Rules Changed for Board, Commission Applicants

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council unanimously passed final reading Monday night on an ordinance to amend provisions of another ordinance Council has repeatedly not obeyed during Mayor J. Michael Ross’ administration. The law in question pertains to how applicants are recruited for the Town’s boards and commissions. The issue arose in November when Ross brought forward the nomination of three applicants for appointment to the Board of Architectural Review and the Board of Zoning Appeals without following the Town’s statute that requires the posting of notices of vacancies on the boards and commissions at least 30 days prior to appointment so that members of the public are adequately notified of vacancies in case they want to apply. This was the fourth time the Ross administration, with no public objections from Town Attorney Jim Meggs who now also serves as the Town’s interim administrator, proposed these appointments without posting a notice and without providing the required 30-day time period for residents to apply. Meggs complained Monday night that he felt the notice requirement was a fairly complicated provision. He favors the amendment that allows the Town to forego the 30-day notification requirement in favor of advertising twice a year, during June and January, for board and commission vacancies instead of when vacancies occur. Residents can make applications at any time but the new ordinance does not provide for residents to be alerted when vacancies occur.

The new ordinance pertains to the Board of Architectural Review and the Board of Zoning Appeals. Council also passed first reading on an identical ordinance that pertains to the Planning Commission.

Three appointed to boards

After passing the ordinance, Council then voted to appoint Jim McLean to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) and Joseph Richardson and Ray Fantone to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). The three appeared before Council and stated their qualifications and their desire to serve the Town.

McLean, who lives on Sandfield Road, said he has a good understanding of the BAR and that he was one of the authors of the original BAR ordinance passed in the late 1990s.

Joseph Richardson, a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, worked for two years as an attorney but has since been primarily associated with his family’s business, Richardson Construction Company on Monticello Road. Richardson lives with his wife and son in Cobblestone Park.

Ray Fantone, who lives in Lake Ashley, served as a volunteer firefighter in Blythewood from 1996 to 2003. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina. He works in Enterprise Resource Planning for the Richland School District Two. Fantone is married with three daughters ages 13, 16 and 25.

Administrator Meggs’ report

“I’ve hit the ground pretty fast as the mayor will attest,” Meggs told Council. “I’m learning the Town’s budget and payment systems which I’ll figure out in due course. I’ve tried to identify some quality work life issues at Town Hall.” He said Town Hall is a noisy place and that’s he’s going to do some “retooling on the telephones so they aren’t ringing on every desk in Town Hall, and try to do some soundproofing on the plank floors. With the phones and foot traffic, it can become quite distracting.”

“I have discussed (as a code enforcement issue) putting decals on trucks of contractors who have business license (with the Town). We’ll probably be coming back to you in a few months with an ordinance change that will go to a Blythewood contractors’ decal system so that folks out on code enforcement patrol can identify contractors that are licensed to do work in the Town,” Meggs said. “To the extent any of us are running around town, we can get (code enforcement) information to Town Hall for action.”

Meggs said another project is to develop a business calendar to catalogue and diary all the obligations the Town has under various contracts and agreements with third parties.

Future of Doko Restaurant

Following an executive session in which Council discussed contractual arrangements for the Doko Depot restaurant, Councilman Bob Mangone summed up the session by saying that it was productive and that, “We are going to meet with Mr. (Jonathan) Bazinet to iron out some new arrangements around the central idea of developing a restaurant here in Blythewood.” Mangone said Mr. Bazinet talked in terms of the significance of jobs the restaurant would bring, particularly to teenagers whose first jobs are frequently in food service. “We are still moving in the direction of having a restaurant, but he (Mr. Bazinet) understands our position that the Town doesn’t want to be responsible for the entire $900,000 Doko loan. And we understand that he doesn’t either. But somewhere in the middle we hope we can come to an agreement and look forward to (the restaurant) in the future.

During open citizens comments, two Ashley Oaks residents, Rick Konopka and Steve Abrahamson, expressed their objections to the restaurant. Konopka said, “I know we don’t pay any property taxes right now and I’d like it to stay that way. The November election clearly showed that 2/3 of the voters don’t want any more large capital expenditures.”

Abrahamson said he agreed with Knopoka and said, “We need to take care of the maintenance of the Town before we take on additional debt.”

A special called Town Council workshop is scheduled for Feb. 7, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.