By Al Dozier
The Irmo Town Council Tuesday approved the installation of several traffic cameras along busy streets throughout the town in an effort to deter increasing crime problems.
The action was applauded by a large number of community members from the Carmel Commons, Beacon Hill and Harbison area who have been complaining about burglaries, shootings and other crime problems.
“We need cameras, protection, a 911 system that works,” said one resident. “There was more gunfire last night.”
The council decided not to take a lot of time debating the issue, but to take immediate action.
“Protect our citizens: this is our number one priority,” said Councilman Bill Danielson.
The planned surveillance system will include six facial recognition cameras and six license plate readers.
The cost is projected at $40,000.
Town Administrator Courtney Dennis said installation of the high-tech cameras would take a while. Some cameras would have to be placed on poles in residential neighborhoods.
Similar systems are used in municipalities throughout South Carolina and the nation. Studies have shown they can reduce crime with an identification system that can quickly lead law enforcement to lawbreakers.
The planned system is just the beginning.
Mayor Barry Walker said cameras are also needed around the walking trails in the Harbison area which provide access to residential areas.
Walker also said Irmo needs more help from the city of Columbia, which draws people to the Irmo area with all of its retail outlets. He said Columbia has “shot spotters” that can identify gunfire locations. He said the Harbison Community organizations also need to provide more support.
In other action, the council gave approval to a grant totaling $52,500 to the Universal Community Improvement Organization, which sponsors an assistance program designed to help young people in need in the Irmo community. The organization was seeking a $200,000 grant, but council members said the town could not afford to continue large grants for the program. The town previously approved a $100,000 grant for the program.
The assistance grant, proposed by Councilman Erik Sickinger, provides a $15,000 lump sum grant and $37,500 for 15 scholarships.
In other action the council approved a contract to Grace Construction Group in the amount of $306,625 at the Rawls Creek Park for the construction of a bathroom, install a sign and refurbish the electrical shed.
The council gave second and final reading to an ordinance to adopt a service agreement with the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC). The agreement allows MASC to collect local revenues on the behalf of the town.
The council also gave final reading to an ordinance that would remove the word “leaves” from the language of an ordinance on unsightly conditions. The change would simply be a clarification, according to Councilman Sickinger.
In a special presentation, the council recognized Jake Moore, the town attorney for decades, with a “key to the town.”
“He taught me a lot about politics,” Walker said.
Throughout his tenure on council, Walker said Moore was very important to the town in his advice about legal issues.
Moore expressed thanks for the key and admiration for the town of Irmo. He said he recently drove through New Friarsgate and the passed by the Community Park and was very impressed.
“I know the town is in good care,” he said.
The council recognized Burn Boot Camp as Irmo’s Small Business of the Month for April.
During the Communications Connections recognition, the upcoming Irmo International Festival was recognized. The event will be held April 30 at the Community Park of Irmo and will feature stage entertainment, international food, art and 100 food vendors. Irmo’s Got Talent has been rescheduled for April 22 from 2 to 6 p.m. in the Community Park.
During the administrative briefing the council was advised that Richland County will hold an information meeting April 27 at Dutch Fork High School on the widening of Broad River Road.
New businesses recognized during the meeting were: 3 On the Tree Garage, 10235 Broad River Road; Barbara Kelly LLC, 7425 College St. #101; Charles Schwab, 952 Lake Murray Blvd.; Decision Dynamics, 1 Wellness Blvd; Dessert Before Dinner, 218 Ashbourne Road: Sophies Landscaping, 1319 Fork Ave.; South Pointe Commercial building Maintenance, 424 N. Royal Tower Road; The Auto Club Group, 929 Lake Murray Blvd.; Thrifty Treasures, 7500 Woodrow St.; SN Nails, 700 Columbiana Drive; Tri-County Home Health Care, 2 Palmetto Wood Park, #201.