Blythewood council zooms into homes

Now showing on computer screens near you: next meeting zooms April 27 at 7 p.m. The first public meeting is tentatively set for May 14, when the official budget workshop will be held.

BLYTHEWOOD – In a special called virtual meeting Monday afternoon at 2 p.m., Town Council appeared online via ZOOM to discuss the disposition of ATAX and HTAX funds that Council has already dispersed to organizations for events that, because of the COVID-19 shutdown, have been cancelled.

During a meeting earlier this year, Council voted to give $20,000 to the South Carolina Diamond Invitational baseball tournament that was to be played April 15-18. 

“We’ve already given them $16,000 of that money. The tournament has been cancelled now, and I recommend they just keep the money and use it next year,” Mayor Bryan Franklin said.

“But we don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” Councilman Larry Griffin said. “I suggest they send the money back to the Town [government], and we can make adjustments in the bookkeeping. Then we’ll see what’s going to happen next year. That way we’re protecting the Town’s money.”

“That sounds reasonable,” Franklin said. “And if they’ve already spent $2,000 of that money, they can account for that on a spread sheet.”

Rodeo

Franklin said Buck Coggins had already received $20,000 of a $25,000 HTAX award for the rodeo that was re-scheduled from April 24-25 to November, 2020.  Because the event has been rescheduled, he is being allowed to keep the money for the November event.

Council will consider funding for other events scheduled in July and August as the event gets closer, Franklin said. One of those events is an LPGA golf tournament arranged by Christie Coggins to be held at Cobblestone Park in August.

“That event is expected to bring about 50,000 people to town, and she will be requesting HTAX funds for that,” Franklin said.

Farmers Market Opens

In other business, council voted to allow the Farmers’ Market to hold its season opening in the park on Wednesday from 4 – 7 p.m.

Franklin said the market is an essential business just like the state farmer’s market and that the Wednesday event would observe all the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines for social distancing – gloves worn, no food vendors and no live bands.

“It’s no more dangerous than going to the grocery store,” Franklin said.

Some members expressed an interest in opening up the entire park but, after a half hour discussion about what areas actually makes up the park and whether they should mark off certain areas with police tape, council members voted 5 – 0 to open only the Farmers’ Market.

Late Fees Waved

In another 5 – 0 vote, Council waived the late fees on business license renewals until June 1.

There was also some discussion about waiving ATAX and HTAX payments to Town Hall, but town attorney Jim Meggs said there is a difference between a business license fee and accommodation and hospitality taxes.

“ATAX and HTAX are actually trust monies collected by the restaurants and hoteliers from the tourists and remitted to the Town [government],”Meggs said. “That’s different from giving relief to our businesses from paying late fees for a business license they have not yet paid for.”

Town Clerk Melissa Cowen said of the 235 businesses in the town, only a few have not renewed their business license, and that during the COVID-19 shutdown, she has not been charging late fees for late renewals.

Budget Schedule

Council voted 5 – 0 on a budget schedule proposed by Town Administrator Brian Cook.

“In lieu of having our usual public council budget workshop,” Cook said, “I will have one-on-one meetings with each council member at town hall the first week in May. On May 14, we’ll have the official budget workshop where citizens can participate. Then the goal meeting is set for Tuesday, May 26 when we’ll have first reading of the draft,” Cook said. “We’ll have our regular meeting on June 22 for final reading and a public hearing.”

ZOOM Meetings

Finally, after an almost three-hour meeting, council voted 5 – 0 to allow the town’s subordinate boards and commissions to meet using ZOOM if they so choose.

The next meeting will be another ZOOM meeting on Monday, April 27, at 7 p.m. To watch the ZOOM meeting, go to townofblythewoodsc.gov and click on the YouTube icon in the lower left corner of the screen.