Greenville Journal has notes from Tuesday’s meeting. We voted 4-0 in favor of a motion to approve design fees for a renovation of the gym. That puts this item on the agenda for the April business meeting. Read more here: http://bit.ly/3NkYmWL
What an amazing lineup of family-friendly shows for the first season at our new Arts Center! The Milltown Players will entertain, inspire, and enrich our community by providing quality and affordable live theater beginning this summer.
Children of Eden, July 22-Aug. 7
Honk!, Oct. 7-23
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!, Dec. 2-18
James and the Giant Peach, Feb. 24-March 12, 2023
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, May 5 – 21, 2023
The Miracle Worker, July 14-30, 2023
In 2022 our Simpsonville Arts Center will be home to the Mill Town Players! For less than the cost of a matinee at the local cinema, you’ll have access to quality and affordable live theater right here in the heart of Simpsonville.
This is one of many projects we’ve undertaken to enhance quality of life for our residents. Plus, MTP has a demonstrated ability to draw visitors from across the upstate. When people visit Simpsonville for entertainment, they also dine at our local restaurants; they might shop in our stores. This is good for our local economy, and it can bring in tax dollars from others that can help further enhance the quality of life for those who live here.
The Arts Center was our vision for the future back in 2015. In 2022, it will be our reality. When I ran for office, I quoted Henry Ford on several occasions: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Since 2017, this Council has proven me and Henry right. I hope that over the next two years, we continue, to borrow a phrase from our City Administrator, “rowing in the same direction.” That’s how we avoid the mistakes of our predecessors and continue to promote economic opportunity; support neighborhood vitality; and commit to community and cultural programs and services while remaining fiscally responsible and providing first-rate services. It’s what Simpsonville deserves. #SimplyHome
We’re making progress on the Arts Center too! As a reminder, a lease agreement with Mill Town Players has been approved and we plan to have a full season of shows next year! In the meantime, the contractor has until October 27 to complete the renovation project. In addition the City has been working with Duke Energy to get a pad-mounted transformer installed to get underground power to the rear of the building to clean up
the power lines. Interior walls are being installed to create a new lobby area and separation from the auditorium. Interior finishes will be coming soon! #PromisesMade #PromisesKept
SimplyHistoric #SimplyConnected #SimplyHome Simpsonville: it’s who we are. There are plenty of historical plaques like this throughout the city. We also work to honor our history through projects like the Arts Center at the historic Simpsonville Elementary school. We’re staying connected too. The best piece of the trail will connect down to Heritage Park. We have events like the recent Westwood Public Safety Meeting or National Night Out to connect with residents. Councilmembers have also held meetings with residents on development concerns, traffic concerns, small business concerns…or just to have coffee and chat. They’re not just words. It’s who we are. Who we strive to be every day. #PromisesMadePromisesKept
Tonight Council unanimously approved the design for the second mural project in downtown Simpsonville. Special thanks to County Councilman Butch Kirven Mr. Hunter Howard, and Simpsonville Arts Foundation, Inc for their donations toward this project. Other funding is provided from A-Tax funds. The second mural will be located on the wall beside Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Cafe near Danny’s Fixin’ and Fillin’. The design incorporates elements of the city’s new branding, a nod to the state flag, and invokes a sense of nostalgia appropriate to our downtown area. Work should start October 19th weather permitting, so stop by and watch Ms. Hennesy’s progress. Then, prepare to take your car to our new drive-in for a photo shoot later this fall. #SimplyHome
$10,250: the amount the FD requested for one of their wants in 2016: the Fire Safety House. We exceeded this goal with a #OneSimpsonville effort that included the city, businesses, citizens, and especially Modern Woodmen of America. City Tax $$ spent: $0.00.
$13,466.36: amount raised via the Raise the Roof Fundraiser for a shelter at the Tater Shed Amphitheater. Also a #OneSimpsonville effort by citizens, businesses, and the city. City tax $$: $0.00.
$10,000: proposed donation from private donor for additional cost of the shelter at the Tater Shed Amphiteater. City tax dollars that will be used for this project: $0.00.
$280,000: Grant funding earned by the City of Simpsonville towards the Swamp Rabbit Trail (thanks, Steve Moore!). Granted based on a vision, a plan, hard work, and the #OneSimpsonville spirit. City tax dollars proposed for use in first stretch of SRT: $0.00.
$20,000: Goal for Sensory Playground Equipment. Goal exceeded. City tax contribution: $0.00.
That’s just what I remember off the top of my head. It leaves a lot out. It totals OVER $593,716. For the record, that’s a 1/4 of the proposed initial cost of the Arts Center that some candidates keep claiming we will have to raid the city coffers to fund.And most of that was done in just around a year.
We accomplished all that because we had vision–a Council majority committed to that vision and finding ways to make it happen. And because YOU, your citizens, want these types of projects to be a priority to improve our quality of life here in Simpsonville. I will work to make sure we continue in this direction. Some candidates have indicated they will too. Others have said NO. They claim it can’t be done. It’s up to YOU to decide on November 7th who you want working for YOU. Those who say WE CAN. And work to ensure WE WILL. Or those who say WE CAN’T. Choose wisely.
Planning and Zoning Manager, Mr. Jason Knudsen has provided Council with the most recent update on the Arts Center Feasibility Study.
The organizational analysis portion of the feasibility study is now complete. Read more about the components of the study here.
The team is still working on the building analysis. Both the City Fire Marshal and Building Inspector have inspected the school building. And the team arranged for a certified inspector to do an initial assessment for mold, asbestos, and lead–and they got him to do it for FREE. They’ve really done some amazing work over the past few months–at no cost to the city. Next up: cost analysis.
Next meeting is Monday, November 28th at 6:30 PM, City Hall.
Read previous reports about the feasibility study here.
Here’s the report, which will (per decision of the Council) also be posted to the city’s website.
A follow-up response on Facebook to this original post prompted me to explain a little further on the funding for an Arts Center. I am sharing here, so more people have the opportunity to have the information:
I do want to address an issue about funding that is brought up by this response: Again, the financial analysis has yet to be completed. Which means we don’t know how much any of it might cost—or where the funding might come from. Part of the financial analysis involves identifying possible funding sources. To be clear, I don’t think a single member of our Council has any intention of diverting needed funds from Public Works, PD, FD, or Parks & Recreation to pay for an Arts Center. That is to say, we aren’t going to NOT hire a needed officer in order to fund the Arts Center. That doesn’t make sense and isn’t very responsible.
Further, what if it turns out that the Arts Center can be accomplished with little to no funding from the City? What if the study shows the Arts Center will fund itself, be self-sustaining? What if, even, the study discovers a return on investment of $2 for every $1? The thing is we don’t know. Because the study has not been completed. You’ve said here “Do your free study, and in a couple years IF everything else is taken care then do your Arts Center if you must.” It is entirely possible the study team comes to us and says, “Yes, it’s feasible, but we need $5 million to make it happen right now.” And in that case, I don’t think anyone on this Council is prepared to budget $5 million to start an Arts Center next year. Again, that just doesn’t make sense (as you’ve noted, we have a number of critical needs to fund). But what probably makes sense is developing a long-term plan as suggested by your comment. And including multiple funding sources to accomplish that plan. There is funding available for arts (grants, for example) that cannot be used for personnel or for vehicles. Using such funding does no harm to other projects in the city that need dollars from our general fund. It’s easy for people to say, “Well, you can’t possibly get the money for that from outside sources.” But people said that about the $10,000 for the fire safety house, too, and once we had a plan, we did that—completely from donations and sponsorships from individuals and businesses in the community. This happened because it was something that was important to people in our community. Another good example would be the Sensory Playground project by Leadership Simpsonville. They’ll build that playground with nothing more from the City than our blessing. All the funding is coming from outside sources–around $20,000. The same thing could be possible for an Arts Center. After all, as I explained in my earlier response, this is what people in the community said they wanted.
Another point I’d like to make regards this statement about which you are absolutely correct: “But why not be unique!” During the market analysis, the team discussed finding Simpsonville’s nich–in detail and at length. It’s part of why they looked at all the other Arts Centers—to determine what else is in the area, to decide what’s not needed and what it is. The recommendation they will make will be for an Arts Center for Simpsonville—it will, in fact, be unique to our city and its people.
For other posts on the arts, click here.
Recently, I posted the latest update on the Feasibility Study for the Arts Center. On Facebook, I received an inquiry about it. I am posting that with my response:
In addition, I would like to elaborate a bit:
Certainly, we want to be responsive to citizens. In fact, greater citizen participation is one of my goals for the city. And really, that’s what the feasibility study is about too: first we held an event at the school building and invited the public. Mr. Knudsen and the Planning Commission led citizens through a SWOT analysis. Early this year, Mr. Knudsen shared the results from that analysis. Overwhelmingly, the community expressed interest in a cultural/arts center. From there, we made the decision to do a feasibility study—again by seeking citizen participation. As you know, the study team is comprised of volunteers with expertise in a number of areas relevant to determining if and how an arts center at the school might be feasible. I believe in data-driven and evidence-based decision-making for long-term planning. The feasibility study puts that belief into action.
Then, I received a follow-up reply that brought up a few different issues, and I’d like to address each. There’s not quite enough room on Facebook, though, so I’ve responded here on the #Jenn4Ward3 blog. Here is the follow-up reply I received followed by my response:
“What about bringing the Public Works Department up to par with equipment?”
Once we became aware of just how bad the situation in Public Works was, solving the problems that stemmed from years of short-term “band-aid” solutions and poor (or lack of planning) became a top priority. In fact, it was the most-discussed item during this year’s budget workshop meetings—and we spent a great deal of time considering the options brought to us by city staff, the experts charged with researching and recommending options in their respective departments. There was no easy solution. We chose (unanimously) the best solution for meeting the City’s needs. If equipment alone would solve the problem, we could have made budget decisions to “bring public works up to par with equipment” “in house” as opposed to privatizing services; unfortunately, as I have explained previously (here) , it’s not just about money for equipment—and it’s not just about yard waste, nor can it be solved simply by adding some employees. The problem we faced was much bigger and more complex than that.
What about some kind of accreditation for the Police Department?
It is my understanding that the PD is seeking to be re-accredited by the state after having allowed that accreditation to lapse earlier this year.
What about the hiring situation for the PD?
We recently hired two new PD employees: 1 in Dispatch and 1 for Patrol. We also promoted two employees at the PD: one from Patrol to Sergeant and 1 from Dispatch to Patrol. The PD’s number one focus for personnel right now is strengthening road patrol. This is a critical need—one Interim Chief Moore is working diligently on (we are currently in the hiring process on several open positions). And Council plans to help him from our end to achieve that goal. That’s why we recently took up the issue in our meetings. It is important to note, however, that solving this problem will take time for a number of reasons:
- It’s not a problem that happened over night, so it’s not one that will resolve over night. Since 2012, we’ve had a turnover rate that is about twice the national average. Pinpointing why is important—but it’s also not easy. And realistically, there isn’t usually only one reason why. And that means any solution must be multi-faceted. We have to be sure that whatever we do, we solve the real problem(s) and not just the consequences (i.e. understaffing).
- This isn’t just a Simpsonville problem. Police Departments across our region, our state, and this entire country are facing issues with retention and recruitment. Some are understaffed much more than we currently are. That doesn’t make it ok for us—which is why City leadership must make finding and supporting solutions a priority in 2017. We have, as noted above, recently committed to that.
- It is a problem that will require some amount of funding. That means we need to be prepared to discuss money at the beginning of next year. And that’s I moved that “Council charge the City Administrator with researching options for effective police recruitment and retention strategies/programs and make recommendations to Council by the first budget meeting of 2017.” The Committee of the Whole voted 6-1 (with Mr. Graham dissenting) to move forward with this. At the Business meeting, we voted 6-0 (Mr. Graham absent) to get moving on it. As I’ve said multiple times, I am a huge advocate for engaging in long-term planning and data-driven, evidence-based decision-making. I feel very strongly that to plan long-term, we must have all of the relevant facts, evidence, and expert feedback possible. Because Mr. Dyrhaug will begin working on compiling that now, we’ll be able to make a well-informed, evidence-based decision when we have our budget workshops next year.
I will conclude by saying that I believe the role of city council is to foster quality of life for all citizens by ensuring the city:
- Provides first-rate services (fire, parks & recreation, police, and public works);
- Is fiscally responsible (with a keen awareness of how decisions impact taxpayers);
- Promotes economic opportunity;
- Supports neighborhood vitality; and
- Commits to community and cultural programs and services.
I do not think that as a city we can focus only on one area to the exclusion of any other—nor do I think having more than one project going at a time means that any other project is somehow automatically less important. The feasibility study for an Arts Center doesn’t mean that PD Recruitment & Retention is somehow less important. Just as the dire situation in Public Works does not make funding the PD any less important. You asked about priorities, and I’m glad because priorities are important. But we cannot even begin to prioritize until we have the information necessary to make well-informed decisions.
As for the Arts Center, we’ll receive the final report and recommendation early next year—when all the facts, including the financial analysis, are in. And then, we’ll have decisions to make. We’ll also receive the report and recommendation on Police Recruitment and Retention, and we’ll have decisions to make there, too. We’ll receive a lot of other information, and we’ll have a lot of decisions to make; a lot of ranking of priorities will happen. My pledge—as always—is to make my votes after doing my homework and with the best interest of Simpsonville in mind.