Chamber hosts council candidate forum

Town Council candidates Roxann Henagan and Rich McKenrick answer questions from WHS students. Dr. Traci Cooper moderated. | Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – Two of three candidates running for two town council seats showed up at Tuesday night’s candidate forum held at The Manor to answer questions first from the Blythewood chamber of commerce and later from members of the audience.

Prior to the event, missing candidate Town Councilman Sloan Griffin, Jr. released a statement that he would not be attending due to what he called the chamber’s disappointing process for how they selected a candidate for endorsement.

The endorsed candidate, Rich McKenrick, veered into the weeds several times during the evening to criticize Griffin for his absence.

The forum can be viewed at blythewoodonline.com.

The forum was moderated by Dr. Traci Cooper. Four students from Westwood High School asked each candidate the same three questions posed by the chamber. Two students from Blythewood High School later read questions from the audience.

Here’s what candidates Roxann Henagan and Rich McKenrick had to say.

Q:  Should the Town of Blythewood move forward with annexation and, if so, what would your view be as to the most effective method and areas to incorporate in doing so to provide the greatest benefit to our citizens, our businesses and our Town?

McKenrick – “Annexation is not a negative thing – there is no cost, no property tax to come into the town. It’s important to communicate that to those outside of the town.

“However,” he said, “we have to be careful of the administration challenges that annexation would put on our town staff – like permitting. You can’t just take a chunk of property and bring it in to town. You have to expect permitting and building inspection processes to come along, but we need to grow the town and there’s no better way to grow the town than through annexation.”

Henagan – “First of all for clarity and transparency for our community, annexation is a long discussion for a long time,” Henagan said. “It is not a recent topic. Because annexation is a complicated and sensitive subject, those who rent or own a business in the Town of Blythewood, we must move forward in a collective and knowledgeable manner, no matter how complicated, sensitive or difficult it may be.”

During her two-minute rebuttal, Henagan added that she felt the Town should be moving toward producing its own water.

“We need to have our own plan for our own water,” she said.

Q: The Town of Blythewood has no property tax. More than half of the current budget of $1.85 million in revenue is comprised of Franchise Fees, Local Option Sales Taxes and Sate Accommodation Taxes. Richland County Penny Tax provisions for road improvements and the estimated nearly $2 million of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 expected funding represent a significant impact to our Town and community. What would be your priority as to the use of each (Penny Tax and Rescue Plan) of these funding opportunities and the proposed impact of each?

Henagan said, “Funds from the American Rescue Plan would allow funds to be prioritized in the area that black people have not been able to take advantage of, such as annexation and that could make up for some things when you aren’t able to annex and vote in the town of Blythewood. The ARP fund should be prioritized to that community.”

McKenrick explained that through the TPAC funds, the McNulty Road, Creech Road Extension and widening of Blythewood Road are fully funded and that the $2M American Rescue Plan funds will be a one-time check that the council will have to make a decision as to how it will be used. But he also noted that the federal guidelines are very specific as to how that money can be used.

Q: How should we fund new recreation?

McKenrick said it is Richland County’s responsibility to fund recreation and he urged residents to contact their county representative to help get that funding.

“We don’t raise taxes, we don’t go to the residents and say because they (Richland County) won’t, we will. That’s the wrong answer.”

Henagan said, “There’s nothing written in stone when it comes to politics. If you collaborate, you can make things happen together, moving forward.”

Q:  Why do you want to serve and what motivated you to run for town council.

Henagan said she’s running for a unified voice not only for women but for the youth.

“We need to have a collaborative effort to move forward without taking the funds out of the town or bickering or lawsuits or hiring an outside entity to do jobs that we have well qualified businesses to do,” she said. “There’s no reason we should have funds going outside the town to third parties to bring us together.”

McKenrick said he appreciates the people who serve on town council, but somehow council has lost its true voice.

“That’s important to me,” he said. “My parents raised me that, if you’re going to complain about something, then you better be prepared to be part of the solution.”

Comments

  1. Ann Byrum says

    It appears Ms Henagan is in her military uniform. Even though she’s retired, it is inappropriate to wear a military uniform to a political event, partisan or not.

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