By Katy Calloway, The Island Eye News Managing Editor
Mayor Jimmy Carroll enthusiastically welcomed the crowd to the first City Council meeting of 2019 and was off to a positive and optimistic start with a heartfelt prayer followed by the pledge of allegiance.
The first order of business was to elect a Mayor Pro Tem. Carol Rice, Randy Bell and Sandy Ferencz were all nominated to be second in command, A show of hands confirmed Councilmember Rice, with five votes.
Moving right along, previous meetings minutes were unanimously accepted without discussion.
Thirty minutes of citizen’s comments were introduced by resident Janet Rose. She is concerned about flooding on her property that she believes is caused by the construction going on next door. Rose and her neighbors have signed and submitted a petition to Doug Carr, who advised that they submit a drainage plan. Rose has reached out to the Department of Transportation without success. She is now looking to Council for resolution, recommending that Council require a drainage plan from builders before new construction begins.
Mayor Carroll responded with appreciation and reminded Rose that there is no interaction between Council and citizens during citizen’s comments.
Resident Dave Bruner was next up to the podium. He has concerns about renting regulations and restrictions. Bruner would like to see IOP’s renting regulations reflect the same standards as those of the City of Charleston and Mount Pleasant.
Bob Miller thanked the Public Safety Committee for their responsiveness to the coyote challenge. The IOP Coyote Control Coalition, who Miller represents, is tasked with raising awareness and he appeared before Council to do just that. Gillian Koerber relayed several personal stories of coyote sightings and activity near her house in Wild Dunes, which she described as, “very, very scary.” She shared with Council some resources for recourse that she had discovered.
Last up was Dr. Thomas Johnson, who expressed his numerous concerns about the Exchange Club’s decision to build a public dock and the City’s decision to support it financially stating, “I think using City monetary funds for that… I think they could be applied elsewhere for better purposes.”
Standing committee reports began with a lengthy report from Ways and Means. Committee Chair Jimmy Ward stated that revenues are at 38% of the budget, expenses are at 35% and the fund balance is $22,258.00. Expenditures are at 42%, halfway through the fiscal year. He then read into record, portions of the Treasurer’s report.
There was a consideration of a budgeted cost of living adjustment (COLA) of 2.2% for all City employees. Councilmember Ferencz proposed an amendment to distribute the FY19 COLA amount to employees falling below the living wage of $53,000 for Charleston County. According to quick calculations, employees making above $53,000 annually would get zero increase and those working below would then get roughly 4% increase. Councilmember Bell requested that salaries of employees be made public. Several City employees are making over $80,000 per year and the cost of living adjustment is equal, not equitable.
Councilmember Kinghorn took the discussion into the familiar direction of budget, payroll expenses and tax increases, reminding Council of the exorbitant cost of overtime pay for employees and the need to reduce the number of City meetings, expressing his opinion that raising property tax is not the sole answer. “There are a plethora of alternative revenues, user fees, other registration fees, that the people that are using the services can help pay for,” said Kinghorn.
Councilmember Moye offered his two-cents, “That major budget reform is necessary.” Moye believes that the COLA increase is a key issue, considering the percentage of the budget that salaries make up. He will continue to vote for the COLA increase for all eligible employees, urging Council to remain true to its word with respect to employee expectations. His concern is that if Council reneges on the pay increase, they are apt to adversely affect employee morale and could possibly lose key employees in the fallout. Moye believes that the 2.2% increase needs to be for all employees, not just those who do not make a livable wage.
The vote on Councilmember Ferencz’s amendment failed, with only Ferencz and Bell in favor. The original motion of a 2.2% COLA for all employees then passed.
The next order of business awarded a contract of $29,437 to Talbot Tennis to resurface the tennis courts at the Rec Center, an expenditure paid for with tourism funds. Councilmember Bell proposed that rather then move forward with this award, Council request a plan from the Recreation Committee that prioritizes improvements for the residents before they start spending money for the other surrounding communities.
Councilmember Kinghorn stated that he will oppose this and other award items, until budget reform can occur.
Councilmember Smith pointed out the popularity of the tennis courts and the need for resurfacing. Councilmember Rice stated, “I think it’s only responsible to maintain our properties… This is budgeted, and is close to $40,000 under what has been budgeted.”
The contract to resurface the tennis courts was approved, with two dissenting votes, by Ferencz and Kinghorn.
The next item was consideration of a $21,000 contract for Applied Technology and Management, Inc. to include the assessment, development, scope of work and construction oversight for the marina bulkhead coating and repainting project.
The contract was approved, with two dissenting votes, by Ferencz and Kinghorn.
A contract was awarded to Motorola for a budgeted expenditure of $247,644.75 to replace 27 portable radios and 25 mobile car radios for the Police Department. Councilmembers Bell and Kinghorn took the opportunity to question fiscal responsibility in regards to the management of the police force. The motion was withdrawn until more information about ordering through Charleston County could be obtained.
Two companies, Hill Construction and Trident Construction, were considered for Phase 1 of the Public Safety Building remediation. The first phase will provide a detailed scope of work, it is not a contract for the actual repairs. Trident’s bid was approximately $100,000 less than Hill’s.
The contract for $95,267 was awarded to Trident Construction by a vote of six to two, Councilmembers Ward and Kinghorn opposed.
There was significant discussion about raising parking fees at municipal parking lots and Ocean Blvd.’s on-street parking. Kinghorn proposed that Council revert to a daily rate cost structure instead of increasing the hourly fee, citing the need for more staff time to enforce the hourly rate model as a drain on finances. Councilmember Smith felt strongly that the hourly rate continue at a cost of $2.00/hour in the lots, $1.50/hour for street spots, with the option of a daily rate of $12.00 in the municipal lots. The sentiment shifted to the need to consider revenue as well as controlling costs.
A motion was made to approve the daily rate of $10.00, $12.00 on weekends and holidays, between Mar.1 and Oct. 31 in the municipal lot, and increase the onstreet parking fee to $2.00/hour. The motion passed with dissenting votes from Councilmembers Ferencz and Smith.
The final item from Ways and Means was a motion to approve a contract to Carolina Professional Builders, LLC in the amount of $137,375 to replace the roof, install new electronic bay doors and reconfigure the office space at the Public Works Workshop. The motion passed with two dissenting votes from Councilmembers Ferencz and Kinghorn.
The Public Safety Committee report from Councilmember Buckhannon recapped the coyote issues, parking and traffic concerns, and an update of the Waterway Blvd. Multi-use Path Improvement Project with Charleston County. The Lowvelo bike ride, a countywide event to raise money for MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center, was approved unanimously as a City-sponsored event. The riders will be rolling through IOP on Nov. 2. IOP will support the event by providing an officer at the intersection of the IOP connector and Palm Blvd. between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The Lowvelo request brought to Council’s attention a need for policy on approving future event requests. The Public Safety Committee will be addressing ideas for protocol in the future.
Wrapping up the second hour of the meeting, the Real Property Committee report was moved up on the agenda. Councilmember Bell reported that the Marina’s underground storage tank project has begun. Updates on the Marina docks rehabilitation project included a presentation by Applied Technology and Management, Inc.’s Kirby Marshall on the threephase approach that mimics the existing marina and upgrades it to be ADA compliant. Three concepts were proposed at a cost of $2.8 million for concepts one and three, $2.9 million for concept two.
The next stage in the process is to prepare permit applications, which may take a year or more. The permits do not restrict project design and are valid for five years from date of issue. Concept two passed with only one dissenting vote from Mayor Carroll. Details of the project will continue to evolve. (All three concepts can be seen online at IOP.net/iop-city-councilhighlights-january-).
The City is working on a list of three preferred arborists that it will make available to residents, to avoid “shady” tree work.
The Public Works Committee meeting saw Carol Rice elected as chair and Susan Hill Smith as vice chair. Work is complete on the Phase II Drainage at Palm Blvd., 50th and 51st. Total project completion is anticipated in February. Rice reminded Council that this project has been underway since 2012.
Various ditch and drainage issues continue to be assessed. The committee discussed concentrated drainage issues in relation to septic and the need for an islandwide sewer system.
A joint meeting with IOP Water and Sewer was proposed after their master plan is completed. Rice indicated this may be an opportunity for a special task force, as this may eventually become a health issue for island residents. Councilmember Kinghorn added that the Public Works Committee unanimously supported the position, that the Island support 100% resident connection to the sewer system.
On behalf of the Personnel Committee, Councilmember Ferencz reported that The Mercer Group has received resumes for the City Administrator and the Chief of Police positions, but not for the Assistant Public Works Director.
Seventy-one strong resumes have been received for the Chief of Police position and interviews should be underway by mid-February. Interim City Administrator Fragoso was evaluated at the end of December and received “meets” or “exceeds expectations” remarks in every area of evaluation. Councilmembers independently praised her performance during the two 2018 storm events.
Following the committee reports, Mayor Carroll rolled through the rest of the agenda. Four first readings of new ordinances were approved unanimously and the readings waived, and the meeting was abruptly concluded after a lengthy two hours and 50 minutes.
The next meeting of the Isle of Palms City Council will be held on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.