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Calliham purchase questions outnumber excuses
A Column by the Editor
posted August 7, 2009
COLUMN – The “good ole boy” system of
government that has run heavy handed over this county for decades was
on full display at Tuesday night’s County Council meeting when from
nowhere Chairman Monroe Kneece, Vice-chairman Willie Bright, and
Councilman Norman Dorn brought the Calliham property purchase up for a
vote that passed on a 3-2 split with Council members Genia Blackwell
and Rodney Ashcraft opposing. It was obvious the fix was in long before
the meeting even took place. But has the county overspent and outvoted
There is not just a problem with the vote to purchase Calliham’s, there
is a mountain of problems including the fact that the county council
has now voted to build a building on Railroad Street and purchase the
In April the County Council voted to stop all negotiations connected to
the Calliham property and that no more offers would be considered or
accepted. Two weeks later, in spite of the vote, another offer was
presented and considered. It was rejected and again the council stated
that no more offers would be accepted and the matter was “dead”. A vote
was also taken to never bring the matter up for discussion again. As
such, the ordinance for the purchase of the property also died, yet
At the May 5, 2009 County Council meeting a unanimous vote was taken to
place the new county office building on Railroad Street and that would
be located in the parking lot across the street from the Sheriff’s
Office. Building and Planning Director Mike Reed told the council that
it would accommodate a building between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet and
that there was room for additional buildings to be built in the future.
The insurance money from the Church Street fire was to cover the cost
of the project, not to exceed $608,000 and was thought to be able to
come in at or below that cost.
The county advertised for architectural firms to submit their resumes
and in July voted to begin negotiations with 2KM Architects to draw up
the specs and plans for the Railroad Street project.
All three votes were unanimous.
However, on August 4, the county council voted to purchase the Calliham
property without reconsidering the vote to place the building on
Railroad Street. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, the only time
allowed to reconsider the vote to place the building on Railroad Street
ran out on June 2. Basically, the county council is committing the
county to the construction of a new office building and the purchase of
the Calliham property.
I say this not only because of the rules that govern the votes of the
Edgefield County Council, but also the answers, or dance steps, that
County Administrator John Pettigrew gave on Thursday.
According to Administrator Pettigrew, the votes by the county council
to end all negotiations and acceptance of offers and “move on” to build
on property the county already owned to avoid creating “debt” did not
override the ordinance to purchase the property. The vote to place a
new building on Railroad Street did not override the ordinance to
purchase the property. The vote to hire an architect to plan the new
building did not override the ordinance to buy the property. But
somehow, the vote to purchase the property overrides any and all other
votes. Many of which were unanimous.
Councilwoman Genia Blackwell pointed out this problem Tuesday night
when she asked where the money to purchase the Calliham property was
going to come from, to which Chairman Kneece stated it would be the
money they planned to use on the Railroad Street building.
Really? And just when was that vote taken?
Would that be the meeting with Chairman Kneece, Bettis Rainsford, Ken
Durham, and one unknown individual at the county council chambers the
Monday morning a week before the agenda was drawn up? How was the
architect advised to provide a proposal for the Calliham property two
weeks prior to the vote to buy the property when the council voted for
a proposal on the Railroad Street building just two weeks before and no
vote had been taken to purchase the Calliham property?
Moreover, Chairman Kneece and Councilman Willie Bright both stated
Tuesday night that the cost of renovations to the Calliham property
being used were those provided by Edgefield Construction president Ken
Durham in March and April. Numbers that are drastically under market
and cannot be used for calculations of any type of cost basis.
On Wednesday Mr. Durham stated in a phone call that the numbers being
used by the county council were those provided by Building and Planning
Director Mike Reed. He also stated that the $40 a square foot cost of
remodeling the Calliham property quoted by Councilman Ashcraft was good
only if the county had already replaced the roof on both buildings,
installed the fire sprinklers, and made other repairs at the time of
purchase. Otherwise the cost per square foot would go up at least 50%.
That admission alone places the cost on taxpayers closer to a $1.485
million price tag for the Calliham venture alone. a Price tag Chairman
Kneece refused to accept at the meeting when questioned on the cost of
And just to make matters worse. Chairman Monroe Kneece stated at the
meeting Tuesday night that the county has rejected cheaper offers.
Below is the transcript from the exchange between EdgefieldDaily.com
and Chairman Kneece on the matter.
EdgefieldDaily.com (ED.C): The first question would be what changed
over the last several votes?
Chairman Kneece: The price.
ED.C: So this is the best price ya’ll have been offered all along?
Chariman Kneece: Nope. It’s the best price, uh… that we’ve had. This is
the last price that we’ve had.
ED.C: So you haven’t had better prices?
Chairman Kneece: No, this is the low, this is the low.
Unfortunately there have been lower offers.
“We are through with it (Calliham’s)”: County Council Chairman Monroe
Kneece January 6, 2009.
“We can build everything we need on property we already own”: Chairman
Kneece April 7, 2009.
“It’s over with, it won’t come back”: County Council Chairman Monroe
Kneece April 12, 2009.
© Copyright 2009
original material is property of
EdgefieldDaily.com and cannot be reproduced, rewritten or redistributed
without the expressed written permission of Edgefield Daily.com
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