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City Council, September 27

A warning for those aspiring to resurrect the Town of James Island
A statue of MLK at Liberty Square

Marc Knapp

The City fired a warning shot across the bow of those who might be thinking of resurrecting the Town of James Island. City Council agreed to send a resolution to the County asking that if a new town were formed, it provide and pay for a police force that is appropriate for a town of its size. The final paragraph does not quite say that but the many “whereas” paragraphs certainly do.

The final paragraph of the resolutions reads … “the City of Charleston respectfully urges Charleston County Council to require a new Town of James Island, if one is formed, to directly provide its own law enforcement services or to compensate the County for police services that may be provided to this municipality”.

The Mayor, and presumably Council believed that the Town of James Island was not paying its full share of the cost of the law enforcement services provided by the County. Further, other taxpayers in the County effectively subsidized the services provided by the County to the town.

The Mayor noted that other towns and municipalities in South Carolina with a population of more than 5,000, paid between $150 and $500 per capita for law enforcement services. The new town would have a population of about 12,000 so the annual cost based on these figures would be between $1.8 million and $6 million. Based on the estimated 18,000 population of the Town before it was dissolved, the theoretical range would have been $2.7 million to $9 million.

Off hand we don’t know what the Town paid the County for law enforcement services though we believe the figures are available. But we are certain the amount fell well below $2.7 million, the lowest level in the range calculated above for a population of 18,000. The resolution of the City states that the Town used the services of the County Sheriffs’ department “at almost no additional cost”.

The resolution points out that SC law requires that “the incorporation of a new Town of James Island to file a proposal as part of the incorporation application that demonstrates that, directly, the level of law enforcement in the new Town will be substantially similar to that in existence prior to incorporation”. As the City of Charleston is now providing that service, it implies that a new Town would have to provide something comparable.

Mayor Riley said the resolution had no prompting from the County or other municipalities. But he did talk to the Mayors of North Charleston and Mount Pleasant and they were in agreement with the tenor of the resolution.

The following is the unwritten message of the resolution. Go ahead and try to form a new Town of James Island, but beware, the cost of services, in particular law enforcement, could send your property taxes through the roof!

Other items discussed at yesterday’s Council meeting were ;

  1. A memorandum of intent between the National Parks Service (NPS) and the City relating to the erection of a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King on Liberty Square. The property at Liberty Square is owned by the NPS but a partnership of the City and the NPS constructed and manage buildings that include a visitors’ center.

    To move forward on the planned statue, certain formalities are required by the NPS of which the memorandum is one. It also states that the City will be the sponsor of the statue and a City sponsored Committee will have the responsibility of raising the sum necessary to finance the statue.

    The memorandum notes that the statue will be near the planned African American Museum. It also notes the important legacy of Dr King and the fact that he visited and spoke in Charleston on three occasions. On his last visit in 1967, he spoke with Charleston native and Civil rights activist Septima Clark.

  2. The cost of health insurance for City employees and retirees is likely to rise 5.6% in 2012 to $12.21 million. In 2011, the budgeted cost was $11.48 million. The increased cost follows on negotiations with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The average cost per employee will rise by 7.7% though those also in the Health Reimbursable Account (HRA) will see an increase in rates – between 15.6% and 22.9%. The HRA a hybrid plan that allows the City to pay the first $500 of $1100 total deductible for single person to $1000 for families with a $2200 deductible. About 83% of all City employees are in the plan but in future, all employees will need to be enrolled. The City is also passing on a higher proportion of costs to employees by requiring higher co-pays. It also will require pre certification of electronic imaging.
  3. The City attempted to address the problem of those properties along Wesley Drive/Folly Road Boulevard that are presently zoned residential. As noted at yesterday's meeting, the area has a "run down" look, a reflection most likely that there is no interest in the properties under the present zoning. A business zoning seems more appropriate considering Savannah Highway and a major shopping center bound it. Council approved the recommendations of the Planning Commission and amongst other things, approved the extension of the Savannah Highway Overlay to include the properties.

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