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County Council, January 17

Proposals by Council member Rawl likely to generate heated debate
Welcome work planned for Route 17/Main Road intersection
Warwick Jones

One of the changes for the New Year was the appointment of Council member Rawl to the Chair of the Administration Policy/Rules Committee. The Committee had its first meeting of the year last night and it was clear that the new Chair plans changes. From the comment of one Council member, it seems Council members were given little or no notice of Council member Rawl’s proposals. In consequence, he read them aloud and noted that he was only seeking comments, not a vote.

We were unable to record the proposals “word for word” but in essence they were:

  1. The Chairman of Council should serve for no more than two consecutive terms.

  2. Special committees appointed by the Chair should be defined by need, have a specified purpose, and have a time limit.

  3. Notes of the meetings of the special Committees should be kept by the Clerk of Council and be available to the public. An attorney should be assigned to each Committee.

  4. Persons who speak before Council should provide in writing beforehand the substance of their speech or presentation. This requirement would not apply to citizens speaking in the half hour citizens’ participation period.

  5. Define how items can be placed on the agenda of Council.

  6. Better define the relationship of the County Attorney with the Chairman, Council members, and elected officials.

Council member Rawl also sought that all information submitted with a planning or zoning application remain proprietary until being submitted to the Commission or Board. Planning Director Pennick noted at the meeting that this issue had already been addressed by the Planning Commission and an addition to the ordinance would come before Council shortly.

Council member Darby was the first to question the proposals and in particular, the first proposal. He noted that past Chairmen had served for more than 2 consecutive terms. Why the proposed change? Council member Rawl opined that Council gets a little stale, and we presume he thought a change in the Chair would give it freshness. He also used the word “egregious” but we are unsure of the context.

There was limited discussion thereafter but there was support for some of the proposals. However Council member Darby questioned Proposal 5 and Council member Schweers noted Section 4.5 of existing Rules of Conduct attempted to do the same as the proposal. But it needed to be better defined. Council member Qualey added his lament that Council members who were not members of a Special Committees could not vote on issues before the latter. This often meant that issues never reached full Council.

The proposals will now be put on the agenda for a future meeting and ultimately for Council. We expect more fiery debates at these meetings. We suspect proposals 1 and 5 will draw a lot of discussion. The first proposal will be seen as an attack on Chairman Pryor and we expect it will be opposed by Council members Darby, Johnson, Summey and Chairman Pryor. Council member Rawl will support the proposal and almost certainly so will Councilmember Condon who despite being a Democrat, has opposed the appointment of Chairman Pryor. We don’t know the view of other Council members.

Proposal 5 is allied to the lament of Council member Qualey, a lament well discussed over the last year on the Administration Policy/Rules Committee but not to his satisfaction. This Special Committee presently comprises Council members Rawl, Darby, Sass and Summey. The Chairman of Council can also participate and vote at a meeting. If there is a change in the Council Chair, it could well be that Council member Qualey gets sufficient votes to move issues to the full Council for consideration.

Two new Road projects approved
Two road projects were also discussed at yesterday’s meetings. The first was the intersection of Route 17 and Main Road. The proposal by the SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) to undertake a “superstreet” was greeted warmly by Council. The SCDOT has been studying the safety of the intersection for some time concluding that it needed attention. What it now plans has been tried successfully in North Carolina and elsewhere. To understand how it works, consider coming along Main Road from Johns Island and preparing to cross or turn on Route 17. The right, straight ahead, and left hand turns are controlled by traffic lights. With the super street proposal, traffic will move only ahead or to the right. There will be no left hand turn. Traffic that wishes to travel south will first make a right hand turn on to Route 17 and after about 2000 feet or so will pull over to the left and make a 180 degree turn onto the southward moving lane.

There still will be traffic lights at the intersection but by eliminating the left turns from Main Road at the intersection, traffic flow will be much improved. The SCDOT reported that sometimes the line of traffic on Route 17 was 2500 feet long under the present system,

The cost of the project is $3.5 million of which $2 million will be funded by Federal programs. The County is on the hook for $1.5 million and we expect it will find the funds to enable construction to begin by the middle of next year.

The other project was Harborview Road. The project was underway some 12 months or so ago when residents complained. The project was amended and despite the higher cost, was approved by Council. However, because it is a state road, the new plan had to be approved by the SCDOT. Most of the plan was approved but the SCDOT insisted that a sidewalk be constructed on the northern side of the road and the speed limit would be 45 mph and not 35 mph. And by the way, these things were not negotiable! Some citizens were not happy, nor was Council member Qualey who led the quest for changes. But what could Council do but vote for it? And it did.

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