This edition of the City Manager’s Blog features updates on playground equipment in Osbon Park, a project update on the Municipal Tree Inventory and Urban Forest Management Plan, insight into the ADPS Law Enforcement Risk Reduction Review, and a series of commendations.

Osbon Park Playground Equipment
In October, Hope for the Community members met with the City to express a need for equipment for the children to play on while visiting Osbon Park.  Upon completion of a new playground at Eustis Park, its former equipment was relocated and installed at Osbon Park.  The playground includes a tower with slides, is surfaced with mulch, and is located in a lighted area of the park.

Municipal Tree Inventory and Urban Forest Management Plan Project Update
The City of Aiken has consulted with Bartlett Tree Experts to perform a tree inventory, to 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 a Citizens’ Advisory Committee comprised of local volunteer tree enthusiasts.  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 provides 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:

  • A Public Information Drop-In session was held on Thursday, November 9 2017, from 5:30-7PM at the Municipal Conference Center, for the purpose of providing an overview of the project and soliciting important feedback from the public, based on our findings to date.  Bartlett Tree Experts presented the four categories of management plans that all of the trees have been grouped into, based on their location within the city (i.e. Parkways, Road Rights-of-Way, City-Owned Properties, and The Aiken Arboretum Trail
  • Just over 10 people were in attendance, which made for a very intimate and engaged session.  All comments from the public meeting will be carefully reviewed in the development of the final management plan.
  • The tree survey work has been completed, with a grand total of 20,000+ trees surveyed, which is more than double what was initially estimated.  The management plan is anticipated to be finalized in March 2018 for presentation to City Council.

Capital Project Sales Tax
We received the fourth quarter Capital Project Sales Tax check in the amount of $ 1,444,153, which is 11% greater than the same quarter last year.  The annual collections for 2017 were 8% higher than 2016.

Aiken Public Safety Law Enforcement Risk Reduction Review
This past year the South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund (SCMIRF) conducted a Law Enforcement Risk Reduction Review for the City of Aiken.  The review was recommended by the SCMIRF law enforcement advisory committee to address training and loss control needs for law enforcement in response to rapidly increasing law enforcement claims costs.  The review assists SMIRF members in the identification and mitigation of high-liability activities found in police operations with the goals of reducing liability exposures, enhancing officer safety, and validating that training and operating procedures are meeting industry standards and complying with the law.
Of the guidelines reviewed, the City of Aiken complied with 10 out of 10 points or achieved 100 percent.  Our careful attention to these guidelines, as well as the implementation of strong methods that evaluate law enforcement services based on benchmarks, accountability, industry best practices and professionalism, will help ensure that the City of Aiken’s law enforcement risk reduction management program is effective and eliminates or reduces potential premium surcharges.

Commendations
Mr. John Cox sent an email to Director of Public Works Michelle Jones thanking Administrative Assistant Lisa Cook and Assistant to the Public Works Director Sabina Craig for the quick response by both the City and SCE&G.  He received a voicemail from Lisa Cook explaining the coordination with Darlene Haley at SCANA.  As of Monday evening, the problem had been resolved.  Not only was the faulty light repaired, but the light across from the house is back on as well.  The power line for that light was destroyed by the big ice storm and never replaced.  The light itself is now essentially inside al arg crepe myrtle in the neighbor’s yard.  The radio interference is completely gone.

Business License Inspector/Deputy Tax Collector Nathan Campbell received a note from Ms. Donna Martin of Columbia SC thanking him for his help.  She said he was very responsive.

Mr. Bob Bigger, of Coastal Carolina National Bank, sent a note to Business Development Officer John McMichael thanking him for his help.  Mr. Bigger wrote that Mr. McMichael was a great ambassador for the City.