Irmo seeks more animal control

By Al Dozier

Irrmo needs to take better care of the town’s cats and dogs.

That’s the recommendation of Councilman Erik Sickinger who worries that county jurisdictions are not handling the problem.

“We have a lot of lost animals,” he said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “We have a problem with the way counties handle animal control.”

He said some citizens are afraid to walk their neighborhoods because of aggressive wild dogs.

Most towns leave it up to the county to handle animal control, but some cities take it on themselves, such as West Columbia.

Sickinger said Irmo could adopt higher standards and hopefully have a quicker response time to animal problems. The town would likely have to have a full-time position in animal control and seek available funding for the office.

Other council members were in agreement, and asked town officials to review the West Columbia ordinance to see if a similar policy would work in Irmo.

In other action at the September 5 meeting the council received an update on the upcoming Okra Strut Festival from Commission Chairman Mike Ward.

“We are rocking and rolling,” said Ward, who is anticipating a ‘great event’ September 29-30 at the Community Park of Irmo. The festival features a parade, live entertainment, food (especially okra) and a lot of outdoor activities.

Ward pointed out this year’s event is the 49th, not the 50th. While it originally started 50 years ago, the 2020 event was cancelled because of COVID problems.

Ward is anticipating changes for next year’s event to celebrate the 50-year anniversary. He is recommending a one-day (Saturday) event that will combine a lot of events on the same day and help pay for the biggest celebration ever.

The festival will seek top entertainers for upcoming events. The prospects mentioned during the discussion included Martina McBride and Darius Rucker.

The council received a report on “State House priorities” from Steven Fooshe of Fooshe & Associates, a company that specializes in lobbying practices.

Fooshe advised the council to stay informed on the various state grants that are available to municipalities throughout the state. He urged the council to work with Rep. Nathan Ballentine, who represents Lexington and Richland counties and is knowledgeable about grants.

Fooshe said Irmo should focus on capital projects and economic development when considering legislative priorities. The town could seek state assistance funds for the new town hall.

He said the town should steer clear of controversial issues, such as abortion rights.

The council also received an update on plans for a First Responders Memorial site in Irmo.

A committee was formed to consider the site after Irmo firefighter James Muller died fighting a 3-alarm fire in Columbia in May.

The site will be located at 1230 Columbia Avenue. The town will begin soliciting bids for the project this week.

The council also held a discussion about safety issues in the Harbison Gardens Apartment Complex, which has been a continuing concern for the past two years.

The town has been communicating with the Harbsion Gardens management company and recently received a letter from an attorney outlining measures now under way to make the area safer.

Owners have adopted a new code of conduct for residents to follow. Night police patrols are also monitoring activities throughout the area.

“It’s the beginning of something positive,” Mayor Barry Walker Sr. said.