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County Council, October 11

Issues over land transfer to North Charleston Sewer District
Charleston Promise Neighborhood succeeding
Warwick Jones

There was nothing of much import on yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting. A discussion on the transfer of a property to the North Charleston Sewer District and a presentation on Charleston Promise Neighborhood took up nearly all of the session.

As County Administrator Taylor said, County staff had undertaken a study of the County’s land holdings to identify land that was surplus and could be sold or disposed of. The 1.6 acre parcel adjacent to the County’s offices on Bridge View Drive surrounds a 0.5 acre lot on which North Charleston Sewer District has a pumping station. The County’s lot also had an easement for a pipeline from the station. Staff opined that the County’s lot had little or no commercial value and could be of use to North Charleston if it needed to expand the pumping station. It was happy to sell the lot to the North Charleston Sewer District for $1 and the District was happy to take it on those terms.

Some Council members were uncomfortable with the “freebie” for the Sewer District. Council member Condon thought that a valuation should be made of the property before a decision. Council member Schweers noted that it was waterfront property implying it had some value. Others said and perhaps thought that with a pumping station smack in the middle and a utility easement, its commercial value would be minimal.

Council member Rawl made the sensible suggestion that the sale is approved but with the caveat that if the pumping station were to be closed and the Sewer District were to contemplate a non-utility use, ownership would revert back to the County. The Finance Committee supported his motion.

Charleston Promise Neighborhood makes progress
The presentation by Charleston Promise Neighborhood (CPN) was interesting and encouraging. The body came into existence some three years ago with the objective to help the blighted peninsula neighborhoods of Charleston and North Charleston. Most of its efforts so far have been directed to the four elementary schools serving these neighborhoods - James Simons, Sanders-Clyde, Chicora and Mary Ford Elementary schools. And according to the Chair of the non-profit, Mr. William Hewitt, its efforts had been successful.

The programs of CPN have led to increases in test scores. And according to its web site, “the CPN will be focusing on strengthening principal leadership, recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, providing in-school support to increase academic learning, expanding the school day and year, increasing parental involvement in academics, and stabilizing funding. Our goal is to partner with the Neighborhood to make these schools among the best in Charleston County. We’re also in the process of creating an early childhood strategy designed to close the “preparation gap” and make sure that children arrive for their first day of Kindergarten ready to learn.”

Mr. Hewitt made his presentation to bring Council up to date with activities and a request that the County continue its support. The County donated $50,000 in 2011, $100,000 in 2012 and has budgeted $150,000 in 2013. He also said the Cities of Charleston and North Charleston had made similar grants and hoped they would continue supporting the effort. He also noted that seven of the 15 directors of CPN had pledged to give $20,000 each per year. Directors included the Mayor Riley, County Chair Pryor and the Director McGinley of the County School District. The City of North Charleston was represented on the board as well. Noted philanthropist Anita Zucker is Vice Chair of the board.

The funds provided by the County, cities and directors in aggregate did not cover the cost of CPN’s programs and other donations and grants were necessary, Mr. Hewitt said. And considering its ambitions, the non-profit was hoping for increasing amounts in future.

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