Port Royal retreat focuses on quality-of-life services

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 17, 2012 

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If Port Royal town officials want to provide a high-quality of life -- from trash collection to police protection -- it's going to come at a price.

"I'm going to have to remind you, we really wanted that quality of life issue, but you're going to have to pay for it," Town Manager Van Willis told council members at Saturday's annual retreat.

New fire, police and public works vehicles are among big-ticket items that could put a financial pinch on the town. Vehicles are reaching the end of their life-spans and the cost of repairs are mounting quickly, department heads said.

Interim police chief Alan Beach said the department needs four cruisers -- at a price tag of about $25,000 each -- to replace 2007 Ford Crown Victorias. The department is maxing out its monthly repair budget, and 75 percent of those repairs are on those four vehicles, he said.

Beaufort/Port Royal fire chief Sammy Negron and Shift Capt. Reece Bertholf recommended replacing the 1995 pumper firetruck and 2001 ladder truck with a smaller, combination model that will be more efficient. The combination model would cost about $750,000, Bertholf said.

The department also wants to start selling firetrucks before they reach the end of their usefulness and can only be sold for scrap, Bertholf said.

"We buy these trucks and we keep them forever because they are very expensive, but when you have an apparatus fleet, there is a smart way of keeping that apparatus fleet fresh and reliable, and that's not holding to those trucks until they are (finished)," Negron said.

Two of the town's garbage trucks should be decommissioned soon because of both repair costs and safety issues, town engineer Tony Maglione said. For example, a frame problem with one of the trucks, which has since be repaired, could have caused a serious hazard on the road.

New trucks cost up to $200,000 each. Between repairs and increasing fuel costs, he suggested either the town increase the monthly fee by at least $2 per customer, or contract services out.

"Sanitation has gotten to be a tough, tough business to keep going," he said.

Roads, sewer and stormwater improvements are also needed. Maglione suggested council start figuring out now how it wants to tackle those projects.

"It may be a couple of years before you can afford it, but at least you have a priority list," he said.

Not all quality of life concerns centered around services the town directly provides to residents. Council also discussed developing and implementing a marketing plan to show people and businesses why they should visit and invest in the town. Current efforts are scattered and lack focus, councilman Joe Lee said.

"I think the trick is to tie all this together," he said. "Right now, its kind of shotgun."

Key projects are the conversion of The Shed into a community center, the completion of the Cypress Wetlands as an attraction and the development of the Port of Port Royal property. Port Royal is also exploring the possibility WiFi hotspots downtown.

"I think a lot of people are waiting for something to happen behind the (port) gates but we can't just keep waiting," councilman Tom Klein said.

The Port Royal Development Group is in the process of buying the site from the State Ports Authority and plan to develop a commercial and residential destination.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonPortRoyal.

Related content: Port Royal Cypress Wetlands project nearing completion, Nov. 7, 2011

http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2012/03/14/story/developer-c... " target="_blank">Developer confident purchase of Port of Port Royal will succeed, March 14, 2012

Port Royal considers $2 increase in garbage collection fee, May 4, 2011

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