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County Council Gives Budget Second Reading, Honors Locals

web posted May 7, 2014

EDGEFIELD The Edgefield County Council held their May meeting Tuesday evening with a five page agenda, but finished the meeting in less than 39 minutes. In addition to a second reading on the budget, council heard a presentation by Allen Easler of Cornerstone, passed resolutions honoring Ms. Tori Whatley of Merriwether and the Sullivan Family, whose roots date back to 1790 in Edgefield, before their Family reunion, and made appointments to boards.

Before getting into business matters, Allen Easley of Cornerstone addressed the council on the Target Zero program that was started to help law enforcement agencies as well as distributing information and ads and billboards to bring public awareness to the problems of drunk drivers. In 2013, with the help Cornerstone was able to provide for equipment, and the increase in safety checkpoints, there were no fatalities for the year. The only other county to achieve that goal was Barnwell County in 1993, Easler said. The county owns the longest run without a fatality in the state, 445 consecutive days.

He also gave the county council credit for passing a $750,000 bond to provide the Sheriff's Office with over 20 patrol cars equipped with in-car video cameras, to aid in the prosecutions of drunk drivers.

The 146 check points, made possible by grants for equipment by Cornerstone, resulted in 21 DUI arrests, 64 open container arrests, 36 drug charges, 158 drivers license violations, 66 seatbelt or child restrain violations and 59 vehicle violations such as equipment or no insurance.  

There were no speakers for the public hearings held on the budget or an ordinance on leasing land to be harvested for hay. Following were votes for second reading on both.

There was no discussion on the budget prior to, or after motions, and it passed on a 5-0 vote. The $8,941,387 budget has an increase of $130,946 over last year's. In order to balance the budget, $337,734 will have to be taken from reserves, leaving just 3.4 months of operating funds in the reserves. It also includes an across the board raise for all county employees

Councilman Norman Dorn raised an issue on the lease of the land for hay harvesting asking if anyone could apply to lease the property. After addressing County Attorney Michael Medlock on the question, he said anyone can put in to lease any county property that is available for lease. The second reading passed 4-1 with Dorn voting no.

Council then made reappointments of board members including John Timmerman and Carroll Clark to the Edgefield County Sewer and Water Authority Board, and Doug Baker to the Building Code Board of Adjustments and Appeals.

Moving on to resolutions, the first was to honor local chess star Tori Whately of Merriwether for her outstanding achievements in the chess world, representing not just Edgefield County, but the state as well in many national tournaments. Ms. Whatley had been tricked into attending the meeting by her parents and knew nothing about the honor. She was asked to stand as the lengthy list of her titles and achievements were read. The vote to approve was met with a round of applause from the audience.

The second resolution was to honor the Sullivan family, who will be holding their family reunion in July, and their contributions to the county over their more that 200 year history in Edgefield County, dating back to the 1790's. It also passed on a unanimous vote and received an applause.

The council also voted to approve a resolution that will be presented to the General Assembly over the state budget not fulfilling state law to fully fund the Local Government Fund (LGF). By state law, the State should fund Edgefield County $1.3 million, rather than the proposed $1 million. The difference in funding, Chairman Dean Campbell stated, would nearly wipe out the need for the county to dip into the reserve for just over $300,000 to balance the budget. It also passed unanimously.

Approval of putting new roofing on two county building, the Neighborhood Center and the hanger at the Trenton Airport were both approved to be placed out for bid. The county's insurance company will pay half of the cost, less $1,000 deductible, for the Neighborhood Center due to damage of the roof caused by storms.

Next on the agenda was yet another ordinance on the lease of the county hangers at the Trenton Airport. The previous ordinance set the rental at $180 each, but gave the County Administrator the ability to negotiate the rate if there were lesser offers. One such offer was $145 and created the need for the new ordinance in order to accept the bid.

Councilman Rodney Ashcraft said that the comparable rate to other hangers available was the $180 figure, but he felt that $160 would be acceptable and not undercutting Plane Fun, who runs the airport and also rents hangers. He made a motion to that affect. Vice-chair Genia Blackwell, said she was tired of having to deal with the issue repeatedly and agreed with the $160 rate. However, she went further to make an amendment that the rate was non-negotiable. "I don't think we need to be in the realtor business, unless (County Administrator) Mrs. Strom wants to be a realtor," she said and Mrs. Strom shook her head no.

The motion and amendment passed and the new wording will be placed in the ordinance for the second reading in June.  

With a short report by Mrs. Strom and comments by Chairman Campbell, the meeting was then adjourned.

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