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.

 

It’s a Local Election Year!

Mark your calendars, Simpsonville! November 7th: we have a city council election!  Make sure you’re registered to vote, and your registration is up to date.  You can go here to register and here to check your registration details. If you need to update your registration, this is the place.

Only one incumbent is running: Mr. Taylor Graham (Ward 2).  He is being challenged by Ms. Stephanie Kelley and Mr. Aaron Rupe.  Ms. Braswell is not running for another term.  Her seat (Ward 4) is up for grabs, and there are two contenders: Ms. Sherry Roche and Mr. T. Blake Whitaker.  Ms. Lockaby (Ward 6) has also decided not to run for re-election.  Vying for her seat are Mr. Lou Hutchings and Mr. Jason Wilmoth.

As a reminder, all councilmembers are elected at large, which means you will vote for one candidate for each of the 3 open seats.

Simpsonville has been through a lot of change in the last few years, and we’re making a lot of progress.  Help us stay on the right track by getting to know the candidates and choosing those who will keep us moving forward!

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Taxes are going up…everywhere

As the Greenville News reports, Greenville County Schools trustees unanimously approved a 4.6 mill tax increase Tuesday night. While we were trying to come to an agreement last night on our own budget, Greenville County Schools trustees unanimously approved a 4.6 mill tax increase. The County also raised fees this year, and the State raised the gas tax. This is one of the reasons I personally did not want to raise taxes this year. Nevertheless, our Simpsonville city residents will see an additional $10 added to their tax bills in the form of a PW fee.

But residents aren’t the only ones who will be paying more.  For the first time, each business and each mobile home resident will, in effect, be contributing to the Public Works fee.

A Public Works Fee of $34.00 will be collected times the number of separate businesses located on each taxable parcel of improved real property located within the core central business district  as that district is identified on a map maintained in the Office of the City Planning Director that currently use a single roll-a-waste container for solid waste collection.  If there are, for example, 5 businesses operating from 1 taxable parcel, the owner of the taxable parcel would be billed, on the annual tax bill, the sum of 5 X $34 = $170.  Presumably, real property owners who house businesses in the Core Central Business District will pass the cost down to their tenants.

Please note: the city will continue service to those who will not be considered part of the “Core Central Business District” until JULY 28th to allow more adequate time for those businesses to make arrangements for permanent collection.

The same logic will be applied to the 3 mobile home parks in Simpsonville: the park owners will be charged $34.00 times the number of separate lots located on each taxable parcel (i.e. each park).  Presumably, park owners will pass this cost down to residents.

What does this get you?  Perhaps the biggest change residents will notice is the return of the much-desired brush service.  We’ve been hearing for almost a year from residents who have described the burden bundling has placed upon them. Recently, I polled 100 residents in the Simpsonville City limits, and the primary concern was clear: the return of brush service.  We have planned a fiscally sustainable option for returning that service. Read more about that here.  This does not change our overall contract with ACE.  We will simply be adding a service to supplement what ACE does for us.  You get two new city personnel and two new city brush trucks to provide that supplemental service.

So your extra $10 a year helps ensure you no longer have the burden of bundling.

Read more about what you get in the budget here.  Read all previous budget posts here.

Budget Update: Passed

Tonight, Council adopted on second reading the FY 17/18 Budget.

The budget approved on first reading was amended as follows:

  1. To retain trash collection of one roll cart per business in the core central downtown business district only.  This is the area from where Garrison Rd. meets Main to Chancellor’s Park Ct. It includes only those businesses that are front-facing on Main, N. Main, S. Main, NE Main, or SE Main.  All other businesses previously receiving city trash pickup will be required to contract for private services. However, please note that the city will continue pickup for those other businesses until JULY 28th to allow more adequate time for them to make arrangements. 

Here’s my why: The businesses located in the core of the central business district have unique characteristics. This district is characterized by buildings that are located at the front of the property boundary so that only a sidewalk separates the building from the street. They are serviced in the rear by an alley that provides little or no parking because the buildings take up most of the lot. The City has encouraged the maintenance of some of these buildings in their current character and design by an overlay district. Therefore, there is no room for dumpsters that would be required for commercial solid waste pickup. Traffic would be increased in already cramped places where there is already a lot of pedestrian traffic if multiple trash services were collecting solid waste. Therefore, roll a waste container collection should continue to be provided by the city.

2. Retain trash collection services to mobile home parks and duplexes: one roll cart per unit. The only real why here is that these people have always received the service, and many are on limited incomes, and the park owners do not want to contract for services for their residents.

Here are the changes that we made to get there:

  • Charge the Mobile Park Home Owners for the PW fee ($34.00) for each unit within their park.
  • Charge the Duplex Owners for the PW fee ($34.00) for each unit within their parcel.
  • Charge per business the $34.00 PW fee.
  • Decrease Administrative Contingency fund by $30,000.
  • Decrease contribution to General Fund (reserve) by $22,168.

This budget represents one heck of a series of compromises. And I have my reservations about it.  In particular, I am very concerned about the long-term fiscal sustainability of these services.  These changes make this work this year–but next year these same funds aren’t guaranteed.  In my opinion, that’s no way to plan for the future.

But I’ve been calling for better long-term planning, for thinking beyond the current budget cycle, since I got elected.  And we’re not there. Still. I hope we will be by the first Saturday of January 2018 (more on that later).  In the meantime, look for upcoming opportunities to share what’s important to you with councilmembers and the City Administrator.  Because you should help lead the way for this long-term, strategic planning we need to get started.

In the meantime, the budget is DONE.

Read previous posts about the budget here.

Resignation: City Administrator

Tonight Council accepted the resignation of City Administrator David Dyrhaug, who will be returning to his roots in city planning. During a time of uncertainty, Mr. Dyrhaug answered a call to serve. He stepped up in our time of need; and for that, this city and her citizens will always be grateful. We wish him nothing but success as he continues his journey in public service, returning to his passion.dd-resign-letter

Tornado Clean-Up Updates

UPDATE (5:48 PM):

Mr. Crawford reports that we will plan to run brush trucks to remove brush and debris generated by the storm. All next week we will primarily be running this brush removal in the areas hardest hit by the storm. We will be running our two trucks as well as the trucks provided to us by our gracious neighboring communities. After next week, any resident that still has brush generated by the storm will be able to call Public Works to request removal of their brush, and our crews will oblige.

Our city staff have been working hard all day to make sure we are able to respond effectively and efficiently to the issues our community faces as a result of the tornado. Our first responders have been working non-stop to ensure our safety. Our neighbors have been working together, helping one another, and supporting each other. Thanks to everyone for their efforts!

 

UPDATE (2:29 PM):

Fountain Inn (1 truck), Mauldin (1 truck), and the City of Greenville (2 trucks) are providing some brush truck assistance. We are grateful for their help. Again, these brush trucks are presently following our own crews to remove the brush and trees that these crews are cleaning up. We anticipate that there will be a large volume of brush that residents will have for disposal as well, more than what can reasonably be bundled. After the brush trucks have removed the brush debris generated by our own crews, Mr. Crawford and Mr. Dyrhaug will be assessing what our capabilities might be for removing brush cleaned up by residents.

We appreciate your continued patience as we work to clean up our city after what has been confirmed as an EF-1 tornado touchdown. We also appreciate the work of so many of you as you assist in these efforts in a variety of ways. Personally, I am so encouraged by all the residents offering to help one another in this time of need. You are what makes this city great. Thank you.

 

UPDATE (9:49 AM):

This morning Chief Williams and Mr. Dyrhaug rode the City to survey the damage from yesterday’s storm. Here’s what they report: Some areas got hit hard. There are a lot of trees down including a number of trees that have fallen onto homes. A number of homes also took a direct hit. Some of the hardest hit areas include Poinsettia, the Richardson Street and Cox Street neighborhoods, and Remington (outside the City but inside our Fire District). Brentwood, Morning Mist, some areas along Curtis Street, and a few other areas also took some damage.

Most of the roads are now open although there are a few remaining spots with trees down on the road. This includes Richardson Street and Eastview Circle, among others. The Fire Department is working on clearing these where they are capable. We believe that we have only one traffic signal still not operating yet, at the intersection of Main Street and Garrison Road. However, the timing seems to be off for many of the traffic signals in town. The Police Department is reporting this to SCDOT so that they can fix these issues.

Power has been restored to most neighborhoods although there are still a few pockets without power. Duke continues to work on restoring power. Generators are available for individuals that need power for an emergency medical need.

We have three Fire Department shifts working today to clean up fallen trees. They are also working to shore up some of the hardest hit homes. Lowe’s home improvement is donating lumber and other supplies as needed by our crews. Public Works crews are going behind the Fire crews with our brush grabbers to remove the trees and brush that the Fire crews are cleaning. Right now Mr. Jay Crawford is contacting Fountain Inn and Mauldin to see if they can lend any brush truck assistance.

The Police Department is patrolling the city and reporting any damage and issues that they observe. All issues are being reported to the Fire Department so that they can act as our central coordinating team.

 

UPDATE (8:08 AM):

Much of the City is still without power. Now that it’s daylight, we’re heading out to check on elderly and disabled neighbors. If you know someone who needs to be checked on but can’t do it yourself, let me know, and I’ll try to get someone over there.

There are still many trees down and some roads that aren’t passable. Mr. Dyrhaug and Chief Williams are out surveying the damage right now and will provide updates. I will share them as I receive them.

I’ve been told Richardson St. is a problem and East Georgia is out at Howard. Some estimates for power restoration are at 4 PM. Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said crews are coming in from Asheville to assist with restoring power in Simpsonville. If you have updates to share, please share. Otherwise, stay safe, tale care of each other, and stay tuned for updates.