County Council gives second reading approval
Written by Jerry E. Halmon   

In spite of questions about the location of a proposed Veterans Memorial and questions if projects from the County Capital Sales Tax list could be dropped or added, Bamberg County Council members gave second reading approval to a proposed Ordinance, listing the projects that will appear on the November 2012 Ballot at a special call meeting Tuesday night.

County Councilman Clair Guess, who in a 6-1 vote, was the only council member to vote opposed to second reading of the projects, on the basis of lack of information, said he had questions concerning the memorial to veterans as to where it would be placed and if projects could be added to the list or dropped and when.

Council Chairman Chris Wilson noted that concerning the veterans memorial, there was “no definitive” location directed by County Council or the projects commission in approving the projects. Wilson stated attorneys are still looking at Council’s authority to change projects, adding that an attorney general opinion notes that the project commission recommendation is “binding” and Council doesn’t have the authority to change them.

Chairman Wilson noted that a “couple of clarifications” was made to the list of projects that does not change the projects “substance” included: The Olar-Govan regional water system that included a backup pump also includes a coloration process; The renovation project in Olar is to the Community Center and not the town hall and the Ehrhardt downtown beautification and restoration project includes the former town hall and not the current town hall.

Third and final reading of the One Cent Sales Tax Capital Improvement Projects list is scheduled for Monday, August 13, at 6:30 p.m.

In an agenda Tuesday night that included only two other items, Council members agreed to refer to their finance committee a proposed health benefit coverage package for Bamberg County employees with a minimum of 30 years continuous employment. Council Chairman Chris Wilson, in voting to refer the matter to the finance committee with the other council members before a final vote, sighted concerns over cost in wanting to look at the “exact” numbers involved. Councilwoman Alzena Robinson noted the proposal would only affect two or three people presently.

In disposing of the third item on their agenda; Council members approved second reading of a proposed Ordinance to amend the existing Road Maintenance Ordinance for possible inclusion of future road consideration.

It was noted in prior discussions that this Ordinance would allow for special situations for roads left off the current county maintenance list.

Capital One Cent Sales Tax Projects
• County-Courthouse renovation and expansion for judicial and administrative needs: $3,541,423
• Olar/Govan-water system back up pump & chlorination systems: $14,604
• Olar-park shed: $6,200
• Olar-Town Community Building (Grey Den) renovations $37,000
• Bamberg City-civic center renovations: $589,000
• Denmark City-Dane Theatre renovations including new roof: $60,000
• Ehrhardt-Downtown beautification and former town hall restoration: $60,000
• Govan-Park shed and park improvements: $15,000
• Bamberg EDC-Veterans memorial construction: $82,500
• Total: $4,405,727

IN THE PUBLIC COMMENTS PORTION OF THE MEETING:

Probate Court Judge Nancy Green, who is retiring this year after 39 years of service to the County, expressed her concern about the proposed health care benefit coverage for County employees after 30 years of service.

“I think I’m the only one retiring, not that many people are retired, things don’t go up that much,” Green said, adding joking “ and people don’t live long after they retire usually either.”

County resident Becky Swindell had issues with the legality of Tuesday night’s meeting: “This meeting today could be questioned as being illegal,” Swindell said. Swindell said the agenda was not posted until 11:35 a.m. Tuesday. She noted that South Carolina law states meeting agendas must be posted 24 hours before a meeting is held. “You need to decide about getting this body legal and doing what needs to be done.”

Charlie Swindell, who is the husband of Becky Swindell, stated that minutes of subcommittee meetings he attended are not made public either.

“You are required to make subcommittee meeting public,” Charlie Swindell said, adding “you are one step beyond us, what’s going on?”

Council Chairman Chris Wilson stated that “every meeting is advertised and meetings are open to the public. Wilson noted at the start of Tuesday’s meeting that the agenda for the meeting was not completed until 11:30 a.m. and was advertised under the rules 24 hours in advance.