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City receives grant to plan Broad Street 'diet'

Posted: October 22, 2010 3:06 p.m.
Updated: October 25, 2010 5:00 a.m.

“We got the bigger of the two fish,” said Kevin Bronson, Camden’s city manager, to members of Camden City Council during a work session Thursday.

He was referring to a $456,000 TIGER II planning grant. With $114,000 in matching funds, the city will use $570,000 to pay for all pre-construction work to prepare to put Broad Street between York and DeKalb streets on a “diet.” The goal: to get heavy trucks off that portion of Broad Street and promote a more walkable, merchant-friendly district.

“This will make it ‘shovel-ready,’” said Bronson. “It’s very exciting. We had two weeks to turn it around and Wade Luther (the city’s downtown manager), with help from others, worked very hard.”

The “smaller fish” the city didn’t catch was another, smaller grant that would have helped pay for a rewrite of the city’s zoning code.

The TIGER II grant and matching funds will fund the design, permitting and engineering necessary to prepare for the Broad Street diet project. According to Bronson, the city will have 36 to 48 months to complete the planning and engineering phase. Once funding is secured, the city could move forward with returning the proposed section of Broad Street from four lanes to two lanes, create reverse angled parking, plant new trees and take other measures to improve the area.

Mayor Jeffrey Graham noted that the project is tied to creating an approved truck route so heavy trucks will have an alternative to driving straight up Broad Street from I-20. A part of creating that truck route will include making improvements to Ehrenclou Drive between South Broad and York streets.

Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford, who represents the city on the Santee-Lynches Council of Governments (COG), would be voting at its Nov. 1 meeting on $2.1 million worth of funds to get the Ehrenclou project shovel-ready as well.

“I’m confident they will vote with me,” said Drakeford.

Graham said there was a chance the COG could be a source of funding to actually perform the Broad Street diet.

“(It) would help make it all come together around the same time,” said Graham. “It’s impressive Camden was able to receive this grant. Broad Street is part of the DPZ (Duany Plater-Zyberk) vision plan. We had a strong application and these funds will help us move much more quickly than we would have otherwise.”

Councilman Pat Partin said he was “dubiously excited” about receiving the TIGER II grant.

“We have a lot of empty store fronts,” said Partin. “I think we have to do a lot of planning on revitalizing the business district. I think we have to improve that prior to slowing traffic … through incentives and by bringing in new business. It’s an excellent idea, so long as we already have a vital downtown.”

Graham agreed new businesses need to be encouraged to locate here. They also agreed that smaller and different types of housing need to be part of the mix as well. However, the mayor and Bronson said business deals are already taking place in the downtown area.

They include Carolina Café moving from TenEleven Galleria into the old Cups space across the street, a new restaurant to take Carolina Café’s place, a new tenant for the former home of the Brew & Cue, all on Broad Street; and a new timber office being built at DeKalb and Church streets. Bronson said someone has also signed some type of contract to take over the former home of the Crescent Grill on Broad Street.

“I think you’ll see some energy and synergy going into downtown,” said Bronson, who said he and other staff would be traveling to Anderson to see how they have had success there.

In other work session business:

• Bronson noted that, in conjunction with the KershawHealth/Downtown Camden Guild Broad Street Trick-or-Treat event, Camden would be celebrating Halloween Oct. 30. The mayor encouraged residents to bring their children to the event and/or continue their trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods that evening. The Camden Police Department plans to have extra officers on patrol that evening.

• Bronson and his assistant, Jake Broom, showed off the city’s new Facebook page and Town Green blog. Links will be provided on the city’s website.

• Bronson presented a draft of the city’s strategic plan. More work will be done on the plan and re-presented to council after the first of the new year.

• Council was shown photographs of work being performed in preparation for construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. As of Thursday, one of two lagoons and the current treatment plant had been cleaned out and a geotechnical firm is set to test the underlying soil’s stability.

• Bronson briefed council on a letter the city received from the S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) stating the agency saw no reason to make changes in traffic control at either U.S. 521 and Boykin Road or Lyttleton and King streets.  DOT’s only recommendations were to possibly install a right-turn lane southbound on U.S. 521 at Boykin Road and to install speed bumps on King Street. Bronson noted that DOT itself has never installed such devices on any state road.

• Bronson noted that Personnel Assistant Peggy Bowers was recognized by the S.C. Municipal Insurance Trust and S.C. Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund for her work in reducing the city’s insurance premium rating. Since moving to a bi-weekly payroll system, Bronson said, Bowers has been able to focus on processing workers compensation claims more quickly. That, he said, has taken the insurance rating from 1.15 (15 percent over the cost of $1 worth of insurance) to .882.

“That means we’ll only have to pay 88 cents for every $1 worth of insurance,” said Bronson. “That’s $31,000 in savings -- a very tangible result.”

Council also discussed its proposed agenda for Tuesday, which includes a presentation on the penny capital sales tax ballot measure by Chuck Nash, a city-appointed member of the Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission; employee recognitions; and several proclamations.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of Camden City Hall, 1000 Lyttleton St., and is open to the public.

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