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County Council, June 15

Study of Crosstown and Ashley River Bridges approved
Assessorís Office to get new home
Warwick Jones

It maybe too simplistic to say the County has made the first step to ease the traffic congestion on the Crosstown and its approaches. But at yesterdayís Finance Committee meeting, the County authorized staff to begin negotiations with two companies to study the issues and award a contract.

The successful company will ďcomplete a comprehensive analysis of US 17 in the City of Charleston from Avondale Avenue, across the Ashley River Bridges and the through the Crosstown to its connection with I -26 near Coming Street. The requested services will include project management, traffic studies, surveying, environmental screening, conceptual bridge and roadway designĒ et al.

The estimated cost of the study was not revealed but the funds will come from the recently approved half cent sales tax. The two firms being considered are Kimley-Horn, and Ramey Kent and Associates.

Of course the cost of the study will be a fraction most likely of what might be recommended, particularly if the two bridges that cross the Ashley River are replaced. And the time frame? Many years!
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After the study and presentation by staff, one wonders why a decision on relocating the Assessorís Office took so long. The relocation was proposed nearly two months ago but Council members were not happy about the conclusion. They tasked staff to look at other options. Last night they presented the options and with pretty clear logic, made a recommendation that was unanimously adopted by the Finance Committee.

The issue was accommodating the Assessorís Office in a single location and meeting other requirements such as parking, security and citizen accessibility. The office presently is down town but the space is insufficient to accommodate personnel and facilities, and to provide for expected growth in the future. The present location has 13,750 sq. ft. of usable office space but the requirements to accommodate future growth are estimated at 16,418 sq. ft.

Staff contacted a number of brokers in an attempt to identify suitable sites and narrowed the possible options to five. There was only option that was of suitable size and met other requirements. It was at 3875 Faber Place Drive, a short distance from the County Building in North Charleston. The usable space is 17,200 sq. ft. and is available at $22.50 a sq. ft. per year. This compares with the $24 a sq. ft. rate at 1 South Park, the site first considered. The rent escalates at 3% a year and we believe there are two 5 year option periods.
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Some Council members were surprised by the presentation and request by Men Against Domestic Abuse (MAD). It wasnít because of hostility to the non-profit or its objective. Indeed, those that spoke favored the cause. The surprise was that Council members had received little or no information about the non-profit, knew little about, and were asked to give it $190,000, half of MADís yearly budget. And besides, hadnít Council decided that it would consider such requests only once a year and together with all requests? MAD may be a good cause but were there not other good causes in need of support? And as Council member Qualey said, the third reading of the 2018 Budget was scheduled for next Tuesday. And now the Committee was considering a last minute request, after the first and second readings. He didnít say it. But he implied that it mocked the first and second readings.

The Committee voted to ask staff to see whether there were funds available in next yearís budget to accommodate MADís request. But Chairman Rawl and others asked for more. What charities provided similar services, the coordination between charities and other groups, the possibility of government grants? The Chairman wanted staff to talk to MAD to see if there was an opportunity to help it obtain grants.

Only Committee members Schweers and Qualey voted against the motion tasking staff to look for a $190,000 source in the budget. But Council Chair Rawl indicated that his vote on Tuesday, whether to make a grant, would depend on information provided by staff.

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