By Katy Calloway, The Island Eye News Editor
Just in time for the election, the Island Eye News posed the same six questions we asked council candidates to your candidates for Mayor. Jimmy Carroll and Dick Cronin are going head-to-head and if you are still undecided, the following straight shooting answers to some of the community’s most urgent issues may help sway your decision. Answers were submitted via email and have been reprinted in their entirety.
1. The city introduced a managed beach parking plan in 2016. How do you feel it addressed the problems? What would you like to see improved or changed?
Two years ago, the city implemented a plan “C,” and while it has improved the overall quality of life for our residents, it needs a lot more work. It is time for council to re-address the plan; let’s look at reducing the number of cars with parallel parking on both sides. It is time for our council to consider charging day visitors to help offset our police, fire, protection, and even cleanup. I’d also like to see our implementing a parking plan year round with free parking in the city lot during the winter so as to encourage people to go to the front beach.
Feedback from our residence has been positive. We made changes this year favorably impacting Waterway Blvd. and along 41st Ave. We were unable to hire a full complement of Beach Service officer this year. We need to be fully staffed so we can have uniform enforcement.
2. Do you support the referendum to improve and maintain the marina? Why or why not? Can the marina pay for the new bond in the same fashion it did for the purchase?
I voted against the original lease extension because it benefits the tenants and not the residents. The city is responsible for the docks, dredging, taxes, insurance, and maintenance when this should have been the tenant’s burden. Currently, 56% of the lease is paid through tourism funds which shouldn’t be leveraged for 20 years. In February 2019, the original loan will be paid off and at that time, instead of going $5.5 million further in debt, we can start improving it with that $300,000 a year that is currently servicing the loan. It is a great asset that needs maintaining but not through more city debt.
I support the marina; it is long overdue with docks that survived Hugo (1989). We owe it to future generations to make the Marina a community center that is safe and attractive. The plan is not to increase activity at the Marina but to have the site organized, safe, and welcoming for residents year-round.
The current lease income will exceed the annual bond payment. In addition the leases have an annual escalation provision and threshold which, if it exceeded, increases the payments to the City.
3. In the face of rising seas, are current approaches to beach maintenance featuring emergency scraping and re-nourishment every ten years sufficient and feasible? What other resources would you like to see? Do you think the funding sources in the past are fair and sustainable? Would you like to address this differently? How should the city fund its portion?
The beach is our number one asset and needs to be protected, because without healthy beaches, we lose the tourist dollars that fund our city. With that said, I believe that we need to work together with all coastal South Carolina beach communities through a Beach Advocacy Group to help persuade our legislature to change the ATAX laws that require communities to use 40% of their ATAX funds to promote the beach, and instead, put those funds on the beach. Because erosion will always be a problem, we need to be proactive and not accept a “can’t be done” approach.
The only permittable solution is re-nourishment. Currently the only permitted temporary measure is sand bags. The legislature is so constipated on other matters we will still have only the same sand bags authorized 100 years from now. Each erosion cycle is different and thus funding will always vary with the event. The City has a Beach Preservation Fee which charges all tourists 1% on their accommodations. This will generate approximately $1 million annually which can only be used on preserving our beach. The City’s participation in the current project reflects the Preservation Fee collected from rental activity in Wild Dunes.
4. Would you like to see improvements at the rec center? If yes, what would you like to see and how do you propose to pay for them?
The recreation center far surpasses other like-sized communities. At this point, I believe that the $1.6 million dollar deferred city maintenance , the drainage issues, and beach erosion far surpass in importance the $700,000 plus proposed cardio addition. However, if the residents wanted to expand the recreation center, then it should be done through a referendum and let the residents decide if they want higher taxes.
The Rec is a gem, used by the young and the not so young. In the past few years participation has doubled and is now 20,000/ year. The demographics in the City has changed. Over 40% of our residents were not here 10 years ago. Younger adults and more youth are a very healthy sign. I want to be sure the Rec meets their needs.
While we are investigating an exercise facility I need to see more data proving the demand for this facility. If a major change is proposed we should have a referendum so all the residents can decide.
5. How do you feel the island is doing maintaining a balance between residents and tourists? Do you feel the Livability Court is doing its job?
Our residents should always come first, as per parking, as per the marina, as per anything to do with our island. Our residents own the island, and while it is our job to provide the best in police, fire, sanitation, and recreation, it is not our job to create a resort. The Livability Court acknowledges the value of tourists to generate income, but tries to manage day tripper congestion with parking plans. With a better parking plan implemented that charges tourists, that balance will be improved.
We have 2 classes of tourists; those that rent an accommodation and those that come for the day. Rented accommodations has not materially changed; in fact, there is indication we have more properties used as permanent residences. The parking plan is designed to minimize the impact on our residential areas.
Our goal is to have day trippers utilize our front beach. The city now collects over $700,000 from day-trippers. Yes, we now have a dedicated Police officer assigned to Livability issues. They and the Court are dedicated to improving the peace and enjoyment for all on the island.
6. What would you like to see accomplished during the first few months of your term as Mayor?
First, I’d like to have a visionary session for our new council to prioritize our island’s needs. I’d like to put council members on committees that best utilizes their expertise in serving our community. I’d like to work on eliminating the animosity seen on the present council to one that is more cohesive. I’d like to change our committee meeting times to later in the day so our residents can attend which will provide more transparency and resident involvement.
Our ban on the use of plastic bags will again be attacked in the legislature. We must defend our right to Home Ruler on this issue; otherwise the legislature will eventually want to make every decision for us. Charleston County is reviewing how to use this round of Green Belt funding.
The program will be funded with $210 million. The previous program was allocated based on population. The beach communities saw very little funding, yet accept thousands of county residents who visit our beaches where they expect clean and safe beaches. We need to seek additional funding from this program.