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City Council, May 26

Rare musical treat for Council goers
Preliminary plans for fire victims’ memorial
Marc Knapp

I never thought that covering City Council meetings would give me an opportunity to be a music critic. Last night’s meeting featured Council member Wilson and two other members of the Charleston Symphony, playing the second movement of Debussy’s Sonata for Harp, Viola and Flute. The performance was in celebration of this year’s Spoleto Festival.

I don’t have the skill to use all of the long and mellifluous words employed by music critics. All I can say is that it was an excellent performance and the highlight of the evening. Indeed there was little else on the agenda that would have challenged its prominence.

Preliminary plans for memorial
The Mayor, reading initially from a prepared speech, made much of the presentation by the 28 member Committee chosen to shape a memorial for the firemen killed in the Sofa Super Store fire. The presentation was called “Preliminary Conceptual Design Options and Considerations”. And that is what it was, and very preliminary.

The Chair of the Committee, Mr. Jimmy Bailey, continuing the Mayor’s efforts to add solemnity to the occasion, read part of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to begin the presentation. The committee defined its mission as providing a memorial to the dead firefighters, a facility for education and for training firefighters, and providing an administrative head quarters. With this in mind, the Council was treated to a large number of slides showing buildings of various shapes and sizes in differing patterns over the 2.5 acre site. Each building had a specific use, or was split up for specific uses defined by the mission statement.

Committee favors a single building
The Committee was inclined to choose a single building of between 25,000 and 32,000 sq. ft. that would enclose a memorial garden. The later would have an emblem as a center piece, such as a Maltese Cross.

I don’t know the reaction of Council members to the presentation. All approved the conceptual design so they clearly were not opposed. But it was hard to get a feel for what the final building might be like. Only a footprint was shown. And although one may be critical about the choice of the Committee, it is hard to come up with an alternative. As speakers noted, the site is on a busy highway and on one side is a car lot, on the other, a gas station. Buffers were needed to screen them out, and also to deal with the noise from the highway.

And if we are creating a memorial to those killed in the fire, we should also remember the names of those in the administration who perhaps could have avoided the deaths if they had run the Fire Department in a more competent manner.

Where to find the money?
There was no mention of the cost of the memorial and the building. Our guess is something of the order of $10 million. There is no funding in place for the memorial. The Mayor and the Committee are hoping for public subscriptions.

New regulations on the disposal of needles
Council also passed an ordinance to bring the City’s regulations into line with those of the State in relation to the disposal of “needles and other sharps”. In summary, they are to be placed in separate and sealed containers, and labeled “WARNING. NEEDLES!” The containers are to be placed at the top of a trash can and clearly visible to the collection crews.

Council added another clause beyond “sharps”. “All human and animal waste should be disposed of through the sanitary sewage system or a septic tank. Diapers, incontinence products and animal excreta shall be placed in a sealed separate bag before being placed inside another bag containing household garbage”.

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