Last night, Council met for a Business Meeting at 6:30 PM at City Hall. Here’s a quick recap:
Father Mike Flanagan of Holy Cross Episcopal Church prayed before the meeting began.
Scott Elliott, a local Boy Scout working on earning a merit badge, lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
10 people spoke during the Citizen Comments portion of the meeting. Of those, 6 spoke to encourage Council to vote in favor of the Woodside Mills Habitat for Humanity project that was on the agenda. One spoke about his concerns with the project and urged Council to consider several environmental impacts if we were to move forward with the project. 2 spoke to concerns they have regarding the new privatized solid waste collections procedures. 1 spoke requesting more transparency in the publication of ordinances under consideration by Council.
I made a motion that Council adopt on 2nd Reading Ordinance 2016-05, Council Rules. This was seconded by Councilman Gooch. Several subsidiary motions followed. Councilman Graham moved to amend the motion, asking for a public hearing. Given this was a 2nd Reading after more than 6 months of public discussion and consideration, the amendment failed 4 (Gooch, Hulehan, Cummings, Curtis)-3 (Graham, Braswell, Lockaby). Councilman Gooch moved to amend the motion with 4 updates, most of which were just adjustments to wording for the purpose of clarification. The only substantial change was to strike from 1.93B the words that indicate there is no limit to the number of times a Councilmember may speak. This was discussed in a previous Committee meeting where 2 or 3 Councilmembers voiced concerns about allowing unlimited speaking opportunities, which could decrease meeting efficiency. Councilmember Lockaby with a second by Councilman Graham motioned to table the matter. This motion failed 4-3. The next motion was to table the matter to Committee. This motion also failed. Council then voted on the motion as amended by Councilman Gooch. This motion passed 4-3. Finally, Council voted on the original motion, which carried, also 4-3. Opposed (to both the Gooch amendment and original motion): Graham, Braswell, Lockaby. I am very grateful that after 7 months of discussion and work & multiple drafts and revisions, Council Rules will finally be in place to increase efficiency, productivity, and civility. Read more about Council Rules in previous blog posts here. Read the Ordinance here.
Staff asked Council to approve on 1st Reading Ordinance 2016-06, a revision to the Adoption of Building Codes. This update is mandated because we have to match updated International Building Codes, so there was little to no discussion. Approved unanimously. Read the Ordinance here.
Solid Waste Management Revisions:
Staff asked Council to approve on 1st Reading Ordinance 2016-07, Solid Waste Management Revisions. The purpose of these revisions is to remove from the ordinance Public Works Policy that does not need to be included in the ordinance. As an operational procedure of the Department, it should exist separately from the ordinance. This will make it easier to revise as needed. Further, it puts the operational policy back in the hands of the Department Head, where it belongs. No other Department’s policy is included in ordinance or set by Council. Passed on 1st Reading 5-2, with Gooch and Graham opposed. Read the Ordinance here.
Solid Waste Operation Policy:
Staff asked Council to approve the new policy. The purpose of the new policy is to match the contractual agreement Council already approved with ACE for the collection of solid waste. Again, it was noted that Department policy really shouldn’t be decided upon by Council, but Mr. Crawford, Director of Public Works, wanted Council approval since it was associated with such a major change. Several Councilmembers expressed a desire to keep an eye on the possible negative ramifications of key points of the policy (some of which had been brought up in Citizen Comments). It was agreed we would remain open to possible changes, and as I pointed out, because the policy is no longer part of the ordinance, Public Works can make changes as needed. So as we roll out the new solid waste services, we can adjust. The policy passed by a 5-2 voted with Graham and Lockaby opposed.
Chief Judge Salary:
Council unanimously voted to approve an adjustment to the salary of our Chief Judge. This was previously discussed in Executive Session.
This motion, made by Councilman Cummings, came from Committee. Councilmember Braswell asked that it be renamed “Unity/Inclusiveness Meal.” Other discussion revolved around finding a date. Motion carried unanimously. The City Administrator will organize the event and post details publicly.
Habitat for Humanity Development Proposal at Woodside Park:
Councilman Gooch brought this motion, which he’d introduced in the previous Committee meeting. It passed to this Business Meeting by a 4-3 vote, with Graham, Braswell, and Lockaby opposed. In opening discussion on the topic, Councilman Gooch asked those in attendance who had come to support the proposal to stand. The room was full, and nearly every person stood. Much discussion followed; every Councilmember spoke. Ultimately, the motion carried 5-2 with Graham and Lockaby opposed.The crowd applauded this outcome. For the discussion, please refer to the mp3, which should be posted on the City’s website today.
Staff asked Council to appoint the new A-Tax Committee. The Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee is tasked with making recommendations to the city council on the expenditure of revenues generated in Simpsonville from the state accommodations tax. This committee is made up of seven members who must be business people whose business operates within the city limits of Simpsonville per the committee bylaws. Per state law, at least four of the seven members must be selected from the hospitality industry of the city. At least two of these four members from the hospitality industry must be from the lodging industry. At least one of the seven members must represent the cultural organizations of the city. Council appointed the following members via a series of ballot votes:
- Carol Bettencourt, owner Artisan Dance (cultural organization)
- Sherrie Crawford, General Manager, Comfort Suites Simpsonville (lodging)
- Rory Curtis, Owner, Carolina Olive Oil (hospitality)
- Ben Duncan, Owner, Simpsonville Ace Hardware (at-large)
- Jason Hucks, Owner, Hucks Financial Services (at-large)
- Raj Patel, Owner, Holiday Inn Express & Suites (lodging)
- Julia Scholz, Owner, Stella’s Southern Bistro (hospitality)
Daytime Trial Judge:
Our Chief Judge, the Honorable Rick Moore, has made some adjustments to improve the efficiency of our municipal court, including reducing the number of days that court is held from three to two days per week. Judge Moore will also be re-instituting a domestic violence court that will be conducted one day per month. Judge Moore has indicated that he will be able to conduct the domestic violence court as well as the municipal court one day per week. This means that the City is in need of appointing an assistant judge who could conduct municipal court the other day each week. Consistent with the City’s policy, Ms. Phyllis Long has advertised this position internally. Ms. Barbara Ferguson, who is one of the City’s on-call assistant judges, has applied for this responsibility in addition to her current on-call duties. Judge Moore has reviewed her application and finds her duly qualified to take on the responsibilities of a daytime trial judge. She has extensive experience in court and practicing law including being licensed as an attorney. Judge Moore has expressed that he would fully support her appointment. Per Ms. Long, it has been the general policy of the City that when it finds a qualified internal candidate that candidate is given preference and typically the position is not opened up to external candidates. Staff asked Council to consider the appointment of Ms. Ferguson to these additional responsibilities or to direct staff to open up the position to external candidates.
Council voted unanimously to appoint Ms. Ferguson.
Council then moved into Executive Session for the following:
1) Discussion of negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements for the Fair at Heritage Park.
2) Discussion of negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements for the management of the amphitheater.
3) Discussion of negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements for the supply of recyclable materials.
Upon returning to open session, the following actions were taken:
- Motion to approve the extension of the event agreement for the Fair at Heritage Park for a period of 4 years and authorize the City Administrator to sign the agreement on behalf of the City. Motion carried unanimously.
- Motion to extend the management agreement for the Amphitheater for a period of 1 year and authorize the City Administrator to sign the agreement on behalf of the City. Motion carried unanimously.
- Motion to approve the proposed contractual arrangements for the supply of recyclable materials and authorize the City Administrator to sign the agreement on behalf of the City. Motion carried unanimously.
Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s (7-26-16) Committee of the Whole meeting…
Proclamation recognizing Dianne Carson for her contributions to the City of Simpsonville:
Ms. Carson founded the Simpsonville Farmer’s Market in 2010. At that time, it had 6 vendors and was located by The Loom. Under her leadership, the market flourished, and in 2012, it moved to its current location at City Park. Today the market boasts 50 vendors. In addition, in 2012, Ms. Carson founded the Harmony Garden and served as its Master Gardener. Read more about Harmony Garden here. We’re fortunate to have someone as dedicated to the City of Simpsonville as Ms. Carson is. Citizens like her help make this city a better place. Read more about why the Farmer’s Market is so important to our community here.
Ms. McGarity provided an update on recent and upcoming Chamber activities. Of note is Friday night’s Low Country Boil, which she reported will have around 530 attendees. Also of note: Ms. McGarity reported on the success of the Police Department Appreciation packages initiative, which was a joint effort between the Chamber and the City. Thanks to donations from local businesses and private citizens, they were able to deliver 60 bags to the PD and stock the breakroom with water, tea, and Gatorade for the officers to share.
The following matters referred by staff were moved to the Business Meeting on August 9th for official vote by full Council:
- Adoption of latest International Building Codes. This update is mandated, so there was little to no discussion.
- Revision to Code of Ordinances, Chapter 30. Solid Waste Management. The purpose of this revision is to adopt changes that will make the ordinance match our new privatized sanitation services. Little to no discussion.
The following matters referred by Council were moved to the August 9th Business Meeting for a final vote:
- Unity Meal. This was presented by Councilman Cummings. Discussion revolved around finding a day/time that works for everyone. Unanimous vote to recommend to full council.
- Habitat for Humanity Development Proposal at Woodside Park. This matter was brought by Councilman Gooch. This matter was moved to the Business Meeting by a majority vote with the following members voting no: Graham, Braswell, Lockaby.
The following matter referred by Council was moved to the August 23rd Committee of the Whole Meeting:
Update to Code of Ordinances, Chapter 6. Animals. Councilman Gooch brought this matter on behalf of Mayor Curtis. The motion was for one councilmember and the Mayor to review Chapter 6 and bring recommended changes to the August 9th Business Meeting for a vote. In my opinion, as voiced at the meeting, there was a misunderstanding about the motion. What ensued was a series of amendments and even an amendment to an amendment (out of order but not called). The end result is that all of Council will review the ordinance and bring recommended changes not to the Business Meeting on August 9th but to the next Committee of the Whole Meeting at the end of August. Assuming Council reviews and recommends changes in a timely fashion, the matter should then be moved to the September Business Meeting for First Reading. Second Reading would take place at the Business Meeting in October.
Council then moved into Executive Session, where a number of items (see agenda) were discussed. No votes were taken. No action was taken. Upon returning to open session, a number of motions and votes occurred. All passed unanimously to the August 9th Business Meeting for a vote. Those matters are as follows:
- Motion to adjust the salary of the Chief Judge.
- Motion to enter into an agreement for the Fair at Heritage Park.
- Motion to move forward with an agreement with TRZ Management for the management of the amphitheater.
- Motion to enter into a contract with Pratt Industries for the supply of recycling materials.
All of these items will appear on the Business Meeting agenda August 9th and will be presented to Council for a vote.
During the campaign, I told you (and you agreed) that one of our top priorities in Simpsonville should be Economic Development.
Over the last couple of months, I spoke with local business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, the Appalachian Councils of Government, city staff, and council members who have also expressed interest in economic development. I also completed my Institute of Elected Officials course in Municipal Economic Development.
Last week, I sent a memo to Mayor and Council on this topic, and last night I spoke to it. Here is my statement*:
Successful municipal community and economic development begins with elected officials making an organizational commitment to community and economic development.
To that end, I move that the Committee of the Whole recommend Council direct City Administrator David Dyrhaug to develop a strategic action plan for ongoing community and economic development.
As my class confirmed, community and economic development is about creating a healthy, vibrant community where people want to live, work, play, and invest money. Its key components are leadership, strategic planning, and collaboration. Its goals are to:
- Stimulate the local economy;
- Create new business opportunities;
- Encourage expansion of existing business activities;
- Create jobs and, in turn, increase the tax base;
- Generate new revenue and invest it to improve quality of life and make the city an even more attractive location for new businesses.
Community and economic development does not happen in a vacuum; it requires an action plan.
The Municipal Association will be offering economic development grants up to $25,000 beginning this fall. Simpsonville is not currently in a position to even apply for such funds given we have no plan, no focused interest in economic development. We should, though. Or we’ll be missing out while other municipalities take advantage of such opportunities. Having a plan indicates we’re willing and ready if a project or opportunity comes available.
Such a plan should start by determining what kind of economic development is right for us—a market analysis and identification of our community’s assets. And it must be collaborative in nature. The City must work with state, counties, neighboring towns, residents, local business leaders, our local Chamber of Commerce, & leverage public-private partnerships. The new approach to economic development (which we are seeing successfully implemented throughout the state) is comprehensive and multi-layered. And, in the words of Miriam Hair, Executive Director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina, public officials have a HUGE responsibility in providing leadership to make that happen. It’s time to embrace that responsibility.
A vote in favor of this motion indicates that, as a Council, we agree that community and economic development must be a priority for the city.
Last night, Council voted to move this item to the July 12th business meeting. With a majority vote at that meeting, Mr. Dyrhaug will move forward with “getting the right people in the room” to work on creating an action plan for community and economic development in Simpsonville.
*Much of this statement comes directly from those 18 pages of notes I took during my class, a class that confirmed much of what I already believed to be true (read more here).
As you know, the City owns the former Simpsonville Elementary School building. The City has no definitive plan for its use or its renovation. Therefore,
The purpose of the feasibility study is to define the project’s benefits, strategic fit, and otherwise justify (or not) the project. Project costs and schedule are also determined in this phase (to a +/- 30% margin of error). Feasibility requires the study team to identify issues which must be resolved prior to project implementation and to develop a practical plan for moving forward once feasibility is approved. Feasibility includes evaluation of liabilities and risks that the City may need to mitigate as a result of a project’s implementation. This feasibility study shall be complete by no later than the first Committee of the Whole Meeting in January 2017. At that time, the team will submit to Council its findings, a formal recommendation, and all supporting documentation.
The project team will be supervised by an advisory team. The purpose of the advisory team is to guide and evaluate the work of the project team. They should critique the team’s work, make sure team recommendations follow logically from analysis, help craft recommendations and proposals so they will be understood by stakeholders, and identify issues the team needs to address in order to successfully evaluate and implement the project. I propose that the advisory team for this project be composed of David Dyrhaug, City Administrator; Jason Knudsen, City Planner; and Mayor Curtis, representing the Council.
The project team should be comprised of a variety of subject matter experts and stakeholders who have a vested interest in the project and have agreed to the time commitment. This team will be composed of 1) at least one member of the board of the Simpsonville Arts Foundation, Inc.; 2) at least one member with grant-writing and/or fundraising experience; 3) at least one member with experience in historical preservation and/or restoration; 4) at least one member with a background in construction; 5) at least one member representing the performing arts; 6) at least one member representing the visual arts; and 7) at least one citizen who has a vested interested in the project. Notably, some of these requirements may be met by more than one member to keep the team at a more manageable level. The advisory team shall be charged with appointing the project team and making adjustments to it during the course of the project as needed.