Irmo approves electronic meetings

By Al Dozier

Despite strong opposition from Mayor Barry Walker, The Irmo Town Council Tuesday approved a measure that will allow council members to attend council meetings electronically.

The measure was approved after Councilwoman Barbara Waldman added restrictions to the ordinance that would assure remote participation would include the same rules as regular attendance.

Remote participation allows council members to attend a meeting electronically when they can’t be present at the town hall because of emergency circumstances.

Walker said the council already has a policy in place in which a council can cancel a meeting if a member has an emergency situation and is unable to attend. He said the council should not provide elected members the opportunity to sit at home and have a drink instead of attending a council meeting.

During the citizen input session at the beginning of the meeting, former Councilman Harvey Hoots said throughout his terms of service the council made sure citizens had an opportunity to speak before an item is submitted for vote. He said council members should not be allowed to vote electronically without hearing their comments.

But Councilman Erik Sickinger said council members would only use remote participation in emergency situations, such as work-related requirements or medical emergencies. He said council members regularly attend the 12 meetings a year.

Other council members also voiced support for remote participation, which is a common policy among elected governments throughout the nation. Walker cast the only vote against the measure.

In other action, the council gave second and final reading to ordinances that formally designate allocations for funding through the Coronavirus State and Local Recovery funds. The measures will redirect funds from the former Downtown District Project to the Town’s general fund.

The council also gave final reading to an ordinance that establishes a master fee scheduled to be posted by the town to enable residents to see all of the fee rates on services provided by the town.

The council gave final reading to another ordinance that will require new car wash facilities located in the town to obtain special exceptions from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The measure will provide more oversite on locations of new businesses.

Another ordinance that received the final reading will require a similar oversight of businesses seeking mini-warehouses and self-storage units in the Light Manufacturing Districts.

The council gave first reading approval to a Comprehensive Plan for the Town of Irmo that will finalize a 5-year review with updates to the existing plan. The review comes in preparation for the final 10-year plan, which will set forth a new plan for future growth. The town will be hiring a consultant to help develop the plan.

The council gave first reading approval to an ordinance updating the town’s Business License Rate Class Scheduled, as recommended by state law.

The council approved a resolution to ratify budget amendments for the current Fiscal Year totaling $606,177.

The council appointed three of its members with the opportunity to participate in Central Midlands Council of Governments events. Mayor Walker, Councilman Sickinger and Councilman Bill Danielson will be eligible to attend the events.

The council held a brief discussion on citizens “hiring goats” to trim vegetation on their property. The council was informed that there is an area business that rents goats for that purpose.

The council agreed to consider the legal issues involved and to discuss the issue at the next work session.

During the citizen presentation period, the council heard a complaint about the appearance of the Friarsgate entrance sign. The sign is often unlighted and hardly visible, a citizen said.

The council also heard a complaint about the location of a dumpster in a church parking lot.

Jackie’s Tailoring & Alterations, a business that has been in Irmo for 40 years, was recognized as Irmo’s Small Business of the Month.

The following new in-town businesses were recognized: Balmer & Associations, Inc., 7001 St. Andrews Road; Gennea Healthcare Solutions, 7801 St. Andrews Road; Healing Kneads, 7520 Irmo Drive: Lawyer Lisa LLC., 7511 St. Andrews Road; VaKaye Massage, 7522 Irmo Drive.

Upcoming events outlined during the Community Connections report include the Back-to-School Bash, July 29; Irmo Strong Community Back-to-School Kick-Off, Aug. 1; National Night Out, Aug. 1. The Okra Strut, Sept. 29-30.