Last night at city council, we had several votes that went against my fiscal conservative policy.
1) One was to replace a large fire supply truck known as Emergency One. The current truck is about 16 years old, and has less than 40 K miles on it. It’s most important job is carrying a high pressure compressor to refill oxygen tanks for our firefighters, plus it carries extra emergency supplies and ladders. It does not go out on every call. Also, it was poorly designed from the beginning to carry the weight it does. The budget to replace the truck was $229,000. The fire department wanted a truck that could handle the above mentioned jobs, plus have a small pumper with a 500 gallon tank. It will still be considered a reserve truck, it will not roll out on most calls, the regular larger pumper trucks would. On the first round of bid proposals, they were all in the high 300’s. On the second round, the winning bid was $352,528. Council’s vote was 6-3, with council members Ferencz, Ward, and myself voting against. Mind you, we all believe that we want our fire department, which does a great job, to be properly equipped and safe but at the same time, we need to think about budget ramifications. There will be some on council who will say we were endangering our residents by voting against this, while instead, we were voting to replace a like kind truck with a like kind truck and saving the taxpayers $123,528 minus whatever they can sell the current truck for.
2) We also had a beautiful comprehensive redevelopment master plan presentation for the city owned marina. Wow, it was great! But such a plan would cost many millions which, we, the city would pay for. There could be some possible grant monies out there to help offset such redevelopment, but there are no guarantees. With the current leases, the city still subsidizes the cost of owning such a wonderful site. Many years ago, we had a referendum to buy the marina site from the Finch family who gave us a good deal, otherwise, they were going to develop the site, and then the city residents would have lost water access. Today, the city is in the real estate business leasing out commercial properties to help offset our cost of ownership. I’ve suggested that we keep the boat landing and sell off the commercial tracts and have no debt there. That suggestion didn’t even get a reply. We have good tenants with leases that go out 10 more years. The current leases had some gray areas. At last night’s council meeting, the majority of council voted to give 2 new 30 year leases on marina parcels with the city being responsible for replacing the docks and underground gas tanks and such as needed. I was all for extending leases for our tenants as long as they were responsible for everything there except for the dirt, sometimes known as a ground lease. I just don’t think council was looking out for the taxpayers of the Isle of Palms, and now, we are locked into 30 year leases.
As always, thank you for letting me serve you as your councilman.
As you can see in the Draft Gantt Schedule, our first steps to take to implement a parking plan could not start until we knew we had the permission from SCDOT which finally came in January. As you can see, we couldn’t start until around July 26th of this summer which just didn’t make sense in hiring extra Beach Services Officers to enforce parking for the last few weeks of summer. We would rather do it the best we can at first rather than rushing it, and making mistakes. All of council wants this to happen, but again, because of the delays with getting permission from SCDOT, we all agreed to push it back a year.
The biggest topic tonight will be the discussion of a timeline for the implementation of an annual parking pass system. From my reading materials, it appears that while we have been led to believe that we were going to be ready for this summer but now appears, due to the volume of steps that need to be taken within about 5 different categories, the plan will not be ready to roll till late summer. After we discuss this tonight, I’ll give a more detailed update. Needless to say, I wanted it up and running by this summer after all these years of discussions. No matter what we do, we realized that it was not going to be perfect at the get go, we knew there were going to be some bumps in the road, but no matter what, we still need to do the best job we can before we start. Tonight would be a great opportunity for you, the residents to hear what we have to do in order to get the annual parking pass system up and running. As always, thank you for letting me serve you and your councilman.
Council members keep being asked, what’s going on, is the city doing anything, summer is just around the corner. The city is working on implementing a plan. All city council members are on board to get this done, however, the devil is in the details. We need to do about 13 items before we can get this up and running. Plus, we need to make sure the cost do not force us into any kind of tax increase. Whatever we do, it has to be revenue neutral, we can’t be making money off parking cars for non residents. This is not about privatizing the beach, but more about public safety. We all feel the beach is a public natural resource. But at the same time, it is one that has to be protected. Our city’s vision statement says that “measures that will enhance the existing character of the island as a quality place to live, and to protect the environment both on and around the island, must be taken to guide development and preserve the quality of life for generations to come”. If one goes to a public stadium that seats 5000 fans, when it is full, it is full. The same applies to the beach. There are 3 public beaches, the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach. Folly already has parking meters and I read just recently, they will be installing a public bath house down at the washout. The Isle of Palms provides more public parking than any other local beach, plus, we have a public bath house and 2 parking lots along with metered parking down at the commercial section. Not to mention, the Charleston County Oceanfront Park, again, with a bath house. We realize that we will have some bumps in the road as we get started, but we are trying to get there, we just want to make sure we do it right the first time. Just to give everyone an idea of what we are presently doing, below are the steps that need to be taken before we can implement. I hope this helps and thank you for allowing me to serve you on council.