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Police Chief Resignation Tops Discussion at Town Council Meeting

By Anne Waits
web posted June 12, 2014

JOHNSTON The big news at the Johnston Town Council meeting Monday night was the resignation of Police Chief Chris Aston. Mayor Terrence Culbreath said he had met with Aston earlier in the day and Aston's resignation would take effect July 9, 2014. He allowed Aston to break the news to Council.

"I thought about it long and hard and I just think it's time that I embark on new endeavors," he said."I thank the Town and the citizens for all they have done. I thank the Council for allowing me this opportunity."

A few people teared up a little when he said, "I loved every minute of it. We've had our bumps in the road, but we always worked through them. I love you all."

Aston said he will still be around if anyone should need him. "My family is here and we have a family business here. I'll be around to help finish up any business."

Council members wished him well and thanked him for his service.

The mayor said laughingly, "See, I told you you'd get to talk about things other than new police cars."

Under public comments, several citizens voiced concerns over several different issues.
One said, "I have spoken before about the dilapidated houses and abandoned property around town. And what are the animal laws? Are chickens and goats allowed to walk around in people's yards?"

The mayor answered, "As far as the animals, the answer for goats is 'no' and chickens have to be penned up."

He said they are working with the County about the abandoned properties and they are getting up a list for the County. "We have ordinances outside our ordinances," he said. "Bear with us. We are working on it."

Another inquired about noise (specifically loud music) ordinances and still another complained about a family with an unrestrained pit bull who had moved in near her and she was afraid her 91-year-old mother would be attacked if she ventured into the yard.
As far as the noise, thy mayor said it was hard to enforce but to call him when it was happening. He also promised to look into the other complaint right away.

A Public Hearing on Ordinance 2014-02-FY Budget 2014-15 heard no comments.

Therefore following the approval of May 12, 2014 Minutes and May 2014 Financial Report, the Budget was adopted unanimously on Second Reading.

Council then discussed tinting of the front windows of Town Hall to cut down on energy costs. They had previously talked about awning but found the tinting to be more price effective. Town Clerk Frances Quarles said an ordinance provided for up to $2,500. They have received one bid of $1,500 and  tried to get another but never heard back from the people.

Council member Tyra Miller moved to go with the first bid since it was well below the allowed amount. It was seconded and the action was approved.

Following this, Council discussed a sample asbestos test for the National Guard Armory. The mayor said they already found out they have to go through DHEC, The mayor called contractors and was getting them to send bids. Three people responded but they were not official bids--just replies to e-mails.

The mayor said, "A representative came out and looked at the it and took pictures. They were saying $14,000 for sample testing--that's just testing. That's compared to others at $1,700 and $2,400 who did not come out. You have to realize there are 26 pages of DHEC contractors."

He said he thinks they need to do more looking and get a price they're more comfortable with. Someone asked if they know for sure there is asbestos there and the mayor and Miller said they know it's there, They don't know to what extent.
The mayor said it's certainly more cost effective to fix the building they have than to try to build one. "We can use certain spaces now but don't know the level of exposure you'd get," he said.

Under the Office of Town Council, member Tommy Stone announced that the Edwards family who owns Edwards Hardware and the warehouse behind it had a sale on the property but they had to reclaim it, so it would be back on the market.

"They wanted to give the Town the first option," he said. "It would be a convenient option if we think we'd ever need it for storage space since it is next door. I don't know what condition it is in, but we could have someone look at it and find out the price."
There was some discussion and Council agreed to have someone look at it.

Miller inquired about the police cars and Aston informed Council that they were waiting on repairs and painting, but the blue one should be there soon.

Under the mayor's report, Culbreath reminded everyone the 4th of July will be before the next meeting and it is the custom at Town Council meetings to announce the schedule for fireworks. Times are from 10 p.m. to 1 p.m. on July 3rd and from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on July 4th.

Also under the mayor's report, Culbreath brought up the issue of spraying for mosquitoes.

"We've gone back and forth trying to contract with other towns," he said. "We never heard back from Edgefield. Saluda was open to the idea it didn't work out. Ridge Spring doesn't spray. Then, it came up about the chemicals used in the spray are not as effective."

The town has it's own sprayer but it doesn't work.

"A new one would cost $7,500 to $8,500," said the mayor.
Council member Tommy Burton asked why the Town couldn't fix the one they have and find a solution to the mixing of the spray that would be effective.

"If it costs $2,000 to fix it, why not get it fixed?" he said. "And the spray might not kill everything but I'm sure it would help some. Anyway, if Edgefield has found a solution, we could, too."

The mayor agreed to call someone and work on the matter. After that, the meeting adjourned.

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