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County Council Passes First Reading of Budget

The Edgefield County Council unanimously passed the first reading of the 2012-2013 General Operating Budget at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Tuesday, April 3.

The budget did receive two small amendments before its passage.  One included amending the budget so that the county pays 100% of the recreation centers’ utility fees versus the 75% that the county has previously been responsible for paying.  Chairman Dean Campbell recommended this change and explained that it would helpful to the towns (Edgefield and Johnston) and to the citizens.  The money to cover this will come from the recreation reserve fund and will not affect taxes.  Mr. Campbell also advised that this be a year-by-year decision and that a written agreement between the towns by signed to stipulate such.  The agreement will also stipulate that the county will only pay utility fees associated with recreation activities.  The expected cost of this amendment is $7000.  It was unanimously approved.

The other amendment to the budget dealt with money cut from the Senior Citizen Center.  Last year, Council had allotted $3000 for the center, but in this year’s budget, their allotment was reduced to nothing.  Mr. Campbell explained to Council that it was brought to the county’s attention that a reduction of county money will also result in a reduction of money received by the center from the Department of Transportation.  A grant from the DOT that funds the center’s bus and transport system states that the center must receive some local funding and that any reduction of local funds would cause the same reduction in DOT funds.  It was explained that without the funds for these services, those utilizing the transport and bus systems will probably revert to 911 and EMS to fill those needs.  It was reasoned that such a tax on the 911 and EMS system would ultimately cost the county more than the $3000 it has eliminated from the Senior Center.  In response to reinstating the money, Councilwoman Genia Blackwell said, “It’s just the right thing to do.”  Council agreed and voted unanimously to restore these funds to the Senior Center.

Another topic of discussion for the Council was presented by a member of the pubic in regards to a possible grant for the Northside Community to allow for water lines in that part of the county.  At a previous meeting between representatives of the community and Council it was decided that the county would apply for grant money to facilitate this need.  However, Administrator Lynn Strom advised the public speaker that it is too late for the county to apply for such a grant this year.  Mrs. Strom said they will be working on a grant for next year.  In response to this issue, Councilman Willie Bright cautioned the speaker and Council on how hard it will be for the Northside Community to awarded such a grant.  He went on to suggest that at some point in the future the county will have to “bite the bullet” and start running water lines throughout the county and stop depending on grants.  Mr. Campbell did acknowledge that the county could begin running water lines but warned that they would have to paid for with impact fees that would be “very high.”

In her report to Council, Mrs. Strom stated that the narrow-banding of the county’s radios has begun and told Council that grant money was found by Mike Casey and Sandy Backensto that is expected to cover part, if not all, of the expected cost of this project.  Additionally, the E911 Center project is proceeding and instillation should begin in July.  Mrs. Strom also said a grant for a Rails to Trails program in the county is being prepared for the Apr. 17 deadline.  The project is expected to start behind the Sheriff’s Office and run toward Bausket Street.  However, Mrs. Strom did not sound confidant that the County will receive the grant based on the short amount of time to prepare for it but was optimistic about the exposure that will be gained by the process.  She did state that if the county did not receive a grant this year, they would apply again next year.  Mrs. Strom further advised Council that the state fire marshal is looking into obtaining a third party to monitor Force Protection blasts in the Northside Community.  Currently any blast information received by the state is provided by Force Protection.  Mrs. Strom said the state is willing to work with the citizens and county on this matter.

Before adjourning, Councilman Campbell thanked Council for their work on this year’s budget.  He also reminded Council of two called meeting for this month; the Planning Commission meeting Apr. 25 and the Listening Tour for the Northside Apr. 30 at McKendree Life Center.