Public allowed chance to weigh in on Riley's tax hike

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A town hall meeting will be held Thursday to allow the public to weigh in on a proposed $4 million property tax hike for the City of Charleston, which the mayor says will be used to help keep you and your family safe.

Mayor Joe Riley says the housing recession is over in Charleston and the West Ashley area in particular is growing quickly. However, the rapid growth also raises some safety concerns.

Construction of multi-story homes like these along Bees Ferry Road are booming in West Ashley, and while, a promising sign of growth, the city's fire chief says it does raise some safety concerns.

"We're fortunate that we have so much development going on, but with that comes the impact to the community," explains Fire Chief Karen Brack. "So, we have increased density in the areas and then that impacts call volume and the ability to get there."

The Mayor says the fire department's plan showed a lack of staffing in two regions. If the tax increase passes, 45 additional firefighters will be hired, split between West Ashley and Cainhoy, located north of Daniel Island.

"What that showed were two glaring gaps in our fire protection that needed to be addressed, and that is a new fire station in Cainhoy with additional equipment and firefighters, and then a new fire station west of the Ashley."

The revenue would also pay for a new ladder truck for West Ashley.

"The ladder in West Ashley, the ladder going into the bees Ferry station 19, that would be one of the immediate things that we would do," says Brack.

And she says a new fire station in Cainhoy could reduce response times from eight to ten minutes to the ideal, four minutes.

"We have extended response times and a lack of water supply in that area that hampers firefighting opportunities."

Land has not been purchased yet for the Cainhoy station.

The town hall meeting starts at 6 p.m. on the third floor of the city's Public Service building, located at 75 Calhoun Street.

Riley's tax proposal will go before City Council next Tuesday. If passed, the increase will take effect next month.

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