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Full Text: North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey's State of the City

FILE - Mayor Keith Summey declares Saturday "North Charleston Pops Day." (Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

Welcome to 2016 North Charleston State of the City address. The following will be presented to you by the true future of North Charleston, our youth. We are happy to partner, as you will see, with our high schools and these students, but first a word about 2015.

Last year was like no other that we've ever faced. The national media descended on North Charleston in response to the actions of shooting of Walter Scott. This murder took away a father and son from the Scott family, and had the prospects of dividing the community. A quick arrest of the officer and a charge of murder were made, and a rebuilding of trust immediately commenced. In the months following, a settlement was reached with the estate of Walter Scott without the need for a lawsuit. The incident now solely lies in the hands of the judicial system.

Instead of a splintered city, the result was a stronger community with forward looking efforts to ensure a lasting bond between the police department and people it serves and protects.

An immediate result was to finish equipping our police force with body cameras, a process we begun before this tragedy occurred, as well as immediately asking the Justice Department to assist us with a plan to further bolster our police department's already in place community outreach. I am proud that Police Chief Eddie Driggers keeps an open mind and heart towards the community and I believe that he has built a more responsive, yet gentler department than what we had at the beginning of 2015.

Looking forward to 2016, we must find a way to instill into our youth that violence isn't a problem solver. This is my plea to the community, churches, parents, grandparents, and siblings to help us impart a different attitude into the minds of these young people.

The tragedy at Mother Emmanuel Church has forever shaped our region. Let us never forget Senator Clementa Pinckney and his parishioners, but let us reflect upon the unity it brought. When an act so vile instilled harmony in the Lowcountry, it says a lot about the folks that call this place home.

From the tragedy, I was happy to be a part of the charge to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the State house grounds. I commend the state lawmakers for finally doing the right thing.

From these significant events of 2015, let us continue to be one community. Together, all of our futures are brighter.

Now, I turn it over to our talented and capable presenters.


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Riverfront Park, Quarters K, Be More Tea, World Record

Riverfront Park is cool. So cool, that it hosted Lipton's Be More Tea Festival, which featured national acts of The Roots, Passion Pit, Walk the Moon and others. What else cool happened at Rvierfront Park that day? How about Lipton breaking the Guinness World Record for the Largest Iced Tea.

The coolness doesn't stop at Riverfront Park. Matador Network, the world's largest independent travel magazine, named North Charleston one of the coolest towns in the United States. How cool is that? Okay, have we said cool enough? Cool.

CARTA Intermodal facility

The North Charleston Regional Intermodal Transportation Facility is proposed for existing Amtrak station on Gaynor Avenue. This past Spring, the City of North Charleston decided to partner with CARTA to assume the project management role for the design and construction phase and ownership of the facility. The 14,217 square-foot transportation hub would provide connections between local CARTA bus service, Amtrak, and Southeastern Stages intercity buses. The $14.5 million, world-class facility will provide a gateway to the Lowcountry. A display room will celebrate the history of the station and as a catalyst to spur cultural tourism in the Liberty Hill neighborhood.

MUSC Children's outpatient and Rivers Ave redevelopment

In a key investment to drive redevelopment of Rivers Avenue, the City purchased the 20 acre lot at the corner of Mall Drive and Rivers in order for The Medical University of South Carolina to place its Children's Outpatient Center on the site. Initially, MUSC will only need a portion of the 20 acres, so the city will transfer the property as the need expands.

There are high hopes for the redevelopment of the commercial corridor along Rivers Avenue. We're seeing nodes of investment that have been undertaken or are planned. Shipwatch Square soon should have a released RFP, the development with MUSC at Mall Drive, new construction and a remodel at Remount Road, and Trident Tech ongoing education investment, including the Aeronautical training center. On top of that, if the region and CARTA adopts a bus rapid transit line, it would only make sense for that to travel down Rivers Avenue, another catalyst for the corridor. The combination of these projects, we're betting big on a renewed Rivers Avenue.

Shipwatch Square

The City is currently working on a Development Request for Proposal for the Shipwatch Square site. Although we have had a number of parties interested in the property, we have yet to see a development team come to us with a specific commitment from a major retail grocery store. In order to create more exposure for the City's desire to develop this site we have elected to prepare the RFP to expand the potential pool of capital and entice development partners whom we may not have worked with previously. The City is committed to achieving a thriving mixed use development on the property to include a grocery store, additional retail, new housing stock and possibly office uses. This RFP should be on the street by the end of the First Quarter.

Coliseum

The North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center, along with the Charleston Area Convention Center remain key attractions and ongoing asset to the City.

The North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston Area Convention Center and Performing Arts Center are tremendous attractions. In 2015 the three venues once again drew 1.5 million visitors. According to the College of Charleston's Office of Tourism Analysis, $54.4 million in direct local spending was attributable to the complex, a 1.3% increase over 2014. And using conservative estimates, the total economic output impact of the complex was $91.5 million, which included $30.1 million in wages earned locally, again an increase over 2014.

Some of the top events were Kevin Hart, Miranda Lambert, the Best of Broadway Series, Shovels & Rope, Beck, Bob Dylan, the Cooper River Bridge Run Expo, Antiques Road Show, among many, many other nationally recognized events.

Enhancements to keep the complex up to date continued in 2015 with new carpeting, paintings, and furnishings in the PAC and Convention Center. The update was the first since the facilities opened in the 90s.

An even larger update will be unveiled in 2016, with the opening of the Coliseum Terrace. This is an identical expansion to the Montague Terrace on the opposite side of the Coliseum. With both the Montague and Coliseum Terraces open to handle concessions and other facility needs, the concourses will be opened for a better flow of traffic, greatly improving the patron experience.

Wescott

Wescott continues to bustle along, during its peaking employing over 75 spanning as much as 18 hours per day. Our municipal golf course has a much greater reach into the community than your average golf course. Wescott is home to collegiate and high school golf teams, offers specialized golf instruction to wounded warriors and veterans assimilating back into society, hosts numerous charity fundraisers every year, as well as events targeting youth participation, like PGA Sports Academy and the National School Challenge Cup.

Wescott's First Tee affiliation continues to be one of the highest ranked programs in the southeast with the highlight being autistic golfer Ricky Martin who heads a class of 4 ACE level students. ACE is the highest level attainable in the First Tee and Wescott hosts the only ACE program in South Carolina.

From the course to the clubhouse, Wescott's chef once again one the "Taste of Charleston Black Expo" competition.

We're proud to be home to the finest municipal golf facility in the Lowcountry.

Economic Development

WabCo, a supplier of tech that improves the safety and efficiency of commercial vehicles, announced a move and expansion within North Charleston in 2015. They'll be creating 50 additional jobs, but just as important, they will be the first of many businesses to locate within the Whitfield Industrial Park along Patriot Blvd. Located in the upper Dorchester Road corridor, this park puts jobs close to where people live, complementing the City's work near where you live mentality.

Emergency Preparedness

Back in July 2015, the City posted an informational piece titled "Are you prepared for a Flood Disaster." Little did we know that the resources provided would so important come October. Early that month, South Carolina and North Charleston was faced with over XX inches of rain in only a couple of days.

Several areas of the city, including some that experienced no pervious flooding, were confronted with up to three feet of water in their home. During the flooding, the Fire and Police departments assisted with rescue and evacuation efforts. Together, 90 residents and 20 pets were evacuated over a 52 hour period.

Knowing that these displaced citizens were in a time of need, the city mobilized to offer as much support as possible for the residents. The city immediately opened shelters, while many departments began coordinating a recovery effort. We wanted to get residents back in their homes as quickly as possible, disaster assessment teams went house to house in affected areas to ensure the structures were safe to reenter and for those without power, safe to reenergize. In total, 246 assessments were completed. Contractors were mustered to offer free assistance and FEMA set up a disaster site at the city's public works facility. It was great to see the community and city rally to provide the level of support that was offered to all affected by this one thousand year event.

Fire Museum

When the Fire Museum opened in 2007, a mission was set forth to not only display a priceless collection of antique fire trucks to historical enthusiast, but to use fire service artifacts, presented in a fun, interactive manner to educate, especially students, about fire safety. Mission accomplished again in 2015. The attendance increase of 15% to 35,000 guests came from a number of efforts, including summer camps, school groups, and community organizations, and even through birthday parties, private functions, and events like Fire Prevention Week Family Fun Day in conjunction with the Fire Department. Don't miss out on the fun and educational opportunity for your students and kids, find out more at the newly redesigned NorthCharlestonFireMuseum.org.

Building

The City saw an impressive 25% dip in overall building construction valuation from 2014 to 2015 totaling, the total remained well over half a million dollars at $515,000,000. The major decrease were in the commercial upfits and renovations category, however, we saw a slight increase in new commercial projects, moving from $120 million to $124 million.

Several large scale construction projects came to a close in 2014, driving down the valuation, but with continued large scale expansion and location of businesses in Palmetto Commerce Park, such as Mercedes-Benz Vans, we expect this number to increase once again in 2016.

To list a few of the new commercial projects from around North Charleston, we had Boeing's Paint facility, Roper St. Francis administrative complex, Lineage Logistics, Leeds Office Park, WalMart neighborhood markets a several new Sunoco stations.

On the residential side, we saw a 29% increase from 2014 to 2015 with valuation increasing to over $51,000,000.

Let's take a look at all of the numbers at once. For those interested, you might want to hit the

Planning

The Planning and Zoning Department's mission is to monitor growth and development within the city and work to provide communities and businesses with information to help sustain the local economy. The premise of zoning is that certain land uses may exist harmoniously in proximity to one another. Additionally, to sustain long-term growth in key parts of our city, the Planning and Zoning Department reviews demographic trends, capacity for growth, reviews the US Census statistics and works on information to assist everyone's needs.

In realized and planned developments, 290 single family and 56 apartment units received certificates of occupancy. However, 1520 apartment units are at some stage of development with an additional 1200 units contemplated, but with no plans submitted. (include map)

On the commercial side, the Planning Department reviewed 370 site plans throughout the year. Significant planned developments that are underway include:

Trident Technical College's new Aeronautical Training Center. The training center will be located on the Trident campus off Mabeline Road.

Daimler Manufacturing is expanding its operation on Palmetto Commerce Parkway, investing $500 million and creating 1300 jobs. The new expansion areas will include three new buildings and a new marshalling yard.

Clemson University Restoration Institute Graduate Center building addition is underway. Contractors have begun site preparation work for its new 14,000 square foot building addition to be located on Supply Street on the former Navy Base.

WABCO has been approved for the construction of a 146,000 sq. ft. warehouse building to be located on Patriot Boulevard, investing $17 million. The investment is expected to create more than 50 new jobs and help sustain approximately 175 existing jobs.

The Centre Pointe area by Tanger Outlets continues to grow with the addition of the following restaurants: Zaxby's, Mellow Mushroom, and Community Pizza, all of which are currently under construction. The new Field and Stream retail business also opened its doors this fall and construction is currently underway for the Conn's Home Plus and La-Z-Boy stores.

Atlas Commerce Center warehouse is currently under construction. This 68,618 sq. ft. warehouse building will be located on Palmetto Commerce Parkway.

Faber Plaza Office development is currently under construction. This five-story, 123,426 sq. ft. office building will be located on Leeds Avenue in front of the existing Cummins Manufacturing Plant.

Boeing continues to expand its operation with a number of projects underway to include the new towpath, flightline improvements, a new parking lot, landscaping, Decorative Paint Facility, and various other site improvement projects.

A new Solar Energy Facility to be named the Jerry Zucker Solar Park is currently under site plan review. The 3.29-acre site is located on Leeds Avenue. 2,014 solar panels are to be installed, which will generate 500 kilowatts of electricity.

These projects are no doubt significant, but the hundreds of small commercial projects, undertaken by small businesses and individuals should not but overlooked. Small business remains the backbone of our community.

Public Works

Forty years after opening its first Public Works facility, in 2015, North Charleston unveiled a new, state of the art complex to streamline services from a central location within the city. The $42 million multi-building campus, spread across 38 acres and houses public works functions.

Adequate work space, better equipment, and a centralized location are just a few of the reasons that the new Public Works complex is improving the department, and in turn, better services are rendered to the citizens and businesses of North Charleston.

Evidence of the improved efficiency can be seen in Fleet Maintenance division, which processes and completes over 6,000 work orders annually, nearly 4-times the volume in parts and labor than just 5-years ago. Technological capabilities at the new facility offer less downtime for a vehicle and allows for a much greater efficiency in both reactive and proactive repairs to the fleet.

Construction for the Northside Drive Extension was completed in 2015. The roadway project includes the extension of Ingleside drive to Northside Drive with a connection to Weber Drive and also connects to Palmetto Commerce Parkway. The overall goal of this roadway project is to alleviate traffic congestion by connecting Highway 78 to Palmetto Commerce Parkway and Northside Drive and Ashley Phosphate.

The Sanitation Department is responsible for removal of residential trash and garbage and managed 56,159 tons of material including 28.69 tons of e-waste during 2015. The Department discontinued collecting yard debris in plastic bags and now collects this material in paper bags which saves considerable funds and is environmentally friendly. A route study was conducted in 2015 and new routes went into effect in January 2016. The route study affected approximately 6000 residents and will allow the Sanitation Department to better serve the City and helps in measuring job performance and efficiency.

Procurement

Over the past 12 months the Procurement department processed over 9000 Purchase Orders and 38 bid packages totaling an overall spend in excess of $67,000,000.00.

Design services for these projects have been completed and are ready for bid (show list)

Construction contracts that were issued and completed, included

Here's our major equipment purchases

In addition to procuring items needed for the City, the Purchasing Department is also responsible for the disposal of all excess and outdated equipment used by City Personnel. Utilizing GovDeals, Inc. to provide the auctioneer services for the sale of these items has brought in over $185,000.00 in additional revenue for the City.

Code Enforcement

Code Enforcement is responsible for the enforcement of the Health and Sanitation Ordinances for the City of North Charleston. They work to educate and encourage the citizens of North Charleston to maintain a neat and clean appearance of the property where they live. They continue Continues to reach out to the community by attending Neighborhood Council meetings and awarding Most Improved Yard of the Month.

To ensure vacant buildings don't become a public nuisance, Code Enforcement oversaw the demolition of 25 structures, bringing the total number of demolitions to 1,446 since Mayor Summey took office.

To keep the city clean, Code continued working individuals through the Community Service program. In 2,000 service hours, over 2,100 bags of trash and debris were collected in right of ways, sidewalks and properties cleaned in neighborhoods.

Fire

The North Charleston Fire Department maintained Accredited Agency Status by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) that was first received in 2013 with a unanimous vote from the full commission in October 2015. The Fire departments is one of around 200 agencies worldwide with this accreditation, which is a benchmark of excellence.

Year after year, the fire department achieves a record call volume. 2015 was no different. More than 22,000 emergency calls were answered, an increase of more than 20%. That included 260 structure fires and more than 13,000 of the 2015 calls involved assisting EMS with medical calls.

In August 2015, the Fire Department took delivery of 2 new engines to maintain a proper equipment replacement schedule.

In 2015 the City completed construction of the city's largest fire station. The 18,000 square foot, two-story fire station houses three fire companies and combines two previously separate stations that were both in need of replacement. The new Station 2 includes five bays for active and reserve apparatus, a training classroom, offices for the city's arson investigators and special operations staff as well as crew living quarters. Its location on Carner Avenue, adjacent to the Academic Magnet High School and Chicora Elementary is an ideal location to provide service to residents and also opportunities for better community engagement.

Cultural Arts

A key to a well-rounded city is a robust Cultural Arts Department. This is no doubt the case in North Charleston, unmistakable by the number. A variety of free and fee based activities in every art discipline were offered throughout 2015 and included a total of 343 performances, 71 art exhibitions, and 1,125 classes/workshops/camps that touched the lives of nearly 98,000 program participants.

Program Highlights, yet only a small snippet of the department's undertakings include,

The department presented a special exhibition at North Charleston Hall in September & October organized in conjunction with the 2nd Annual Slave Dwelling Project Conference, whose mission is to convene attendees from around the United States and abroad to exchange ideas, resources, and share perspectives and solutions for preserving extant African American slave dwellings for future generations.

The department was excited to kick off a new season of Children's Theatre at a new venue in 2015. Schools, daycares, and families can now enjoy performances at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. This new venue allows for nearly twice as many patrons to enjoy high-quality entertainment for a minimal fee of $2 per child.

In November, Cultural Arts received a new director, Kyle Lahm, the former Coordinator on Education, Youth, and Family. Along with a fresh perspective, Kyle brings with her a number of additional programs and events for Cultural Arts to manage, including the Charleston Marathon and the City's St. Paddy's Day Block Party, she's also a violinist with her finger on the pulse of the Charleston area's creative community.

Recreation

Like Cultural Arts, we believe our recreation programs are essential to raising the quality of life and general welfare of our residents. To complement our greenspaces and facilities around the city, activities and athletics are offered to each segment of our population, from youth to senior. Notably, the Recreation Department, year after year, is named a Playful City USA by KaBoom, a national nonprofit dedicated to promoting play for America's children.

In what could be one of our most impactful programs, aquatics continues to provide highlight after highlight. During 2015 our 4 city pools hosted over 15,000 swimmers for open/lap swim and provided nearly 50 jobs for area teenagers in the summer. Included in those numbers are 1000s of elementary students who utilize our facilities for free swim lesson over the course of the school year. In addition, 600 residents, from 6 months to 65 years old, took swim lessons. And in athletics, Danny Jones sees swimmers every day from Academic Magnet and Stall High School swim teams, as well as championship winning area swim clubs and the Special Olympics swimmers.

We held 4 sessions of swim lessons in the summer totaling over 600 residents served from the ages of 6 months to 65 years old.

Looking to the future, the City signed an agreement with Dorchester School District Two to build a Natatorium that will bring the highest level of aquatics available anywhere in our state to our residents.

Another key focus for our recreation department is of course our youth. In 2015, 2 afterschool program sites were added, bringing the total to 13. 450 children participate daily. In November, CBS's Hidden Heroes highlighted the program. Some of the youth highlights include:

  • 800 participants in Summer Camp
  • 3,000 participates at the Children's Festival
  • 240 bikes distributed, which were assembled by Police Officers
  • 3,000 participates at Winter Wonderland, a Holiday event for preschoolers
  • 4,000 youth athletic participates, along with 500 volunteer coaches

North Charleston has long been a powerhouse in Dixie Youth baseball, evidenced again this year with both our Dixie Pre-Majors and Dixie Majors bringing the World Series titles back to North Charleston. With their championships, North Charleston become the winningest city in Dixie Baseball history.

And finally, to round out our programs, our already robust senior activities will be greatly enhanced in the near future. Development of two senior centers will be soon underway, one on Dorchester Road next to Fire Station 5 and the other in the Northwood neighborhood.

Human Resources

Sure, Human Resources is best known for coordinating the hiring employees and they received 2,086 applications in 2015, but much more responsibility falls on the department. Health and Wellness initiatives, such as maintaining the city gym, health screenings blood drives, nursing coaches, among others, keep the city's employees focused on a healthy lifestyle.

New in 2015, Human Resources coordinated Civilian Response to Active Shooter Training Sessions to ensure employees are well equipped in if such a horrific situation should ever arise.

MIS

Being it's 2016, our Information Systems department is truly a department we cannot do without. That's why a focus on cybersecurity is paramount. Upgrades to citywide email hosting and interconnectivity with outside of city hall facilities were made to include certain encryption and cloud hosting. We've already told you too much. Shhhh Just remember this: 01001110 01101111 01110010 01110100 01101000 00100000 01000011 01101000 01100001 01110010 01101100 01100101 01110011 01110100 01101111 01101110 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110111 01100101 01110011 01101111 01101101 01100101 (In Binary: North Charleston is awesome)

Finance

It's number time, brought to you by the 27 consecutive year recipient of the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, you guess it, the Finance Department.

Assessed value of taxable property throughout the City of North Charleston increased to $583 million, or over 3.6%. The value of a mill is roughly $583,000, an increase of over 80% over the value just 10 years ago. This is attributable to the continued excellent commercial and residential growth throughout the City and this same growth should add another $1,500,000 to property tax collections for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. The City's property tax millage rate is 95 mills for the FYE June 30, 2015 & 2016, which has remained constant for the last 3 years.

General revenues increased 5.7%, over $8.3 million over the course of the fiscal year, likewise, expenditures increased $8.3 million, a 7.9% increase. This was primarily driven by an increase in public safety personnel and capital related costs, along with the settlement of the lawsuit with the estate of Walter Scott.

Offsetting expenditures, the city received and managed 20 grants totaling $3.2 million in additional revenue not otherwise accessible.

In part to our many, many retail destinations and other retail establishments, for which we are grateful, North Charleston remained South Carolina's gross retail sales leader for the 23rd consecutive year with sales totaling $6.86 billion from 2014, the latest year reported.

Police

There are so many great things continuing to happen in the police department due in part to the men and women who serve and protect. The department continues to develop relationships and trust with our youth through programs, such as its Cops Athletic Program or CAPS. Last year, the Powder Puff Footballl League gained more school participation and was featured as a part of the annual Sertoma Football Classic. The city has already been contacted by other public and private schools that want to take part in the league. These young ladies say through the league they gained lessons in teamwork, cooperation relationship building and professional development.

The CAPS program also featured a soccer league, basketball and baseball leagues, and a spelling bee. All designed to interact with our youth and foster teamwork and self-esteem among them.

Weeks before Christmas, officers pair with nearly 100 elementary and middle school students for the day which concludes with a shopping spree at WalMart. Business partners and the volunteering of officers make this event special.

In May, members of the department joined forces with the Principal and staff of Dunston Elementary at a rally and march to bring awareness to gun violence among children. This, following the shooting of 5 year old Tyreek Gadson, a student at Dunston. Gadson was left paralyzed after he was shot outside of a family members' home downtown.

Our Uniform Patrol officers continue to build relationships with the citizens we serve through their Community Roll Calls. It's a chance for residents to come out and meet the officers that work in their neighborhood. And to enhance the departments already strong community involvement, the Police Department received a grant to hire 15 new Neighborhood Resource Officers, which will be tasked with building stronger community relationship through long-term assignments within a singular neighborhood.

What's the last thing a person wants from a police officer? A ticket, of course, or is it. Last summer, the police department partnered with local non-profit Metanoia to introduce Positive Ticketing. If an officer saw a young person undertaking a positive act, they would be stopped and cited a positive ticket, which was redeemable for goodies at a corner store, movie tickets or other treats. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to strengthen community-police partnerships and to encourage youth towards positive behavior. Chief Driggers said at the time of launch, "There are a lot of young people doing the right thing and positive ticketing is a way for us to say 'thank you'."

There are so many great things happening in the department and this is due in part to the men and women who set out each day to serve and protect the citizens of North Charleston and our visitors.

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