Monday, October 7, 2019

James Islanders--Please Let Me Serve Another Term

Dear James Islanders,

I am seeking reelection as your Mayor.

There are some important tasks that I believe I should complete.

All are important for the well-being of our Island.

Progress has been made in all of these areas, but many Town initiatives are incomplete.

Please give me the opportunity to serve you.

Thank you.

Mayor Bill Woolsey

Park Improvements

One of my favorite roles as Mayor has been working at our Town Parks.  Next year the Town will be opening a new Park on Folly Road and Pinckney Park will see a major improvement.

Brantley Park is a joint project of the Town of James Island and the City of Charleston.   Both contributed funds from our Charleston County 1/2 Sales Tax Greenbelt fund to purchase the land at the corner of Folly Road and Brantley Drive.  The City of Charleston is leaving management to the Town.  Right now, we are developing plans for limited parking, a bike rack, water fountain, bus shelter, and renovation of the existing dock.   I hope to be adding plenty of flowers to the landscape.

Get ready for Phase 2 at Pinckney Park, with a picnic pavilion and restrooms coming next spring. Families with young children on the playground are a frequent sight.  Most of the grounds will remain a natural meadow surrounded by maritime forest.  It is a great location to watch birds and there is usually many wildflowers.  I am especially proud of our stands of liatris elegans, a native wildflower with showy blooms in late summer and fall. 

Dock Street Park, which is actually at the end of Patterson Avenue, is the Town's first park   Picnic tables and the "porch swing" were recently replaced.  Dock Street Park provides great views of James Island Creek.   It is a great place to come for a quiet lunch. 

Please allow me to continue to work on and improve our Parks.   There is much to do over the next few years.   


Sidewalks and Bike Paths

The Town has expanded our network of sidewalks over the last five years.  Using Town monies to leverage funds from other local governments has allowed for substantial progress, but more needs to be done.  There are several major projects that I believe I can help push forward to completion over the next few years.

As Chair of the Rethink Folly Road Steering Committee, I have worked to develop and implement the  Phase I sidewalk project in the commercial core. Construction will begin next year.  Phase I includes a sidewalk along Folly Road from Ellis Creek to George Griffith Boulevard by Walmart.   This cooperative effort will be funded with monies contributed by the Town, a match from the City of Charleston, Charleston County 1/2 Sales tax monies as well as federal complete street monies from the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments.   When the project is complete, it will be possible to walk along Folly Road from Central Park Road to Fort Johnson Road.   This project will also improve the bike lanes.  This is the first step towards the goal of providing pedestrian and bike access along Folly Road from the Wappoo Cut to Folly Beach.

The Town has nearly completed the sidewalk along Camp Road from Fort Johnson to Folly Road.  The next segment on this route should carry on along Camp Road from Folly Road, past the new Middle School and on to Riverland Drive and then up Riverland to James Island County Park and the Senior Center. The project began with a conceptual study funded by the Town.   It has been changed and extended, but the delay was worth it.  It is now fully-funded as a Charleston County 1/2 cent sales tax project.  Construction will be timed with the opening of the new Camp Road middle school before next fall.

The Town has just completed the "boardwalk" which connects the sidewalks along Dills Bluff from Fort Johnson Road to Seaside Lane.  Town funds, along with a state grant secured by Representative Peter McCoy, is paying for this connection.  The Town paid for design and part of the construction of the Seaside Lane sidewalk, providing a safe way for students to get to the high school while connecting the center of James Island to Fort Johnson Road.  The Town has begun full design on the next phase of the Dills Bluff project from Seaside Lane to Windborn Drive.  The Town initiated and obtained a match from the 1/2 sales tax for a sidewalk along Quail Drive connecting the Rec Center to the sidewalks on Harbor View Road.

Please allow me to continue working step-by-step to extend our network of sidewalks.   These projects are an important means to promote the safety of our residents and improve our quality of life. on James Island.

Clean Up James Island Creek

James Island has a pollution problem.   Bacteria counts near the Ellis Creek Bridge on Folly Road are frequently too high for swimming.   Please give me the opportunity to work to make James Island Creek safe for swimming, kayaking, fishing, shrimping, and harvesting oysters. 

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has just completed a TMDL study of the creek.   The Town, the City of Charleston, and Charleston County were all involved in the study, because the area that drains into James Island Creek includes areas in the Town, the City, and the unincorporated area.    These three governments are required to develop a plan to better monitor the water quality of the waterway for the next five years.   With additional information, the governments will then be required to take actions to reduce the bacteria counts in James Island Creek.

While we must begin a process of more careful monitoring, I believe that five years is much too long to wait to take action.   The most likely sources of pollution are 1) sanitary sewer overflows, 2) failed septic systems, 3) pet waste.

The major sewer spill by the Charleston Water System in August is the most extreme example of one source of pollution of James Island Creek.  During major storms, we see sewage fountaining from manhole covers.   These need to be reported.   Working with Charleston County, and our County Councilwoman Jenny Honeycutt, we can now call 911 to report a sewer spill.  Also, it is important to call our local DHEC office in North Charleston at (843) 953-0032.   We need to make sure that our sewer providers, the James Island Public Service District and the Charleston Water System, maintain their systems to avoid leaks and spills.  They need our help by promptly reporting problems so that they can address them.

While most James Islanders are on sewer, many in the James Island Creek basin use septic systems.   Septic tanks need to be pumped out periodically and should be inspected on a regular basis.  Failed sewer systems result in sewage leaking onto the ground from the drain field.   With rain, this waste is washed into drainage ditches and then into James Island Creek. At one time, it was legal to directly pipe grey water (from washing machines) and even raw sewage into our marshes and creeks.   The Town recently passed an ordinance requiring proper disposal of sewage, including a properly functioning septic tank or sewer connection.  Dumping waste into the creek or marsh is illegal under the Town's stormwater ordinances.   My goal over the next four years is to review and improve these ordinances, coordinate with the City and County, and enforce existing rules.  I have also asked the James Island Public Service District to look into the feasibility, including cost, of expanding the sewer system in areas of the James Island Creek basin.

Pest waste is frequently the source of water pollution.  We need to educate the people of James Island to pick up pet's waste and put it in the garbage rather than leave it in the yard.  When it is left in the yard, rain washes it into the drainage system and then into the marshes and creeks. 

The three local governments will be required to take action to improve the water quality in James Island Creek.  I have followed this issue closely and believe that the time for action is now.  Please allow me to lead our community in this vital effort.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Law Enforcement

I believe that the best way to protect the citizens of the Town from crime is to improve and expand our Island Sheriff's Patrol   With the support of Town Council, I introduced this partnership with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office in 2012.  While the Sheriff's Office continues to provide law enforcement in the Town, we employ off duty Deputies to provide additional protection to our citizens.   As a result, the Town's jurisdiction is the best patrolled area of our Island.

I believe it is time for the Town to take an additional step forward.   I have begun negotiation with Sheriff Cannon  to have a Deputy assigned to the Town full time.   This would be at Town expense.  Currently, all of the officers on the Island Sheriff's Patrol have full time jobs with the Sheriff's Office and their work for the Town is an added part time job.   I believe that our residents will be even better served by having an officer whose primary responsibility is providing law enforcement in the Town while continuing to supplement with part time officers.

Sergeant Shawn James has coordinated the Island Sheriff's Patrol since 2012.   He attends Town Council and Neighborhood Council meetings each month, reporting on what has been accomplished.   He recruits officers for the Island Sheriff's Patrol and schedules them for specific tasks according to priorities assigned by your Town government.   Sometimes the Island Sheriff's Patrol is assigned to control speeding on streets where the Town has received complaints.   Other times, they are focused on late night patrols to control break-ins, reinforcing the efforts of the Sheriff's Department.   The strong rapport that our Island Sheriff's Patrol officers have developed with the community, especially Sergeant James, results in many citizen tips regarding serious crimes.

Please join me in fighting crime by supporting and strengthening our Town's Island Sheriff's Patrol.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Drainage Improvement

My most important goal for the next four years will be to continue to improve drainage on James Island.   Much progress has been made, but there is more to do.   I believe that I have the experience and knowledge needed to move the Town forward.

The Town, working with Charleston County and the City of Charleston, just completed the first Island-wide Drainage Basin Delineation.  I called for this joint effort after the "thousand year flood" in 2015.  It is now complete.  I want to make sure that the three Island governments follow through.  The James Island Creek basin was shown to have the greatest problems.  We need a complete study of that basin.  But we can't just keep studying, we need to start to start relieving the choke points identified in the study due to undersized pipes. I want to break ground on the first project next year.

Since 2013, stormwater managers from the Town, Charleston County, the City of Charleston, and South Carolina Department of Transportation have met at Town Hall to coordinate drainage work.   Charleston County Public Works found the original drainage plans for Town neighborhoods from decades ago and all Island governments are working together to reestablish  Island drainage. The Town is obtaining easements on key "private" ditches in some neighborhoods that were never dedicated to the public even as neighborhoods grew up around them. This vital work must continue.

The negative impact on neighboring homes when new development uses fill has become more and more apparent.  The Town is currently reviewing its ordinances to provide protection to neighbors when fill is used. The Town is also working in coordination with Charleston County Building Services to update our building codes and flood ordinances.  Over the next four years, these new rules must be implemented to make sure that new development no longer imposes flooding on neighboring homes.

Charleston County Public Works provides the Town with approximately $150,000 worth of basic drainage maintenance each year.   The County does good work for us, and I believe we should continue to accept their help.   The Town has three on-call contractors who do both basic maintenance and repairs.  The Town used our contractors to slip line the outfall at Grimsley Drive and construct a new drainage line between Tallwood Drive and Canopy Cove.  The Town has and will continue to utilize our contractors on both Town drainage infrastructure, and when necessary, SCDOT infrastructure.  Construction of an additional drainage pipe under Fort Johnson Road near Lighthouse Blvd.will begin next year.  During the next four years, I want to  expand the number of contractors utilized by the Town to add firms specializing in driveway aprons and stormwater inlet maintenance. 

The Town's own public works Team (up to three now, and I sometimes join in) have developed experience to immediately respond to flooding by inspecting the choke points we have identified and use hand tools to remove blockages.  Over the next four years, I want to hone our efforts to make sure the Town's own Team promptly responds to rain events and clears what are sometimes small obstructions that can have major negative impacts.

Please give me the opportunity to continue to improve the Town's drainage.  The threat of rising sea levels and worsening storms makes this work vital. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Implement Tax Relief

During the next four years, one of my key goals is to follow through on the implementation of the new Town tax credit. This October, homeowners in the Town will pay 27% less to the JIPSD in property tax. For a home worth $250,000, the tax saving will be $175. Councilmen Leonard Blank, Troy Mullinax and Josh Stokes joined me in approving a cost sharing agreement with the JIPSD in August. While there has long been majority support for cooperating with the JIPSD for tax relief on Council, it was only after last November's election that there was a majority of Commissioners willing to work with the Town. The Town will use its other sources of revenue to help pay for fire protection and solid waste collection provided by the JIPSD to the residents of the Town. Like most municipalities, this will avoid putting an excessive burden on Town property taxpayers for these services.
Please give me the opportunity to make sure our tax relief program is fully and properly implemented during this vital first year and continue cooperation with the JIPSD to help with funding essential services for years to come.