Berkeley County growth pushing need for me more ambulances, deputies
On Council, we operate in a strong-committee structure. Ninety-five percent or more of all debate occurs in committee and by the time the issue reaches Council, there is nothing left to discuss. Each councilman chairs one of the standing eight committees. During January’s reorganization (which occurs every two years), I was fortunate to be named Finance Chairman. Thus, I will mostly focus this update on our County’s finances and the budget.
It is true that we live in a time of great prosperity for Berkeley County – our revenues are increasing based on residential and economic growth. In fact, recent reports show that out of the 3,143 counties in the United States, we are the 17th fastest growing one. More than 8,000 people moved to Berkeley County last year (that’s about 22 people every single day).
With this growth, our demands are exponentially growing. My top priority in this year’s budget is EMS. While the population has boomed in the past decade, the County has not added one ambulance station. In 2004/2005, there were 11 ambulances operating in Berkeley County. Today, the number is exactly the same. Think about that, while tens of thousand of people have moved into our county, we continue to operate with the same number of ambulances, which can only mean our level of service has decreased and response times increased. This is unacceptable. I am confident the administration shares my priority to increase the number of ambulances in the County. Please know that although we do have an ambulance stationed on Daniel Island, with the demands on our fleet, our ambulance gets pulled out of our district on calls. Increasing ambulances in the County will have a positive impact on us, even without placing an additional ambulance here.
A growing population also means a need for more Sheriff deputies. I continue to support the Sheriff’s efforts to bring more of a presence to our district, and I will work with him to increase his manpower in this year’s budget. For each one thousand persons we grow in population, it is my belief we need to add a sworn officer (and that ratio is likely not enough). Thus, in a year of 8,000 in population growth, it is easy to support at least eight additional deputies. I commend Sheriff Lewis for increasing his presence in our district – particularly on the Clements Ferry corridor.
Of course, growth means we need to add other positions, like more planning staff, more permitting staff and so forth to address one of the nation’s fastest growing counties’ needs. These are just some of the worthwhile requests we will face over the next two months. The question will be, for me, one of working hard to fund the appropriate priorities. I believe we can address the needs in the County within the revenue growth our county is enjoying. I am confident this Council and Supervisor will be able to smoothly pass a budget on time that will address our most pressing priorities and hopefully plan for this rapid and unstoppable growth.
Please know that Clements Ferry Road Phase I has finally begun (after having been funded since 2009) and Clements Ferry Road Phase II’s design meeting is set for this Thursday, April 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Philip Simmons Middle School (it is a drop-in style, so please come when available).
Finally, by way of an update, the final plans for the roundabout at the intersection of Daniel Island and Seven Farms are being completed. We will not start construction for another year in order to do it at the best time (summer months and post Volvo Car Open). We have agreed to have a community meeting to present the final plans and will announce a date soon (probably after summer vacations). I am grateful for the many who have participated in the discussion of this improvement – both pro and against. The feedback we received greatly favored the roundabout design (an idea born out of the community years ago), and the feedback enhanced its design, particularly on safety.
As we approach the summer months, I try to not take one day for granted for how fortunate we are to live in this community. Even on days where we have problems or disagreements, we have much more to celebrate and be grateful for. As for me, I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve you. More so, I am grateful to live in this community with you.
Josh Whitley, a Daniel Island resident, is the Berkeley County Council representative for District 2. He was elected to office in 2015. His term expires on December 31, 2020.