On Tuesday, October 25, Council met for a Committee of the Whole Meeting at 6:30 PM in Council Chambers. Here are the highlights:
At roll call, Council was informed Mr. Graham would be absent again—this time due to a familial obligation.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, Council hear an Update from Allison McGarity of the Simpsonville Chamber of Commerce. She reported that the recent Oktoberfest Sippin in Simpsonville event was a success—the biggest to date! More than 25 businesses participated and over 800 ticketed guests attended. She also reported on upcoming events, including Halloween at Heritage Park/Goblinfest, the Holiday Market, and the Christmas Parade.
CITIZEN COMMENTS: None.
City Administrator David Dyrhaug read from two reports he had provided to Council: 1) Monthly Financial Report; 2) City Administrator’s Quarterly Report. Councilman Gooch asked for future monthly financial reports to also include outstanding debt. Mr. Dyrhaug indicated that would not be a problem.
Items from the Last Committee of the Whole Meeting
Video Recording of Council Meetings
Council was provided additional information from the City’s IT Specialist on possibilities for video recording meetings. Ms. McHone’s report answered questions from the previous Committee of the Whole meeting presented by Mr. Cummings and Mr. Gooch. She clarified for Mr. Cummings that the $1630.00 charge in the report is a per month charge, not a per year charge, for upgrading the internet speed at City Hall. She explained the pros and cons of using Facebook Live to broadcast meetings. She reiterated her previous recommendation: “Regardless of what is decided as far as streaming videos is concerned, I still recommend budgeting to replace the cameras in the Council Chambers with more up-to-date cameras with high definition, as well as the microphones. Since the Council Chambers is also used for Municipal Court, you will be taking extra security measures for court, when it’s in session.” Given this is a budgeting issue, the item was moved to the first budget workshop meeting in the new year. At that time we can address the costs associated with needed equipment upgrades both for the court and for potential recording of Council meetings.
Revisions to Code of Ordinances, Chapter 6 – Animals
At its Committee of the Whole meeting on September 27, 2016, the City Council discussed the following proposals pertaining to the revisions placed before the Committee of the Whole for consideration:
- Eliminate the age restriction proposed for the dog park provided that children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult
- Accept the recommendations from staff and the American Kennel Club
- Maintain the current restrictions on pets at Heritage Park
- Do not add a fine for failing to remove pets’ excrement
Ms. Braswell moved to send this to the first Committee of the Whole meeting in January 2017. Motion passed.
If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions regarding the animal ordinance, speak to city staff or a councilmember before January.
Traffic Calming Policy
Council was provided with a draft of the proposed new traffic calming policy. Mr. Dyrhaug summarized the new policy:
The policy contains an introduction that (1) explains the neighborhood traffic issues that the policy is intended to address, (2) specifies the objectives of the policy, and (3) identifies the streets that will be addressed under the policy.
The policy outlines a new process as follows:
- Initiate a request . Six separate property owners required to sign the Traffic Calming Request form. A “citizen representative” shall be designated to work with City staff . The study area for the application will be established by staff.
- Collect traffic data, accident data, roadway geometric data, etc.
- Undertake a “Neighborhood Awareness Campaign”
- Evaluate the data and location for eligibility for traffic calming
- Consider, implement, and evaluate appropriate cost-effective “non-structural” traffic calming alternatives
- Create a traffic calming plan that incorporates appropriate structural traffic calming measures . Coordinate with City departments and the citizen representative. Conduct a neighborhood meeting
- Obtain petition support for the plan from at least 65% of the property owners in the study area
- Install and evaluate trial structural traffic calming measures
- Approve funding for and construct permanent structural traffic calming measures § Cost estimates presented during the annual budgeting process; must be approved in annual budget § Private funding may be considered if raised by the neighborhood
- The policy indicates that if the neighborhood no longer wants previously installed structural traffic calming measures, they must follow the same procedure to obtain 65% approval via petition
Mr. Gooch expressed concern with the Step 1 requirement for six property owners and suggested a smaller number. Mr. Dyrhaug agreed that could work. They settled on 4 as a number. Mr. Dyrhaug asked Council to weigh in on how many neighborhood activities would need to be complete. Mr. Gooch recommended 1 rather than 2. Council agreed. We are moving forward with the new policy, and it will appear before Council at the November 15th Business Meeting. I’ve requested a copy of the draft be posted to the city’s website for anyone interested. Mr. Dyrhaug has indicated it will be posted. (Update: it is now posted here)
New Items Anticipated to Come Before Council
Bid Acceptance of Body Worn Cameras for the Police Department
Council received the following as information only: In July, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety awarded the Simpsonville Police Department with a grant in the amount of $58,148 for the purchase of body-worn cameras and associated equipment for maintenance and storage. The City has since gone out for and received bids for the cameras and associated equipment. Staff is presently reviewing the bids received and is preparing to provide a recommendation to City Council at its November 15 business meeting.
Bid Acceptance of the Contractor for Fire Station #5
Council received the following as information only: In 2015, Greenville County approved a G.O. bond for the Simpsonville Fire District for the purpose of constructing a new fire station (station #5), purchasing new fire apparatuses, and acquiring land for a future station (station #6). Recently the City had gone out for and received bids from contractors for construction of station #5. Unfortunately, all the bids came in over budget—by at least $400,000! The architect, Mr. Ken Newell, was on hand to explain why that happened and what our options are in his opinion. According to Mr. Newell, the construction business is good lately, so one problem is we received only 5 bids out of 11 we thought we would get—the construction companies are all so busy that some of them just didn’t follow through with the bids. In addition, there’s been 10-15% inflation in the industry over the last year. This is important not only in understanding why the bids are high but also in determining whether or not we should put the project back out to bid or find a way to work with the current bids. To put it out for rebid, we would need to change the bid specs first. The delay in getting a successful bid could be up to month, and we run the risk of getting back bids that are actually even higher because we could expect a 1-2% inflation in even that short a period fo time. We would risk getting less for the same or more money as the current bids. Mr. Dyrhaug explained that he thinks we can make it work with some budget adjustments and the current fund balance. We recently sold a surplus fire engine for $11,000. He and Chief Williams found $97,000 in next year’s budget that won’t be needed (i.e. they needed that money this year but won’t next year). They also estimated that we’ll see increased revenues in the fire service area of about $70,000. This makes the $400,000 overage slightly more palatable. We’d have only $222,000 left to cover the project, and Mr. Dyrhaug believes that we can pull that from our fund balance.
Between now and the next Business meeting, more research will be done on this, and staff will be prepared to make a more formal recommendation to Council. This will be voted on at that meeting.
Mr. Cummings had to leave the meeting at around 7:20.
Items Requested by Council
Update on the Arts Center Feasibility Study: Councilmember Lockaby.
This is from the memo Ms. Lockaby provided to Council:
Mayor and council, I move to receive an update from Mr. Jason Knudsen on the feasibility study currently being conducted for the former Simpsonville school building on Academy Street.
In light of inquiries I have received from citizens regarding this feasibility study, I would like to receive an update in a City Council meeting so that citizens who attend the City Council meeting or listen to the audio recording of the meeting may hear directly from Mr. Knudsen the latest update on this study.
Here is my position, which I expressed last night:
I don’t think it’s necessary for us to take time in a meeting for this. We have the written report (provided to Council on 9-28-16 and which I posted online here). We should be able to answer citizen comments using that report; if not, we should be able to get the answers directly from staff and then share with interested parties. With that said, it is always good to provide as much access to as possible to citizens. I think, though, we can do that in a way that is more efficient and respectful of the time of citizens who do come to meetings and the staff who are required to be here. For example, the report could be posted online on the city’s website. This would be no different than having access to a verbal report on the mp3, and would, in fact, be better in that citizens who are interested in the topic can just go directly to the document without having to listen through the mp3 to the part where it’s discussed. To that end, I would like to amend the motion to direct the City Administrator to post the current progress report online as soon as possible and to post any subsequent progress reports on the feasibility study to the city website, at the same time such reports are provided to Council, so citizens have access to the information for review.
The amended motion passed. Look for the current and future reports online soon.
As a reminder, if you are interested, the feasibility study meetings are open to the public. You can go and listen in live. There’s a meeting this Thursday, October 27th. The agenda is on the city’s website.
Meeting adjourned right at 7:30 PM.