Thursday, June 11, 2015

SCHOOL BOARD

Did anyone need more proof that we have serious problems with the Berkeley County School Board? If that is the case, that proof was provided at last Tuesday's meeting. With only three votes, the board approved a satisfactory appraisal of the job performance of our indicted, former Superintendent. We have officially entered the Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

GOVERNMENT MAKES OUR HEADS HURT

BACKGROUND

Hwy. 311 is a major State road and has been since it was built. Road 59 is a secondary road that intersects 311.  There has always been a stop sign on 59 at the intersection. Several times over the last 30 odd years, folks traveling on 59 have failed to stop at the intersection and have been blipped by rock trucks. Two months ago, two miles down 59 from the intersection, a lady pulled out of her driveway into the path of another vehicle and was killed.  The state DOT saw a problem with the roads and decided they needed to find a solution. They opted to install a 4 way stop at the intersection of the two roads.

Now, we come to the big questions.

How did the mishap 2 miles from the intersection have anything to do with the safety of the intersection?

How could anyone think it is safe to install a stop sign midway a road that has ALWAYS been a major throughway?

How will installing a stop sign on 311 prevent folks from running the stop sign on 59?

Just asking.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

A MAN'S WORD IS HIS BOND

Since the dawn of civilization,  certain principles have formed the bedrock of human interaction.  These principles are numerous and slightly varied depending upon the era and the culture. But, generally speaking, they are uniform in interpretation. Among these basic principles, the ones that govern honesty and integrity have always been considered to be the foundation on which the other governing principles rest.

Through the years, people have put so much stock in the basic principle of honesty that proverbs have made their way into the lexicon:

"A man is only as good as his word."

"A man's word is his bond."

"If a man will lie, he will steal."

"Honesty is the best policy."

Even in today's sketchy world, most of us base our interactions with others on whether or not the other person is to be trusted. Who would loan money to a thief? Who would go into business with a dishonest man? Who would agree to work for a man with a reputation of cheating people out of money? Who would believe a man who lies? Who would hire a man who cannot be trusted?

Unfortunately, some people have lost sight of the importance of these basic principles. Many of the greatest offenders have chosen careers in the arena of politics. The political landscape is always littered with casual claims made during stump speeches and rallies and, then, promptly discarded after election night. It goes without saying that this practice is not admirable but rarely do practiced politicos take seriously any "off the cuff" commitments made in the heat of the campaign.

BUT, there are times when people take promises and commitments from politicians very seriously:

1. When a promise or commitment is made personally.

2. When a promise or commitment is linked to voter support or funding.

3. When a promise or commitment is critical to the candidate's success.

4. When a promise or commitment is used as collateral to a third party.

In any and all of the listed situations, promises and commitments are considered binding. There are never justifiable reasons for breaking such a pledge. To put it in the simplest terms, a move like this is just not smart. In every case of such a pledge being haphazardly violated, the root cause rests in the basic dishonesty of the person who made the false commitment. The person who made the pledge never intended to keep it.

These dishonest politicians seem to think they can make a commitment in order to gain benefit and, then, cast it aside when another benefit presents itself. But, no matter how a wordsmith tries to massage these actions, sometimes such moves simply turn out to be huge mistakes.




Friday, November 21, 2014

FEAR FOR THE REPUBLIC

Over the eons, the ability of the human race to consider the consequences of various actions has allowed them to survive. In the cave man era, when the opportunity for a cool dip in the river presented itself, survivors always checked around for crocodiles. When they came upon a fresh kill of life sustaining meat, they checked to be sure a lion wasn't in the bushes guarding the feast. Being cautious and developing the ability to connect the dots was a plus in the survival and expansion of the species. Though the threats have changed, deductive reasoning is just as vital today as it was in those dark developing years.

When a thoughtful person looks around today's world, connecting the dots can be a very frightening exercise. When one sees certain actions being taken by those who are supposed to be running the show and one considers the predictable repercussions of these actions, the possibilities tend to spiral out of control. Playing the "what if" game is no longer amusing. It is frightening.

Last night, the President of the United States made a speech. He outlined how he intends to do an end run around Congress and initiate law on his own. He indicated that he believes these actions are within his constitutional authority. The problem is that a majority of the American people and a majority of legal scholars disagree with this position. Although many in these groups agree with some of the provisions in his proposal, they all disagree with his process. All in these groups agree that his actions demonstrate a violation of the Separation of Powers as iterated in the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and court precedent.

Owing to the severity of these proposed actions, large numbers of American citizens are outraged. These citizens view the actions of the President as a blatant violation of the U S Constitution. His detractors fear these actions will be the first of many such violations and they are concerned as to where the trend will end. As a result of these concerns, many in the opposition are exercising their Constitutional rights of peaceful protest by making plans to go to Washington to have their voices heard.

In years gone by, with different Presidents, this would not be big news that would be a cause for great concern, BUT, this is today, with a President who doesn't take criticism well. Considering the punitive actions he has taken against Conservative groups in the past, his reaction to mass defiance of his authority might not end well. This is where the "what if" game gets really scary.

WHAT IF a half a million angry citizens show up in front of the White House?

WHAT IF this President follows form and over-reacts?

WHAT IF just ONE of the protesters gets out of hand?

WHAT IF just ONE of the DC police makes a mistake?

We can all agree it is never a good idea to touch a match to a powder keg. From his actions, one would think this President just loves to play with matches.




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

GOES WITHOUT SAYING

Never have we received more feedback than we had from our August 3rd and 4th posts on the SWMP fee being passed. We received comments that ranged from, "Throw the bums out" to "How dare you attack our Council members". Considering the content of these phone calls and emails, we have concluded that a bit of clarification is in order.

QUESTION: Do we have substantiating documents to support your position?
ANSWER:  YES.

QUESTION: Have you withdrawn your political support from the Councilmen involved?
ANSWER:  Absolutely NOT.

QUESTION: Has this disagreement destroyed your friendships with Council?
ANSWER: Not as far as we are concerned.

QUESTION: Why can't you understand that this is a mandate?
ANSWER: To ask such a simplistic question is disingenuous.

QUESTION: What can be done to resolve this disagreement?
ANSWER: Approach the issue honestly, educate everyone with all the information, and reverse the erroneous decision.

Even though copious amounts of documentation is available to support our contention that the SWMP fee is simply a "Cash Cow" for BC government and not a necessity for compliance with the regulations, it is not compulsory for anyone to take the time to read everything on the subject.  All one needs to do is to watch the video of the July 14, 2014 County Council meeting on the subject. Almost all of our contentions are verified by the testimony of the DEHEC representatives from Columbia and the "Experts" from BC government.

The fact that we continue to vehemently disagree with the vote of Council on this particular issue does not lessen our regard for the other successful, positive efforts of this Council. Our Council members have made great strides in addressing other vital issues that concern and benefit BC taxpayers. AND, political issues have little to nothing to do with person friendships. If your friends can't tell you when you've screwed up, who can?

Yes, the SWMP does contain mandated activities, the majority of which are already being performed by BC government. BUT, there are differing ways of complying with anything.
EXAMPLE: We all receive a tax bill every year. We must pay this bill or suffer the consequences, up to and including the loss of our property. We can pay this bill in any way we choose. We can write a check, buy a stamp, and mail it in.  We can pay it online. OR, if we choose, we can raid our children's trust fund, rent a fleet of limos, engage the Coliseum for a sit down catered dinner, and invite 100 of our closest friends to join us for a real event before we all ride down to Moncks Corner and pay in person. It is all a matter of degree and common sense.

Other counties are complying with the SWMP regulations with creative, inexpensive, in-house solutions. They have not created a new government entity. They have not hired more county employees and expanded government. The have not imposed a new fee on the taxpayers. In short, they have found innovative ways to solve the problem without spending a boatload of somebody else's money.

In conclusion, we would hope that everyone realizes that this issue is NOT personal. This is a political issue to which we envision a political resolution. The possibility exists, if everyone will but take advantage of it.




Monday, August 4, 2014

SWMP: FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH

Just when you think you have listened to all there is to hear about the Storm Water Management Program, you find yet another source of stupidity. Since the last post on this issue, we took the time to watch the video on You Tube of the July 14th Council meeting where all the "experts" gave presentations on the Program. Listening to some people defend this Program, knowing the facts as we do, has been annoying enough but, listening to the "experts" confirm our position with no impression of reality made on Council, causes one's head to explode. We urge you to watch the video of the meeting after you read this post.

At this July 14th meeting, several "experts" made presentations trying to justify the new SWMP fee. Jill Stewart, Ann Clark, Frank Carson, and Clint Busby spoke. Members of Council asked questions. At the end of the meeting, the picture was very clear.

TO THE RATIONAL MIND THE STORM WATER MANAGEMENT PROGRAM FEE IS UNNECESSARY.

Question from Council:
Over the last five years that the SWMP has been in place, has there been any measurable improvement in water quality?

Answer:  NO

Question from Council:
Historically, have most of the tasks required under the new Permit been performed by various departments of BC government?

Answer:  YES

Question from Council:
Being as the further expansion of the Program as outlined by you will not require additional funding during this fiscal year, why are you asking that the fee be added to this year's tax bill?

Answer: -----------------crickets.

Question from Council:
According to your statements, the origins of the existing pollutants in our waterways initiate from natural causes. Do you have a plan that will improve this situation?

Answer:  NO

This meeting was surreal. The "experts" made no attempt to deceive the members of Council in any way. They came right out and told the complete truth about this Program. They proceeded from one outrageous statement to the next. They made statements and outlined plans that wouldn't have fooled a five year old child.  Still, some Councilmen sat there and didn't disagree with any of the proposals.

Example: The "experts" stated that the main impacts on water quality are the presence of fecal matter, fertilizer and depleted oxygen levels. They went on to say the source of the fertilizer contamination is farm land which is exempt from the SWMP. The reason for the depleted oxygen levels is the fact that leaves from trees and plants fall into the water and rot. The source of the fecal matter, 99.9999% of the time, is wildlife. When asked if anything could be done about any of these situations, they all said, "NO". One of the Columbia "experts" even told Council about another county that spent over $8 million over five years and only improved their numbers by 2%, which could have reflected a normal variation in samples. All these "experts" agreed there is not enough evidence of improvement to justify the regulations.

Example: The "experts" from BC confirmed that most of the tasks required under the Permit have been previously performed by existing employees. So this is the result of the Program. They have created a whole new UTILITY and are going to hire a whole new group of employees to perform work that has always been performed by BC employees, already on the payroll. If tasks included in the job descriptions of existing employees are going to be transferred to new employees hired by the new UTILITY, are the existing employees who have been doing these tasks going to be dismissed being as someone else will be doing their jobs? NO.

Example: The BC "experts" explained that the training of new inspectors and staff would be a sizable expense. The existing personnel are already trained. They listed all the reports, plans, and manuals that will, also, cost extra money. The construction reports are already being generated. The SWMP requires a manual that is constantly updated and a "Plan" for what we are already doing.

Example: According to the BC "experts", they have over 150 applications on file for qualifying construction projects this year. BC charges $4000 to review each of these plans. BC charges $400 for each of the necessary monthly inspections of these projects. If each of these projects are completed in 4 months, which is an unreasonably short completion estimate, BC would receive $840,000 in fees this year. On top of that, BC will now be receiving $1.4 million in SWMP fees from the taxpayers.

Example: The main reason given for the existence of the SWMP is to monitor water quality. So, BC has entrusted the physical activity of gathering the samples to the hands of a private contractor (extra expense)not BC employees being paid by the SWMP fee.

Example: The new Permit "recommends" a Utility. It "recommends" aerial photos. It "recommends" maintaining a map of outflows. Peppered throughout the permit is the word "recommend". It is unfortunate that BC government, along with certain members of Council, doesn't know the difference between the word "recommend" and the word "mandate".

At the conclusion of this meeting, this is what we know:

We have been tasked to correct a problem that has no solution.
We are hiring new people to do the work already being done by existing employees.
We are expanding government for no justifiable reason.
We are creating a new "Plan" every year for work we are already doing.
We are paying extra money to train new workers to do work for which we already have trained and experienced employees on the payroll.
90% of the requirements of the new SWMP Permit are administrative activities.

To make a long story short, some of our Conservative County Council members have voted to take an additional $1.4 MILLION from the land owners of the unincorporated areas of BC to hire and train new people to man a new Utility, to do work that we already have employees trained to do in order to attempt to solve a problem that has no solution. Other than that, they're doing a bang up job.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

AN EDUCATION TAKES TIME

Before you begin this crash course on your new Storm Water Management Program Fee, take our advice, get yourself a cup of coffee, (better yet, a tall, cool, adult beverage) sit back, and get comfortable because this will be the most involved post we have ever done. Considering how convoluted this issue is, it is necessary that you be provided with  information sufficient for you to draw an intelligent conclusion.

At the July 28, 2014 County Council meeting, an Ordinance was passes by a 5/3 vote to implement a new SWMP fee. Voting for the new fee was Tim Callanan, Ken Gunn, Cathy Davis, Phillip Farley, and Jack Schurlknight. Voting against the new fee was Dennis Fish, Steve Davis, and Cauldwell Pinckney. On your real property tax bill, if you live in the unincorporated areas, you will see a charge of $36 this year, $42 next year, and $48 the following year. After that, the Ordinance says Council will determine the amount of the fee.

On the new SWMP Permit, incorporated areas such as Moncks Corner, Goose Creek, and Hanahan were included in the mandate. However, Moncks Corner paid $2000 for a lawyer to go to DEHEC in Columbia and have themselves deemed exempt from the Permit. Being as it was as simple as that, surely, Goose Creek and Hanahan will follow suit. The unincorporated areas have no such ability to seek exemption.

First, we will provide a bit of history on the SWMP.  It is amazing how the story has changed over the last three years. We will include pertinent excerpts from previous posts on the subject.

Posted July 19, 2011:
To begin with, the name is a bit misleading. One would think this program has something to do with "storm water". It doesn't. This new County agency has been designated with the responsibility of monitoring water quality in the rivers and streams of Berkeley County. This designation came in the form of a mandate from DEHEC which, in turn, was mandated by the EPA. Not all Counties in all states are bound by this mandate. The Feds decided to pick and choose who will have to comply and who gets to skate. Unfortunately for us, Berkeley County drew one of the short straws.

When we learned of this new program, we, and a small group of other concerned citizens, arranged a meeting with Mr. Frank Carson. Mr. Carson is heading up the new program and he very kindly agreed to meet with us to answer our questions and address our concerns. The meeting was held this afternoon. We did get answers to all our questions but we did not have our concerns diminished. If anything, our concerns were only exacerbated.

The documents outlining this mandate are something to behold. When one searches for the goals of the program, one finds the text lacking in particulars. There are vague generalities and an inordinate quantity of bureaucratic gobbledygook. The scariest parts are the sections which list the provisions that must be included in the Berkeley County Ordinance covering this program. We will list the provisions of greatest concern and the explanations we received from the meeting.

ORDINANCE: The County MUST include an article that SWMP agents have the right to enter any private property at any time they choose.

EXPLANATION: Agents will only enter private property AFTER the owner has received notice of same. (this is NOT the wording of the Permit)

ORDINANCE: In Berkeley County, property owners and users should finance the Storm Water Management system to the extent they contribute to the need for the system and benefit from the system, and charges therefore should bear a reasonable relationship to the cost of the service, and every effort should be made to fairly spread the cost of the system to all property owners and users.

EXPLANATION: Not all property owners contribute to the "problem" (the "problem" could not be defined in the first place) and no one could indicate any benefit that anyone attending the meeting would derive from the "system". We trust that's clear as mud.

LIST OF ILLICIT DISCHARGES: Laundry Wastewaters/grey water, Radiator flushing disposal, Carpet cleaning wastewater, Spills from roadway accidents, and EFFLUENTS FROM SEPTIC TANKS.

EXPLANATION: No one should worry about the septic system prohibition. This only means if the septic system is broken and the effluents are pouring out on the top of the ground or into a ditch. It has nothing to do with the effluents that go into the drain lines. (Again, that's NOT what the regulations say.)

The "interim" fees will be as follows:

Rental unit---------$18
Mobile Home------$18
House---------------$36
Church & School---$72
Businesses----------$105

We were unable to obtain a definite count on the actual number of these units in BC as the agency has yet to do a complete survey. These fees were "approximated" from a "sampling" resulting in an "estimate". NOTE: The $2.4 Million Hwy. 311 water line survey "estimated" that there would be 114 tap-ins when, in actuality, there turned out to be only 7.  
But we KNOW this government agency will be far more efficient.

One member of the group asked if the funds collected under this new fee would be used for any other purposes than those of the Storm Water Management Program.  We were assured that State statute mandates that the revenues collected by any utility be used only for that utility's activities. (You're probably thinking about the $10 Million that was "borrowed" from BCW&SA's Fund Balance, aren't you? Well, stop that.) We KNOW this utility would not let a thing like that happen to them.

At the end of the meeting we had learned quite a few things.

We learned that the Storm Water Management Program has little to nothing to do with storm water.
The new agency will not have to hire any new people.
The people who will be assuring that BC is in compliance with the mandate will be present employees already on the payroll.
The new agency will not require new housing.
The agency will be required to fill out an annual report to DEHEC on their activities.
The agency will be required to educate the public as to what a necessary job the agency is doing.
The most important job of the agency will be to sample the water in our rivers and streams to be sure it is in compliance with DEHEC standards.
The main contamination culprit these folks will be searching for in our waters is fecal matter.
All of these valuable services are only going to cost you $1.4 Million in the first year and a yet to be determined sum in the out years.

There were a few more things we learned that were extremely frustrating.

No one could tell us just exactly how any of our properties were contributing to what ever the problem is that this agency is supposed to solve.
No one could tell us just exactly what will be the benefit to us for paying this fee to support this agency.
No one would even discuss the possibility of these funds experiencing an unforeseen "inter-departmental transfer" to the BC General Fund.

So, here's the long and short of it, Taxpayers.

You're getting an agency:  
that you don't need; 
that you don't know what it's suppose to do; 
that you don't know what is the problem that it's suppose to solve; that completely obliterates your private property rights; 
and all this goodness will only cost you $1.4 Million in the first year.

Posted August 8, 2011
(During our investigation, we consulted with various agencies and officials. We were confused by the differing opinions.)  One spokesman for DEHEC located in Charleston is so confused. He actually thinks that this new Storm Water Management Program that Dan Davis wants to charge the Berkeley County taxpayers $1.4 MILLION to implement is really not a state issued mandate to Berkeley County. According to this misinformed state official, the only way for this DEHEC responsibility to be transferred to a County or municipality is for said County or municipality to request same. The "totally inaccurate" official account of the process is as follows:

1. The County or municipality applies to DEHEC for permission to take over this responsibility. (whatever that is)

2. DEHEC, after approval, issues a permit to the County or municipality.

3. The County or municipality pays $2000 to DEHEC for the permit.

4. DEHEC has no input or control over the County or municipal fees imposed.

As it seems the DEHEC office is much akin to those of the IRS and Social Security, answers to questions vary as to the person with whom you speak. Another "official" at DEHEC insists the Storm Water Management Program IS mandated by the State. So, we decided to go to the horse's mouth for a definitive answer. We referred to SC Statute. Here is the applicable quote:

72-300
"D. The Commission encourages the implementation of the Stormwater Management and Sediment Reduction Act on a watershed basis by local governments."
As to the financing of this program, we learned that the statute provides choices. BC can either institute a county wide annual fee, payable by every property owner in the unincorporated areas, or impose a one time fee to all new construction.
72-306
"A (1) If the delegated jurisdiction has a source of funding that is provided through local revenues, then the implementation of the delegated component will not necessitate the imposition of a permit fee to cover the cost of the delegated program component."

"(2) In the event that one component of an overall stormwater management and sediment control program is not funded through the use of general or special fundsa non-refundable permit fee may be collected at the time that the stormwater management and sediment control plan or application for waiver or variance is submitted or approved.The permit fee will provide for the unfunded costs of plan review, administration and management of the permitting office, construction review, maintenance inspection, and education and training."
This seems pretty simple. The County can opt to either charge a fee to the entities who are actually causing the proposed "damage" to the environment or they can just charge everybody. You might be asking,"Why in the world would the County want to charge everybody?" That wouldn't make much sense now would it? Well, think again. There is one more little insignificant part of the statute.
72-306
"B. Where the Commission is the implementing agency, the Commission may assess a fee not to exceed $100.00 per disturbed acre up to a maximum of $2000.00. No fee will be charged for land disturbing activities which disturb two acres or less. A fee of $100.00 will be charged for permit modifications."

Well, looky there. When the responsibility for this "program" is transferred from the Commission (State) to the County, the same Rules and one time fee limits would apply. If the County decides to pick the "one time fee" to contractors, they would be boxed into a limited revenue situation. When there is a $2000 limit on individual fees, exactly how many new construction projects would we have to secure in one year to match the proposed overall countywide fee total of $1.4 MILLION? 
Then, another question as to who should be paying for this boondoggle comes to mind. The SC Statute seems to be pretty clear, to a non-lawyer that is.
72-310

"A. The financing of a storm water utility with a user charge system must be reasonable and equitable so that each user of the storm water system pays to the extent to which the user contributes to the need for the storm water system, and that the charges bear a substantial relationship to the cost of the service."
A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Frank Carson told a small group of concerned taxpayers that an "interim" annual fee was going to be imposed on all property owners in the unincorporated areas. (Later, in the Berkeley Independent, he indicated that this "interim" fee would be spent trying to determine what the "actual" annual fee will be.) It is our understanding that Mr. Carson indicated the fee would be based on the roof area of the buildings and the amount of paved area on the property. This combined figure would determine the impact on the environment and, therefore, the amount of the annual fee. When asked if the amount of undeveloped acreage surrounding the buildings would have any positive impact on reducing the fee he said, "NO".
When asked if the "Program" would require any new employees, facilities, or equipment, Mr. Carson said, "NO". (Having read the Rules and Regs, it is obvious that 95% of this "Program" is administrative and well within the abilities of existing employees.) HOWEVER, Mr. Carson delivered a presentation to Council last Monday night itemizing all the new expenditures that justify the taking of the $1.4 MILLION.
We need to remember that this "Program", with slight deviations, has existed in BC since 1993. Even as Mr. Carson was listing the extensive expenditures required for the upcoming years for this "Program", the Finance Department of BC government, at the same meeting, listed the past expenditures as being from $49,000 to $73,000 annually. And, these tasks were being performed by existing county employees within their job discriptions.These funds were comfortably provided by the general fund. The requirements of the "new" permit do not measurably deviate from those of the past so there is no way to justify the imposition of a $1.4 MILLION new tax burden on the property owners of BC.
One of the biggest arguments for this new "Program" is that surrounding Counties and municipalities already have it in place. To us, this is not a valid argument. If something is unfair and, simply put, WRONG, it doesn't matter if everyone is doing it. It's still WRONG.

Posted August 23, 2011:
Since our last post, we, and others, have done an immense amount of research and acquired a voluminous stack of documents on the new Storm Water Management Program fee. Today we would like to impart to the taxpayers of BC new and sometimes corrected information on the subject. So, fasten your seat belts because you're in for a bumpy ride. We will endeavor to include enough information for you to understand the issue without causing you to doze off from boredom. Believe us, most of the documents involved would not qualify for the best seller list.

First, despite the clumsy wording of the SC State Statute, the SWMP IS mandated by the State to, supposedly, assure that local governments adhere to the Clean Water Act. When you read the original Act, or the directives from SC DEHEC for that matter, you immediately notice how vague and nebulous the wording is. It's all Greeny "pie in the sky" prose. Wouldn't it be "lo-ver-ly". But, let's start at the beginning.

The ultimate goal of the Clean Water Act is to have "all waters of the US 'swimmable and fishable' ". Sounds good. But, when we get down to the fine print in the mandate from the Feds to the State and from the State to the local government, the particulars of the Rules and Requirements are quite murky. It reads like they're making it up as they go along, which they are. Many portions seem left to interpretation. Many portions are so convoluted with bureaucratic BS that they cause headaches.

The most important element is for us to get a full understanding of exactly how insidious this overall "Plan" really is. This plan is a clear example of the Feds' intrusion into State government and, following, the State's intrusion into local government. The plan encourages yet another expansion of an already bloated government system, providing a plausible excuse for local governments to increase taxes. It, also, provides an open door to the possibility, or probability, of the misappropriation of public funds. As we all know, at this time, we have no control over changing the base issue but we can address and, possible correct, the latter issues. So, let's get to these issues that concern us at the moment.

Under the SWMP, the counties and municipalities are, generally, required to reduce existing (and potential) pollution and flooding created from the runoff of storm water and to eliminate the possible dumping into the environment of hazardous substances by existing (and future) industry. Among the specific requirements are, but not limited to, overseeing construction projects to assure that drainage systems are adequate and properly installed; monitoring post construction to assure that these systems are working properly; assuring that these systems are maintained properly; testing water sources to assure waters meet EPA standards; educating the public as to the necessity for the "program"; and sending detailed reports to "the powers that be" on all such activities of the entity involved.

We will all agree that most of the goals itemized by the SWMP are not only laudable but necessary. There's only one hitch to organizing this "NEW" program. The counties and municipalities of SC ALREADY HAVE BUILDING CODES AND ZONING LAWS THAT ADDRESS ALL OF THE IMPORTANT ISSUES INVOLVED.Documents we obtained from SC DEHEC state this to be a fact. This leaves BC with two "administrative" projects to be completed in order to remain in compliance with the mandate; organizing some sort of effort to "educate the public" (brainwash the public) into accepting the necessity for this "new" program and compiling and sending in the "annual reports" to the Feds on every applicable element of our county business.

We are in possession of letters from Dan Davis to Ann Clark, DEHEC Columbia, and from Ms. Clark to Dan Davis, which firmly establish that BC is in complete compliance with the permit we have been operating under for the last 5 years. Also, BC has successfully obtained an extension of that permit which will protect the County from any fines until the new 5 year permit is complete. REPEAT: BC IS IN COMPLETE COMPLIANCE WITH THE MANDATE.

DEHEC recommends that the entity involved, county or municipality, should create a Storm Water Management Program "department". They recommend hiring people to staff this new department. They recommend passing an Ordinance that imposes a "fee" to finance this new department. Do we all recognize the "expansion of government and increase in taxes" referred to earlier? We, the taxpayers, are being told we "must" accept increased taxes (the fee) to support the organization of a new department to conduct business that, on the whole, is already being done by BC government employees.

From the facts established from the official documents on this subject, it is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the imposition of an additional fee to support the SWMP is unreasonable and unnecessary. Mr. Davis is being disingenuous when he insists otherwise but what's news worthy about that statement? Mr. Davis sees this situation as an opportunity to collect additional revenue under the guise of complying with a Federal mandate. 

In support of our contention that the whole "Plan" is a bit more than questionable, allow us to provide some direct quotes from an inner office document from DEHEC:

1. "Establish a "SWMP Manual which can be amended without having to go to Council".

2. "When you collect a bunch of data, know how you're going to use it".

3. "Zoning and building codes (already) include a lot of the components needed to comply with Stormwater management permit requirements".

4. "Develop joint workshop with neighboring MS4s to encourage consistency and cohesion".

5. "Be as "Green" as possible".

6. "It is important to have a good funding source so that you may have funds to hire the staff needed to fulfill program requirements".

7. "Be flexible to allow for change".

8. "....try new things then use what works and discard what doesn't".

9. " If you have a good working relationship with the entities around your MS4 area then cooperating on the permit will save you a lot of work and money". (Reduce the fee? NOT)

10. "An educated public is involved and generally wants to do the right thing".

11. "Don't be afraid to copy what other people have found successful. Take proven ordinances and tweak them to local needs".

12. Stats from Horry County: "Average annual fee of typical gas station= $250: annual fee of typical shopping mall= $10K". (If you will notice, BC has only made public the intended fee for small individual properties with buildings. There has been no mention of the intended fee for gas stations or shopping centers or fast food places. If the final annual fee for these properties is going to be based on the amount of impervious area involved on the properties, hang on to your wallets and get ready for a $10 Big Mac.)

It is common knowledge that we have a long history of being anti-Big Government. It is, also, true that Big Government entities are seldom as careless in divulging damaging information on themselves as is the case with EPA/SCDEHEC concerning this SWMP. Please ask yourselves: When you drive down I-26 and see the 70MPH speed limit, is that just a suggestion? Or is it a well defined LAW? Does the sign really mean that you can drive 90MPH if the 70MPH limit doesn't work for you? Are you allowed to "try something different"? If you buddy up with 10 additional cars and a few big rigs, is it then OK to drive 90MPH simply because "everybody's doing it"? 

Our analogy, admittedly, is a bunch of silliness but, upon review, so is the SWMP. If this program is on the level, wouldn't there be a set of established and well defined Rules? If the County has the responsibility of developing their own Rules, wouldn't there, at least be a set of Guidelines instead of telling the entity to "make it up as you go along"? And, why is the entity encouraged to develop a Manual that can be expanded or amended without the approval of Council?

The bottom line is simple:

1. The lion's share of the requirements of this "mandate" has historically been addressed by existing Berkeley County government departments.

2. In the new permit, the County has two additional requirements that must be met: brainwashing, sorry about that, educating the public into accepting the need for the "Program" and sending in a more detailed annual report to DEHEC.

3. The majority of the information needed for the annual report is readily available from County records. BCW and SA, Engineering, Code Enforcement, and Roads and Bridges address the majority of the issues involved. All that is required here is having the existing employees collate the collected information to the report form. Over the last 5 years of the old permit, compliance with the SWMP has, according to the Finance Department, cost the County between $43,000 and $73,000 annually. The only requirement of the new permit that has not been mentioned so far in this post is that BC government has to assure DEHEC that BC government, itself, is not violating any of the DEHEC Regulations already in place to prevent pollution.

4. Of the 6 "expanded" requirements of the new permit, only 1 has to be met by the end of the first year. For others, the County has 3 years to comply. All of these requirements are administrative.


We will be the first to admit that this SWMP is an imposition on BC government. It is intrusive, burdensome, and, quite frankly, a useless waste of time. It requires that unnecessarily redundant paperwork be done and it detracts County employees from other County business. BUT, for Mr. Davis to use this situation as an excuse to pad the County coffers is egregious. But, you have to admit that, on this occasion, Mr. Davis is being completely transparent. A fee (new tax) will be imposed on the taxpayers; salaries to certain existing employees will be paid with this new revenue; a dubious private contract situation will be developed (at inflated prices, of course)to perform work usually done by other employees; and then the newly created excess money can be funneled to his wasteful spending. This situation is beyond the perimeters of acceptable government behavior. Simply put, IT'S CROOKED AND CORRUPT.

Posted August 28, 2011:
The list of attempted justifications for a new SWMP FEE has proven to be as changeable as our low country weather. Each time one of the supporting statements made by one of the administration is proven untrue, these folks miraculously come up with yet another. One would think that embarrassment alone would deter any further changes in tack. Apparently not.

When this issue first reared its ugly head several weeks ago, our  first reaction was that "somebody's not telling us the truth". As the situation has developed, we are forced to consider an additional possibility, namely, many of the County employees tasked with getting this fee into place (come hell or high water) have not fully educated themselves as to the facts.

Early on, we called for a fact-finding meeting with the Engineering Department. Our group was given many "facts" at that time that, upon investigation, turned out to be erroneous.

ALLEGED: BC is in danger of being fined for non-compliance with the SWMP.

TRUTH: As it turns out, we are in full compliance as we are operating under an extension of the old permit while the new one is being finalized. (Letters Dan Davis/Ann Clark, DEHEC dated 1/4/11, 1/12/11. and 1/14/11)

ALLEGED: The list of requirements contained in the new permit is extensive.

TRUTH: According to documents from DEHEC, Columbia, there are exactly 6 new requirements included in the new permit. 2 concern public education and involvement, 3 concern activities already being addressed by departments of BC government under existing BC Ordinances , and 1 concerns assurance to DEHEC that BC government, itself, is following the Rules.

ALEGED: The new requirements will impose a new heavy workload on BC.

TRUTH: BC already has Ordinances in place which address almost all of the requirements of the SWMP. Please consult BC Codes ( not limited to) Chapter 11, Article III, Chapter 26- Division 4- 26-61, Chapter 47, and Chapter 59.

ALLEGED: The SWMP would not require any additional employees.

TRUTH: NOW, it is contended that the program will require an additional engineer.

ALLEGED: Many BC employees involved in this issue will require extensive new training.

TRUTH: Being as these employees are already overseeing most of the issues connected to the requirements of the SWMP under BC Ordinance, they have been receiving regular required training.

ALEGED: Any training needed is VERY expensive.

TRUTH: BC employees now receive any needed training from the SC Institute of Governments at USC at a cost of $90 a course of study.

ALLEGED: BC is required to compile special expensive ariel photograph maps to comply with the requirements.

TRUTH: Under IDDE, ".......and, if possible, GPS and photograph."

ALLEGED: Additional funds will be required to pay for the man-hours required for compliance.

TRUTH: SWMP requirements parallel existing BC Ordinances. Compliance is already part of the job descriptions of existing employees.

This issue contains so many elements that it is very easy to get your eye off the ball. We must all endeavor to avoid allowing the superfluous components to cloud the main point which is, the new fee is not necessary. BC has (existing) employees who are addressing the main issues of the SWMP at this time (as part of their job description).  The additional requirement is that BC sends an annual report of all the pertinent activities to DEHEC.

There is one additional fact that demands a mention. Under existing BC Ordinances, contractors must conform to an extensive list of requirements when they initiate a new project. Each step of this process requires a permit fee. The total sum of these fees is sizable. Also, following BC Ordinances, many of the fees cover elements included, in turn, in the SWMP. So, as we can clearly see, these elements of the SWMP impose no additional financial burden on BC government.

BC government has several Departments and Divisions of Departments that have historically addressed many of the issues involved with the SWMP: BCW&SA, Planning, Engineering, Flood Plans Review, Roads and Bridges, and Code Enforcement, to name a few. After reviewing official government documents and connecting the obvious dots, it is abundantly clear that Mr. Davis' ultimate plan is to transfer, from the General Fund and onto a new source of revenue, as much of the expense as possible that is involved in operating these Departments . Evidence that our conclusion is right on the mark is demonstrated in the administration's "Projected Cost Table". When the cost of the projected work is compared to the requirements of existing BC Ordinances, it is clear that these expenditures are being double billed or, at the very least, padded.

We would encourage everyone to attend the SWMP Workshop on Monday evening, 8/29/11, at 6PM at the Supervisor's conference room. Being as Mr. Davis is so committed to compliance with the DEHEC mandate and that 1/3 of the new permit requirements are devoted to Public Education and Input, we are certain he will welcome your questions and comments. Ya think?

Posted August 30, 2011:
In case you didn't make it to the BC Council "Special" meeting last Monday night, we thought we would give you an update. We won't bore you with a blow by blow; we'll give just the highlights in the form of a few exchanges.

1. Councilman Steve Davis pointed out (from the DEHEC Fact Sheet) that according to the new permit requirements, only 25% of the outfalls are required to be tested within the first 18 months. He pointed out that, "if you are only required to test 25% as opposed to 100%, that has to reflect a cost reduction right there". (An outfall is any place where water runs off of any area and into a 'receiving body of water'. It can range in size from a slue that drains your lawn to a 6 foot drainage pipe.)
Response. Weelll. You have to remember that the boundaries are that of the watersheds. (?)

2. Councilman Callanan: "I find this to be a complete waste of money Federal mandate. All I care about is that we meet the absolute bare minimum standards. I don't want an exceptional program. I just want to meet the standards. What does DEHEC look at (to determine) the standards?"
Answer: "Weelll, we haven't even mapped the outfalls yet. Say we test 25%. Then DEHEC goes out and tests and finds that an outfall is impaired. Guess what? We're non-compliant." (?)

3. Councilman Davis: "You already have folks from Roads and Bridges out there digging ditches, can't they dip out a water sample at the same time."
Answer: "No. There are ways of digging ditches and ways of taking water samples and they're not the same thing."

4. Councilman Davis: "How are you going to put a fee on the animals that are putting illicit discharges into the run-off?"
Answer: -------------------------------

5. Councilman Davis: "Is it not true, because of existing BC Ordinances, that BC employees already address most of the requirements of the SWMP?
Answer: "I don't know anything about that document you're looking at." (DEHEC Fact Sheet)

6. Mr. Callanan: (After a long explanation as to why the start-up requirements would need the $1.4 Million) "So, this program seems to be front loaded with expenses. After the first year which includes the start-up costs, we won't need the entire amount in the out years?"
Mr. Carson: "No, that's not what I'm saying. We'll need the entire amount for several years."

7. Statement of BC "Expert": "One big problem is that BC is causing pollution of the Cooper River."
Councilman Davis: "What kind of pollution are we talking about here?"
"Expert": "We won't know 'that' until we do the testing."
Mr. Davis: (in exasperation) "Then how do we know BC's doing it?"

8. After an hour and a half of this stupidity, Councilman Callanan said, "I've been sitting here thanking God we are holding this meeting in a one story building because I have a strong impulse to jump out of a window."

9. One member of the "presentation team" was a lawyer who was touted as being an expert on SWMP. She explained that the EPA had concluded that the majority of illicit discharge was generated by urban development. EPA, and in turn DEHEC, has imposed these requirements to encourage local governments to deter development that could negatively impact water quality . She stated emphatically that the program "didn't make any sense and may never work" because entities bound under a permit have no control over unmanaged or adjoining entities. "The fact is that it doesn't make any sense and it never will". Needless to say, this lady was unceremoniously cut off, never to be heard from again.

10. Mr. Schurlknight asked Mr. Carson to provide the itemized expenses for this program for the first "physical year".

At a later point in the conversation, Supervisor Davis let it slip that some of the funds generated "could be used for Capital Improvements" which may forward the goals of the SWMP. Ooopps.

FACTS LEARNED FROM THE MEETING:

1. The SWMP is basically unworkable, makes no sense, and probably never will work.

2. The main areas of concern in our bodies of water are dissolved oxygen deficiency and fecal chloroform. One of the main culprits in producing dissolved oxygen deficiency is the presence of natural vegetation. The main culprit in the fecal chloroform issue (99.9999% of the time) is the presence of wildlife in the area.

3. An "expert" contractor who stands to benefit a boatload of money from this program was a member of the "presentation team" tasked with convincing County Council that this mess is a great idea and necessary.

4. People who live in the non-regulated incorporated areas like Bonneau, Jamestown and St Stephens will not be subject to the new fee unless they agree to pay it. But, Mr. Carson suggested that Council may have some leverage with these areas by saying, "don't expect us to maintain your roads or drainage or something like that. There are ways to encourage (compliance)".

5. No matter how many intelligent arguments are put forward by County Council, Dan Davis is going to impose this new $1.4 MILLION tax, come hell or high water.

On the off chance that you are having difficulty understanding the new program, please allow us to clarify:

The EPA issued a NPDES through DEHEC to BC. As a result, BC has been designated to be a TMDL with SMS4s adjoining which requires BC to adopt a SWMP that uses BMP and BPJ. This is based on the CDP and will, conceivably, require the addition of a CEPSCI. The CFR, also, requires a COC. BC must send in an annual DMR complying with the ELG, issued by DEHEC. The proof of an ERP is, also, mandatory. In addition, BC must develop a LCP which must include an IDDE and a MCM to the MEP. In preparation, a NOI to request the MSGP is compulsory, and must include the PIS and the POC. The ultimate goal is for the WQS to remain within the WQBEL, complying with our WLA, by establishing WQMSs. The result is a TPOHS.

In July 2011, as a result of the confusion, the facts or the lack thereof, not to speak of the picket lines in front of the administration building and the negative media coverage, County Council voted 6/2 to reject the new Storm Water Management Program fee.

Now, fast forward to early in 2014 when the effort to implement a SWMP fee was resurrected by this administration. This time, however, there was a whole new set of claims made.

  • No longer would the cost of complying with the SWMP be between $45,000 and $70,000 a year. Now it would cost "around" $1.4 million annually the first year.
  • This increase in costs were due to the fact that the text of the new Permit had increased in thickness from 11/2 inches to 4 inches.
  • No longer would the county be able to comply with the SWMP Permit with existing employees. They now need 16 new ones.
  • No longer would the county be able to comply with the SWMP Permit without the establishment of a whole new "utility".
All these claims were made by BC government and the Council was convinced of the validity of these claims. Council had made up its mind and was determined to impose the fee. The fact that the head of DEHEC in Columbia told our group that the ONLY MAJOR CHANGE in the 2014 SWMP Permit was the fact that the water sampling requirements had been doubled seems to have made no difference in Councils opinions.  Oh wait, most of the Councilmen didn't know this as they wouldn't take the time to listen to us. Our group contacted several members of Council and attempted to apprise them of the actual facts of this situation. Only one member of Council, Dennis Fish, took the time to listen to the facts and, as a result, he voted AGAINST the fee.

FACT:  Supporting the Clean Water Act was the reason given for establishing the SWMP. According to the SWMP Permit, the main areas of concern in our bodies of water are twofold: (1) the presence of minute amounts of fecal chloroform and (2) dissolved oxygen deficiency. On its face, we agree that sounds pretty nasty and needs to be addressed. BUT, when you go a bit further, the picture changes. The main culprit in producing dissolved oxygen deficiency is the presence of natural vegetation. The main culprit in fecal chloroform issue (99.9999% of the time) is the presence of wildlife.
Yes Sir,  our squirrels, possums, foxes, raccoons, deer, birds, turtles, frogs, fish, and, lest we forget, the infamous Black Bears are, indeed, pooping in our woods and waterways. AND, this place is totally covered with plants and trees of all sorts dropping their leaves indiscriminately.

QUESTIONS: Alright, Councilmen, the causes of these problems have been clearly and officially identified. Now, how do you propose to solve them?  Are you going to use this $1.4 million to clear cut all the vegetation? That's the only way to solve the dissolved oxygen deficiency. Are you going to use this $1.4 million to potty train, diaper, or kill all the wildlife? These would be the only solutions to the wildlife pooping in our waterways.

FACT: Nearly 1/3 of the "Recommendations" in the SWMP Permit concern issues of education of and input from taxpayers. As a matter of fact, these recommendations appear first in the list.

QUESTION: Councilmen, if all the provisions in this Permit are so vital and must be adhered to at any cost to the taxpayer, why did you not schedule meetings to obtain input from the public BEFORE you voted to implement this new tax?

FACT: Council has approved almost $500,000 so far in consulting fees for people to suggest ways to implement this program.

QUESTION: Councilmen, do you have no problem with the fact that the consultant to which we paid, in part, this exorbitant fee has been hired to fill the position that HE determined to be mandatory to the success of the program?

FACTS:  Various departments of BC government, under Ordinance, have been performing the lion's share of the requirements of this Permit since the 1990s. The tasks performed were part of their job descriptions. We were paying their salaries as part of the budgets of these departments. Now these tasks have been transferred to the new utility to be performed by new hires.

QUESTIONS: Councilmen, how many of you have actually seen a spread sheet containing an accounting of the man hours previously devoted to the requirements of the Permit that are also covered under existing Ordinances? How many of you have seen a simple list of the actual activities required under this Permit? How can you justify this expansion of government and still call yourselves "Conservative"?

FACT: At one time or another, several members of Council have promoted this Program by saying it has been adopted by numerous other counties.

QUESTION: Councilmen, do you really think using the fact that other counties have been hoodwinked into this scam (and now regret it) will past the smell test with the taxpayers of BC?

FACT: On numerous occasions, more than one member of Council who voted for this fee have taken to the bully pulpit to encourage the voters to support one or another "Conservative" cause or candidate.

QUESTION: Councilmen, after this vote, how successful do you think you will be with the voters who know the facts of this situation the next time you make a request?

Rest assured, we didn't mention every area of mis-information concerning this SWMP. We only attempted to hit the high spots. Even we can tire of an issue.

Finally, allow us to make one thing perfectly clear. We do not fault the members of Council that they voted as they did possessing only the information given to them by this administration. If our information was equally restricted, we probably would have done the same thing. Where we do find fault is in the fact that they flatly refused to take advantage of the opportunity offered to them to learn the actual facts. To us, failing to access the results of months of investigation by supposedly trusted constituents, indicates nothing short of negligence. On at least one occasion, all of us have heard a Councilman say he "doesn't have time to research every issue". Well, we took OUR valuable time to research this one. How's that working for us?