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.

Reunite Our Town

One of my key goals for the next four years is to reunite our Town. In 2012, I worked with Free James Island to put together a Town that could not be challenged by the City of Charleston. There was no challenge. The Town is here to stay. However, many people who were in the Town in 2011 were not included. They are separated from the Town by areas annexed by the City of Charleston. The problem is that these areas are subject to overdevelopment under the County, or worse, annexation by the City of Charleston.
To correct this problem, I have worked with our elected representatives in Columbia to change annexation law. We worked with former Senator Thurmond in 2014. His bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee but could not get a vote in the full Senate. We went back to the drawing board and Town Councilman Josh Stokes developed a new approach that focuses on adding an additional clarification of contiguity. Representative Peter McCoy was able to shepherd this new bill through the S.C. House last spring, with a unanimous vote. In January, it goes to the South Carolina Senate.
I believe that I can be an effective advocate of the legislation we need. Once we secure passage in the South Carolina Senate, it will be legal for our former residents to annex to the Town. The process of reuniting our Town will require petition drives and annexation elections. Having chaired Free James Island and led the incorporation effort in 2012 and then the annexation of Quail Run and parts of Lighthouse Point in 2014, I believe I am the right choice to do all of the work necessary to reunite our Town.
Please give me the opportunity to complete this work to help protect our Island.