June 19, 2012

Department of Natural Resources

JUNE 12, 2012:  Alvin Taylor, Director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources was our speaker. He started his presentation with praise for Chaplain Bob Dewey for all that he does when families face a crisis that falls under the jurisdiction of DNR.

Historically the “department” was started 100 years ago by a group of law enforcement officers and it grew in stages: Law enforcement with respect to game and fishing; Management of wild life; Overseeing the operation of boating in the state; Adding a marine resources division to including fishing on the ocean areas; Finally becoming the DNR.

THE MISSION of the DNR is to protect the natural resources of the state for the enjoyment of the people and preserve those resources for future generations. Currently the department employees 900 persons. The state’s natural resources provide a wilderness solace for people, who otherwise are a part of a busy society, to “get away from it all”. Among the things people most enjoy are fishing, hunting, boating and hiking and these pursuits are the recreation activities in which most people want to participate. As such, this recreation has a huge economic impact on the state to the tune of 30 billion dollars per year.

The marine center at Fort Johnson is involved in many oceanic studies including oyster farming and the establishment of a GPS system to enable boaters and fisherman alike to retain to a precise spot day after day. They also study the effect on marine left felt by vanishing species.

The most important element in the entire DNR program is WATER. He cited the problems currently taking place in Georgia as attempts are made to provide a sufficient amount of water for the Atlanta Metropolitan area. The future of the nation is greatly dependent upon water availability and currently South Carolina is a leader in abundant water. The use of boating in our state is number 8 in the nation. Therefore, the DNR is heavily involved in boating safety and the control of alcohol usage by boaters. There are currently 450,000 registered boats in the state with engines.

Fishing is a sport that anyone can learn and participate in, even without the ownership of a boat. Therefore, the DNR is heavily involved in teaching persons about fishing, just as they teach about the sport of hunting. The DNR today is a far cry from being a “Game Warden”.

Submitted by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

June 11, 2012

Mayor Swails on Mount Pleasant

JUNE 5, 2012  -- Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails reported today to Rotarians that his town was working together to get things done.

Mayor since 2009, Swails said town council has adopted 296 ordinances since his election. Among some highlights, the town:

* Adopted the Palmetto tree as the city’s official tree.
* Adjusted an ordinance to allow horse figurines to be in front of P.F. Chang’s restaurant. “It was against the ordinance to have them out there.”
* Changed an ordinance to allow win drive-through lanes as the Chick-Fil-A in a shopping center off Highway 17.
* Updated an ordinance to allow food trucks to operate in Mount Pleasant.
* Revised an ordinance to allow “big box” stores to locate on less than 50 acres.

But the last change had consequences, Swails said. Despite the fact that Mount Pleasant attracted Costco, Home Depot and Dick’s Sporting Goods to build across from Town Centre on less than 50 acres of land, the town discovered through an apartment developer that there was a second ordinance with a 50-acre big-box store requirement that officials did not properly amend to lower the acreage requirement for development.

As a result, council became ensnared in a controversy about repealing restrictions to allow the stores to be built as a retail development. Last month, members narrowly voted to repeal the restrictions, but the fate of the development is unclear. Swails lamented the process saying that the stores would bring 700 jobs, compared to just two jobs if the land becomes home to an apartment complex.

Swails also told members that a new roundabout on Highway 17 would function well, despite grumbling from naysayers. Work on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard is expected to be finished by the end of the year, with more highway work on Highway 17 North to be done in the spring of 2013.

Toward the end of his talk, Swails joked about Facebook and Twitter: “Any mayor in the world would want both of those things gone,” later adding that he hadn’t checked his Facebook account since 2009.

Swails also told Rotarians that there were “a lot of exciting things” soon to happen at Patriots Point, but it was premature to discuss them.

Submitted by Andy Brack, Keyway Committee
The New Face of CARTA

May 29, 2012: Today, we had the pleasure of hearing from Elliott Summey of CARTA (Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority); he covered the challenges and highlighted the opportunities in the organization, and spoke to the benefits of mass transit in our community.

CARTA has been is existence since 1995 and operates the only bus service in the city of Charleston and the DASH shuttle service on the peninsula. Summey said as a third generation County Councilman he attempts to operate government like he would the family owned business, maximizing income and managing expenses. The Councilman shared that the primary challenge for CARTA is that the funding mechanism has been chronically broken; he elaborated saying that mass transit is always expensive and does not make money, similar to garbage pick up or recycling, but said the key is “getting the most bang for our buck”. Summey is actively closing lightly utilized routes and redistributing those resources to areas where “we are leaving people on the street”.

Summey reminded the group that all Charleston tax payers are paying for CARTA whether they ride the bus or not, and he explained that as the economy has taken a down turn and gas prices continue to rise more and more people are looking for mass transit. As a community leader, Mr. Summey reiterated that “we have to get serious about our transportation issue. He said: 526 is as wide as it can get and successful mass transit is a serious quality of life component; every major city must provide mass transit options”.

The speaker went on to briefly discuss the working five year plan for CARTA, the number one goal being “get out of debt”. The organization currently has approximately $5,000,000 in debt and the method of retiring it will depend somewhat on state and federal funding. Additionally, CARTA has launched a new cutting edge website allowing riders to go online and plug in destinations and locate the most efficient route. Summey is focused on “Smart Drivers, monitoring fuel efficiency, timeliness, and safety”, he has also upgraded to a paperless management system that allows dispatch to tell a driver the most efficient route to a pick up. It seems that the improvements are beneficial as he reported that year to date ridership is up over 12%, and they are on target to carry over five million customers this year (4.5 million in 2011).

Summey closed by saying that he believes in CARTA, if we make it friendly, clean and efficient, the people will ride!”

Submitted by Elizabeth Burwell , Editor


May 22, 2012:  The Historic Rotary Club of Charleston hosted its annual awards ceremony recognizing four Rotary High School Service Above Self Scholars (seniors) and the 2012 Charleston County Teacher of the Year and Honor Roll Teachers. The student honorees are selected based on the nominations that spotlight their top quality work in academics, athletics and community service. In the spirit of the awards, "excellence begets excellence" said award committee chair Jeremy Cook. The teacher is selected based on distinct commitment to the advancement of education in our community and a clear dedication that is in line with the club's mission, "Service Above Self."  These awards are supported by the added generosity of contributions by The Coastal Community Foundation.

This year's high school seniors receiving the Rotary Scholarship Awards will enter North Carolina State University, Washington and Lee, and University of Richmond.

Submitted by Mark Danes, Keyway Committee