Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Mayor Michael Heitzler and Councilmember John McCants have found a way to gather direct input from Goose Creek citizens.
At several town meetings held throughout they year they give a strategic planning presentation, put it into a relevant context and invite citizens from specific neighborhoods to ask if they agree with what the city is doing on a variety of issues.
By clicking on a remote control, citizens answer multiple-choice questions such as, the design building of a fire station headquarters and substation is: essential, very important, somewhat important, little importance, not important.
“I’ve been doing these for probably 30 years,” Heitzler told The Gazette. “Every two weeks I invite another neighborhood. We write a letter to everyone that lives in the neighborhood. We try to keep it around 300 people.
“When I’m meeting with Boulder Bluff, takes two meetings. It takes four meetings with the Hamlets. They participate a lot. With most subdivisions they can fit in one meeting.
“It’s my belief that most organizations fail because they don’t communicate internally or externally.
“I’m surprised that I don’t know of any other city or town or county that does this. It’s just something we do.”
Heitzler said survey results are collected and sent to residents who attended the meeting and to city councilmembers. At the end of the year city council receives a cumulative report combining input from each neighborhood.
On Aug. 15 residents from Oak Creek, Westminster Heights and Greenwich Hall were invited. About 20 citizens attended.
Goose Creek Police Department Crime Prevention Specialist Kevin Scott spoke at the beginning of the meeting about recent crime in said neighborhoods.
He said there had been four daytime burglaries, eight vandalisms, four cars hit with eggs and one tire slashed. He said neighborhoods need to keep an eye on themselves.
“If you see suspicious vehicles late at night give us a call,” Scott said. “You know what suspicious is, what doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.”
Heitzler said Goose Creek started strategic planning 32 years ago to keep a small-town feel and manage growth.
“We provide essential services,” Heitzler said. “You don’t want private police or else the rich people would hire really good guards.”
He showed renderings of two new fire stations that will be built within the next few years.
“The nice thing is we think we have enough money in the bank to pay cash for the headquarters station,” he said. “We’re going to have to borrow money to pay for Station 3 on Old Mt. Holly Road.”
He also spoke of the city’s communication with residents and the economic development growth plan, adding that the city requires architectural overlay so its buildings will look nice.
He said the fire stations will have a similar aesthetic to the Marguerite H. Brown Municipal Complex, which was designed to have the look of an old ruins, with spaces that reflect missing doors and windows. He then showed a slide of old Crowfield Plantation ruins.
“We’re working on a quiet rail zone,” Heitzler said. “No whistles or horns . . . I’m used to it. A lot of people who are new to this town are aggravated by it. I’ve been listening to that train for 40 years.”
He said the fence by the railroad reflects the ambience of Crowfield.
Speaking of public transit, the mayor said for the Tri-County Link bus system to add one stop in Goose Creek would be expensive. The one stop would take passengers to the K-Mart off Rivers Avenue in North Charleston.
“A few years ago it would’ve cost about $150,000 from our budget and you’d pay a user fee,” Heitzler said. “High speed rail costs $15 million per mile.”
The mayor showed before and after photos of the hiker biker trails.
“The trail connects to the North Charleston trail to Wannamaker Park, to the college (Charleston Southern), the (Trident) hospital. I see people ride their bikes to work all the time,” he said.
The mayor said Charleston owns a system that supplies water to certain parts of Goose Creek, which has its own water supply. Heitzler said the Charleston water costs more because Goose Creek residents can’t vote those officials out of office.
“We’re trying to buy that Charleston system that’s in our city limits,” he said.