RW book funding voted down

RIDGEWAY – The Ridgeway Town Council denied a request last week to approve $1,000 from the general fund to publish a book about the heritage and history of the town.

Former mayor Charlene Herring appeared before Council Dec. 13 to request they follow through on a 2017 vote to fund the book’s publishing costs.

Herring said the costs to publish the book had originally been estimated at $2,271, the lowest bid submitted by ByFarr out of Columbia. That amount, Herring told council, would publish 125 copies of a 100-page book that details the town’s history. The bid specified $1,200 for printing, $975 for designing pages and scanning photos and $95 tax. The bid price also included 24 color photos and an unknown number of posters at a cost of $3 each.

A note on the bid document stated that, “color pages may reduce the cost as we may not need (them).” Nothing was said by Herring or council about a reduction in pricing or the inclusion of the 24 color pages or the $3 posters.

Herring said if the Town sells all the books at $20 per copy, the total profit would be $229.

The book had originally been planned for publication in early 2017. Council voted unanimously at that time to pay for the project with the town’s hospitality tax (H-tax) revenue and then funnel the profits from the sale of the book into the general fund.

After being informed by the state’s Municipal Association that, according to state statute, any profits from a book funded with H-tax revenue would have to be returned to the H-tax fund and not to the general fund, Council rescinded its vote.

Council then narrowly passed, by a 3-2 vote, a new motion to withdraw money for the book’s publication from the town’s general fund and return any profits from the book’s sales back to the general fund as prescribed by state statute.

Council members Angela Harrison and Heath Cookendorfer voted against the new measure.

In October, Herring appeared before council to revisit the book’s funding, and at the December council meeting, Herring told she had secured over half the amount needed to cover the cost of publishing the book and asked council for a new amount of just $1,000 to make the book a reality. She said the profits from the sale of the book would be returned to the town.

“I believe the book is a great, unique story about Ridgeway and I hope to begin finalizing as soon as possible if approved,” Herring stated. She said the book would include interviews with citizens and historical photographs of the area, businesses and local events. However, she did not have any of the documents with her to show to council.

Herring faced strong opposition for her project from the Heritage/Culture Committee whose chairwoman, Jon P. Ward told council at the Dec. 13 meeting that the committee had pulled its support for the project at the end of 2017, and had provided a letter to the town’s administration stating that it no longer endorsed the project.

In the letter, Ward said she had initially helped Herring negotiate for the book a large collection of early photographs pertaining to the people and places in Ridgeway, but that many of the photographs were returned to the owner last March, eliminating their use in the book as initially planned.

“It is for this reason that I cannot support the publication of the book as originally planned,” Ward wrote.

Ward went on to tell council at the meeting that Herring had withheld half of the photos lent to her for the project – an allegation that Herring denied during the meeting.

“That’s like accusing me of theft; I don’t do that. People should know my reputation and what I stand for,” Herring told the council.

During council’s discussion, Angela Harrison and Donald Prioleau expressed their support for the project.

“I don’t like going back on something I already approved before,” Prioleau stated.

Mayor Heath Cookendorfer said he questioned the book’s merits considering the current lack of support from the Heritage/Culture Committee. Cookendorfer said he had initially given his support to Herring and the book, but that the change of heart by the committee had made him hesitant to move forward on the project.

“Yes it’s a thousand dollars, but this letter (of disapproval) is a little bit alarming to me. I want to know what the underlying issue is,” Cookendorfer stated.

Councilman Dan Martin said he believed the town would not stand to make much profit from the book’s sales based on current information provided to the town.

“It’s not about profit, it’s about the town,” Harrison countered.

Council member Rufus Jones requested an excerpt from the book for the council to review before proceeding.

Herring said she only had hand-written copies of transcribed interviews from local families, along with photos, and excerpts from other books that she would be using in the Ridgeway book. With nothing to show council, Herring asked them to accept her word about what the book would offer.

“I ask this question: when have I not ever delivered on anything I have promised for this town,” Herring answered to Cookendorfer’s request.

“I think it’s a great book and would be great PR for the town,” she stated.

In the end, the council chose not to proceed on the project, with only Harrison and Prioleau casting votes in favor of funding $1,000 to the project.