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County Council, September 10

Consolidation of county–wide emergency dispatch service underway
Approves changes to Fee Ordinance relating to Building Inspections
Warwick Jones

Meeting as the Finance Committee, Council last night heard staff report on the planned transition schedule for Consolidated Dispatch, approved some changes in the Fee Ordinance, and accepted and dealt with some Federal Grants.

Planning for a county-wide consolidated dispatch service has been underway for some time. Following a decision by the City of Charleston only 2 months ago, all the municipalities in the County are now participating. Consolidation of the various agencies over the County is now underway but full consolidation of all Fire, EMS, and Police dispatch will not be achieved until 2013.

Staff told Council that to date the Fire Departments of Awendaw, St Pauls, Lincolnville and Dewees Island, and the Lincolnville Police Department had been consolidated with the County’s Sheriff, EMS and Rescue Squads. The St. Andrews Fire Department should be consolidated in November.

Questioned why consolidation had been confined largely to fire departments, Staff said that the operation presently did not have the capacity for immediate large scale expansion of the service. Fire departments placed less demand on services than police departments. The police departments, in particular that of the City of Charleston, would follow after more investment.

Present plans for consolidation are:

January 2010 - Folly Beach Public Safely, North Charleston Police and Fire, St. Johns Fire Department, City of Charleston Fire Department
July 2010 - Mount Pleasant Fire Department, James Island PSD.
Prior to July 2012 - Isle of Palms Fire Department, Sullivans Island Fire Department.
July 2012 - Police Departments of Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms and Sullivans Island
January 2012 - City of Charleston Police Department.

Staff also reported that negotiations were presently underway to buy land on the Palmetto Carriage Parkway on which to house the Consolidated 9-1-1 Center. And as already reported, the respective agencies will pay all salary and benefits of their employees as well as operational costs in 2010 and 2011, and employees will transition to County employees in the latter year. The County after 2011 will pay a higher share of the costs and by 2015, will meet all costs.

Changes in Fee Ordinance approved
Council at earlier meetings of the Finance Committee heard staff presentations and citizen comments over the Fee Ordinance relating to Building Inspections Department. Last night it acted and approved changes that clarified the ordinance and eliminated some of the smaller fees. Some of the changes related to fees levied on subcontractors that in some circumstances were onerous or questionable. Council also raised the fee for appeal and variance applications by $100.

There many changes, most of which we suspect are of limited interest to viewers. So we have made no attempt at a full report.

More Federal Grants
Like some of its municipalities, the County is the recipient of Federal Grants emanating from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There were three on yesterday’s agenda. The first related to $831,000 from HUD to assist the homeless. This grant had already been approved, and the Finance Committee agreed to its dispersal with funds going to a number of agencies. The major beneficiaries were Crisis Ministries ($150,000), Charleston Trident Urban League ($100,000) Family Services - Lease of Life ($100,000), Florence Crittenton Programs ($100,000), Humanities Foundation -Shelter Net ($100,000) and Low Country Aids Service ($89,000).

The second grant for $24,000 was for the Solicitors Office to allow funding of personnel. It came via the SC Department of Public Safety. The third grant, for $50,000 was via North Charleston whereby the County Public Defender would be a “sub awardee”. Cuts in grants by the state have reduced revenues of the Public Defender’s office considerably. The action by North Charleston which sends more felony cases than any other municipality to the County Defender is an attempt to fill part of this fall, and is expected to fund the retention of one existing attorney.

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