Council Slips in $50K Vote

BLYTHEWOOD – Taking full advantage of last summer’s State Supreme Court ruling that crippled the Freedom of Information Act and opened the door for boards and councils to alter agendas without giving 24-hour notice, Town Council at their Nov. 24 meeting tacked on three items to their agenda after the meeting had begun.

One of those was an action item on a matter that could cost the town $50,000, and another was discussion of the hot-button sign ordinance.

Added to Agenda:

1. Consideration of a vote on a waiver letter concerning the town’s designation for the SMS4 storm drainage program. Council voted unanimously to apply for a waiver to be excluded from the state’s Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (SMS4) program, a designation that, if not waived, will require the Town to initiate and maintain a storm water management program for Blythewood as specified by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The vote included the provision that the Town would, at the same time, pursue a second option of continuing discussions with Richland County to become a co-permittee with the County should the waiver be denied. Under the second option, the Town would pay Richland County approximately $50,000 for the County to manage the town’s storm sewer system.

2. A report by Malcolm Gordge on the recent special called meeting concerning non-conforming signs. Gordge told The Voice that he was asked by the Mayor on Friday to make the report; however, the item was not placed on the agenda last Friday, which would have notified the community that the item would be discussed at the meeting should anyone in the community have wanted to speak to it. Council took no action on the item, but Ross, who supports extending the date by as much as four years to make all non-conforming signs in the town conform, asked that the matter be put on the agenda for the next Council workshop for discussion. It has not been announced when that workshop would be held.

When Sabra Mazyck, chairwoman of the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), which hears variance requests for non-conforming signs, asked to address Council on the subject, there was some hesitancy on the part of the Mayor to allow her to speak since she had not signed up (prior to the meeting). Mazyck reminded Council that she had not signed up to speak because the item had not been put on the agenda until after the meeting had started. Mazyck told Council that those who have appeared before the BZA asking for variances knew that Jan. 26, 2016 was coming and they knew they would have to replace their signs at that time. She told Council that “We work hard when we come to our meetings to make decisions,” and suggested that the Council should be more considerate of what they ask their volunteers (board and commission members) to do.

3. A report on the landscaping of the I-77 interchange. Town Administrator Gary Parker reported that the landscape contractor for the I-77 beautification project will replace the 30-40 additional trees that have died this year because they died in the warranty period. Parker said the replacements will be smaller versions of the trees currently planted since the smaller sizes will have a better chance of survival.

Searching for New Auditor

Council voted unanimously to issue a Request for Proposal for audit services. The request seeks sealed proposals from qualified certified public accountants to audit its financial statements for fiscal year ending June 30, 2015 with options for annual renewals in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

FY 2014 Budget Amended

Council voted unanimously to amend the FY2014 budget primarily, according to Parker, because the amended items were under-budgeted. In the general fund, under Operations, $1,000 was added to Advertising; $10,000 to Audit and Accounting; $1,000 to Legal; $90,000 for the Inspection Services under Legal and Professional; $10,000 to Community Promotions and $14,000 to Utilities.

“We also put back the Encumbrances total to $89,275,” Parker said, “in case we want to make use of any of those carry-over amounts. We also increased the base payment to the Blythewood Facilities Corporation Trustee to $99,376 in order to cover the entire payment for 2015.”

Added expenditures totaled $221,651.

Changes to the revenue included increasing the Insurance Tax Collection amount by $56,000 from $250,000 to $306,000, showing the actual fees received in permit fees and re-inspections ($136,000), estimated interest earnings of $600 and appropriating $99,051 from the fund balance. The $90,000 payment to RCI for inspections is a wash because the expenditures are covered by the fees received. This raised the general fund revenue by $251,651.

As for the Accommodations and Hospitality Tax budget, “We added $300 in interest income to the A-Tax budget, $500 in interest income to the H-Tax budget and appropriated $44,300 from the fund balance, bringing the new total $316,800,” Parker explained.

The Visitor Center allocation was reduced to $18,000 because the Chamber was receiving funding of $10,000 and the Chamber is not allowed to be funded by tourism dollars, Parker said.

“We put a line in for general event expenditures,” he said, “since the particular events are subject to change and we made that total $90,000.”

There was no change in the budget of the Manor.