As Issues About Northside Community are Addressed
The regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Edgefield County Council, held Tuesday, June 5, started off in a quite conventional manner as the Council held the required public hearing on the ordinance to amend an agreement for development at the Joint County Industrial Park of Aiken and Edgefield Counties. This ordinance passed on third reading as did the budget for 2012-2013. However, the meeting took a decided turn when issues regarding the Northside community were introduced.
Pamela Gordon was added to the agenda per a request by Councilman Dorn to deliver a presentation on Northside Park. Ms. Gordon previously addressed Council at last month’s meeting in which she asked that any available funds be allocated to the park at Northside. Ms. Gordon again asked for funding for bleachers and electricity at the park. This request was not well received by Council as it was noted that the park is not a true county recreation park but a park used mostly by the church next to which it is located. (The park’s inability to be used for county recreational purposes has already been established as the land on which it is situated will not perk, therefore making restroom facilities an impossibility.) Tensions rose as Mr. Dorn contended PARD money had been inappropriately used for the Merriwether area, but all other Council members agreed that no such inappropriate funding had occurred. In the end, it was Councilwoman Genia Blackwell who seemed to voice the majority feeling of the Council, although when she spoke she acknowledged that she was not speaking for anyone other than herself. Mrs. Blackwell stated that she would not vote for taxpayer money to be allocated to Northside Park since no county recreation activities are possible there. Since this was only a presentation, no action was needed or taken on the matter.
The contentious mood of the meeting only seemed to increase as Councilman Dorn presented what he called the “Northside Water Project.” In regards to this matter, Mr. Dorn made a motion that 1.5 mils be set aside in escrow for the eventual funding to bring water lines to the Northside community. This community has been actively seeking public water in this area for some time, but to bring water to the community has previously been estimated to cost $3.7 million and would charge residents approximately $30-40,000 to tap into those lines. In response to this motion, Mr. Ashcraft asked the audience, without explanation, to remember the number 92. He also asked Mr. Dorn for how long he would like to have this money escrowed, but Mr. Dorn had no firm number to present. Mr. Dorn did remind Council that this mil/escrow arrangement had been used previously to help provide funding for ambulances and fire departments. To this, Mr. Dorn was reminded that these services benefit the entire county and not just one community. Mr. Ashcraft did eventually return to his number 92 when he stated that it would take that many years to accrue enough money in escrow, at today’s prices, to fund the water project. In the end, after much intense back and forth, the motion made by Mr. Dorn failed as it did not receive a second.
As the Northside concerns were presented near the conclusion of the meeting, Council at this point moved quite steadily through the agenda as they made appointments to boards: Don Smoak to the Upper Savannah Council of Governments and Andrew Pride, Jr. to the GLEAMS Board of Commissioners; they approved the action plan for the Planning Commission, all of which they did unanimously. Council was also treated to a presentation of the county’s new Web site by Clerk to Council Jennifer Gilley. The new site can be viewed by visiting www.edgefieldcounty.sc.gov.
Mike Reed of the Assessor’s Office addressed Council in regards to his desire to fill a recently vacated position in his office. At Council’s last meeting, he had petitioned for a lift of the hiring freeze so that his office could hire a new tax clerk. That request was denied. This time Council unanimously agreed to allow Mr. Reed to fill the position with a part-time employee who will work for 25 hours per week.
Members of the United States Marine Corps were in attendance to seek approval for an agreement between Edgefield County and the Marine Corps. The Marines conduct specialized training in the Sumter National Forest of Edgefield County and do so under an agreement that has been in place for several years with the county. No changes were made to the existing agreement which stipulates the Administrator and the Sheriff’s Office will be notified prior to any training exercises. This agreement was approved unanimously.
Before adjourning, Council heard brief comments from Administrator Lynn Strom and Chairman Dean Campbell. Mrs. Strom advised Council that the strategic plan for the county is on schedule. In his remarks, Mr. Campbell reminded Council that their “field trips” will resume in August.