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City Council, May 12

Citizens criticize lack of facilities at parks, pedestrian safety, and firefighter pensions
And more grant applications
Marc Knapp

It ought to have been a short meeting. There were no public hearings and no “first readings” on the Council agenda. And the agenda for the Ways and Means Committee was largely Grant applications. But a lengthy and plodding presentation by Staff on “Bicycle Friendly Community” and an active Citizen Participation period extended the meeting to about 3 hours.

Lack of facilities at two parks
There were a number of issues raised by Citizens. Two related to the facilities available, or not available, on Hampden Park and the park at Ferguson Village on James Island. The City was accused of not cooperating with the community when it used Hampden Park for softball and other events. Speakers noted the trash and lack of facilities. There was also a lack of parking and the City would not allow citizens to park on the grass. The criticism was harsher from the Ferguson Village community. Members spoke of the absence of toilets, an inadequate playground, and seating, things they say had been promised by the City. The Mayor seems sympathetic to the complaints, and Council members Gallant and Mallard spoke to some of the public indicating support.

Inadequate disability or pensions for firefighters. Where in the Public Safety Committee
Some past members of the City Fire department also spoke. Mr. RogerYew is a frequent critic of the City and the Mayor over the accountability of the Sofa Super store fire. He asked the City to take a look at its pension and health insurance policies. He said there were 6 persons who had previously served in the City Fire Department and were suffering Post Traumatic Stress. This condition had been brought about by the experience of fire, and the deaths of their workmates. He said that the present benefits paid by the City were inadequate and that after paying health premiums, there was little left on which to live. Another speaker noted that he received a payment of $1300 a month of which $400 went to health insurance premiums. He also said that a member of staff told him that the City would be bankrupt if payments were raised. Another speaker noted the infrequency of meetings of the Public Safety Committee. They were infrequent before the tragic fire, and continue to be. What was its purpose if not to ensure the safety of City’s residents and the efficacy of the police and fire departments?

Petition for City to address pedestrian safety
on Some members of the Garden District Neighborhood Association (Wraggborough) asked the City to do something about the safety of citizens trying to cross Meeting Street near Charles Street. Traffic was particularly heavy on Saturday mornings, and drivers seemingly uncaring about pedestrians. A petition with 200 signatures was presented to the Mayor.

Your truly had a number of observations or questions. I noted that firemen are not always wearing seat belts, an observation made a number of times in the past. Also, what was the situation in relation to the new City Gymnasium at Harmon Park. I hear that there is possible litigation relating to bids. I was amazed that none of the Council members had any idea there were problems. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Why has no one asked as to progress of the highly debated project? There is also an obvious lack of communication between staff and Council on a lot of matters and this is a prime example.

I also noted the difficulties of the County and municipalities in balancing their budgets. The City, however, is making no loud cries of pain. Is it suffering, or trying to hide the impending pain of a major tax increase due to run away spending for wants rather than needs? It’s economic times like this that will make the Mayor rethink the priorities of wants and needs. I hope for the sake of the taxpayers, the Mayor understands the difference.

And in conclusion there was the comment by the indomitable Ms Alice Tellis. She noted that generally every body – black folk, white folk - wanted something. “Nobody has enough of anything”. She is a principal of the long established Tellis Pharmacy on King Street. She nostalgically recalled the appearance of King Street 6o years ago and noted that the pharmacy was the only relic left on the block. The pharmacy had never sought special treatment. She said the whole block now is dead, and it really hurts. But she didn’t want to go too.

13 Grant Applications
As is now common on Way and Means Agendas, there were a plethora of applications for grants. Those yesterday totaled 13 though 4 were from private entities or foundations and for modest amounts.

The biggest grants sought were from the Department of Justice - $1.836 million and $434,000. The first was the 2009 Edward Byrne Memorial - Youth Violence Reduction Coalition for the prevention of Juvenile Violence and the second, the 2009 Edward Byrne Memorial ONE STOP Project. The grants are competitive and the City has no assurance that it will receive funds. There is no City match required if it does. The funds will be administered by the Police Department - “to engage the youth”.

Council member Gallant asked whether some of the community organizations could be involved in using the funds if the application were successful. The answer from a police spokesman was a qualified yes. It ultimately depended on the terms and conditions of the grants.

The other large grant was from the EPA – for $1.025 million. It was under the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program and will be used to reduce emissions of the Police and City vehicle fleet. A City match of $16,952 will be required.

Molony saga near end, or not?
And then there was the long winded presentation on the Malony embezzlement saga.
Hopefully, the saga is coming to an end and the City will recover the funds to which it is entitled. As reported in the Post and Courier last week, the City bought the house at an auction. No bids from other parties we received that would have left anything for the City after the repayment of the $310,000 mortgage. So the City bid $85,000. It now has 100% equity in the property. The valuation of the property early this year was $600,000. If the City can sell it for this amount, it will net about $200,000 after repayment of the mortgage. The City will also be close to realizing the total of $635,000 that it was awarded in a civil judgment. The City has already raised $403,000 from the sale of other assets.

But don’t hold your breath. The P&C reported this morning that Mrs. Malony is going to challenge the sale and has hired a lawyer.

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