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Author Topic: Open Letter Regarding the Port  (Read 2126 times)
Tom Rubillo
Jr. Member
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Posts: 60


« on: January 07, 2019, 04:20:30 PM »

               
Tom Rubillo
10 Bush Street
Georgetown, SC 29440
Thrubillo@gmail.com


January 7, 2019

An open letter to
State Senator Ronnie Sabb
State Representative Rev. Carl Anderson
Mayor Brendon Barber, City of Georgetown
Mayor Pro tem Rudolph Bradley
Georgetown Council Members C. C. Smalls, Carol Jayroe, Sheldon Butts, Al Joseph and Tupelo Humes

Honorable sirs and madam:

   There is a growing blight in the center of the City of Georgetown.  It is the idle port.  Largely unattended by an absentee landlord, it becoming increasingly litter strewn, overgrown and its buildings are deteriorating. This eyesore gives everyone crossing the Sampit River bridge a very negative impression of the town, both about things as they stand now and about what the future holds for the community.   

   Although physically located at the very heart of the city, the Port of Georgetown is not part of it.  Like a hole in the center of a donut, its land remain outside of the city limits.  That ties the hands of city government to address growing problemz. This letter points out some of those problems and suggests a straightforward way to deal with them.

Issues to be addressed

   Present day challenges faced by the City: 

   A idle, closed and deteriorating port in the heart of town but outside of its legal jurisdiction causes very real problems for the city and its residents.  Those include:

   * City government is powerless to slow the deterioration of property.  Lacking jurisdiction over the land, it cannot provide direct municipal services that would otherwise help keep the site relatively clean, safe, free of litter, illegal dumping and the like. 

   * Along these same lines, the city lacks legal authority to enter and inspect the premises, enforce local health or building codes or address violations that can directly effect the health, safety, well being or the quality of life of those living or working nearby. 

   * Similarly, absent specific written cooperation agreements, the city has no legal authority provide assistance should any emergencies – fires, chemical releases or spills and the like -- arise on port property.  This can result in otherwise avoidable delays in responding to problems.  Delays can cost lives.

   *Having no jurisdiction or authority over port property, the city has no real say about its future use.  City Council is left without a place at the table during discussions about issues like dredging the entrance of the Sampit River for local fisherman and boaters or the channel through Winyah Bay for larger ships.  Given present jurisdictional lines, county, state and federal officials have no obligation to invite representatives of the city to join in those sorts of talks.

   *Along exactly these same lines, the city also lacks any say-so about future uses of the property should the SCPA decide to shut operations down completely.  It cannot zone the property, lay out streets, make infrastructure improvements or control future development.  It also cannot legitimately offer tax and other incentives to those interested in investing in the property.  Instead, its hands are tied and its voice gagged about all of these important issues. 

   Regarding the Ports Authority:  The present state of affairs has unintended bad consequences for the Ports Authority too.  As examples:

   * As indicated in the preceding paragraphs, the port is left without the protection of prompt responses to emergencies by the nearest full-time emergency responders.   Again, absent detailed written agreements, the local government with primary responsibility to protect the property is Georgetown County.  With the exception of fire stations on the Waccamaw Neck, its  fire department is staffed largely by volunteers who respond on an as-available basis from their homes or small stations in outlying areas.  That all eats up valuable time at the very time when time is of the essence. 

   The city, on the other hand, has a full-time staff of highly trained professionals on duty and on call 24 hours a day at nearby stations to deal with fires, chemical spills and similar emergencies.  The port needs to rely on these municipal personnel as first responders, calling on the county’s department for backup when needed rather than the other way around.  That simply makes sense. 

   Similarly, local deputy sheriffs have to patrol and protect all 800+ square miles of the entire county and are routinely spread out over this wide area.  Meanwhile, officers of the Georgetown Police Department regularly patrol the much smaller 15 or so square miles of the city limits that surround the port’s property.  Response time for city police is typically less than 5 minutes.  Those of sheriff’s deputies patrolling outside the city can be much, much longer.  Delays are dangerous.    Again, the port is better served by reliance on the city as first responders with the county as backup, not vice versa.

   * Of equal importance are the problems associated with the property being owned by an absentee landlord.  That simple fact leaves the port’s positive potential and its on-going challenges largely out of sight and, therefore, out of the mind of SCPA leadership.  This is not a criticism.  It is simply a statement of the realities of time, distance and the day-to-day distractions of those who must attend to the heavy volume of work and responsibility associated with the busy and growing Port of Charleston and the state’s important inland ports.

Too serious to ignore or delay

   The problems and consequences of this state of affairs are too important to simply ignore or postpone.  Doing nothing about them ensures that nothing positive will happen.  To the contrary, doing nothing guarantees that the Port of Georgetown will continue to fall into disuse and decay, all to the detriment of everyone, especially the residents of Georgetown. 

   The port property in Georgetown is too valuable an asset to waste in this way.   It occupies one of the most otherwise scenic and valuable pieces of real estate along the South Carolina coast.  It would be foolish to ignore the very significant economic potential of this environmental treasure.   At the same time, it would be irresponsible, shamefully wasteful and even dangerous to continue to allow the property to remain idle and unused.  Largely unattended and lacking regular patrols or maintenance, buildings and infrastructure will rot.  Equally as bad, in the absence of regular surveillance and police patrols, the property can attract unlawful activity or become a site where the homeless and destitute seek a safe haven, only to be preyed upon by the dangerously delinquent. 

   Simply put, those in positions of authority simply cannot allow the present state of affairs to continue.  Everyone deserves a much higher level of responsible decision making by government officials, be they elected, appointed or employed.

            Annexation, a first step in the right direction

   There are a number of possible remedies to these problems, the most straightforward of which  begins with annexation of the Port of Georgetown into the city limits of the City of Georgetown.  This single step would takes nothing away from the Port’s Authority.1  Instead, it would entitle it to the enjoy the full benefit of municipal police, fire, sanitation and related services.  It would enable the Port Authority to legitimately seek the city’s help in making infrastructure improvements.  And it could qualify potential investors for any financial incentives the City Council decided to offer to  encourage future economic development on the site. 

   In exchange for giving the city jurisdiction to patrol, protect and  enforce state and local laws on the property, the city would gain some important things too, but not at the expense of the Port Authority. 

   *It could make the city eligible for federal funds allocated to local governments by Homeland Security or other federal agencies to protect the port, sharing those with the county. 

   *It would give the city government a legitimate say about use of the special sales tax approved by local voters some years ago that are earmarked for use for port improvements.  The country reportedly holds millions of dollars in these tax funds in its accounts.  The city presently has no say in how they are used even though many of those dollars were collected by businesses in the city and/or from city residents.  Annexation would give city government standing on this issue.

   * Of equal importance, annexation would give the city a much stronger voice in discussions in Washington and Columbia about the future uses of the land.  That would include a greater say in matters such as dredging, enforcement of health, safety and building and zoning ordinances.

   *Designated as an “Economic Opportunity Zone” under the tax reform passed by Congress last year (an economic development provision encouraging tax free investment of money parked off-shore by investors authorized and championed by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott), the city would be in a position to join hands with the county’s Economic Development office, the state Commerce Department, the Port Authority and the federal government in efforts to bring jobs and opportunities to the very heart of the City of Georgetown. 

                  A modest proposal

   Only one thing is necessary for all of this to happen.  All it would take is for the Ports Authority, to consent to the property being annexed and incorporated into the city limits.  That’s it.  Nothing more.   To make that happen, I suggest (1) that the City Council adopt a formal Resolution inviting the State of South Carolina and (2) the South Carolina Ports Authority accept the invitation and consent to annexation. 

   It is that simple. 

   A proposed Resolution for City Council that invites annexation is already on the desk of Mayor Barber.  The City’s Attorney can, of course, review it and make whatever changes she deems appropriate before it is put on the Council’s regular agenda.  Once that is done, the public would have the right to be heard about the proposal before a vote is taken by Council.  Nothing could, should or would be done under the table.  Everyone can, should and will have an opportunity to be heard.    I urge that the matter be carefully considered, debated and that a decision be made that advances the interests of all.

                  Respectfully and cordially,


                  Tom Rubillo
 

   

  cc:     US Senator Tim Scott
   James I Newsome, III, President and CEO, SCPA
            Bill H. Stern, Chair, Board of Directors, SCPA
            David P. Posek, Vice Chair, Board of Directors, SCPA
   Robert M. Hitt, III, SC Secretary of Commerce
            Carey Smith, Interim City Administrator, City of Georgetown
            Elise Crosby, City Attorney, City of Georgetown
   Angela Rambeau, Director of Planning and Development, City of Georgetown
   Ann Mercer, City Clerk, City of Georgetown (for file)

   

   
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IWCCTTT
Sr. Member
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Posts: 488


« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2019, 03:13:42 PM »

Hey Scott Harper how about showing some damn respect for the former Mayor of Georgetown. Tom sent a copy of this letter to Scott for his pitiful blog site. Scott buried it down low on his page and didn't even give Tom the respect of noting he is the former Mayor. Goes to show you Scott has a huge bias against certain people. Scott Harper is pitiful.
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Marty Tennant
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2019, 03:30:47 PM »

Not sure what you are complaining about. That's where OPINION pieces go. Nothing nefarious.
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Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.
IWCCTTT
Sr. Member
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Posts: 488


« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2019, 05:04:18 PM »

First thing is Scott did not give credit to Mr. Rubillo as being a former mayor like he has for Jack So-vile or like he always does for Paige the racist.

Second Scott has put other opinion pieces up top of his blog page but chose to put this one down lower.

Just sayin'.
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Tom Rubillo
Jr. Member
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Posts: 60


« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2019, 12:12:22 PM »

The Governor has pledged to revitalize the port in his State of the State speech.  Although taken by surprise by the announcement, the county's economic development director has welcomed the news.  This renewed recognition of the value of the port to the entire state is yet another reason for the city to join in and be an important participant in deciding the future use and development of the property.
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IWCCTTT
Sr. Member
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Posts: 488


« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2019, 12:53:37 PM »

I went to the big press conference yesterday. There stood the Mayor and several other city council members including DUI Tupelo with the union thug president.  There stood our new chairman of county council and several county council members (where was the councilman that represents the area?). Then Senator Sabb and Representative Anderson announced the great news. Another committee! Great! Just what we need.....  Anyway at least someone is trying to dredge the port. Will it ever get done. I'm not holding my breath.
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PBSIAT
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Posts: 299


« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2019, 04:28:41 PM »

Was Page the scarecrow at the press conference?
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conservative group
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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2019, 05:48:36 PM »

Its been a while since I posted. Yes the small group of people from this board still get together and talk. Its one of the many good things that came out of this board. Anywho this port dredging is a real hot topic all over town. Everyone wants to know what happened to the nearly 6 million tax dollars raised that were supposed to go towards dredging. A lot of people believe that money is long gone to some special interest group already.
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Tom Rubillo
Jr. Member
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Posts: 60


« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2019, 12:53:26 PM »

The City of Georgetown should have a place at this table.
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IWCCTTT
Sr. Member
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Posts: 488


« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2019, 03:04:04 PM »

Mr. Tom I agree and I cannot imagine the Ronnie Saab will leave the Mayor out of the talks.

Mr. PBSIAT its Paige not Page.

And no he was not there either. The councilman from county council district 2 and Paige were missing in action. Kind of like why Paige was given a general discharge from the Army instead of a Honorable Discharge....
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Tom Rubillo
Jr. Member
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Posts: 60


« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2019, 10:21:34 AM »

And what do those running for seats on city council think about this proposal?
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IWCCTTT
Sr. Member
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Posts: 488


« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2019, 09:24:04 AM »

Will any of the candidates call for a audit of where the millions of dollars the port was supposed to receive have now disappeared to? WASTE, FRAUD, ABUSE OF TAXPAYER MONIES IS A CRIME. Follow the money trail and hold the former mayor accountable for the money.
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Tom Rubillo
Jr. Member
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Posts: 60


« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2019, 09:21:04 AM »

While deregulating in other areas, the Environmental Protection Agency is increasing both its attention and the money it is allocating to cleaning up  contaminated industrial sites by way of the Superfund program.  The time is right, therefore, for local elected officials to try to cash in on this rejuvenation of Superfund and seek EPA's assistance in cleaning up the Port of Georgetown and the half of the steel mill property not being used to produce steel.  The offices of Senators Graham and Scott can be a big help in moving clean up efforts forward.     
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IWCCTTT
Sr. Member
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Posts: 488


« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2019, 05:31:48 PM »

I say we start with finding out where Jack Scovile spent all the tax money that was supposed to go for dredging. What was it 40 Million? Where is that money?
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Tom Rubillo
Jr. Member
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Posts: 60


« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2019, 10:56:45 AM »

To be fair, the local one cent local accommodation tax sthat was supposed to be used for dredging was (a) imposed, (b) collected and (c) administered by Georgetown County, not the City of Georgetown.  Deposited in county accounts, decisions about its use were left entirely to county officials, not municipal ones.  The former mayor (and the present one) had no access to them.  It would be those who run the county who would have to account for all spending of those funds. 

It is my understanding that a part of this funds collected as a result of this special accommodation tax were used to dredge the creek at Murrells Inlet to keep that channel open to commercial fisherman, head boat operators, tour boats and recreational uses.  I am of the view that this spending for the benefit of those who use the channel at Murrells Inlet set an important precedent, ones entitling those who access area waters from the Sampit River to similar accommodation.  The accommodation tax funds collected from businesses within this city would be (and, in fairness, should be) devoted to this latter use.  The county should promptly calculate the total accommodation revenues collected in the city, contract for the clearing of the channel into the Sampit and clear the way for commercial and recreational use of the Sampit.  As a bonus, this would also open the port to barge traffic to export steel.
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