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County Council, September 19

Reassurances over Consolidated Dispatch
CARTA budget approved
Warwick Jones

Until yesterday, the Public Safety Committee had not met since 2005. Yesterday’s meeting was prompted by the failure of a dispatcher to pass on calls when received at the newly constructed Consolidated Dispatch Center. The failure was well covered in the local media and the individual responsible is now facing criminal charges.

The Council committee is chaired by Council member Summey and its members are Council members Darby, Qualey and Schweers. The meeting yesterday was also attended by some high ranking Fire and Police officials from the County and municipalities. Council member Summey and County Administrator Taylor had the most to say - boiled down it was simply the Consolidated Dispatch is functioning very well. The shocking actions of one dispatcher were to be deplored but it was no reflection on the performance and attitude of the staff of Consolidated Dispatch. The staff too was dismayed at what had occurred.

The officials from the County and municipalities spoke similarly. They had only praise the performance of Consolidated Dispatch. Consolidation is still underway with the Isle of Palms and Folly Beach joining shortly and the City of Charleston in Q1 2014. One member of staff noted that the Center had achieved a response rate of 99.1% within 15 seconds to all 911 calls. Speaking on behalf of Sheriff Cannon, Assistant Sheriff Lucas said that the actions of the individual were not a failure of the Consolidated Dispatch or its system. It was a human failure which could have occurred at any of the municipality dispatch centers before consolidation.

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CARTA's budget for Fiscal 2014 was before the Finance Committee last night. Council member Summey, who is the Chair of the CARTA Board spoke of the great effort that went in to shaping the budget. The Committee ultimately approved the budget but there were two members who voted against it. Prior to the vote, Council member Summey noted that the City of Charleston had approved the budget and the Town of Mount Pleasant (TOP) had voted it down. Despite the TOP’s vote, the budget would be implemented if the majority of the owning entities – the County and municipalities- approved it. Viewers can see the budget summary by pressing Download file for revenues and Download file for expenses.

Council member Sass questioned the large increase in advertising revenue projected for 2014. From $250,000 in FY2013, adverting was projected to increase to $700,000. Was this credible? Apparently CARTA staff thought so. Most of the remaining discussion revolved about CARTA’s plan to buy the Charleston AMTRAK station and sell the site it owns on West Montague Street and where it planned a intermodal center. The Post and Courier ran a story on the planned moves earlier this week.

The development of the AMTRAK property will cost about $14 million and will be used for a bus and train hub. The West Montague property which when last appraised had a value of $4.7 million. It is to be reappraised. The sale of this property will trigger the obligation to repay of $3.7 million to the US Federal Transit Administration for past grants. However, CARTA expects it will be able to repay these funds from other US government grants for developing the AMTRAK site and from the sale of the West Montague property. It also expects to raise matching funds, from the County and presumably the state and municipalities.

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The Committee approved 5 Rural Greenbelt grants last night totaling $2.5 million. One of the grants, amounting to $266,650 was for the purchase of a Conservation Easement by the Low County Open Land Trust on 57 acres across Angel Oak Road and opposite the Angel Oak Phase 2 property. The easement allows for the construction of only 3 dwellings.

There was also a grant for $125,000 to purchase a conservation easement on 9.15 acres on Edisto Island. The Middleton Plantation House stands on the property. No new construction is permitted under the easement.

The largest grant was for the purchase of a 211 acre property in Hollywood at the intersection of Highways 162 and 164. The Town of Meggett will be the recipient of the grant. The property is to be used as a park and has received a nod from the County Parks and Recreation Commission which has agreed to lend technical and management help on behalf of citizens of the County. There is a catch though. The property was appraised in 2006 at $1.975 million. A current appraisal is needed. Grants cannot exceed appraised valuations. As well, grants cannot be made to cover the value of buildings within properties. In anticipation of a lower current valuation and the fact that buildings are on the property, the Greenbelt Bank set a limit of $1.47 million to the grant.

Allowing for the grants approved last night, only $11.1 million of rural greenbelt funds remain for future disbursement.

The Finance Committee also approved a $476,000 Urban Greenbelt grant to the City of North Charleston to purchase properties aggregating 3.43 acres abutting or close to Noisette Creek. The City has received a number of grants over the years to purchase properties along the creek and all of which are contiguous.

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