By Al Dozier
The Irmo Town Council Tuesday approved a $150,000 allocation toward the construction of a new fire station which will be located at a site near the Irmo Police Department.
Irmo Fire Chief Mike Sonefeld said that will likely be all the department needs from the town for the new facility, which is expected to cost $950,000. Funds for the facility are also coming from other local government sources.
Construction of the new station should be completed within the next 10 to 12 months. One of the advantages of the facility is to provide fire department access on another side of the railroad track. Response to a fire can be slowed down by trains, which frequently travel through Irmo.
Town officials say the quicker response time will likely lower insurance premiums for Irmo residents.
The council heard new complaints about trash collection problems, which seem to pop up every few months.
“I can’t rely on stuff being picked up,” said Milton Coolie of Coldstream Court. He said it is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed.
Council members agreed with Coolie that problems seem to be continuing. Councilman Mark Pouliot said a trash truck backed up into his yard and destroyed a planter.
The council agreed to review the problems and take some action. In other action the council approved a capital budget for 2016-2017 in the amount of $5.2 million, which is about the same as the current budget. The new budget will not require a tax increase.
The council approved several changes in local ordinance deemed to be unenforceable by Irmo Police Chief Joe Nates. Some ordinances were eliminated because they were found to be superseded by state laws.
After some deliberation, the council approved an ordinance change that would provide a three-minute limit to comments made during the public participation period. Mayor Hardy King said such restrictions are common in other municipalities.
Councilman Barry Walker Sr. opposed the measure, asserting it violated a citizen’s right to free speech.
The council held a brief discussion on a declining reserve fund, which has steadily lowered over the past few years. The reserve had approximately $3.6 million in 2012, but was down to about $2 million this year, according to Poulot.
He said taxpayers did not have input into the cost of the town’s new park, which amounted to much more than expected and continues to raise costs for maintenance.
But Walker said the rising costs are a direct result of the popularity of the park, which needed new picnic shelters and restrooms to accommodate visitors. He said the town is benefitting from the park.