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County Allocates PARD Funds

Chairman Reviews Rules for Public Speakers – 

By Tiffani Ireland –

The Edgefield County Council voted 4-1 to allocate PARD funds to the Sweetwater Community Center and Bettis Academy Park at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Tuesday, Mar. 5.  The county has $16,717.44 in PARD funds of which $7,280.41 must be spent by May 31, 2013.

In regards to the Sweetwater center, a structural assessment, site assessment, and boundary, topographic, and utility survey will be needed.  The structural assessment, which will determine if the building can be renovated or restored, is estimated to cost $3,200.  The site assessment to examine such things as soil samples and drainage issues is expected to cost $3,000.  A rough estimate of $2,500 was given to cover the surveys.  At Bettis Academy, Council was appraised of the need for the addition of concrete floors to the dugouts there.  This improvement to the facility was estimated to be $1,300.

Councilman Norman Dorn, the dissenting vote on this measure, spoke out against money being put into the Sweetwater Community Center even suggesting, at one point, that there were oversights in the Sweetwater acquisition project.  To this, Councilman Rodney Ashcraft asked what oversights had come to Mr. Dorn’s attention, to which Mr. Dorn replied, “That’s none of your business.”  While Ashcraft maintained any oversights were the business of everyone present, Mr. Dorn went on to call the money being allotted to Bettis Academy “hush money.”

Councilwoman Betty Butler, who helped spearhead the park at Bettis Academy, reminded Council that the park at Bettis is “up and running” where as the center at Sweetwater is not.  She conceded Bettis is not where she wants it to be but said, “As citizens of the county, we are not in competition.  We want these parks to compliment each other.”  She said she understood the need for the tests to be done at the Sweetwater location and added she hoped these tests would ensure that the Sweetwater center would not end up like the Northside project.   To this, Councilwoman Genia Blackwell thanked Mrs. Butler and added that since the citizens of the Merriwether community (where the Sweetwater center is located) pay 68% of the recreation money received by the county, it was time for them to get a park.

These projects can be funded with 80% of PARD funds with the County providing the matching 20%.  Even with the completion of these projects, County Administrator Lynn Strom told Council that approximately $8700 of PARD funds will be left.  With the deadline looming for the expenditure of these funds, work on these projects is expected to begin in the near future.

While the PARD issue was covered further into the meeting, the public was reminded at the beginning of the gathering of the rules Council has set in place for public speakers.  As Chairman Dean Campbell stated in an address to the congregation, the review was deemed necessary in response to recent meetings in which lengthy, and often heated, debates have developed between the public and Council members.  Mr. Campbell reminded the audience that, among other things, speakers not listed on the agenda must sign-up to speak at either of the two public speaking venues given during the meeting.  In addition, speakers must come to the podium to speak and will have no more than three minutes in which to present their views.

In other business, a public hearing was held on an ordinance regarding future FILOT agreements and an ordinance related to the establishment of conditional use standards of property within the county.  However, there was no public input given.  These two ordinances subsequently passed their respective second readings unanimously.

A third reading was given to the ordinance to create a Highway Overlay District.  This ordinance did receive an amendment before it was passed unanimously in its amended form.  The amendment deletes Section 8 of the ordinance that deals with lighting restrictions.  In its original form, the ordinance would have limited providers of lighting sources as some companies, such as SCANA, do not offer services which reduce lighting during certain hours of the day as required by the original ordinance.  This amendment was recommended by Administrator Strom.

In new business, Council voted 3-2 to lift the county-wide hiring freeze to allow Clerk of Court Shirley Newby fill an open position in her office.  Administrator Strom explained that this position was already fully budgeted since it is an open position and not a new one.  Council members Dorn and Butler voted against this measure.

Council voted unanimously to award EMS/MC the contract to handle the billing and collections for the county’s emergency medical services.  This contract replaces the county’s current contract, which is currently on a month-to-month basis, with Colleton Software.  This move will save money as the county will now pay a 6.5% reimbursement fee for any collections received as opposed to the current 7% reimbursement.  Council was also of one accord when it voted to approve the purchasing of financial software that will allow the county’s financial director to draft financial statements.  This software will be provided by the county’s current auditors, Elliott Davis, and will allow the county to produce these statements at an approximate $1,000 per year versus the $5000-$7,000 normally charged by financial firms for this service.  In addition to the software, Elliott Davis has agreed to provide the necessary training for the use of the software at no charge.

Council voted 4-1 to issue a resolution against pending legislation that will effect solid waste ordinances.  This bill, which has already passed the SC House, will void all ordinances related to solid waste including fees, sites, and all zoning related to solid waste facilities.  It would also void the county’s agreement with Three Rivers Solid Waste.  Mr. Dorn voted negatively to this resolution.  (See more on this issue in our related article concerning House Bill 3290.)

Council heard discussion on the water table and lights at Bettis Academy Park.  Rev. Albert James, Moderator of the Mt. Canaan Association, spoke to Council in regards to the water issue and said that it was the association’s understanding that the county’s usage of the spring-fed pond at Bettis Academy, which the county uses for irrigation and whose water levels have dropped, was a temporary arrangement.  He asked that now that county water is available at the site, that the county now employ it for their watering needs as the association has other plans for the pond.  Council was advised that Clemson Extension and Soil and Water Conservation have been contacted to review this matter.  Relating to the lights at the park,  Council was made aware of several requests from citizens that lights be added to the track at the park so that it can be utilized during the morning and evening hours.  Administrator Strom said the two options for this project, SCE&G or a private contractor, were being examined.  She is to bring these reviews back to Council.

Administrator Strom told Council that she and Financial Director Crystal Coleman have been working on the budget and are “real close” to having a balanced budget to present to Council.  She also told Council that recommended changes to the Land Development Ordinance that resulted from Council’s recent work session have been forwarded to the Planning Commission.  She said the ordinance should be back before Council at their April meeting.

Before adjourning, Chairman Campbell reminded Council and the public of the Mar. 21 Budget Workshop.  The workshop will be held at 6:00 at the Council Chambers.  Council did go into executive session to review a legal matter, but no action was taken on this matter.