These are a few exciting things (Meeting Recap)

Despite having a packed agenda, we had an efficient and productive Business Meeting tonight. With the time change, that means we left while it was still daylight!

Here are some other things I’m excited about from tonight’s meeting:

  1. Waterleaf at Neely Ferry.  Council unanimously approved this Concept Plan.  I previously told you why this plan is exciting and good for Simpsonville: road improvements, green space, sidewalks and connectivity, authentic collaboration between Graycliffe Capital and the City of Simpsonville, and smart growth!
  2. South Street Innovative Development Concept Plan.  At the Committee of the Whole Meeting on February 27th, Council voted to move this to the Business Meeting.  Despite voting yes, I had some lingering concerns about sidewalks (or lack thereof) and connectivity.  I took those concerns to our Planning and Economic Development Director, Jason Knudsen: there are no sidewalks on Corporate Drive or N. Industrial Dr. Mr. Knudsen knows how I feel about sidewalks and connectivity.  And he suggested we ask Gray Engineering, the firm who submitted the Statement of Intent, if they’d work with us to improve the walkability of the area.  End result? We’re getting 2 additions to the plan: a) the addition of a sidewalk extending up Corporate Dr. connecting to South Street; and b) the addition of a ten-foot-wide, multi-use trail from Corporate Dr. to Richardson St. This is a great public improvement!  Not only do we get increased walkability/connectivity, but also, as Mr. Knudsen pointed out in tonight’s meeting, this is good long-term planning.  After all, what do we want in Simpsonville? A trail!  And here’s one small trail that could potentially be a part of the bigger trail we’re working with the National Parks Service and concerned citizens on. And that’s exciting!
  3. Speaking of long-term planning, I am also excited that Council unanimously approved the appointment of Chief Wesley Williams as City Administrator Pro tem. So here’s the thing: Simpsonville has experienced a great deal of instability over the last several years.  Dianna Gracely (who we’re so happy to have now!) makes the 4th City Administrator who’s been at the helm in my short tenure on Council.  Especially with the unexpected and tragic passing of Mr. Eddie Case, we realized that we need to be better prepared (in advance) for how the city moves forward in the absence of a City Administrator. We don’t need to be caught unawares and scrambling to decide what happens if something keeps the City Administrator from being able to do her job (although we certainly hope nothing will ever happen to Ms. Gracely). The idea of a pro-tem Administrator was first broached by Mr. Cummings.  We talked it out, and we decided this is the right choice in planning for the future. The appointment essentially mirrors that of the Mayor Pro Tem, and “pro tem” really just means “temporary.” So in the event that Ms. Gracely cannot–for whatever reason–serve in her role as City Administrator, Chief Williams will serve in her place temporarily.  They will work together closely to make sure that Chief Williams is apprised of any business, processes, or procedures that he may need to understand in Ms. Gracely’s absence to keep the city running smoothly. Given his experience, dedication, and vast knowledge of everything Simpsonville, Chief Williams is the obvious choice for this appointment.  Better planning for the future will always excite me. That’s what this is. And it’s what I promised to work on back in 2015/2016. 

 

On Development and Smart Growth

Development dominated the agenda of our last Committee of the Whole meeting.  As did talk of smart growth and traffic concerns.  These are concerns Council hears from YOU.  And we are reflecting those concerns in our discussions around and decisions about proposed development.

Late last year, Council unanimously voted down a project at the corner of Neely Ferry and S. Baldwin.  As I explained here, this was a request for a major change to the plan originally submitted after the city annexed this property in 2006. It is known as Waterleaf at Neely Ferry and is located right behind Food Lion.

We explained several reasons why we were opposed to this proposed development. You can read about that here.

As a result, the developer “went back to the drawing board.”  In between the December meeting and our Committee of the Whole meeting in February, I had the opportunity to speak directly to the developer, Graycliffe Capital. And at the most recent meeting, they presented a new plan to Council, one that I am really excited about.  Here’s why:

  1. One of Council’s concerns was about a blind spot created by a hill on Neely Ferry as you coming past S. Baldwin towards W. Georgia Rd. If you drive this route, you know what I’m talking about: it’s difficult to see at all what’s coming and can be very dangerous.  Graycliffe heard us, and they brought a solution.  They spoke to SCDOT about what it would take to resolve this issue.  SCDOT will not itself do anything to correct the issue.  However, Graycliffe has offered to fix it at their expense.  They will basically shave down the road to eliminate the hill that creates the blind spot. This, to me, is one of the best things about this project.  We will get road improvements we would otherwise never get.  We get to address an existing safety concern that would only have been made worse by more traffic.  This is the kind of response from developers we like to and should see.
  2. Another concern was the entry/exit onto S. Baldwin. Council simply does not believe that S. Baldwin can handle additional traffic.  Problem solved: entry and exit onto S. Baldwin will be gated and protected by a Knox Box.  This will prevent anyone other than emergency vehicles from entering.  Emergency vehicles must be able to enter because that’s required.
  3. I recently wrote about the importance of sidewalks and connectivity. Another major plus for me is that this neighborhood will be connected internally and externally by sidewalk. It will be completely walkable.  The developer will connect to the existing sidewalk on Neely Ferry in front of the Food Lion.  This connection will allow those who live at the Water Leaf to walk easily and safely to buy groceries at Food Lion or pick up prescriptions at CVS.  And because we already have crosswalks and walk signals at the intersection of Neely Ferry and West Georgia Rd., they’ll also be able to walk their children to Plain Elementary.
  4. The plan we saw in December was for an all residential project. And as I mentioned previously, this area had been identified for mixed use. The developer took note of our objection to this change.  The new development is mixed use.  It features not just apartments but also office buildings.  Density has been reduced—there will be fewer apartments.  This is in keeping with the city’s vision for this area.
  5. Green space! The old plan basically levelled the property. The new plan preserves a significant amount of the natural area, saving existing trees and incorporating a new walking trail.

This new project is a wonderful example of smart growth. This is a development that helps Simpsonville.  I spoke in favor of this development at the Committee of the Whole meeting on February 27th.  I voted in favor of it.  Council unanimously voted yes.  The project will now appear on the March Business Meeting agenda for a final vote.

I hope that we see more authentic collaboration between developers and city officials in the future.  And I hope we see more results like this.

In 2015, I promised to work towards “One Simpsonville,” where we all work together for a better Simpsonville. Today, we’re doing that.

As presented to both the Planning Commission and Council at the February Committee of the Whole: screenshot_20180306-141608878466298.png

Updates From the December Meeting

The December Business Meeting had two items referred to Council from the Planning Commission.  One was a 2nd reading for an annexation of property along Neely Ferry and S. Baldwin Roads. The annexation request asks for the property to be zoned  Residential–High Density, and the applicant wants to build 64 townhomes on the property.  I expressed concern regarding traffic and other impacts related to this rezoning, especially given a plan to develop another Residential–High Density apartment complex directly across the street.  Mr. Gooch expressed similar concerns.  Mr. Graham moved to table the discussion to allow more time for the applicant and staff to work on this project.  That motion passed 4-2, with Mr. Gooch and I voting no (Ms. Braswell was absent).  I voted no because I don’t think there’s anything that would change my mind regarding this development if brought back to Council in January.  Nothing changed between the November reading and the December reading, after all.

The second item referred from the Planning Commission was to make a major change to the plan for the other development on Neely Ferry (now called Waterleaf). This is right behind Food Lion.  This land was annexed into the city back in 2006. At that time, Council approved a plan for a mixed use development.  That means it would include retail and office space in addition to some multi-family housing.  The project was never developed.  Now the developer would like this Council to agree to a Major Change that would make this development all Residential–High Density and include up to 410 units.  Again, that’s a lot of activity in that area, in my opinion.  In addition, our Comprehensive Plan identifies this area as “Village Activity Center.”  That means the City plans for it to be mixed use.  Yet, the developer, City staff, and the Planning Commission asked us to approve this change.  If you know me, you know I have been pushing for better long-term planning in Simpsonville.  In this case, we had a plan, and we were being asked to ignore it.  I simply could not support this.  Neither could the rest of Council.  This project was voted down.

Amphitheatre Improvements

Near the end of last year, members of Council and former City Administrator David Dryhaug met with TRZ staff regarding needed improvements to the Amphitheatre.

Since then, the City has continued to take a hard look at the improvements needed, beginning with replacing existing and adding new restroom facilities.

As a result, at the September 26th Committee of the Whole Meeting, City staff recommended that we remove the current restrooms and replace  them with a new, low maintenance facility that would double the capacity. They also recommended we construct a new restroom near the box office that would not only serve the Amphitheatre, but provide facilities to the athletic fields and eliminate the need for Parks and Recreation to rent port-o-lets. These facilities would be constructed of block and concrete floors with metal roofs, which will improve the maintainability and offer a more permanent facility.

Obviously, the optimal time to make such improvements is during the off-season. The new contract with TRZ and their contract with Live Nation presents a great opportunity for Simpsonville by bringing higher caliber shows to the Amphitheatre. Simpsonville stands to make more money than ever before, and our facilities need to reflect our commitment.

Based on an estimate from the Fire Department General Contractor, the estimated cost of the improvements is $350,000 to $400,000.

Remember that Heritage Park Amphitheatre is funded through Hospitality & Accommodations (H&A) tax dollars (not your property tax dollars).  Those dollars go into our Special Revenue Fund. And those dollars can only, by State law, be used for tourism-related expenditures (i.e. we cannot buy Public Works equipment with H&A funds). We make payments for HP from that Special Revenue account. For example, the upgraded chairs at HP were financed, and each year, we make a payment towards that debt.  The money for that payment comes from H&A (our Special Revenue Fund). Thus, it is important that we always maintain enough of a balance in that account to make all of our necessary payments (to cover our “debt service”).

In consulting with our Finance Director and our Financial Advisor, staff determined that we can use up to $400,000 from the current H&A balance without negatively impacting our credit rating or our ability to pay our debts. This would allow us to make these improvements during this off-season (starting soon!).

Based on all of this information, Council voted unanimously to allow staff to issue an Invitation to Bid to determine whether or not we can make this happen–and happen on time.  If we can, you’ll see this on future agendas because we’ll have to amend the 2017-18 budget ordinance (which takes two readings) to allow for a one-time transfer from the H&A fund balance to pay for these improvements.

 

Meeting Updates

ICYMI: here are some updates from last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting:

Public Works

  • All temporary easements have been sign and work will soon begin on the sidewalks in Woodside Mill area.
  • Engineering work has begun on the headways in Hunters’ Hill road and Powderhorn Dr.
  • Street crews have cleaned 60 storm drains to allow for quicker removal of standing water in roadways.
  • Creek crossing at Grandview repairs are underway. We only have one remaining in Poinsettia.

Police Department

  • Police Department has renewed their traffic safety grant in the amount of $62,000.00. The grant funds the position and benefits for this program.
  • A replacement traffic counter has been ordered to allow us to finish the traffic study in Hunters Woods.

Fire Department

  • Progress is still being made on Station Five.
  • Fire Department personnel will be participating in Fire Safe SC held by the State Fire Marshal Office to address reducing fire deaths within the State.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec have cleaned up the plaza area on North Main Street in front of Shortfields and will continue on South Main in the following weeks.

Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber has requested they be allowed to submit a monthly report as other departments within the City in lieu of appearing monthly. Staff have suggested that they appear quarterly, and they were receptive to this.

Administration

  • Planner I, Ben Hyde’s first day was the day of this meeting: September 26th. We look forward to having him on board and are excited about what he can bring to Simpsonville.
  • We have made some office changes at City Hall to allow for a conference room.
  • Interim City Administrator, Chief Wesley Williams, will be attending the Greenville Administrator meeting on September 20th.

Other new hires for August were:

  • Brandon Davis – Police
  • Diane Kennedy – Police
  • Michael Milam – Fire
  • James Mosley – Police
  • William Preston – Fire
  • Travis Tarrant – Recreation

We welcome these new employees to Team Simpsonville!  It takes all of us working together–One Simpsonville–to make Simpsonville the best it can be!

Simpsonville SC will have one of the best concert venues in SC!

“What if we could guarantee you more, bigger, better concerts at the Amphitheater, thus increasing your revenue—without costing you a single penny more?”

That’s the question Roger Dickson of TRZ Entertainment brought to Council several months ago.

But doesn’t that sound too good to be true?  Who gets something for nothing?  No one, of course.  But Mr. Dickson and TRZ weren’t lying: they weren’t asking for a single penny more than we’ve been giving them.

What they did ask was for us to “put a little more skin in the game,” to make a bigger investment—not in cash, but in commitment level.  They asked for a 5-year contract for management of the amphitheater.  Up until now, they’ve been getting a one-year contract every year.

What do we get in return? Exactly what they promised—but we’re not relying on their word for it.  A couple months ago, TRZ presented us with an economic impact study, conducted by an expert third party at their expense, illustrating the huge gains we would receive from a stronger concert schedule.  This data, provided at Council’s request, drove our decision to approve the 5-year contract at last night’s Council meeting. Those bigger, better, more impactful concerts will come because TRZ is investing in a long-term contract with Live Nation, the largest live entertainment company in America.  This is something TRZ would be unable to do without a longer term commitment from the City.

This new agreement guarantees a better concert schedule—with more big-name entertainers.  This is possible (in part) because, as the largest live entertainment company in the country, Live Nation is able to buy full concert series and schedule whole tours across the country at the various concert venues with whom they contract.  And this means a bigger economic impact for Simpsonville.

This was no overnight decision, nor one we took lightly: it was something that TRZ and the City have been working on for some time.  And last night, we finally arrived at a contract to which both parties agreed. Council unanimously approved the new contract after an Executive Session to review that final contract.

Many thanks to Mr. Roger Dickson from TRZ, Mr. Robbie Davis (Department Head, Simpsonville Parks & Recreation), Mr. Eddie Case (former City Administrator), Mr. Wesley Williams (current City Administrator), and Mr. David Holmes (City Attorney) for all of their hard work on this project.  Thanks to their efforts, we will now have one of the best concert venues in South Carolina—and Simpsonville will reap the rewards of its success.

 

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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.

Meeting Recap 1.10.17

Last night, Council met for the January Business Meeting.  Council was presented with 3 items referred by the Planning Commission:

  1. 2nd Reading of Z-2016-02, Rezone Part of Tax Map #0574.02-011.00 (401 Neely Ferry Road). Passed unanimously.
  2. 1st Reading of AXZ-2016-07, Annexation/Rezoning of Tracts of Land on Harrison Bridge Road Tax Map #’s 0566.02-01-010.01, 0566.02-01-010.02 & part of 0566.02-01-010.07. Passed 6-1 (Dissent: Lockaby).

There was a good deal of discussion on this particular item.  In part, this is because Council heard from the public that this item was a matter of concern.  Also, the Planning Commission had voted to deny this proposal at its meeting back in November. At that time, when I was asked about it, I said this.

Between then and now, a lot happened.  The developer really took to heart the issues the public, the Planning Commission, and Council raised. I, for one, was asked what compelling reasons might lead me to vote for this proposal, given it was recommended denial by the Planning Commission.  In short, my 3 areas of concern were traffic, density, and the single-family home involved in the project.  This was my full response. Ultimately, I feel like I was provided with information to support the need for this apartment complex. I feel more comfortable with the traffic issues, and I am certain (having been provided with an apartment inventory report and apartment vacancy report) that we have a need for “high end” units like those proposed in this project for business professionals and those downsizing. Also, the issue with the single-family home was resolved, and that homeowner is now supportive of the project.  I fully believe that with this new information in hand, the Planning Commission would agree.  Therefore, I voted in favor of the 1st Reading.

  1. SP-2017-01, Bessinger Innovative Development, Major Change. Passed unanimously.

Mr. David Holmes presented one other item for business: he asked Council to grant authority for signing official documents to someone in City Hall.  Previously, Council had appointed Ms. Long, City Clerk, to sign for police grants that we knew were heading our way.  Last night, we agreed to have Ms. Long continue signing any official documents until a new City Administrator is hired.

Council then went into Executive Session for the discussion of employment, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline, or release of an employee in the Administration Department.

Upon returning to open session, Council voted 6-1 (with Braswell dissenting) to extend an offer of employment to Mr. Eddie Case for the position of City Administrator. Mr. Case has been City Administrator in Fountain Inn for the last 11 years and brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge that will undoubtedly be an asset to the City of Simpsonville moving forward.

This is important because we need a highly qualified and experienced leader who can hit the ground running…and fast. We have several high-priority issues that we need to deal with, including completing the hiring of the new Police Chief, resolving the ongoing issues related to leaf and brush pick-up, completing the new Fire Station, and completing the budget for our next fiscal year.

That’s your recap! Next meeting is a Committee of the Whole meeting on January 24th at 6:30 PM, City Hall.

Questions? JHulehan@Simpsonville.com

Meeting Recap 1.4.17

Tonight the Simpsonville City Council met for a special called meeting.

As previously discussed, our City Administrator, Mr. David Dyrhaug, is leaving his post at the City of Simpsonville. His last day is this Friday, January 6th.  In the last week, city staff have been working together to ensure that in his absences, everyone knows who is responsible for what.  Even so, there were a couple of items Council had to meet and decide upon.

Tonight Council acted on two items:

  1. Council voted to give Ms. Phyllis Long, City Clerk, the authority to sign some grant paperwork that will be coming in next week.  Typically, this would be signed by the City Administrator.  The grants are grants that have been awarded to our Police Department. Now, Ms. Long will be able to sign those documents, ensuring we are in compliance for receiving those funds.
  2. Council voted to have Ms. Long, City Clerk and HR Director, begin the process of recruiting a new City Administrator for the City of Simpsonville.  Obviously, this is an important step to take now that staff transition plans are in place for Mr. Dyrhaug’s exit. The City Administrator is an important role, and it’s one we need to work on filling as soon as possible. This is the first step.

That’s your recap!   Our next meeting is Tuesday, January 10th at 6:30 PM.

Meeting Recap 10.25.2016

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.

BUSINESS

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:

  1. Eliminate the age restriction proposed for the dog park provided that children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult
  2. Accept the recommendations from staff and the American Kennel Club
  3. Maintain the current restrictions on pets at Heritage Park
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Collect traffic data, accident data, roadway geometric data, etc.
  3. Undertake a “Neighborhood Awareness Campaign”
  4. Evaluate the data and location for eligibility for traffic calming
  5. Consider, implement, and evaluate appropriate cost-effective “non-structural” traffic 
calming alternatives
  6. Create a traffic calming plan that incorporates appropriate structural traffic calming 
measures
. Coordinate with City departments and the citizen representative. Conduct a neighborhood meeting
  7. Obtain petition support for the plan from at least 65% of the property owners in the study area
  8. Install and evaluate trial structural traffic calming measures
  9. 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
  10. 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:

Motion:

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.

Memo:

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.