Rules for behavior on Ridgeway agenda

RIDGEWAY – In an effort to return what he termed respect and order to Ridgeway Town Council meetings, newly elected Mayor Heath Cookendorfer rolled out new rules for behavior for council members at the last meeting.

“When someone has the floor and someone else has something to add, if that person will raise their hand, they will be called upon and be given the floor next,” Cookendorfer said. “That way, we won’t have interruptions in the meetings or be talking over each other. This will allow respect for each other and an orderly meeting.”

And that’s what happened. There were no interruptions and the meeting was orderly.

In one of the first items of business, Cookendorfer sought to clear the air in public session about the status of the Town’s contract with Norfolk about the status of the Town’s contract with Norfolk Southern Railroad to purchase the cotton yard. He called on attorney Kathleen McDaniels, who was hired by former Mayor Charlene Herring’s administration to negotiate the purchase of .6 acres of property (cotton yard) for which the Town agreed to pay Norfolk Southern $73,000 plus about $20,000 in additional expenses to include surveying, legal fees, an environmental soil study, etc.

Although the contract was signed by the previous council on March 22, 2018, and can now be discussed in public session, McDaniels suggested she update council behind closed doors regarding the contract.

Cookendorfer, however, repeated that he would like to have the update in open (public) session, and McDaniels proceeded to the podium.

“The Norfolk Southern closing on the property is set for June 20, 2018,” McDaniels said. “During that period of due diligence, lots of things have to happen – an environmental study of the soil, a survey, a legal description, title commitment, etc.,” McDaniels said.

“Can the Town still get out of the contract?” Cookendorfer asked. “Do we have the option of renegotiating the contract?

“There is certainly the possibility to do that,” McDaniels said. “But the likelihood that Norfolk Southern is going to renegotiate the contract is pretty slim. The earnest money of $5,000 has been paid to Norfolk Southern, so if you terminate the contract, you’ll lose the earnest money and the costs that you have already incurred for surveying, the environmental study, legal and other costs,” McDaniels said.

Cookendorfer thanked McDaniels for her presentation.

Other Business

Luke Law was unanimously appointed as the Town’s new zoning administrator to replace Rick Johnson who resigned April 6.

Council passed, 4-1, first reading of the fiscal year 2018-19 budget in the amount of $774,840. Councilwoman Harrison voted against first reading, saying she did not have enough information to vote. Council will hold a public hearing and second reading on June 14.

Council voted unanimously to select the paint color ‘aqua sky’ for the new water tower.

A discussion of water rate increases proposed by the Town of Winnsboro was tabled until next meeting.

Council voted 5-0 to terminate Southern Resource Advisors previous arrangement to find overlooked income for the town government. The company said it has found approximately $900 of annual income for the town, 50 percent of which will go to the Town of Ridgeway and 50 percent to Southern Resource Advisors for their efforts. Cookendorfer said the company advised, however, that there is little more they can do for the town in that regard and suggested not going forward with the agreement.

FOIA Reminder

Cookendorfer said he had sent out a letter to all town government committee heads reminding them that they are subject to the provisions of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for public bodies.

“Meetings must be open to the general public,” Cookendorfer said, “and must be properly posted 24 hours in advance.” Cookendorfer said that anyone wishing to be notified of these meetings can have their name placed on a list at Town Hall to receive emails of the agendas.

Executive Session

Two agenda items were discussed in executive session – an employee matter related to the police department and another related to the town’s municipal court. Following executive session, Rufus Jones made a motion to consider former municipal judge Gen Palmer as a backup for the town’s current municipal Judge, Adrian Wilkes. The motion passed 5-0. No motion was made concerning the police department item.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of Council will be Thursday, June 14.

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