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Charleston Council to vote on water system mapping contract

Charleston Council members will vote on a measure that would allow a contractor to move forward with mapping the storm water system under the city.

Council will vote tonight on whether to allocate almost $750,000 to a company that has been contracted to map the aging system under city streets.

Michael Baker Jr. Inc. has been contracted to undertake the project, said Tom Elkins, storm water manager for the city.

This is a continuation of a project that began about a year and a half ago.

"These next two phases of the project are very labor intensive, and that's why they're so expensive," Elkins said.

In April, company employees drove a sport utility vehicle equipped with a Light Detection and Ranging system to map the surface features for the storm water system.

The LiDar system mapped all of the storm water inlets, manholes and ditches in the city.

Company employees will now move throughout the city popping manhole lids and inspecting the pipes and other aspects of the subsurface storm water system, Elkins said.

The employees will collect information such as drainage pipe depth and size, as well as the condition of the system itself, he said.

Elkins likened the process to connecting dots on a map.

"Then we can analyze the entire system and where the storm water flows so we can see where the problem spots are in the city as far as flooding," he said.

The phases are part of a project to improve the storm water drainage system that has been under way since 1996, Elkins said.

The city must map the storm water system in its entirety, as well as all retention ponds. The project will help bring the city into compliance with environmental regulations dealing with buildup of sediment in storm drains.

Although this portion of the project is expensive, it is coming with a smaller price tag than the $1 million initially anticipated, Elkins said.  

These portions of the project should be completed in six to 12 months.

Council will also vote on a realignment in the city police department during today's meeting.

Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster believes the force is too "rank heavy," and he hopes to eliminate some supervisory positions through attrition, he said.

He is asking council to authorize him to eliminate one captain, two lieutenant and two sergeant positions.

These five positions will then be moved to patrol, upping the rank and file from 57 to 62, Finance Director Joe Estep said.

If the change is approved, there will be three captains, 13 lieutenants and 24 sergeants in the department, Webster said.

"This is all being done through attrition," he said. "No one is losing their job."  

One lieutenant already has retired, bringing the number of officers with that rank to 14, Webster said.

"We thought this was an opportunity to make the department more efficient," he said.

Webster discussed the realignment with his officers and most are very understanding, he said.

Although it will eliminate some promotional opportunities, it will also put more "feet on the streets," which will boost morale within the department, Webster said.

Webster also emphasized that he suggested the realignment to the administration.

"They didn't approach me about this," he said.

Charleston City Council will meet at City Hall beginning at 7 p.m. today. A finance committee meeting will be in the third-floor conference room starting at 6:30 p.m.    

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.  


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