The latter came for better morale and the perceived better opportunities for all staff to improve their positions. A diversity of race and sex also made for better and fairer decision-making.

Allocation for Highway 17 widening raised
Council also discussed the sales tax monies for road spending in fiscal 2008 under Allocations. Much of the spending had already been determined and amounts for items such as Local Paving and Intersection Improvements, each at $2 million a year have already been determined. The approval was just a matter of form. But some new projects were discussed and in particular, an increase in the contribution to widening Highway 17 from the IOP Connector to Wando High School. Council members McKeown and Schweers sought this. They spoke of the traffic chaos on the Highway and the benefit not only to the residents of Mount Pleasant but for all who travel Highway 17. The Council members sought $3 million but we are unsure how much of this was above the previous allocation to the project.

Some other Council members protested that this reallocation would take away funds from some other roads on the list. But they acquiesced when assured that work would be deferred for perhaps only 6 months.

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