Meeting Recap 3.28.17

On 3/28/2017, Council held a regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole Meeting.  Here’s what happened:

Two citizens spoke during Citizen Comments.  One spoke on the animal ordinance and communication. The other spoke on trash collection/ACE.

The monthly financial report was presented by our Director of Finance, Christine Furino.  She reported that revenues are on target, given April is the month in which we receive revenue from business licence fees.

The City Administrator presented his report. Information presented to Council included the following:

  1. Arts Center: continued research and planning with community leaders as to future of the Arts Center. There is a potential donor on board to substantially help with funding.  More to come…
  2. RFP for the City Park Playground equipment will be published next week.
  3. Trees on Main St. in the central business district: discussions continue with SCDOT, City Staff, and the Railroad as to appropriate shrubbery/tree replacement. This includes the area in front of Rotary Hall down to the Chamber of Commerce.
  4. Swamp Rabbit Trail: Staff continues to negotiate with the railroad and SCDOT on rights-of-way and improvements.
  5. Heritage Park: improvements to Dennis Waldrop Way are happening now. This will improve the “bottleneck” area in the first curve that significantly impacts flow of traffic.
  6. Train: Passed inspection and has started running again!
  7. Senior & Activity Center: the roof damaged by the tornado was covered by insurance and is now being repaired.
  8. Farmer’s Market: City staff are working with the Farmer’s Market Steering Committee on location/details.
  9. Easter Egg Hunt: April 15th at Heritage Park.
  10. Construction is moving forward on Fire Station 5.
  11. Conversations continue with Greenville County on the possibility of a joint judicial building.
  12. April 15th is Clean Up Day with Palmetto Pride. 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM downtown by the Clock Tower. People can sign up online at the city website.

Next we received information on items expected to come before Council.

  1. Interim Chief Mike Hanshaw presented Council with a plan for Police Recruitment and Retention. A notable feature of this plan includes a new step pay scale.  This scale solves two problems with our PD’s ability to attract and keep officers.  In short, we do not offer competitive pay to start, and we don’t offer competitive incentives to stay.  The result is that it’s harder to attract top talent to SPD, particularly experienced and seasoned officers and that it’s difficult to keep those we do have.  Often, those officers are lured away by better offers at other local agencies.  And every time one leaves, it costs us.  Recruiting a new officer always costs more than retaining one. This is why Council voted last year in favor of developing a plan to address police retention and recruitment prior to the first budget meeting of the year.  And it’s why I think Hanshaw’s plan is a step in the right direction.  Next, we’ll have to see if and how we can fund it.  I look forward to hearing options on that at our budget meeting.  At the Mayor’s request, Hanshaw also reported that we currently only have one opening in the Police Department and that we have already made a conditional offer to a certified officer to fill that spot.
  2. City Attorney David Holmes asked Council to take up the issue of the Animal Ordinance, which had been tabled from the fall. There was a great deal of discussion.  4 main issues came about: a) Should the ordinance be changed to allow dogs downtown near the clock tower?  Currently, the ordinance prohibits dogs from the grassy areas in Hendricks Plaza at the clock tower to the Veterans Memorial.  Discussion suggested keeping the prohibition for Veterans Corner but updating the section on Hendricks Plaza. b) Should the age restriction on children in the Dog Park be lifted? Currently children 14 and under are prohibited.  Discussion included the possibility of updating the ordinance to allow children with the supervision of a parent or to continue to prohibit children. c) The restriction on the number of animals allowed by a city resident: should it be eliminated?  Discussion included whether or not this hampers those engaged in animal rescue and whether or not hamsters and fish count.  It was pointed out that the Animal Control Officer does not police inside people’s homes and that the ordinance is a complaint-driven one. d) Tethering: should the prohibition on tethering be lifted?  Should tethering be allowed if a time limit on the length of time a dog can be tethered is established?
  3. Solid Waste Collection: Last year we made the difficult decision to privatize sanitation services. This included garbage, recycling, and yard waste collection.  Since the new service went into effect on September 1st, we’ve heard from citizens who are displeased particularly with the yard waste removal.  Hearing and responding to these concerns, Council charged the new City Administrator with looking into alternatives that would bring back the leaf vac truck service and not require bundling of brush.  Last night, Council was presented with the findings and a recommendation as regards solid waste collection.  Council received a report on the number and types of complaints we have received by the City about ACE since we privatized sanitation.  This is that report (click to make bigger):

sanitation complaints

Council also received the following estimate of the cost involved in resuming loose leaf and brush service (click to make bigger):

_20170329_121349

Council will hear possibilities for funding such a service in upcoming budget meetings. And this is key: we have to find the money to make this work.  We changed the service because we didn’t have the money. It hasn’t reappeared.  Some councilmembers suggested raising taxes or fees to fund the service. I do not support raising taxes or fees.  I do support seeking alternative ways to fund the service if possible.

  1. Public Works Equipment sale: Council received a report from the Public Works Director on the sale of inoperable sanitation equipment or equipment that was too costly to repair. He indicated we sold 8 pieces for $52,029.  However, we had several pieces he pulled off the market (GovDeals.com) because it was clear they would fetch too low a price.  We had budgeted revenue of $500,000 from the sale of this equipment.  We have about $450,000 we need to get.  The Public Works Director has a potential buyer for the natural gas trucks that would pay a much better price, so he will proceed with trying to sell the remaining pieces of equipment somewhere other than GovDeals.

We finished up with Items Requested by Council presented by Mr. Case.  He informed Council that unless there was objection, Ms. Tiffany Cherry will be replacing Mr. Cummings as the City representative on the Simpsonville Chamber of Commerce. There was no objection.

The meeting was adjourned.