City Council approves contract extension for City Manager

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

After a contentious special meeting on July 27, the citizens of Darlington came out in droves for the August city council meeting, packing the courtroom and standing along the back wall.

The first order of business was a short executive session, listed on the agenda as necessary ‘to discuss City Manager’s Contract’. In the end, city council voted to extend Howard Garland’s contract for one more year, a decision that was met with applause from the audience several of whom were there to support Garland.

During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, Ben Williamson asked council to get professional help to resolve heated discussions in the future.

“I was sad yesterday to hear that there was so much and so deep bad feelings on the city council,” Williamson said. “I congratulate y’all on coming to a decision tonight but I still would like to say that I don’t think Darlington can continue the progress we’ve been making lately, such a good report from the Chamber of Commerce, if the feelings are as bad as I heard yesterday. So what I would like to ask is that y’all consider mediation, hiring a mediator, so that when difficult questions and issues come up we can get some professional help.”

In old business, council gave final reading to Ordinance 2017-26, approving the purchase of the property at 909 Pearl Street from Donald and Dewayne Weatherford. During the regular July council meeting, Garland explained the necessity of this purchase.

“The stormwater drain runs directly under the building,” Garland said. “The building was built there in 1950 and I don’t know why someone would build right over a stormwater drain but they did. We need that as a part of that stormwater project … this is in the budget for that project.”

Council also approved a demolition list for properties around the city. The list includes multiple properties on Tallulah St., Jefferson St., Pinehaven Ave. and Second St., among others. Letters have been sent to owners of nineteen of the properties, informing them of the city’s intention. Letters have not yet been sent to the others on the list but they will be forthcoming. Garland told council that the city will likely not have to take down all of the properties on the list.

“There may be some that are taken off (the list) because, once we advertise those, we do have some owners of the property that will come in and take care of it themselves,” Garland said.

In new business, council approved first reading of Ordinance 2017-27 for the sale of the property at 410 Pearl Street to Genesis Health Care for $100,000.

Council also heard from Curtis Boyd on the issue of a multi-use trail system for the City of Darlington. Boyd showed council a map with the proposed trail loop.

“There are a lot of runners, walkers and bikers and people who like to be active,” Boyd said. “I would much rather they be active in my gym than on a rail trail but we all love to run outside. I have hundreds of treadmills but I love to run outside so most of my running is actually done outdoors.”

Boyd said that right now, runners and bikers are limited to where they can be active in Darlington.

“When I run through the city of Darlington, that I love so dearly, I have about three or 4 miles that I can run on sidewalks and I run 15 to 25 miles a lot of times,” Boyd said. “A lot of areas I go to and run in different states they have rail trails and stuff; they have a rail trail in Florence. A lot of places I’ve been, they have trails 26, 30 miles long that you can go run on safely and bike.”

Boyd told council that he would like them to look into investing some hospitality tax funds into creating a loop around Darlington. He said that some citizens have said they would be willing to allow the loop on their property.

“You have a couple people in the community who are saying that they are willing to donate land,” Boyd said. “I’m actually willing to donate part of my property also to connect to the trail.”

The trail would be in three phases, starting at just three miles but eventually connecting almost all of Darlington.
Council received Boyd’s presentation just for information.

Author: Duane Childers

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