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Marina Free Parking A Thing Of The Past?

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

Free parking for local residents at the Isle of Palms Marina should be a priority, according to IOP Council Member Randy Bell. Bell pointed out at the Council’s regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 28 that many of his constituents have asked why they should have to pay to park, especially since their tax dollars are financing $4.5 million in renovations at the Marina. “I would encourage the city and Brian Berrigan as manager (of the Marina) to understand that there’s many of us in the community that feel we made a significant investment in the business down there and that took away all residential parking. Frankly, that’s unacceptable to the community,” Bell said. “I would ask if Mr. Berrigan would like to come and speak to Council. I can’t explain when parking was free two years ago how a change was allowed to make it paid parking and have residents complaining because they’re being told they’re going to be booted if they don’t pay to park.” Bell said there are two issues involved: what the owners of the soonto-be-opened restaurant at the Marina plan to do about parking and that the community has contributed significantly to the Marina and is now being told “thank you for the contribution but you’re going to have to pay to park if you come down here.” 

“That’s completely unacceptable. The Marina manager should come and explain it to the community,” Bell concluded. On a related subject, Council Member Rusty Streetman, chair of the Real Property Committee, reported on an issue with the restaurant, which is currently being renovated by its new owners, Dave and Chrissy Lorenz and Jon and Bridget Bushnell. Streetman said plans for an elevator have at least temporarily been scrapped. “It would compromise the men’s restroom with ADA and some piling issues as well,” he explained, adding that he hoped that an elevator could be added later, either inside or outside the restaurant, if that job could be handled without closing the eatery. 

Finding a fire chief 

At the Sept. 28 meeting, the Council also voted 6-3 to spend up to $25,000 to hire an executive recruitment firm to help the city find a new permanent fire chief. IOP recently hired Ken Briscoe, who was the fire chief in Lenoir, North Carolina, from 2004 until he retired in 2018, to serve in the position on an interim basis. Ways and Means Committee Chair Phillip Pounds said hiring an outside firm would help City Administrator Desiree Fragoso with “due diligence, interviews, resume checking and reference checking.” “It’s a lot of work. The last time there were 70 applications,” Pounds pointed out. Council Members Kevin Popson and Jimmy Ward and Mayor Jimmy Carroll didn’t think it was necessary to hire a recruiting firm, but the other six Council members – Pounds, Bell, Streetman, Ryan Buckhannon, Susan Hill Smith and John Moye – went along with Pounds’ motion. Bell, chair of the Public Safety Committee, brought up the issue of dog leash laws. He pointed out that the Council recently established a $500 fine for dog-related offenses, raising the total ticket maximum penalty to $1,087.50. However, he added that the city has not come up with a definition of what constitutes a vicious animal. “As a committee, we instructed staff to bring back a draft ordinance addressing vicious animals to the October committee meeting,” he said. 

Revisiting the Connector 

During his Public Safety Committee report, Bell also noted that data is being collected concerning traffic on the IOP Connector, which the South Carolina Department of Transportation recently re-striped, adding bicycle and walking lanes on both sides and narrowing what was once a 10-foot center emergency lane to 4 feet. “We’ve had an incredibly difficult time finding a third party in South Carolina that wasn’t tightly connected to SCDOT,” Bell commented. “That’s their biggest customer. Not that I don’t trust the state – I’m saying that tongue in cheek – but we want some oversight to that data and what it means to us.” 

Fragoso said city staff has discussed the possibility of establishing reversible lanes and removing the bike and walking areas on one side of the road so the center emergency lane can be returned to its original width of 10 feet, while Smith suggested re-striping the Connector with two lanes leaving IOP and a single lane of traffic entering the island. Personnel Committee Chair John Moye announced that the Leola Hanbury Award, given annually to a city employee “displaying exemplary service, going above and beyond normal job requirements and expectations” has been presented to the city’s entire staff “for exemplary service over the last few years.” He also pointed out that Fragoso has recommended that Director of Building, Planning and Zoning Douglas Kerr be appointed to also serve as deputy city administrator. Fragoso told Council members she is working on a proposal for them to approve and that promoting Kerr would allow the city to hire a zoning administrator to handle the day to-day duties now assigned to Kerr. Pounds, who is chair of the Ways and Means Committee, suggested to the Council that the city take a look at how its accommodations and hospitality taxes it collects are spent. “We’re not ready to come to Council with any type of solution at this point,” Pounds said. 

“We need a different path going forward.” Ward brought up the possibility of establishing a “Spirit of the Island” award that would recognize a remarkable single achievement or action, community service and volunteerism. He said the Signal 30 award would still be the highest honor bestowed by the city. After a brief discussion, the issue was sent to the Council’s Personnel Committee. 

The Council also approved a resolution authorizing the consumption of beer and wine and amplified music at the IOP Connector Run and Walk for the Child, scheduled for Oct. 2, and a proclamation reaffirming the city’s commitment to work toward full ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance and its goal “to exceed the standards to go above and beyond to ensure that people with disabilities feel welcomed in our community.” In a related matter, the Council agreed to spend up to $10,000 to buy beach wheelchairs that will be available to residents and visitors at no cost, on a first come, first-served basis.

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