City votes to help fund 2nd Freedom Fest
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Darlington City Council held their monthly meeting on April 7th and heard updates on improvements to the city, participated in a light demonstration, and voted to support the Freedom Fest again. The Wal-Mart development update this month is that all bids for sub-contractors have been picked up; the future Supercenter is predicted to open before the holidays eight months away.
DDRA update: Lisa Rock, who wears the hat of both City Planner and Director of Downtown Revitalization Development Association updated council on recent events sponsored by DDRA, such as the Annual DDRA Golf Tournament, Clean Up Day, Pride of Darlington Awards, and the annual Taste of Darlington to be held April 16th at the Darlington Raceway from 7 – 9 p.m. Proceeds from fundraising events will fund projects such as:
• Decorations for Race Week.
• Business seminars for members.
• Downtown beautification projects.
• Community events such as Market on Darlington Square (May – Oct.), Gospel on the Square (May 17), Scare on the Square, etc.
Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce update: Director Hannah Stanley shared a presentation to council highlighting the success of the first Freedom Fest held on the July 4th holiday last summer. “We anticipated 3 to 4,000 people, and ended up with 12 to 14,000,” said Stanley. “And we couldn’t have done it without the commitment by the City.”
Stanley highlighted the event as a prime time to show off Darlington, and be a catalyst for economic development, tourism, and a positive event for the entire community.
This year’s event will feature a headliner performance, another 20-25 minute fireworks display, and free kid zone at no charge to families.
“The fact that people could enter free and let their children play for no charge was tremendous to many families that cannot afford it,” said Stanley. “We gave water away free, too, we felt it was a safety issue because of the heat. The food that was available was not overly expensive, either.”
She requested that the City fund at the same rate they did last year, which was $15,000.
City manager Howard Garland said if they fund it again, it would come from the hospitality fund, and to do so would mean the city would not move forward on the Carnegie Library restoration.
Council voted unanimously to fund the Freedom Fest for the $15,000 once again.
Citizens appearing before council:
• Councilwoman Gloria Hines addressed council as a community member, and requested that Georgia Pacific/Dixie Cup keep up their side of a previous agreement to maintain Wells Park on Avenue A and keep it clean, that it was full of cigarette butts and trash. Mayor Watkins said he would check on that.
• Local light pollution expert Francis Parnell addressed council and requested the lights in the meeting room be turned off so he could show the color difference between an LED flashlight and a regular bulb 6 volt lantern. He shared the blue spectrum of the current LED lighting is very detrimental to vision and imagine if all the lights were that way. “Our eyes are not designed for blue at night. Some lighting companies are getting on board and changing LED to a more like an incandescent light which is what we grew up seeing At least wait until the lighting manufacturers catch up with the kind of lighting that human eyes are designed. And changing the wavelength. I just read a story this morning about a community in South Charlotte that put in LEDs and two men are mad as hornets, the man said it looks like a parking lot. It’s lighting up our bedroom window, and one woman was quoted as saying she used to have deer in her back yard but now there is no wildlife any more. These lights affect us, nocturnal animals; anything that has a heart beat. I recommend holding off for a while until the manufacturers do what they need to do what they shouln’t have done 5 six.”
• James Jeffery, a former county and city crossing guard, requested that the City consider annexing the part of Highway 52 by Burger King, the area that the young girl Dejah Hough was killed crossing on her way to school struck by a tractor trailer truck and a minivan.
“Remember there used to be alight there at Burger King? I started complaining about not getting a light by the Junior High. That little girl is the fourth person that has gotten killed out there.”
He said he witnessed in his years as a crossing guard, that he witnessed many times trucks and cars going through lights at great speed, and with no caution lights to slow them down more fatalities will occur. He suggested that a set of lights like the ones near Brockington Elementary should be placed there.
Mayor Tony Watkins said, “We would have a more active role in safety issues and patrolling it, lighting, and a host of other services. But we cannot force those folks to come in, they have to initiate, they would have to petition the City to come in- but we would welcome them in.”
The area of Darlington is currently under the jurisdiction of the county.
Councilman Jimmy Cooper suggested that perhaps collaboration could be made between the city, the county and the school board to address this issue of areas that are school zones. “We are all concerned about this.”
Howard Garland suggested that might want to get legislation involved, since they carry more weight with DOT than anyone else.
• A citizen approached council about the pipes leading to her home that she purchased in 1992. “When I approached the state they said they were not ready, an now they say they are waiting on the city to replace the pipes. They have yet to come put pipes on First Street. The street is utilized every day, twice a day with school buses back and forth, people running through there, there are potholes that have been filled up numerous times I’ve had to purchase tires multiple times. I know you’d rather hear about nice festival things, and donations but there is no reason doing that when you are not taking care of the streets. The most important thing is fixing up the city first, before you keep having more entertainment and bringing people in. you fix up the things that need to be fixed up. I thought this was going to happen 5 years ago. The state says they are waiting for the city to put the pipes, and the city says they are waiting for the state. I don’t blame the state; you need to put the pipes in yesterday. You donate money to this and that, you have to take care of the home front first. You don’t see any politicians until election time.”
Council requested Freddie Kensaul of the Water Department to address, and he said that the water at the street is clear. “I cannot speak for what the quality is inside the home,” he said.
Audit presentation by Hill and Jordan:
The audit for the City of Darlington’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2014 was presented to the council. According to the report, the City experienced a moderate increase in net position in its water and sewer proprietary fund and a moderate decrease in the general fund. As a result of the year’s activity the general fund’s net position decreased by $220,509. The water and sewer fund experienced an increase in net position of $416,511, of which $318,656 relates to federal grant revenues to upgrade the City’s water treatment facilities and sewer lines.
Rob Jordan referenced several key components of the audit, and noted that no items of noncompliance as defined by governmental accounting standards or OMB Circular A-133 were disclosed. “You still have plenty in reserves,” said Jordan. “Proceed with caution, however.”
Fair Housing Resolution CDBG:
No discussion was made, and the resolution was approved and signed.
Second Reading of Ordinance 2014-12 “Williamson Park Ordinance”
Lee Andrews of the Darlington Recreation Department reiterated the importance of changing the antiquated wording of the ordinance that had not changed in decades.
The park is governed by a board of nine, and employs a part time person, Eddie Lott, to maintain the park and oversee the wildlife. “We see everything from eagles, deer, turtles and more at this park,” said Andrews. “We hope that more people come and enjoy it, but also treat it respectfully.”
First Reading of Ordinance 2015-04 “Purchase of Property for Lift Station”
This property will allow for the EDA grant, to allow water to flow from Hwy. 52 and the Hartsville Oil Mill to Florence, which will all for future potential economic development on the Bypass.
Municipal Courtroom Renovation/Roof Repair Street Department:
A roof repair fee of $85,000 will be part of the future project which will come under the USDA Grant for the much needed municipal courtroom renovation.
Darlington Fire Department Training Facility update from Chief Pat Cavanaugh:
An impressive 18,000 square foot training facility has been created by the Darlington Fire Department staff on Broad Street, in a vacant building that was the former home of Weaver Electric. Cavanaugh shared the details of the building that was created completely from donations from several local businesses: Darlington Veneer donated plywood for interior rooms, H & S Floors and Furnishings donated old appliances to simulate a working kitchen and laundry room, and Georgia Pacific lent financial help. DFD found bedframes, mattresses and other furniture in local dumpsters and landfills to create a complete home to host first responder-specific drills. Dummies of proper human weight for adults and children were made from old fire hoses.
“We estimate it would have cost about $200,000 to have built this,” said Cavanaugh. “And we did it for nothing but donations.”
The city police will also use the facility for training exercises as well.
City Manager Update:
Howard Garland updated council on upcoming events including the PDRTA event, MASC event in July, and brought up complaints on bathrooms at the Blue Street fields- and invited Lee Andrews to address council on an idea.
“We’ve got really old bathrooms at that field,” said Andrews. “They were never designed for public use.”
His idea, in light of the recent talk of a new sports complex, was to hold off on replacing the existing toilets and purchasing a portable unit that has indoor heated and air-conditioned bathrooms. “It’s basically a port a potty on steroids.”
He found one that was used for under $20,000 that could be used by the City at event such as the Sweet Potato Festival, softball and baseball tournaments, and other events. The building is mobile and can be locked up and safely housed to deter vandalism.
Council voted unanimously to fund the purchase, using the tourism budget.