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New Computers, Additional Deputy and Airport Hangers Top Discussion at County Council Meeting

web posted January 8, 2014

EDGEFIELD The Edgefield County Council held their first meeting of the New Year Tuesday night with Chairman Dean Campbell and Vice-chair Genia Blackwell being reelected to their respective leadership positions following a vote at the beginning of the meeting. Council also discussed a range of new business from replacing $34,000 worth of computers to a Resolution honoring the late Edgefield County Sheriff's sergeant Elijah Harris, who passed on November 18, 2013.

The Resolution honoring Sgt. Harris was listed under the consent agenda (several items being approved by a single vote). Vice-chair Blackwell requested it be removed and placed as a single agenda item, "out of respect for Mr. Harris and his family." The Resolution was later approved unanimously to honor Sgt. Harris for his 24 years of service at the time of his death. The Resolution will be signed by all members of the council and will be presented to his family.

The first item under new business was the replacement of 20 computers that are currently running Windows XP or Vista operating systems. Windows announced recently that they would no longer support security updates for XP/OS and Vista will be dropped in the near future. This would make those systems vulnerable to security breeches via the internet. The county has applied for a grant to replace computers currently using Vista/OS and the remaining cost for the other computers is estimated to be $34,000.

After a short discussion council approved the funding to come from the council's contingency funds (stated at $48,000) on a 3-1 vote with councilwoman Betty Butler voting no. Councilman Norman Dorn was absent from the meeting.

The discussion then moved to replacing two HVAC units at the Sheriff's Office which are leaking refrigerant. One unit is 15-year-old and the second 17-year-old. One unit is expected to cost less than $5,000 and will not have to go out for bids. The second would have to be placed out for bids. The total cost was estimated to be $13,000. Staff advised using the council's contingency funds to cover the cost.

Vice-chair Blackwell stated she did not agree with the funds coming from contingency as it would leave council without funds in the account to cover emergency spending. Chairman Campbell stated that the county has a more than comfortable reserve fund that could be used if a similar need came up before the end of the fiscal year in July. After questioning by Blackwell, it was stated that to use reserve funds would take three reading, or three months, in order to approve funds.

Blackwell stated that she did not see the urgent need to replace the HVAC units at this time and requested the item be put off until the next fiscal year. "If somebody gets hot they can look at their computer," she said, "because we just spent all the money we have (on new computers)." With that the items was taken in as information only.

Discussion of a grant application for a civil process deputy for the Sheriff's Office drew an extended debate lasting over 22 minutes. The Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) would supply funding for the deputy at 90% of the cost for three years. After that the county would have to assume full funding of the position. Once the funding ended, the cost to the county would an estimated $60,000 for salary and benefits.

Chief Magistrate Brenda Carpenter stood to state that the current civil process deputies have a backlog of papers needing to be served and the deputy could also help provide security to the Magistrate Office during civil cases. The discussion surrounded whether the position should be part-time of full time, if it would be better filled with a constable, or if the county should move forward with the grant.

After debate the council approved for Administrator Lynn Strom to move forward with the grant application while other options were explored.

The Sweetwater Community Center  was next on the agenda for total funding of $21,990 to complete architectural plans and civil/site design so that the renovations can be placed out for bids. The funding has already been set aside in budgeted funds and was approved on a 4-0 vote.

Another lengthy debate took place on consideration of the lease terms for the county owned hangars at the Trenton Airport. Under the proposed leases, the renter would pay $180 a month or a discounted $1,900 if paid by the year. Councilman Rodney Ashcraft took issue with some of the wording of the leases and stated he preferred a "month by month" lease for the spaces rather than a year. After discussion the matter was taken in as information as Ashcraft's concerns could be addressed.

With no other business the meeting was adjourned.

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