Finalizing city hall plans, helping the homeless, mitigating flooding and partnering with local universities rank among the top priorities for Conway leaders this budget season.
Conway City Council outlined its priorities during a workshop this afternoon, to prepare for their upcoming budget retreat.
Councilman Alex Hyman said he wants to hear from experts about the best ways to deal with flash flooding.
“We don’t have control over the Waccamaw, but we do over our own stormwater,” Hyman said.
He also said he’s excited to see some new signage on deck for the city.
“I hope to see us continue on that vein, and really create an atmosphere we can all be proud of,” he said.
Councilwoman Jean Timbes brought up the hot topic of a future city hall, and she said merchants need that building to be in the downtown area.
“I want to settle this issue of where city hall is going to be once and for all,” she said. “If it’s further from downtown, the merchants and downtown will suffer. If we do a city hall, the council needs to be solidly behind it. If we aren’t positive and sold on the whole idea, who will be?”
Councilman Larry White said moving city hall a bit further out of downtown to the old A&P location would have the opposite effect.
“It’s the same with the police department," he said. "When they moved, it has not killed the city. If we moved to the old A&P site it will enhance that area as well.”
White said the council needs to consider these items because he doesn’t want to send mixed messages about what the city hall plans are.
Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy agreed that fundamental decisions need to be made about city hall and financing sources need to be identified.
“Our 84-year-old structure is literally crumbling,” she said, noting that the state of the building is impacting customer service and efficiency.
While she acknowledged how expensive the building will be, she noted that if the council waits four years, it’s going to add 20% to the cost.
City administrator Adam Emrick confirmed that funding for the city hall project will be discussed at their budget retreat.
The topic of homelessness was also on White’s list of concerns. He said it is a challenge for Conway.
He recently saw something in the news about someone who had a mobile shower facility that could be moved to different areas in the community for those without those capabilities to be able to get clean.
White also loves the idea of tiny houses.
“The city has property it’s not doing anything with,” White said, saying he might even “put up his own little piece of property” to give the tiny house concept a try.
He said it would possibly help the population of people who are just getting back into society after incarceration, or those who just aged out of the foster care program and need a “safe haven” type of residence as a stepping stone on their way to independence.
He said even if the city doesn’t directly take part in such an initiative, he’d like to look for collaborations with other agencies that may need funding for this type of project.
Cleaning up the entrances to the city, having another gun buyback program, and coming up with a solution with the Smith Jones Community to allow the city to help develop its park were some other items on White’s list.
“The kids are the ones being denied,” White said of the Smith Jones concern.
With recent news of the collaboration between Coastal Carolina University and the City of Myrtle Beach regarding a downtown Myrtle Beach charter school, White said he would love to get the university to put some educational facilities in downtown Conway.
“Conway is their hometown,” White said.
Blain-Bellamy wants to be sure the city keeps up with maintenance on infrastructure. Establishing a fund for updating pipes and other infrastructure might not be a bad idea, she said.
This also goes for continuing to work on the best way to minimize the impacts of flooding, she said, and mentioned that maybe there should be a “separate and distinct” flooding commission formed.
“This issue is not over. It’s going to continue to daunt us,” Blain-Bellamy said.
The mayor also wants to be sure the city focuses on employee salaries. She said the city has done a good job keeping up with other municipalities in terms of compensation, but she noted that it's important to “take good care of the people that work with you.”
Other topics on the mayor’s list for budget discussions included determining the future of cemeteries in the area. She said Lakeside and Rose Hill cemeteries are almost at capacity.
At the top of Blain-Bellamy’s list is making sure the city keeps offering recreational programs for youth or even adding programs.
“We don’t offer anything that speaks to growing children … into responsible citizens,” she said. “We want to give kids a chance to succeed.”
Blain-Bellamy looks forward to tackling the items on the council's list.
“All of these considerations are important for the public to know,” she said. “I hope we make the kinds of decisions that serve them well.”