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Calliham’s: Buying the lie rather than facing reality

A Column by the Editor
web posted November 30, 2009
COLUMN – On Tuesday night the ruling majority of the Edgefield County Council will take the third and final vote to buy the beleaguered Calliham property in spite of the ominous over one million-dollar debt that will hit the taxpayers within the next two to three years. There will be a public hearing held prior to the vote, but do not count on any of the ruling majority to hear, much less listen, during that period. They are following a fantasy, not reality, and their minds are made up.

Since a fire mysteriously engulfed the entire Neighborhood Center on Church Street in minutes almost three years ago, there has been one objective, buy the Calliham Building. The champions of the push were none other than Edgefield Mayor Ken Durham and Developer Bettis Rainsford - joined at the hip as well through Edgefield Construction.

The county council voted in 2008 to buy the property but it had around $800,000 in liens attached and the issues just fell from the radar. Then the property went through foreclosure and lien holder (and family member of the Calliham’s) Fletcher Lawrence picked the property up for $50,000 on the courthouse steps.

Afterwards, Mr. Durham and Mr. Rainsford were back pounding their agenda for the county to purchase the property but were repeatedly turned back by the county council, now with two new members. Several votes were taken on proposals championed by Mr. Durham, causing Chairman Monroe Kneece to, not once but twice, claim the matter dead, “It will never come back up again,” he said in April of this year.

During town hall meetings Mr. Durham gave estimates on how low the cost of remodeling the building would be. He stated at the time the purchase and remodeling would not cost the taxpayers “one dime”. He said the cost would be around $300,000, he was wrong. He’s right on one point however, it would not cost the taxpayers “one dime”, it will cost them over 15 million dimes.

The estimates from an independent architectural firm placed initial costs at well over $800,000 and a final cost at $1.7 million and could rise to $1.9 million.

But the ruling majority of the county council wants to believe Mr. Durham.

During the same town hall meetings Mr. Rainsford stood and explained the county had to buy the property so it could expand the jail and law enforcement center that housed the Sheriff’s Office. He gave all types of information on the matter, all of which turned out to be blatantly false.

But the ruling majority of the county council wants to believe Mr. Rainsford.

The numbers released from the architectural firm 2KM also included the cost of a new building on Railroad Street that would come in below the cost of the available insurance, or roughly $625,000.

But because Bettis Rainsford and Ken Durham are whispering in the ears of the ruling majority - Chairman Kneece, Willie Bright, and Norman Dorn - they believe the fairytale and not the hard factual numbers before them.

Chairman Monroe Kneece stated at the time of the sudden vote to buy the property that “things changed”, an interesting comment to say the least.

We are still talking about the same property. We are still talking about the same price. We are still looking at the same cost estimates. We are still looking at the same people involved.

What changed? Just how much “change” was involved?


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