Q&A for Georgetown City Council/Mayor candidates
In less than a week, residents in the City of Georgetown will go to the polls to elect a mayor and three members of city council.
The candidates for mayor are Democrat incumbent Jack Scoville and newcomer Republican Richard Powers.
The candidates for the three expiring council seats are the incumbents Brendon Barber and Jeanette Ard, both Democrats and Republican Paige Sawyer. The newcomers are Carol Jayroe and Ed Kimbrough as well as Democrat Doris Simmons.
The Georgetown Times submitted questions to the candidates last week. Here are those questions and the answers:
What role should the mayor play in helping the Front Street business owners rebuild from the Sept. 25 fire?
Powers: As mayor I would like to see the city approach the business owners proactively with all of our resources available to them. The point is to engage the business owners before they have the opportunity to become frustrated with red tape. This can include building permits, ARB approvals etc. If the ARB was involved in the conceptual design stage, it would not only speed the rebuilding, it could result in a more aesthetic result, with buildings that complement each other.
There’s also the opportunity for the mayor to establish a forum of those business owners so that they could work together creating a rebuilding plan. This could include that taking advantage of low-interest loans, economies of scale for buying materials, selecting a contractor(s). The forum could bring bankers, contractors and the Building Department to meet with the business owners to answer questions and provide advice before issues arise. The objective is to make it easier for the business to re-open.
This is the same approach the City should have with all issues: Proactive, considerate, and open.
Scoville: The City has a vested interest in the rebuilding because we will have to partner with the property owners in rebuilding the infrastructure at the site, such as sidewalks, the connections to the Harborwalk, and parking. The City also must ensure the design of the new buildings will be compatible with the existing streetscape. The mayor is responsible to see that City staff performs competently, the property owners are well served, and the public interest is protected. The mayor has a crucial role to play. He will have to be a cheerleader, a negotiator, a coordinator, and a visionary.
Ard: Business owners need the support and assistance to reopen by waiver of having to wait to appear before boards for approval to duplicate what was previously approved by the boards. Business license should only require a change of address rather than another application process. Like services should just be transferred.
The city should be very diligent in seeking out grants that would help with infrastructure and applying and administering the grants. The city should also be in very close contact with the Governor’s office and other State Legislators and agencies to get any assistance that can be provided. This business district is the economic hub of the city and can not afford to let it just sit there as is for an indefinite period of time. Business owners and Council members should be knowledgeable ,informed, included and copied on all materials. To date Council has not been called together to discuss how to move forward.
Barber: The role council should play in helping the Front Street business owners rebuild from the September fire is to ensure that coordination of federal, state, local, and private resources are implemented according to policies and guidelines set forth by the governing agencies. Georgetown City Council should also assist in making the rebuilding process as smooth as possible.
Jayroe: The Mayor and Council should be there to assist in any way possible. Our owners should be given quick and thoughtful responses to their needs. Resources of the city should be behind them to find any and all available funds thorough public and private resources in order to supplement any shortfall from their private insurance.
The city needs a plan to allow property owners an expedited path to begin their rebuilding process.
Kimbrough: As tragic as the fire has been on many different levels, we as a council should strive to make the rebuilding process as easy as possible. I would recommend that we assign each owner an advocate from the city staff to assist with the completion of the necessary paperwork, permitting etc. This is a very difficult time for our property owners and now is the time for the city to stand up and work to address their issues on a timely basis. Let’s create a user friendly system that will respect their concerns and transition into a very positive rebuilding environment that will only benefit our city.
Sawyer: Council should be very pro-active with the business owners who lost everything in the fire and concentrate re-building with local vendors and businesses. There are so many different rumors circulating each week that I think the city should have a bi weekly update with information regarding phases of clean up and construction, possible delays due to governmental regulations and changes in available parking.
Simmons: I will continue to have city council work with State and Federal Government and the private business in the public infrastructure, which will allow the private businesses to rebuild. City Council and the Mayor should work with the State and Federal Government and private businesses.
What do you feel you as an individual member of Council do to help recruit new businesses to the city? What should council as a whole be doing?
Powers: We need to bring civility back into our city government. I will work to mend the fences between the county and the state. The most important thing I learned in my first job was that relationships are key to getting things done. At the same time we need to give the new director of Planning and Economic Development the flexibility and tools needed to go after new businesses.
A business looking to relocate here would find zero information about incentives to choose Georgetown online. In fact, within a few months of taking office, we will launch www.ChooseGeorgetown.biz where businesses can get concise information about the advantages of moving here and contact the folks who can work with them to make it happen. I would like to create economic development zones that will provide tax breaks, reduce the cost to doing business in the city by eliminating or lowering business license fees, create programs that foster current businesses to help them expand.
We need to show potential companies what a valuable asset the Horry/Georgetown Technical Schools can be to train potential employees. We should take advantage of retired executives in the area who have contacts all over the world...this is a wonderful resource for us to discover new opportunities with companies that are looking to expand.
Scoville: As an individual, I promote the City every chance I get as a great place to live and work to anyone who will listen. Unlike my opponent, I do not poor mouth the City ever. The hiring of a full time economic development director was a primary aim of my candidacy for mayor in 2009 and I pushed the issue until Council finally agreed this past year to fund the position and hired an excellent candidate. I have actively pursued annexations into the city of commercial properties. I promoted and voted to reduce commercial electricity rates by $300,000 per year, making the City more attractive to businesses. I have worked to make City staff more customer service oriented and people tell me all the time that there has been a big change in this regard. Perhaps the biggest thing I have done is work with Council to renegotiate the wholesale electric contract with Santee Cooper. This will save residential and commercial customers in the City over one million dollars a year in electricity costs. This is a huge attraction to new businesses.
Council needs to keep doing what we have been doing. Council has provided major funding for an advertising campaign targeting just the City. We completed the new signage system which has greatly enhanced the branding of the city. We renovated the Harborwalk. We cut electric rates by $300,000 a year for businesses and are further reducing them for all customers by $1,000,000 a year. We hired an economic development director to recruit businesses. Council has been very jobs and business friendly and needs to continue to do so.
Ard: Council as a whole should be confident that the city WEB site contains all of the information regarding our city demographics, amenities and be willing to work as a council to make it sure we are presenting our city in a positive light and be willing to help with as little red tape as possible and stay in compliance with state and federal guidelines.
†As an individual member of council I stay involved in Workforce Development as it is the driving force behind any business relocating here. Continue to encourage folks to come here to live, work and play.
Barber: What I, along with council, have already done to draw in more business to Georgetown is hire a Director of Planning and Economic Development to create a positive business climate as well as recruit new businesses to Georgetown. I have also been involved in the advertising for marketing firms to create a campaign in order to draw in new businesses as well as advertising the history and beauty of Georgetown. This will also draw in more tourists.
†I will continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to revitalize the Port of Georgetown creating a number of new jobs and support businesses. With the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passing the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, the future of the Port of Georgetown will certainly be vibrant. I will support tax advantages and economic incentives to new industries. I will always go above and beyond to make sure Georgetown, SC remains a progressive and prosperous city.
Jayroe: I will be available to work with any city, county or state official to recruit new businesses to Georgetown. First and foremost, council needs to be working together as one team for the common good of all citizens of Georgetown.
Kimbrough: Coming from the Corporate world, I feel I have a better understanding of the needs of businesses and what drives them to make decisions including the decision to relocate to our city. I would support an advisory board made up of our Economic Director, council members, City Administrator, and 3 citizens. Most importantly, council needs to work with the County as well as the Chamber of Commerce as we expand our reach throughout the State possibly having them join this team as well.
We would have the ability to meet with prospects in their current location as well as entertain these prospective businesses when they come to the area. I also believe a strong marketing effort is a “must have” if we are going to be successful. The effort would not only include our State but the Southeast. We must market Georgetown as a great place to live, work, and relax. It really is about quality of life and what we have to offer … history, beauty, opportunity and great people!
Sawyer: Over the years, I’ve spoken to several restaurant chains, retail and specialty shops and they’ve all had the same answer, “Your city does not have the market for our product.” An excellent negative indicator to prospective businesses that we would like to have are the many fast advance cash and loan businesses that thrive in our city. Thankfully the city does collect business license fees and property taxes from them but they are not what attracts potential new businesses and visitors.
As a council, we hired a full time development and marketing director to promote our city to prospective businesses. A good incentive we have over the county to lure business into the city is that we do not collect an impact fee while the county does.
Simmons: I will do all I can to proactively work with and recruit businesses to the city of Georgetown so all our children can return home to good paying jobs.
If elected, how will you know four years from now you have been a successful mayor/council member?
Powers: I do not plan to wait until the end of my term to find out how things are going. My plan along with Ed Kimbrough, Carol Jayroe and other city officials is to get out in the neighborhoods at least once a month and knock on doors ask the citizens how we are doing. We can make the necessary adjustments at that time to make sure the city is meeting the needs on the community .
I would also create a neighborhood Committees that would comprised of at least one council member and citizens from that area of town. Their job would be to communicate back to the council as to what issue are important to that area of town. We can then have some of our city council/workshop meetings held in those areas of the city from time to time. Communication is only good if it is two way.
I will also use my Mayor Face book page to share with the citizens as to what is happening on a regular basis. When we accomplish these items then as an issue arise we can deal with it such as Sink Holes, Marketing the city, reducing the number of law suits, complete current and over due plans for the parks around the city, just to mention a few.
Scoville: The first thing will be if the burned out part of Front Street is rebuilt in a way that everyone is proud of, that enhances the streetscape, that creates new jobs, shops, and residences. We were going through a major growth spurt until the fire. That was a big setback but we will bounce back better than ever. Secondly, if we have implemented and made significant progress on a Capital Improvements Plan, with emphasis on Maryville and West End waste water, water, and storm water improvements. Thirdly, if Goat Island is a beautiful, enjoyable, natural park. Most importantly if the City has continued to be a great place to live and work.
Ard: By looking back on the progress that has been or in the process of being done.
Barber: First of all let me state what I feel are my successes thus far. I have already been successful on Georgetown City Council by helping to reduce the city’s budget and doing so without cutting jobs. Council and I have not raised property taxes even when the county along with the school district did so. I was also involved in negotiating a new electrical power utilities contract saving the city residents one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) a year over the next ten years. I was also successfully involved in improving city infrastructure. Rest assured that I will continue to work with the Mayor and council for the greater good of Georgetown and it’s citizens.
Jayroe: I will know because I will be able to see results that have been implemented under my tenure. I will know because during the four years that I have served, I will have my pulse on the community, be involved in the community and make myself available to all citizens.
Kimbrough: My goal is to make sure that all of our citizens are heard and that the City becomes a single entity without regards to neighborhood references. I will know how I am doing by being very approachable and by continuing to attend civic meetings, neighborhood association gatherings as well as community events listening to our citizens. Knocking on doors on occasion asking the questions … “How do you think we are doing as a city government” and “What can I do for you” is a great way to get a feel for the pulse of our community.
Sawyer: My goal on council has always been to make our city more attractive for new businesses and residents. With all of our natural beauty and charm, our city is laced with dilapidated buildings and structures which take away from our appearance. Simply holding property owners responsible for removing their dilapidated structures is a first step.
Our city allows residents to place mattresses and house hold furniture on our curbs. How does that contribute to improving our appearance? None of the other surrounding neighborhoods, Belle Isle, Kensington, Wedgefield or the McDonald area, allows mattresses or furniture to be placed on the curbs for pick up. Why should we?
Who wants to move to our city when they ride through and see such debris on our streets along with the many falling down and boarded up houses? This is another reason why prospective businesses don’t want to locate in our city. Dilapidated structures and house hold debris piled on our streets take away from the natural beauty that our town has.
Cleaning up our harbor of abandoned and derelict boats is another way of making Georgetown more appealing to our residents and visitors. East Bay Park is one of the more picturesque areas in our city. I would like to greatly improve its use with a pavilion, enlarged parking for recreational boaters, one way traffic with a walking/biking lane and more picnic areas and forever dispel all rumors about this area being developed for condominiums. That will never happen.
Simmons: I know I [will be] a successful City Council Member. I will be at the ground listening to the needs of all citizens and addressing those concern with my fellow City Council members.
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