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County Council, April 1,

Debates posting salaries again, but with same decision
The Sheppard Tract, Folly Beach Park and Airport Roads funding
Warwick Jones

Council was not at its best at yesterday’s meeting. As the Finance Committee, it revisited the issue of posting salaries of County employees on its web site. After lengthy debate, it came to the same conclusion it made at the previous meeting. And then there was the sale of the Sheppard Tract. It was to be used as a waste dump but the locals protested. The County agreed to sell the tract for $2.7 million and just before Council was to vote on the sale, it realized that the new owner still had the right to use the site as a dump. Wasn’t the purpose of the sale to remove the possibility of dumping? Back to the negotiating table!

The Finance Committee at its last meeting agreed to post the salaries of County staff earning $50,000 and above a year. Those working for elected or appointed officials would also be posted but only with the agreement of the office head. Somewhere along the way, a word got left out of the resolution and the matter was brought up again yesterday. And those in attendance heard the arguments all over again, and with the same result. But County Administrator O’Neal did say that he had set aside $300,000 in the upcoming budget for a salary study. This seemed to be generally applauded as it had been Council intent for some years to conduct such a study. But Chairman Pryor, unhappy about the posting of any salary figures warned of the possible outcome of the study. If there are major and unjustified differences in the pay of personnel, bringing them in line could cost the County plenty.

To sell Sheppard Tract for $2.7 million, hopefully
The decision to sell the Sheppard Tract was made at the end of the meeting and after an executive session. Council member Summey moved that the Sheppard tract be sold for $2.7 million with a Right of Way easement. The proceeds were to go to the Solid Waste fund. The motion was seconded and about to be voted upon when Council member Rawl asked whether the new owner would have the right to use the property for land fill. Silence. Er,. yes it did. Wasn't the purpose of the sale to remove the possibility of a land fill? Er...yes. So no vote was taken. Staff is to go back to the prospective buyer (Hunting Tract LLC) to see if it is agreeable to a zoning change - land fill no longer a permitted use - or a deed restriction. Hopefully the prospective buyer is agreeable and the sale can be voted on at the Tuesday Council meeting. (The prospective buyer was not agreeable so the property presumably is back on the market. Editor)
Approves PRC purchase of land at Folly Beach
Council also had a problem with a request from the PRC for approval to buy land at Folly Beach to create a park. This issue also came up at an earlier meeting but was deferred at the request of Council member Thurmond. He understood that there was opposition to the purchase.

Council members deliberated again yesterday and were confused. The Town of Folly Beach had met but did not vote on the issue. It left the decision to County Council. So without the guidance of the town, Council was in a quandary what to do.

There was no indication given at the meeting yesterday as to why the town would not want a park. We asked a Folly Beach resident who was in attendance as to whey there was opposition. She said that the park would create more traffic in an already heavily trafficked area. She also said there was some resentment as to the lack of transparency. The Mayor or members of Council had not kept the community informed as to what was going on.

Council ultimately decided to approve the purchase which encompassed 5 contiguous tracts that amounted to less than an acre. Part of the properties is beach front and the road side area will be used to create parking for about 40 cars Mr. Tom O’Rourke, Executive Director of the PRC said. The cost of the properties amounts to $2.81 million and will be met from half cent sales tax funding.

Looks to SIB for Airport Roads funding
The recommendation of Staff for financing the airport road redevelopment was tabled at yesterday’s meeting. It was probably very predictable - request $155 million from the State Infrastructure Bank. Considering that the spending planned by the County is to accommodate the traffic flows in the wake of Boeing’s expansion, we expect the application has a good chance of success. After all, the state played a major role in bringing Boeing to Charleston.

The County’s plan envisions spending $5 million “immediately”. This will be drawn from some “intersection improvement" funds related to the half cent sales tax revenue with $1 million provided from the allocation in 2011 budget. The funds will be repaid with the proceeds of the SIB grant.

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