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– By Tiffani Ireland –
After a lengthy discussion that included input from Judge Brenda Carpenter, the Edgefield County Council voted unanimously (4-0 as Councilman Norman Dorn was absent) at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 7, to approve the submission of an application for a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) to fund the position of a civil process deputy. The three year grant will fund 90% of the salary and benefits associated with this position. The county would be responsible for the position’s funding, estimated to cost $60,000, after the first three years. Estimated costs associated with the county’s portion of the initial three years were given as $9,000 in the first year and $6,000 the remaining two years of the grant.
In her recommendation of this move, Administrator Lynn Strom cited the current lack of security for the Magistrate Court and a backlog of civil papers to be served. Judge Carpenter reiterated these worries but said she was mainly concerned with the lack of security. She noted a recent episode that occurred at the offices in which a person became irate and, due to how the call for help was issued, it took nearly 15 minutes for law enforcement to respond. Carpenter said there is no security for her offices or for other judges in the county. While several Council members were not entirely satisfied with the grant option, they did agree that something needs to be done regarding this issue. Council ultimately decided to go forward with the grant application because of its impending deadline (the week of Jan. 13) and because they agreed that they were not obligated to accept the grant should it be awarded to the county. Many expressed agreement with Councilman Rodney Ashcraft who called the grant an “introductory offer” and said he would like to see what other options are available.
In other business, Council unanimously approved to enter into a contract with Moore & Associates for engineering and architectural services for the working design for the Sweetwater Community Center. The approval included paying $15,995 for the building design and $5,995 for the site plan. Council was informed that PARD funds and recreational budget funds are available to help cover these costs.
Also approved unanimously were the third readings of an ordinance to amend an agreement for the development for the Joint County Industrial Park of Aiken and Edgefield Counties for enlargement of the park and an ordinance to approve the policies for the county’s spay/neuter program.
Council was asked to approve funding for necessary upgrades for county computers. These upgrades include approximately 20 machines and were deemed necessary due to the discontinuation of support by Microsoft of the Windows XP operating system. Grants are being applied for that will cover the machines with Vista operating systems, as this system is expected to left unsupported in the near future, but Council approved to use $34,000 from Council Contingency for upgrades to computers using the Windows XP system. The current total in the contingency fund was given as $48,600. Administrator Strom did advise Council that the last computer upgrades costs approximately $100,000. This measure passed in a 3-1 vote; Councilwoman Butler voted negatively.
Council was also asked to approve funding for repairs to the HVAC system at the Sheriff’s Office which was estimated to cost $13,000 for two machines. The funding for this project was requested to come from the contingency fund, but Councilwoman Genia Blackwell voiced concerns over this saying, “I just don’t see that we have the funding for it.” She stated that because of the fund’s balance she would like to see this issue delayed and taken up during the budget process. Ultimately, no action was taken on this matter.
Council was presented with terms for a lease agreement concerning hangers at the Trenton Airport. However, Councilman Ashcraft raised several concerns regarding the document, and as a result, Council decided to take the information presented as such and took no action on the issue. A new contract taking into account Ashcraft’s concerns is expected to presented at Council’s next meeting.
Council was advised that Emergency Management Director Mike Casey had applied for grants to fund the purchase of portable self contained scene lighting and mobile repeaters. Grant money for the repeaters’ purchase had been awarded, and Council voted unanimously to accept a bid from Kinard Control Systems, Inc., of Newberry, in the amount of $9,033.22 for these items. This is 100% funded grant. The awarding of the grant money for the scene lighting, also a 100% funded grant, was still being awaited, but Council decided to go ahead and unanimously approve the acceptance of a bid in the amount of $23,950 from Pioneer Rental out of North Augusta. This purchase, however, is contingent on the awarding of the grant money to cover its costs.
Council voted unanimously to issue a resolution honoring the life of Elijah Harris, a longtime Edgefield County Employee who died on Nov. 18, 2013.
In her closing comments, Administrator Strom advised Council that the county had expected to receive $40,000 from timber sales, but to date, has received $64,000. This amount only represented sales from the property cut at the county shop, and Strom said harvesting of timber on Simmons Road has yet to be completed. She further stated she has been in contact with Clemson Extension in regards to the replanting of these sites and will be bringing options related to this at a later date. Strom also relayed to Council that asbestos testing on the Manor House has been completed, but the results are not yet available.
As he and Councilwoman Blackwell were re-elected to their positions of Chairman and Vice Chairman, respectively, Chairman Dean Campbell thanked Council for this honor in his closing comments. He also reminded Council of the intergovernmental meeting set for 6:00 Jan. 30 at the Senior Citizen Building.
With no other business to discuss, Council adjourned.