Ridgeway Council to look at land snafu

RIDGEWAY – The Ridgeway Town Council hopes to conduct interviews with a potential new attorney next month who may represent the town in ongoing legal battles over an ill-handled land acquirement contract last year.

In November, the council learned that it was required to continue paying $320 annually for the right-of-way use attached to cotton yard property it purchased earlier in the year from Norfolk Southern Railroad for $80,000.

The lease requirement was not communicated to the council by attorney Kathleen McDaniels at any time during the purchase process, according to Mayor Heath Cookendorfer.

Last week, Cookendorfer told The Voice that the he had been speaking with multiple attorneys throughout the surrounding areas in an attempt to find representation for council. He said the town is at a disadvantage when it comes to finding adequate representation because it cannot afford to maintain an attorney by retainer, and instead must seek spot representation when needed.

“We are just too small to justify spending that kind of money on an attorney, but my hope is to narrow down our search by next month’s meeting,” Cookendorfer stated.

As he and other council members narrow their field of choices down to one, Cookendorfer said he hopes to have the prospect present at the Feb. 14 town council meeting for questioning from the full council and ultimately a vote on whether to proceed with an agreement for representation.

Cookendorfer said that meeting would include an executive session for the panel to question the attorney.

During public comments Thursday night, Ridgeway resident Randy Bright suggested the council consider posting budget reports online through the town’s website so that they are available to be viewed by the public.

“I think it would be helpful to everyone and would add an additional layer of transparency,” Randy stated.

Cookendorfer agreed with the suggestion and said the town could look into the process of posting financial and budget reports online in the near future.

Thursday’s council meeting also included a brief discussion on the construction of public restrooms downtown. A special called meeting is set for Thursday to review the architect’s rendering of the proposed project.

Cookendorfer said the council would hold further discussion before bids are let.

In other business, Cookendorfer requested the town contact SCE&G over what he called ‘concerning’ energy bills from the former police station building.

Despite having allegedly disconnected all services, financial reports reviewed Thursday night showed that the town was still being billed $440 in November for utilities at the unused building. Cookendorfer said it was council’s understanding that only security cameras were still being operated at the building, and that everything else had been turned off.

“Let’s reach out to them and make sure that everything has been disconnected as we were told,” Cookendorfer advised.