This Issues and Updates memo represents efforts to avoid inundating City Council members with individual memos.  Several significant or potentially critical issues are presented here.

Festival of Trees at the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum
The community is invited to participate in our First Annual Festival of Trees from December 1-30th.  This is a great opportunity for groups or businesses to show off who they are in a festive way through decorating a tree.  Since the Visitors Center opened in 2010, 80,000 guests have walked through our doors and the holidays always provide to Aiken an influx of visitors.

Ed McMahon
The City of Aiken and the Aiken Chamber of Commerce will host Ed McMahon, a nationally-renowned speaker on municipal development issues, at 6PM on January 31 2018.  Mr. McMahon holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Washington, DC.  He is nationally known as an inspiring and thought-provoking speaker and a leading authority on topics such as the links between health and the built environment, sustainable development, land conservation, smart growth, and historic preservation.  HIs talk will be held in the AECOM Center for the Arts.

USTA Tennis Championship
The Weeks Tennis Center will be hosting the South Carolina USTA League Singles Championships on November 10-13.  We are expecting 400-500 players from all over the state.  The Weeks Tennis Center will be the main site with court support provided by Woodside, Reserve, and Fermata Clubs.  We will host a captain’s meeting and a player social on Friday with play beginning Saturday morning and running through Monday

Bocce League
The Department of Parks and Recreation has implemented a fall Bocce League playing October 5 – November 9.  This new program is in partnership with The Village at Woodside.  Games are played on Thursday evenings at Village Park West Bocce Complex.  The league is composed of seven teams with around 30 participants.  Beginners and families are welcome.  Participants are encouraged to come early, stay late, and enjoy dining at The Village.  A spring league has been discussed based on the success of the first Fall season.

Aiken Department of Public Safety is preparing for its seventh consecutive Law Enforcement Accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).  The standards that we are assessed on address all aspects of a law enforcement organization and are consistent with the best practices in the country.  This is a voluntary program that demonstrates our desire to be a professional agency.  It provides benefits such as greater accountability through comprehensive, well thought-out written directives and reports and analyses to make informed decisions.  There is also increased community advocacy where law enforcement agencies and citizens work together.  The assessors will be in Aiken from December 3-6, 2017.  They will assess our compliance with standards, view agency operations, and conduct a public information session.  Their findings will be reported to the Commission for final determination of accreditation status.

Tax Dates
The City of Aiken will open tax books November 1, 2017, with a due date of January 17, 2018, with no penalty.  Penalties will be added on payments made after January 18, 2018.  We bid out printing services and will be using a new printer for our tax bills this year which we expect to save the City about $4,000.  The penalty schedule is as follows:
5% penalty due January 18 through February 20, 2018
10% penalty due February 21 through March 26, 2018
15% penalty due March 27 through April 26, 2018.
On April 27, 2018, a 2.5% penalty is added and unpaid taxes are turned over to the Delinquent Tax Collector for collection.

Citizens Park Sprayground
Parks and Recreation Athletics Manager, Pam Royal, was recently certified as an Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO) by the National Certification Board and National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).  Based on SC DHEC regulations, once the Citizens Park Sprayground is converted to utilize a water recirculation system, the facility must operate under the direction of a certified pool operator.  To become AFO-certified, Ms. Royal passed a nationally-administered examination testing knowledge in the following areas: mechanical concepts involved in the functioning of a swimming pool; familiarity with all systems, equipment, and peripherals that are required to contain, circulate and filter, and heat and treat swimming pool water; ability to perform preventative maintenance and basic repairs; competence in all areas of water chemistry pertaining to pools; and, knowledge of risk management practices.  An AFO Certification is valid for a period of five years.  The Citizens Park Sprayground will operate under the direction of Pam, who will serve as a public pool operator for the facility in addition to her duties as Athletics Manager.

City of Aiken Tree Inventory and Management Plan Update:
The City of Aiken has consulted with Bartlett Tree Experts to perform a tree inventory, which will facilitate the development of a tree canopy assessment and urban forest management plan for the long-term maintenance and care of the City’s magnificent trees.  Funding and in-kind support for the project have been identified by the City of Aiken through a unique partnership with the Aiken Land Conservancy and the Citizens’ Advisory Committee made up of local volunteers. The financial commitment and volunteer efforts in support of the project are deeply appreciated by the City and will provide many benefits to the community – most notably, a healthy and robust tree canopy providing shade for cooling and reduced energy consumption, reduction of air pollutants, stormwater runoff reduction, and water quality improvements.  Additionally, it increases property values and aesthetics, and is linked to the mental and physical health and well-being of the human environment.  However, there are costs associated with the long term maintenance and management of the City’s urban forest, which present a liability in more densely-populated areas, as trees age and die.  The current status and anticipated timeline for successful completion of the project can be summarized as follows:
– The data collection is about 95% complete with all of the survey work completed within the parkways, Arboretum Trail, and road right-of-way.  The remaining survey work for all of the City-owned properties, including Hopelands Gardens, is anticipated to be completed by the end of October 2017.
– A public information drop-in session will be held on Thursday November 9 from 5-7PM at the Municipal Conference Center (214 Park Ave SW) in downtown Aiken.  Feedback received from the public and other key stakeholders will be carefully reviewed and considered in finalizing the comprehensive management plan.
– A formal presentation to City Council summarizing all of the findings/recommendations identified in the comprehensive management plan is anticipated to be held in late January 2018.

SCDOT Silver Bluff Road Corridor Improvement Project Updates:
The Construction phase is currently underway (work began March 29, 2016), with a revised estimated completion date to be determined after all of the utilities have been relocated (original completion was Fall 2017).  The current status of the utility relocation work can be summarized as follows, with an estimated completion in fourth quarter 2017, at which time the Contractor will resume work.
– City of Aiken Water – Completed (February 20, 2017)
– SCE&G (Electric) – 95% Complete
– SCE&G (Gas) – SCE7G has been instructed this is SCDOT’s #1 priority in the area for relocating facilities
– AT&T – Estimated completion by the end of October 2017
– Aiken Electric Co-Op – 25% Complete
– Atlantic Broadband – Awaiting Aiken Electric Co-Op to relocate before beginning work.

SCDOT Hitchcock Parkway Corridor Improvement Project Update
The current status and anticipated timeline for successful completion of the project can be summarized as follows:
– The Preliminary Engineering phase is currently underway with surveys/traffic studies/preliminary design completed
– The final public information meeting was held Thursday, June 8, 2017 to present the Preferred Alternative – SCDOT has compiled all of the comments received from the public meeting and begun drafting responses
– The environmental document is currently being finalized in order to advance the project to the Right-of-Way phase.
– Preliminary Right-of-Way plans are currently being developed based on what was presented at the public meeting
– The Right-of-Way phase is anticipated to begin in March 2018 with construction letting/bid opening anticipated to be held in December 2019.

FY18 Brownfields Assessment Grant
The City of Aiken intends to pursue the FY18 Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment Grant funding.  If received, this funding will be used by the community to assess property for potential environmental hazards that may pose an obstacle to redevelopment.  During development of the grant application, the City is seeking community engagement and input, as well as community partnerships, to help identify potential brownfield and develop a vision for redevelopment.

Northside Park
Groundbreaking is scheduled for November 13 2017 at 4PM.  R.D. Brown Contractors (Contractor) submitted a Base Bid for the Northside Park Phase I project of $2,585,000 which exceeded the available construction contract award budget by $277,858.  After an extensive value engineering negotiation process with City Staff and the project design team, the Contractor submitted an acceptable list of value engineering options totaling $277,858.  These options are summarized and explained on page 369 of the Council Agenda here.

Commercial Projects Update
The following commercial projects are under construction:

  • Conner & Conner office building remodel – 302 Park Ave. SE
  • Demo Mundy’s Corner buildings for Circle-K – 2948 Whiskey Rd
  • Center for Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery – 1907 Pawnee St.
  • Military recruiting office upfit – 2645 Whiskey Rd.
  • KFC paint/clean remodel – 991 Pine Log Road
  • Precision Total Home office upfit – 746 Silver Bluff Road
  • Chamber of Commerce Remodel – 121 Richland Ave E
  • Cherry Bekaert office upfit – 137 Old Market St.

The following permit applications have been received and are under review:

  • Rebuild service station – 1224 Richland Ave W
  • Financial Planner office upfit – 137 Old Market Street
  • Healing Minds office upfit – 137 Old Market Street
  • Circle K – 2948 Whiskey Road
  • ARMC 1st Floor Outpatient Surgery Expansion – 302 University Parkway
  • St. Mary’s South Wing building – 138 Fairfield St. SE

The following plans have been received and are under review:

  • Cook Out Restaurant – 2086 Whiskey Road
  • Kroger Clicklist remodel – 1795 Whiskey Road

The following commercial projects received their Certificate of Occupancy:

  • ARMC 2nd floor renovation for inpatient rehab – 302 University Parkway
  • Wellness Center fitness area expansion into suite 1200 – 440 Society Hill Dr.
  • Colony at South Park rebuild burned apt. building – 300 Greengate Circle
  • St. Mary’s bell tower – 138 Fairfield Street SE
  • Center for Primary Care – Aiken Office – 131 Rinehart Way
  • KFC Paint/Clean Remodel – 1406 Richland Avenue West
  • Town Creek Baptist remodel for Town Creek Academy – 250 Town Creek Rd.

Upcoming City Events

Tuesday, November 7 at 6:30PM: The Design Review Board will hold its regular monthly meeting in Council Chambers, Second Floor of the Municipal Building, 214 Park Ave. SW

Wednesday, November 8 at 10AM: Aiken Corporation’s Executive Committee will meet in Room 204 of the Municipal Building, 214 Park Ave., SW

Monday, November 13 at 7PM: The next regularly-scheduled City Council meeting will be held in Council Chambers, Second Floor of the Municipal Building, 214 Park Ave., SW.