Council Introduced to New County Attorney
Suzy Spurgeon Officially Named New EMA Director
– By Tiffani Ireland –
Edgefield County Administrator Lynn Strom introduced Edgefield County Council members to the county’s new attorney, Jim Holly, at Council’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting Tuesday, September 2. Of Mr. Holly, Strom said he has “vast experience in the governmental arena” citing the many positions he has held before coming to Edgefield. Holly, from Aiken (there were no applicants from Edgefield County for the position), had been on the job for about a week and a half by the time of the meeting, and Strom said he had already done a month’s worth of work. Council welcomed Mr. Holly.
In a 4-1 vote, Council approved Suzy Spurgeon as the county’s new Director of Emergency Management. Spurgeon has been with the county since Sept. of 2013 when she took over as CERT Coordinator. She later became Assistant Director of EMA when Sandy Backensto retired. Spurgeon now replaces Mike Casey, who retired in June, and has been acting as the director since that time. However, a resolution from Council was necessary to make the appointment official. This position was hired from within and as such was only posted internally for county employees. In speaking to the hiring process for this position specifically, Councilwoman Genia Blackwell said that due to the importance of the position she would have liked to have seen it advertised in a more public way. She said she had no issues with Spurgeon being in the position but was asking for more transparency in the hiring of this position. In explanation of his negative vote on this appointment, Councilman Norman Dorn said he found it “difficult to vote for somebody you don’t really know.”
In a related topic, Council was asked to consider the first reading of an ordinance that would change the appointing authority of the EMA director and also approve changes to the ordinance pertaining to Emergency Management that would bring it in line with federal and state regulations. There was much discussion from Council on this issue, especially in regards to changing the appointing procedure. Currently, this position is appointed by Council, however, the director reports to the administrator. Council was asked to either give the administrator appointment authority for the position or to have the director report to them. Councilwoman Blackwell said she would like to see the appointment procedure left to the Council and would like to see the director report to Council as well. Councilman Rodney Ashcraft said he felt the way it has been has been working well and preferred that it be left as is. He stated that he did not have a problem with director reporting to the administrator and then the administrator reporting to Council. Ashcraft said he would “hate to micromanage her [Spurgeon] with five bosses in the middle of a disaster.” Councilwoman Betty Butler asked that Council “let her [Spurgeon] do her job” and suggested that Council members meet with her to talk over any issues they might have for her. Due to there not being a clear consensus on this matter and many other issues brought up over the suggested changes to the ordinance, this matter was tabled until next month’s meeting.
Another issue that was tabled by Council was consideration of approval of the County Handbook. There were a lot of questions posed in relation to this mater, and its consideration will now be taken up at the October meeting.
Council voted to approve an ordinance amending the general operating budget for 2013-2014 to provide for revised revenues and appropriations. This amendment in essence is simply to accommodate the county’s new auditing firm’s reporting practices. It in no way changes the budget itself. In voting for its passage Councilman Ashcraft said, “No extra cost. More transparency.” Mr. Dorn was the dissenting vote.
Council heard from several citizens during the second public speaking portion of their meeting. Pastor Henry Merriweather of the Northside area spoke to Council regarding damage that was done to the fence at the former Northside Park location prior to its being turned back over to Union #3 from the County. Pastor Merriweather said there were suspicions in the community that road crews cutting the grass had damaged the fence and asked if there was anything Council could do to replace the 110 feet of damaged property. Administrator Strom advised that she had been in contact with the pastor in regards to this issue and stated the reason it was not replaced was due to the storm damage done all around the fence. She said she has turned the issue over to Attorney Holly who is looking into the matter. They two were asked to report back to Council and Pastor Merriweather with their results. Louise Kemp Settles advised Council that the GLEAMS board will travel to Charleston for an informational retreat. She also wanted to make citizens, especially students, aware that students who did not receive a diploma now have an opportunity to do so through an act by the governor. She called on interested parties to seek out this information. Linda Anderson called Council’s EMA discussions “in line” with those of her organization, Edgefield County Alliance. She reminded that each community has different and specific needs and that that those should to be identified. Roy Blackwell spoke to Council on the need for a third ambulance and crew.
In her closing comments to Council, Administrator Strom stated that due to a “good bit” of water and termite damage found once construction began on the Sweetwater Community Building, there will be additional charges. Other additional issues that will be increasing the project’s cost include the need to raise and add to the trusses on the roof and the fact that the color chosen for the building is not a standard color and as such will cost extra. Thus far, these change orders call for an extra $12,653. (Council had previously approved $15,000 for any change orders.) Strom said no further problems are expected with the project and reported that construction seems to be going well. Strom also relayed to Council that bid packages for the picnic shelter at Bettis Park were being posted Sept. 3. She also advised that the County received $40,755 from FEMA as reimbursement for road repairs. This money will go to the road crew and is all the funds the County expects to receive from the agency in relation to the ice storm except for possibly a small amount for volunteer fire departments. Before concluding her comments, Strom also advised that paving on Windy Ridge and Country Way has begun and that the Planning Commission will be meeting Sept. 11.
Before adjourning, Chairman Dean Campbell advised Council that the regularly scheduled meeting for November 4 will go on as scheduled even though this is Election Day unless he is advised by Council members that not enough will be in attendance to have a majority. With no further business to discuss, Council adjourned.