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City Council, March 27

Police, CBDG and HOME grants
A need for better management of City trucks
Marc Knapp

It was pretty day. And it was particularly pretty on Daniel Island where yesterday’s Council meeting was held. The Island’s lawns seemed greener, its streets cleaner, and its buildings crisper. The Island’s appeal was noted by the Mayor and others. And when the Mayor adjourned the meeting, he whimsically asked as to whether the Council should have more meetings on the island. But it was not the ambience of the island that prompted the question but the length of the meeting – it was very short.

There was not much of substance on the agenda. Council is to apply for a federal COPS grant of $1.53 million over three years to add 8 to the City’s police complement. The City’s match will be $531,000. The new hires will all be veterans. The terms of the grant commit the City to retaining the new positions for at least 4 years. The Mayor said it is the City’s intention to indefinitely retain the positions.

Council also agreed to the distribution of HUD funding for FY2013. The City is to receive $856, 055 for Community Development Block Grants (CDGB), $456,134 for HOME funds (which combined with the unallocated portion related to the previous year of $177,251, will give a total for distribution of $633,385) and $560,081 for Housing of People with Aids (HOPWA). It is interesting that the funding for housing for those with AIDS is roughly half that allocated for HOME and CBDG combined. This seems a high proportion. However the allocation is made at the Federal and not the City level. The City determines the recipients and the amounts. These can be seen by pressing Download file.

The City is moving ahead with improving the West Ashley Greenway. A contract of $246,464 for improvements, and the addition of $120,751 to an existing contract to add 4,600 feet of asphalt paving, were approved with Landscape Pavers LLC. The Mayor noted that on completion of these contracts, there will be a 3.12 mile paved section. The Mayor also said that work would be undertaken to extend the improvements and the bikeway itself to Folly Road to the east and Stinson Street to the west.

Council also agreed to some zoning changes, which as usual include many relating to annexations on James Island. One approval related to a Planned Unit Development by Essex Farms in West Ashley. The rezoning will allow the operation of a 24/7 grocery and drug store on the property adjacent to the Glen McConnell Highway, somewhat north of the existing Lowes store. The Mayor and others welcomed the proposal saying that it was favored by the community.

I have risen at a number of recent Council meetings to draw attention to the poor management of trips by large City vehicles, particularly of Charleston Parks, Storm water and street vehicles. There have been many instances where vehicles have been driven around, seeming without purpose. I have followed them and reported to Council members, but the response has been luke warm. I have suggested that these vehicles be equipped with GPS tracking devices so the trips and the location of the vehicles can be recorded. One Council member told me that the equipping vehicles with GPS would be too costly.

I refute that GPS would be too costly. My research shows that the cost would be $35 a month per vehicle with no installation fee. So the issue would be whether a cost saving of $35 a month would be possible or likely. When big trucks consume a gallon of diesel every 8 miles or less, and a gallon of diesel costs over $4, fuel savings alone could easily pay for the program. But the saving on wages, and the wear-and -tear on vehicles could be a major multiple of this.

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