Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Michael Medved: Conservatives, Romney, and Electability - WSJ.com
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Gov. Scott Walker Will Defeat RECALL
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Gingrich Daughter: Setting The Record Straight The Garnet Spy
Saturday, November 12, 2011
AGENDA ITEMS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETING ON MONDAY, November 14, 2011.
PRESENTATION ABOUT THE INTERPRETIVE CENTER AND MANAGEMENT PLAN WORK FOR THE PRICE ABENUE HIDDEN BAY/CAROLINA BAY/NATURAL RESERVE - Council will recall in 2003 that we entered into a Conservation Easement and Management Plan for land donated to the City of Aiken by the Aiken Land Conservancy (formerly known as the Aiken County Open Land Trust).
In addition, our citizens as part of the Round II of Capital Sales Tax Project ballot approved an interpretive center being built at the Carolina Bay site. A total of $100,000 was approved for this project. At one time, it was thought that a building would be put on this site with a boardwalk, laboratories, classrooms, and a campus for an estimated total cost exceeding $380,000. However, mindful of our commitments to the Aiken Land Conservancy and our citizens, we have re-examined those suggestions to come up with an approach that would better meet what voters approved: an outdoor classroom, with limited impact to this site.
Council previously approved, on August 8, 2011 volunteer work to be done by Troop 5225 Girl Scouts Caroline Miller, Mina Krohn-Vernon, and Erin Drake. They are building benches, bat houses, bird houses, butterfly houses, and creating a helpful display to help other Scouts earn silver awards, other rank, or awards as part of their Scouting experience.
A design for this facility, very similar to the successful one included at the Phinizey Swamp complex in Richmond County, and utilized at other natural areas throughout our state has been developed. It is included with these materials. Since it incorporates a post design, no site grading will be necessary. We intend to install it in an existing clearing over the top of the storm drain leading to Price Avenue and is part of the existing main entrance.
Also, in order to create a better opportunity for native plant species to grow--and since a controlled burn in this area is not advisable--we have bid out gyro-tracking services to remove a band of undergrowth along Colony Parkway and Price Avenue. This area is marked with a yellow dashed line on the aerial photo attached. No large trees will be removed--only undergrowth is being mulched. Areas of natural habitat will be protected, as identified by the Hitchcock Woodsman, Bennett Tucker. This Management Plan has been developed with input of several area experts and volunteers to assure we are using generally acceptable forest management methods in this City facility, known as the Carolina Bay Nature Reserve.
FIRST READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO ROLLBACK THE CITY REAL PROPERTY TAX MILLAGE RATE FROM 66 MILLS TO 62 MILLS - Council is aware that Aiken County completed reassessment of all county real estate this past year. As a result of this reassessment, in order for the City to remain in compliance with state law, and to realign our 2011 real property tax revenues with the amount approved for the FY 2011-12 budget, we need to rollback our millage rate. Finance Director Kim Abney and City Manager Richard Pearce have reviewed information that was recently sent by the Aiken County Tax Assessor's Office. Using their reassessment figures, looking at our collection rates for the past several years, and making sure that we treat our taxpayers fairly, we are recommending reduction of the millage rate from 66 mills to 62 mills for FY 2011-12.
FIRST READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO APPROVE A NEW CONTRACT WITH THE AIKEN COUNTY PUBLIC SERVICE AUTHORITY - Over the past several months, negotiations have been ongoing regarding our contract with the Aiken Public Service Authority. This contract expired in 2007, and we have been sending city raw sewage to the APSA facility at Horse Creek for treatment on a month-to-month basis. These contract negotiations have allowed a full discussion and resolution of ongoing concerns. In particular, this new contract allows us to receive additional capacity, purchase additional capacity at reasonable rates, inspect the meters that measure the amount of raw sewage being sent to the facility to ensure their accuracy, and the right to renew this contract. Belton Zeigler of Pope and Zeigler will be present to review the particulars of this renegotiated contract.
APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS, COMMISSIONS, OR COMMITTEES: Councilmember Ebner reappointed Ron Della Mora to the Environmental and Energy Committee and Marion Naifeh to the Park Commission. Councilmember Wells reappointed Henry Craig, Jr. to the Community Development Committee and Craig Jarvis to the General Aviation Commission. I reappointed Al Snell to the Park Commission.
SECOND READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO REVISE THE SOLID WASTE ORDINANCE: With the reorganization of our Public Works Department and dividing it into two separate entities: Engineering and Utilities and Public Services, revisions to our City Code are now necessary. Public Services Director Tim Coakley has worked with City Solicitor and Staff Attorney Ben Moore to update our Solid Waste City Code provisions related to residential garbage, yard trash, and recycling; weekend roll-off container use; small business garbage; and small business recycling.
SECOND READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO ANNE 0.6 ACRE OF LAND ON UNIVERSITY PARKWAY ON THE NORTHSIDE OF AIKEN NEAR S. C. HIGHWAY 19: Frances S. Whittle has requested approval of her annexation request for 0.6 acre of land on University Parkway near S.C. Highway 19 and that it be zoned General Business (GB). This tract is a portion of TPN 120-09-01-001. It is to be combined with a parcel at University Parkway and S.C. Highway 19 that is owned by the principals of Greg's Gas Plus. They will construct a gas station and convenience store at this location. The Planning Commission met October 11, 2011, and unanimously approved this annexation request with the conditions that are contained in the attached ordinance. A memo from Planning Director Ed Evans sets forth the actions taken by the Commission, their conditions, and the application filed by the owner.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION POLICY PREMIUM SAVINGS: Finance Director Kim Abney reports that our premium for workers’ compensation will be $43,808 for FY 2011-2012, which is about 7% lower than our FY 2010-2011 premium. We will be saving over $580,000 in total gross premium costs due to our per claim deductible, the work of our Safety Committee and our Risk Manager Lex Kirkland efforts to reduce our risk exposures. We also have reduced our costs through participation credits issued by our insurance pools. We have seen benefit from out pool participation, which we have not seen offered by commercial insurance carriers.
HUD CONSOLIDATED END OF YEAR REVIEW COMPLETED: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently conducted a review of our FY 2010-11 CDBG program efforts. HUD examined our Annual Action Plan (AAP) and the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER). HUD has complimented us for our cooperative relationships with the Aiken Housing Authority and other non-profit community-based entities. HUD also examined our use of CDBG funds. They noted all of our expenditures were in compliance with their regulations. Overall, HUD has commended us for the administration of our program and the positive impact our activities have on our low to moderate-income community.
CITY UNITED WAY GOAL EXCEEDED: Human Resources Director Alicia Davis coordinated our United Way pledge drive this year. Our goal for the FY 2011-12 campaign was $20,000. After all our pledge cards and other donations were tallied, we surpassed our goal with a total commitment of $22,522.36. Our fundraising drive began with the 4th annual Day of Hard Labor BBQ Cook-off and continued with pledges and donations from 163 of our employees.
PUBLIC SAFETY RESPONDER TRAINING PUBLICITY: Two recent training exercises conducted by our Public Safety Department were subjects of separate stories in examiner.com, an online local news web site. The first training exercise was environmental responder training, which simulated someone falling into a tank containing hazardous gas. The writer reported that the training plan was well executed by all participants. The second training exercise simulated someone falling off the Newberry Street bridge onto the railroad tracks below. Team members practiced rescuing the victim by staging various emergency responses from the bridge. The writer noted that for this type of incident, the “competent, practiced” Public Safety responders utilized their state-of-art equipment to perform a rescue.
FINANCE DEPARTMENT REPORTS SAVINGS: Finance Director Kim Abney reports that our continuing to use bank-issued Purchasing Cards (P-Cards) for city purchases has earned a rebate of $9,090 for the 12-month period ending July 31. This rebate is allocated between our General and Utilities Funds. We continue to encourage City employees to use the P-Cards in lieu of issuing paper checks, because our per-transaction costs are much less when P-Cards are used for purchases.
COMMUNITY SAFETY SEMINAR: On November 3 and 4, our Neighborhood Services Division conducted several meetings discussing with residents ways to effectively organize themselves for community safety. These sessions allowed participants to share ideas, including using crime watch efforts to promote safe neighborhoods. Twenty-six people participated, including officers from Public Safety Community Services Division and residents from area neighborhoods including Washington Circle, Crosland Park, Governor Aiken Park, Toole Hill, and Kalmia Hill.
COMMENDATIONS: A satisfied citizen emailed to thank us for the quick response to fix a problem with her sewer connection on October 24.
Carrie Jones of the Golden Harvest Food Bank wrote to thank us for providing a Public Safety Officer for their annual Hunger Awareness Walk. The officer’s presence allowed all participants to feel safe and secure, she said.
Corey Feraldi and Leslie Cobb of the USC Aiken Office of Career Services wrote to thank Finance Director Kim Abney for participating on an Accounting panel for the school’s Career Panels Program. Their students appreciated the real world information presented in these sessions.
Public Safety Director Pete Frommer reports that he received a complimentary telephone call from Chris Gerbasi from Huntsville, Alabama. Mr. Grease’s mother, a Woodside resident, recently passed away. While in town for her funeral, a family member was involved in a traffic accident. Officer Matt Comar responded and impressed their family with his warm and compassionate attitude. Mr. Gerbasi tells us he is looking forward to bringing his children to Public Safety Headquarters for a tour during the upcoming Christmas holidays.
Several citizens completed Applicant Surveys distributed by our Planning Department describing their experience with the Design Review Board application process. One applicant complimented planner Susan French’s helpfulness and knowledge of the process. Another applicant noted that the Planning Department staff made everything easy. All the applicants’ surveys gave the Planning Department excellent ratings in the areas of responsiveness and knowledge.
A grateful citizen writes to thank Public Safety for arresting her daughter for driving under the influence. Captain Maryann Burgess received the letter, which says that arresting the individual may have saved her life or the life of another person. While the writer is upset about her daughter’s poor decision, she appreciates our Public Safety officers keeping Aiken safe.
Lou Wakefield writes to compliment Janice Rickard and staff in our Engineering and Utilities Department. Ms. Wakefield’s daughter accidentally dropped her keys into a storm drain on Halloween night. Janice quickly dispatched an employee to retrieve the keys and return them to her daughter. Ms. Wakefield was impressed with our “top notch team that takes care of its citizens.”
Susan Player of Aiken passes along a thank you to Engineering and Utilities staff repairing a water main break. She saw the work being done on her street and was impressed by his kind and professional manner. Later, another employee came to her house and nicely told her to boil her water. Ms. Player appreciated all the information given to her in a courteous manner.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15 AT 5:00 P.M. The next regularly scheduled Planning Commission work session will convene followed by a regular meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers, Second Floor of City Hall, 214 Park Avenue, SW.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2011, City staff will be decorating the street poles in our downtown and reinstalling the holiday banners that were donated last year.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2:30 P.M. We will officially open the Pawnee-Neilson connector road.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24 FROM 11:00 A.M. TO 2:00 P.M. The 7th Annual One Table Thanksgiving Dinner will be served in The Alley behind City Hall.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28 AT 7:00 P.M. Our next regularly scheduled City Council meeting will be held in the Council Chambers, Second Floor of City Hall, 214 Park Avenue SW.
For other events and happenings around Aiken, be sure to visit www.AikenIS.com.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
'via Blog this'
Friday, November 4, 2011
I am grateful to Jane Vaughters and Mary Beth Seaha for their Letters-to-the-Editor regarding the upcoming referendum in Tuesday’s city election. I agree with both and can add little to their thoughts and conclusions. I do not choose to voluntarily reduce the power of my vote to satisfy bureaucrats in Washington. I plan on voting NO on the Referendum. The election will be held on Tuesday, November 8. Polls will be open from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.
“An important referendum is coming up on November 8 for voters in the city of Aiken. We have a choice of keeping our 4-2-1 system of city government in which every citizen can vote for the mayor, two at-large members, and one member from the district of the city in which they live—in other words, the majority of Aiken City Council. Our other choice is to change to electing six single member district representatives and a mayor --in other words, two members on the 7-member council. How important is it for citizens to be able to elect a majority of City Council? Nothing much can be done without a majority vote and I believe this majority must be responsible to each citizen. Then we can have transparent and open government. During my eight years as an at-large member of Aiken City Council, I received calls from many people who did not want to depend on just one member and the mayor to voice their concerns. Since the council appoints all city commissions, voters have the chance to influence the majority of the membership of the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and all other commissions who are important in determining public policy. Aiken County Council has single member districts. I believe we would have known a lot more about the county office complex expenditures and location if a majority of that body had to depend on the voters throughout the county for reelection. The Augusta City Council has single member districts. Voters should realize what we are giving up if we make this change in city government. Let us not be intimidated when we can see that this proposal will diminish the power of every voter. Vote NO on November 8.”
“The Obama Justice Department is interfering in local redistricting plans across the nation for partisan reasons. If redistricting plans don't help Democrats, DOJ will use power not given them under the Voting Rights Act to enforce their own plans. DOJ whistleblowers testified before the US Commission on Civil Rights that DOJ plans to impose their plans with no proof of actual discrimination. Despite Obama’s promises of transparency, DOJ refuses to share analysis as to why redistricting plans are discriminatory knowing that close analysis will show the absurdity of their charges. Eric Holder has already blocked a county in North Carolina from holding non-partisan city council elections and the DOJ admitted it was because minorities would not know who to vote for if party affiliation was not on the ballot. (Memo to DOJ: right after accusing Republicans of being racist, look up the word irony). The US Supreme Court ruled against Clinton's DOJ in the Miller v Johnson redistricting case because it was shown the DOJ was taking orders from the ACLU. The US Supreme Court ruled that a district map was unconstitutional if race was “the predominant factor” in the design. It sounds as though Holder is deliberating ignoring Supreme Court law. Lawmakers should submit redistricting plans to the federal district court in DC, a move permitted under the voting act. In court, evidentiary standards will apply and actual discrimination will have to be legally proven versus imaginary evidence used in recent years by the DOJ, and accusers of discrimination can be cross-examined in court, something not permitted in the DOJ appeals commission. In the interim, let's hope the voters in Aiken understand how the one person, one vote is being diluted by Obama's DOJ. Vote no on November 8.”
Mary Beth Seaha