– By Tiffani Ireland –
The Edgefield County Council heard from County Auditor Bill Gilchrist at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 7. Gilchrist informed Council that based on assessed values of homes, vehicles, business, etc., the county saw a slight increase in the value of a mill this year; $72,957 from $71,834. However, taxes will not be raised as a result of this increase. Gilchrist reported that tax bills, which are scheduled to go out in November, will be decreased by about $7 and said this was due to local option sales tax being slightly up. He stated that sales tax in the state was “pretty good” right now. However, Gilchrist said real estate in the county could be described as flat or even a little down this year due to appeals that have been going through the county’s appeals process the past few years. Gilchrist did say that next year should see solid gains in real estate, though. The increase in the millage rate is covered by this year’s budget.
Council voted as one to award the construction of a 24×40 wooden picnic shelter at Bettis Park to Hammer Construction, LLC, out of Columbia. Out of seven bids received for the project, theirs was the lowest at $10,700. The structure will have a concrete floor and metal roof but will not have electricity. Councilwoman Betty Butler said she would have liked to see the structure come completed with electricity but conceded that could be added at a later date. The cost of this project will be covered by PARD money and $5,700 donated by Bridgestone.
George Thornton, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation, was recommended by the Edgefield County Hospital Board as a replacement for the late Dr. Sam Hair on their board. However, Council Chairman Dean Campbell asked that Council take this recommended appointment as information only at this time and postpone the appointment. With no discussion otherwise, this appointment was tabled.
Council all agreed to approve on first reading an ordinance to amend the County Code of Ordinances to delete two portions now covered under the County Employee Handbook and to move another section under another heading of the code. Being deleted are the adoption of personnel policies by reference and the anti-harassment policy. The section dealing with qualified emergency services volunteers who have served for one year or more and states that these volunteers will not be charged for emergency medical services administered by the county should such services be needed was moved to Chapter 2 of the code under the Emergency Management Agency section.
A public hearing was held on a the ordinance to amend to the 2013-2014 budget. However, no public comments were given. The measure subsequently unanimously passed its second reading.
Council unanimously approved a new usage policy for County Council Chambers. This policy gives procedures on how to sign up to use the building and will not prohibit any of the organizations currently utilizing the facility from doing so in the future. Council also approved unanimously the updated version of the County Handbook. The changes were reviewed by a labor law attorney with Gignilliant, Savtiz & Bettis. Councilwoman Butler questioned whether county employees were consulted for input on changes and updates to the handbook. Administrator Lynn Strom advised that department heads were given copies of the changes for review and referrals.
Council was asked to approve an ordinance that would change the appointing authority of the EMA director to the county administrator instead of Council. This proposal was discussed at length at Council’s last meeting, and many of the concerns mentioned then were addressed in this new proposal. Even so, this measure ultimately failed for lack of a motion.
Council heard from several speakers in the final public speaking portion of their meeting. William Cue, pastor of a church on Hwy 19 in front of which a fire hydrant is located, asked Council to consider any ways to fix the area around the hydrant to make it more efficient and facilitating to the fire department. He suggested possibly paving the area as it is grassy and hard to access. Administrator Strom is to contact the Water Department to see what might be done. Also speaking to Council was Linda Anderson who reminded them that Emergency Preparedness meetings are being held throughout the county beginning this month.
In her closing comments, Administrator Strom told Council that the windows, doors, and roof to the Sweetwater Community Center have been added. She told Council that there were $1700 in additional charges for the project this month for hardware within the building, but she said this amount continues to stay within the approved $15,000 allowed for change orders. Strom also advised Council that the County is in the process of choosing an architect for the animal shelter project. She also made Council aware that the County received a grant for $21,744 from the Department of Public Safety for computer software updates at the magistrate and the clerk of court offices. This is a 10% matching grant which will be covered by those offices’ budgets.
Before adjourning, Chairman Campbell thanked EMA Director Suzy Spurgeon for coordinating the many Emergency Preparedness meetings in the different communities throughout the county. He also advised that the Nov. 4 Council meeting is scheduled to be held as planned even though this is Election Day.
With no further discussions, Council adjourned.