Council Revisits Bylaws

WINNSBORO – Technical changes to County Council’s bylaws, passed during Council’s March 16 meeting, got a second look Monday night after research by a freshman Council member brought the items back to the floor.

The changes passed March 16 on 5-1 votes (then District 3 Councilman Mikel Trapp was absent) involved calling to order and chairing the first meeting of the new year following an election, and the election of officers during the first meeting of the new year. Previously, the bylaws left those duties exclusively in the hands of the chairperson, without regard to the end of his or her term. Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said on March 16 that the chairmanship officially ends each year at midnight on Dec. 31. Calling the first meeting of the year to order, she said, must then fall to the County Administrator. Council accepted Robinson’s changes, as well as a similar change calling for the Administrator to preside over the election of officers.

Monday night, John E. James, Council’s attorney, said it was not “illegal or unlawful” for an unelected staff member to temporarily preside over those two meetings. However, Councilman Billy Smith (District 7), the lone dissenter in the March 16 vote, said he had conducted some additional research of his own.

“With all respect to our County attorney, and I appreciate him looking into this for us, I also reached out to the attorney at the Association of Counties,” Smith said, “and that attorney said that he would advise us not to have a staff member preside over a meeting such as that and if we could indeed use an elected official for that.”

Robinson placed the motion on the floor to call for the Council member with the most seniority to preside over those meetings. Smith offered the second and the motion carried, 7-0.

Plantation Pointe Road

The question over whether or not Plantation Pointe Road in the Lake Wateree community had been accepted by the County into its road system or if it was still a private road was sent to the Public Services and Development Committee for research.

Walter Bierer, a resident of the area served by the road, told Council during the meeting’s first public comment segment that the developer who had built the homes in the area, as well as the realtor who had sold him the lot, both told him as long ago as 2007 that while the roads were definitely private at that time, the County was in the process of assuming responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of Plantation Pointe and the surrounding roads.

“It looks like this was almost a done deal almost 10 years ago,” Bierer said, “and somewhere it got lost in the process, whether it was the paperwork or the lack of paperwork or politics or whatever. I don’t know where it got lost. But the developer is gone, so he can no longer help us out, so this evening I’m just asking for your help in this matter.”

In his report to Council, however, County Administrator Milton Pope said the road had not been accepted into the County system and was still private. He requested the item be sent to committee, “so we can do the full vetting and research on it,” he said.

The road issue came full circle during County Council time when Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) addressed recent criticism of Council’s decision to pony up $50,000 in matching funds for the completion of a sidewalk in Jenkinsville. Faye Sandow asked Council to consider revisiting the vote during Council’s March 16 meeting, and Monday night Randy Bright asked Council if the unbudgeted expenditure was truly a wise use of taxpayer dollars. Each referred to the project as the “sidewalk to nowhere.”

“That sidewalk is there to provide a service for the community,” Marcharia said Monday night, adding that the sidewalk would provide safe access to the nearby park.

Marcharia was interrupted during his comments, however, by District 3’s newly seated Councilman, Walter Larry Stewart.

“Madame Chair, point of order,” Stewart interjected. “We are here to work together –”

“This is county council time, Mr. Stewart, and I am speaking,” Marcharia cut in. “I am speaking. When you –”

“The question (is) that you maintain law and order in here,” Stewart interrupted again. “We don’t want to incite folks.”

Marcharia, addressing Robinson, said, “You need to put him in check.”

When Robinson said Marcharia would be given another minute to speak, Marcharia said Council had made the right decision in supporting the Jenkinsville sidewalk. Similar consideration, he said, should be given to the Plantation Pointe Road issue.

“Even though its private and they have their own money,” Marcharia said, “I would support them if it’s going to enhance the quality of life in their community.”

Ridgeway Recreation

Pope reported to Council the 3-2 decision by Ridgeway Town Council on March 12 to decline asking the County to consider relocating the future District 1 recreation site from Highway 21 near Smallwood Road into the Town limits at Church and Means streets. Pope said the County will be moving forward with plans to construct the facility at its Highway 21 location.

Stewart later said he felt the entire recreation plan may need to be reviewed.

“I am uneasy with our whole recreation plan for the County,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure where we stand on that, but it is my gut feeling that says we need some more citizen input on our recreation plan.”

“We’ll get you an update on that,” Robinson answered.

Capital Expenditures

Council gave final approval to a laundry list of expenditures, recommended from the Administration and Finance Committee’s March 16 meeting.

Council unanimously approved $153,799 for a motor grader and $149,992 for a pair of dump trucks for the Public Works Department; $35,000 for eight new roll-off containers and $16,050 for a pair of turn mowers for the Solid Waste Department; and $68,238 to replace three vehicles in the Planning, Building and Zoning Department.

Council also approved $123,000 for a track hoe for the Solid Waste Department on a 6-1 vote, with Stewart voting against the buy. Stewart said he felt the track hoe was “overkill” for the department, adding that he wondered if the County’s existing equipment wouldn’t work just as well. Pope, however, said the track hoe was a more versatile piece of equipment that would free up the existing front-end loader for other work.

Council unanimously awarded the new landscaping contract to Asbury Landscaping of Laurens for $34,500 a year. Asbury will take on landscaping duties at the County Government Complex, the Courthouse, the Midlands Technical College campus, both phases of the Walter Brown Industrial Park and at the spec building at the Fairfield Commerce Center.

Finally, Council awarded Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood with the $35,000 contract to assess the roof of the Detention Center and provide engineering and oversight of a replacement roof, which will be tackled in next year’s budget.