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City to repeal procurement code with new policy

Move made in conjunction with federal Broad Street 'road diet' grant

Posted: January 7, 2011 4:58 p.m.
Updated: January 10, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Camden City Council will consider first reading of an ordinance repealing the city’s entire procurement code Tuesday. The move is being made as a first step toward replacing that section of city code with an administrative policy that would be both more flexible and yet compliant with federal regulations.

That second characteristic is why, said City Manager Kevin Bronson, city administrators were bringing the matter to council as soon as possible. The procurement rules -- the procedures by which the city makes purchases and awards contracts -- must be in place by the end of the month in order for the city to receive federal funds in connection with the proposed Broad Street “road diet.”

“We will need to have these procedures in place in order to be a direct recipient of these federal funds,” Bronson told council during a lengthy Thursday afternoon work session.

The city has been awarded an approximately $456,000 U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II grant. Bronson said the new policy has to be in place by the end of the month to be in compliance with federal regulations allowing the city to sign agreements with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for the TIGER II planning grant.

Bronson explained that administrators did not want council to adopt the new policy Tuesday. Instead, the idea is to pass first reading of the current procurement code repeal and then both repeal the code on second reading and adopt the new policy at council’s Jan. 25 meeting.

Bronson also said he felt procurement guidelines -- similarly to an employee handbook -- did not need to be codified into the “law of the land,” but treated as an administrative policy.

Highlights of the revised policy that help bring it into federal compliance include equal opportunity and “fair and open” competition clauses; a section ensuring women and minority business owners would have equal opportunities to participate in the city’s bidding process; and compliance with state laws concerning the employment of “unauthorized aliens.

Bronson also explained that the policy would favor local vendors and contractors, something that is already in the current code. He said bidding would favor Kershaw County vendors first, then those from South Carolina and then the Southeast region of the U.S.

Camden Economic Development Director Wade Luther then made a presentation updating council on the TIGER II grant and the future of the road diet plan. Luther had given the same presentation to member of the Santee-Lynches Council of Governments’ (COG) transportation committee. Both Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham and Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford represent the city at the COG.

“It was given to the COG transportation committee due to the price tag for construction,” said Bronson before Luther began. “That money will come from STIP (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program) funds through the COG. We should not have to bear the burden as a municipality.”

Bronson said both State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk and Kershaw County Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr., who sit on the COG’s transportation committee, were impressed with Luther’s presentation. Luther said letters of support had been received from U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham; Kershaw County Economic Development Director Nelson Lindsay; and former councilman Nick Lampshire, a member of the Camden Redevelopment Corporation board, to name a few.

Luther started the presentation by pointing out the Broad Street “road diet” is more than just about traffic calming. He included economic development and beautification as goals of the project. Luther also pointed to Hartsville and Simpsonville as cities where such projects have succeeded and said he hoped Camden’s would provide results similar to projects in Columbia and Greenville.

The project, to return Broad Street between DeKalb and York streets to its traditional two lanes from four, will also include bike and bus pull-out lanes and an “intelligent transportation system” of crosswalks.

“There would be multiple mid-block crosswalks,” said Luther, “with ‘islands’ in the middle of the street with waist-high landscaping so people could wait for traffic to clear.”

Part of the project also calls for a change in where trees are planted, moving them from, essentially, in sidewalks to between parking spaces off the street. The idea is to relieve a problem Luther said many merchants have mentioned: trees blocking views of their storefronts and signage.

Luther then turned to the potential STIP funds the city could receive for the “diet’s” construction. In order to qualify for STIP funding, Luther said the project must reduce traffic congestion while increasing parking and -- something council members seemed especially eager to learn -- adjust traffic signal timing.

Members of council and the public have repeatedly complained about long waits at the intersection of Broad and DeKalb streets, which served as the in-city crossroad of U.S. routes 521 and 1, respectively. Luther said the project would likely entail re-timing not only the lights at that intersection, but at associated intersections up and down both streets.

Luther also said the project, among other items, must create a pedestrian-friendly environment and reroute truck traffic. That will be accomplished, he said, thanks to a project already underway to create an approved, enforceable truck route that would take heavy trucks off Broad Street. The first phase will enhance Ehrenclou Drive on one side of the city for that purpose; the second would send trucks to East DeKalb Street via Bull Street.

“The project also has to create a more sustainable downtown … have a minimal environmental impact … and connect pedestrian traffic to low- and middle-income neighborhoods,” said Luther.

The total design costs are estimated to come in at $570,000, including the $456,000 TIGER II grant.

“It will be broken down into elements, including charettes,” said Luther. “There will also be survey elements, which will include almost all of downtown, drawing and permitting.”

The environmental portion of the TIGER II grant will be rolled into the work being done on the Ehrenclou portion of the approved truck route, said Luther.

As for actually making the road diet happen, construction is estimated to cost between $3.1 and $4.1 million, said Luther.

“If we want it to look like the Town Green, have new utilities, new ‘everything,’ that will cost the $4.1 million,” he said, adding that the price tag would likely go up 3 percent each year, but that there was a 20 percent contingency built in.

Luther said next steps include completion of an economic impact study, coordinating with both U.S. and S.C. DOT, executing grant agreements with the FHWA (likely next month) and hiring a consultant (likely in July).

Councilman Willard Polk said he was concerned about one aspect of the road diet: reverse-angle parking. Polk said he was worried SUVs and other large vehicles would make it hard for small-car drivers to see safely when pulling into traffic. Luther said data on that question would be collected during the planning process.

“But it may be moot -- DOT might not approve that,” said Bronson.

Polk said he was also concerned with the construction cost estimates reminding council that the city spent $1 million to revitalize downtown in the mid-1990s but claimed shortcuts were taken. Bronson said the $3.1-$4.1 million estimates were not “refined numbers.”

“Also, we will be having public meetings, so we will have to incorporate that public input into these cost estimates,” said Bronson.

Councilman Pat Partin, who expressed concerns about the project at the beginning of Thursday’s work session, said he was still worried.

“When I look at Greenville and Columbia -- they were not quieting major thoroughfares,” said Partin. “This is a leap of faith for us because it concerns 521 and No. 1, trying to change downtown, and it’s something different. I’m not afraid of change, but I think we need to specifically be aware of those situations.”

Partin was, however, happy with Luther’s report.

“I’m very proud of staff -- and council, too -- on moving forward with the DPZ (Duany Plater-Zyberk vision) plan. In the past, these things have been put on the shelf. I am so excited … about this,” said Partin.

Councilman Walter Long agreed, adding, “This will be such a significant impact on Camden and all of Kershaw County. I’m glad we decided to go forward.”

Also on Tuesday’s agenda:

• Second reading of changes to the city’s bed and breakfast ordinance.

• Consideration of a resolution adopting the city’s employee hiring policy and procedures.

• Consideration of a resolution supporting the Municipal Association’s 2011-2012 legislative agenda.

• The possible appointment of either Westley Parks or Johnny Deal to the Camden Planning Commission, and possible appointment of Bruce Brown to the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission. 

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