By Al Dozier

The Irmo Town Council is considering pay increases for the town’s police officers in an effort to increase retention and attract employees with competitive salaries.

Irmo’s starting salary is lower than that of most nearby municipalities, according to a comparison list presented at Tuesday’s meeting. Police salaries start at $35,500 in Irmo, compared to $42,453 in Lexington, $39,964 in West Columbia and $39,474 in Lexington County. It is slightly higher than Richland County ($35,001) and Cayce ($34,066).

Councilman Mark Pouliot said the town needs to look at “the whole picture” of benefits when making the comparisons, such as insurance benefits, Christmas bonuses and free car use.

“When you advertise you need to lay out the whole competitive package,” he said.

Some local residents spoke out in favor of the increases.

Irmo resident George Glassmeyer said the town needs to attract officers to the town with a good salary schedule

Wade DeLoach said the town should increase salaries and offer additional benefits, such as giving an officer who works non-stop for four months an extra day off.

The pay increase will be on the agenda for action at the March council meeting

In other action the council voted against a proposal to rezone a property at 201 Lordship Lane from single-family residential to office-commercial despite a recommendation of approval from the zoning board. The change was sought to place a real estate office in a home that has been vacant for some time.

During the public comment session Glassmeyer said the request should be denied because it puts a business on the perimeter of a residential neighborhood.

Councilman Barry Walker said the council should abide by the recommendation of the zoning board.

The council heard a proposal for an Irmo International Day event to be held at the Community Park on April 28 from 1 to 4 pm. The event would promote cultural diversity with food, entertainment and other activities. Local schools are expected to participate.

Council members voiced support for the proposal. Sponsors will present more details on the project after a budget is completed.

Councilman Barry Walker Sr. had sought an update on the pending federal lawsuit against the town of Irmo based on its failure to accommodate a disabled resident who sought a zoning exception that would allow her to make safer access to her residence.

The U.S. Department of Justice has cited the town for violating the Fair Housing Act, and is calling for a $40,000 settlement payment. The Town is also being directed to revise its ordinances to include exceptions for citizens with disabilities.

But Mayor Hardy King called on the council to remove the update from the agenda, citing legal advice that the litigation should not be discussed in public. The council agreed to remove the item, despite Walker’s claim that he is entitled to put such a request on the agenda. He said the decision is irresponsible.

Town officials did advise the council that a court date will likely be set in March.

The council approved a request from Young’s Chapel Church to close Carlisle Street from Columbia Avenue to Lexington Avenue on April 6 from 6 am to 3 pm for an Easter Bizarre.

During the meeting a poster was distributed on the Build Your Own Rain Barrel Workshop to be held at the Town Hall, 7300 Woodrow Street, on March 15 from 8:45 am until 12 pm Participants can learn about rain barrel construction, stormwater runoff and water pollution, rainwater harvesting with barrels and cisterns

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