Wednesday, June 4, 2014
ARHS program criticized
This is about the Ashley Ridge High School’s horticulture program where students are engaged in planting and growing typical greenhouse nursery plants. An article in the Charleston newspaper noted that this school project started out small three years ago, with 1 acre of land, but is now increasing their total acreage to 10 acres.
They currently have about 5,000 plants on hand, and with the expansion could very soon have tens of thousands of plants.
Their Facebook page mentions that they are to receive six new greenhouses “thanks to Mead WestVaco and the DD2 District Office,” and they are happy to be getting “. . . a $50,000 (green)house for FREE.”
And, yes, they intend to sell their product to the public.
This sounds like a good program for the student’s experience and knowledge, but unfortunately, it is developing into a taxpayer funded, government run, commercial enterprise. It will be unbeatable competition for the nursery business and is certain to severely damage if not destroy most privately owned and operated nurseries in Summerville and surrounding areas.
Our country thrives on free and open competition in business, but when the competition is funded and operated by taxpayer’s money it is anything but free. It is unfair and dishonest.
This program, as now structured, is clearly a “win” for government-funded enterprise, but a “lose” for everyone else.
It would be much better if Ashley Ridge could sharply limit or even eliminate their commercial operations in this program and work together with local businesses instead. Working with the businesses the students would learn planting and growing just as they do now, and they would also gain valuable, real-life knowledge of the nursery business.
Such a program would be “a win for the students, the school, the businesses and the community. Everyone wins. No one loses.”
Perhaps the Summerville Journal Scene could look into the situation and offer some ideas to the High School and the nursery business to build some support in the community for a cooperative project. That would be an “everyone wins” program, and would be a much better use of our tax money.
In the interest of full disclosure – my wife and I are not in the nursery business, but we are friends of the owners of Bombadil’s Garden and Gifts and their nursery business there in Summerville.
Terry W. Ryan
Jay Byars, our Dorchester County Councilman, will run for re-election in the June 10 primary. As a councilman, Jay consistently listens to our needs and immediately helps our community whenever we reach out to him. Every phone call and email receives prompt attention.
The first time I contacted Jay, it was to address a longstanding dilemma in our subdivision. Every time it rained, a two-block area of our street flooded, submerging the street, as well as many yards and driveways. The water would stand for hours, unable to drain into the pond behind our homes, thereby preventing travel on that section of the street. Jay contacted officials who could potentially help us, and he provided us with their contact information. Soon a meeting of neighbors and Dorchester County officials made it possible to take action, make the necessary changes to the drainage system and the pond, and resolve our problem.
Next we needed help with speeding traffic in our subdivision. Again, we turned to Jay. He immediately contacted county officials who could explain the process of getting speed humps or stop signs. He helped us through a County Council meeting to present the severity of our situation, and with his help and that of other members of the council, we were able to have stop signs installed.
All of us in the area know the frustration of trying to drive down Bacons Bridge to Dorchester Road, or even worse perhaps, down Dorchester Road to anywhere. Throughout the months of construction, Jay’s emails to his constituency have detailed the progress and the projected completion dates. Such consistent communication keeps us informed as the work continues.
We’ve all known candidates who make promises during their campaigns and then lose track of them as they serve. Jay has proved his integrity through his actions. He is always available to help those that he serves, and he serves effectively and without delay. Councilman Jay Byars “walks the talk,” and for that, he deserves our support.
As someone who has watched the political process for years and now entered it, I’ve seen issues that draw a lot of attention due to emotional impact or the big dollars associated with them. On the surface, these “sound bites” seem to tell a story worth listening to, but many times details are left out that would provide a clearer picture. In the case of Dorchester County District 2 race, this issue seems to be “double taxation.”
Double taxation? Briefly, when a property served by a Special Tax/Purpose District is annexed into a municipality, the law allow for the SPD to continue collecting their fee until a plan is put in place. Keep in mind that an annexation takes affect almost immediately. The law was crafted in this way to prevent default on loans or from terminating employees if that revenue were to stop suddenly. You continue to pay a fee to the SPD in addition to your new municipal taxes until a plan is drafted for assumption of service or another solution is worked out. In the case of fire districts, this is your emergency response service, something that most people don’t think about until they need it. As cities and towns grow and annex, there is impact on your level of service until supporting infrastructure can be built.
Mapquest indicates that response time to the Summerhaven neighborhood off Lincolnville Road has increased from about 5 minutes from the closest Old Fort station to about 9 minutes for the closest Summerville fire station after that agreement was adopted. This has everything to do with station location, geography and roads, and nothing to do with either of these outstanding fire department. Does response time matter? You decide … A 3-4 minute longer response time can make the difference in an emergency. Councilman Chinnis was quoted as saying it was the “principle of the issue and not the $130 a year he was paying.” About 35 cents a day to get responders to those homes about 4 minutes faster. Was this the best solution for these residents? Maybe this is a case where ending what some term “double taxation” wasn’t the best answer. As a resident, I want to be provided these critical details so that I fully understand the impact on my services. Standing in the front yard wondering why the fire department is taking so long to respond is not the time to find out that services were degraded when there was a better way to address the issue.
Better solutions. Do I think that paying two agencies for the same services is a good thing? Certainly not. But taking away a fire fee for the sake of “double taxation” is not “righting a wrong” when the level of emergency responder service is never considered and reduced. Our elected representatives’ efforts should be focused on redefining how the dollars for emergency responders are collected and distributed to compensate for the impact that growth has on these essential services. Work with other officials to possibly rezone response areas based on proximity to those fire stations and not just the jurisdictional boundaries. The bottom line is that our elected officials are responsible for ensuring that we receive the highest level of service in the most efficient and fiscally responsible manner. The details matter. That’s what we should expect and demand from our elected officials.
Represented as a politically charged soundbite, this issue is designed to stir emotions at election time. But it’s important to remember that as both a candidate and fire chief, I had nothing to do with the creation of this law or enforcing it. I do, however, have ideas for practical solutions that maintain and can increase this emergency service at no additional cost. I also suggest that as voters, our focus should be on candidate records and their plans. If elected as your County Council representative, I’ll work on developing and implementing practical solutions in an open and fiscally responsible manner and provide regular updates on the issues. We need to know not only what our government leadership is doing for us, but what they are doing to us. In terms that we understand and are OK with. That’s what I’d like to bring to County Council.