Council weighs options on requests for old St. David’s Academy building

Mike Bedenbaugh speaks to Society Hill Town Council about work being done to restore historic properties in the town.

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

Society Hill Town Council passed first reading of an ordinance to amend their 2017-2018 budget during their meeting Oct. 10.

If the ordinance receives approval during the next meeting, $3,210 will be removed as a line item for roof improvements on the 1822 Library. At the request of Police Chief David Young it will be added to the police department salaries to pay for additional hours for the town’s part time officer.

“Right now, from what I understand, we have allocated 30 hours to the part-time officer; Ryan usually gets just about all of that,” Young said. “What I have done is I’ve actually been scheduling him for 25 hours. We were trying to keep it under 30, right at 29, so that gave him four hours if there was anything out of the ordinary; he might have to stay if he got involved with something at the end of his shift; he might have to go to a bond hearing the next morning. We have court once a month where he has to come in, off of what he was already scheduled for. These things are just part of the job and they just have to happen and we have to pay him for it.”

Young said that even with the scheduling being done the way it is, the part time officer is running out of hours.

“He’s been getting his 29 but there have been times were he’s gotten his 29 and then he arrests someone and he has to come back the next day for a bond hearing; he’s got to go; he’s required to go,” Young said. “I asked (the Mayor) if there was anyway that we could find some money to allocate him a few more hours….I would like for there to be five or six hours where if he has to work over or come in we can pay him for it rather than him losing a shift.”

The work the $3,210 was originally allocated for has been done. It was completed while Rosser Construction was in town to replace the roof on City Hall, the Fire Department and the picnic shed. The money set aside for those projects ended up being enough to pay for the library roof as well.

Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance amending the budget.

In new business, Williams Stephens spoke to council regarding his U Pass It On program. Stephens told council that the program teaches people how to be ‘helpers’, giving them the skills that they need to find a job.

“Our interest is to train individuals who have either fallen out of college, fallen out of school, have been released from prison or even have not long gotten out of the military and can’t find a job,” Stephens said. “We’re not competing against any schools or colleges. We’re here to take what no body else wants, to take those that can’t find a job; we want to train them how to get that job. How we intend to do that is to use the waste or the old products that we throw away and teach…anyone that wants to know how to do any basic skill: carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electronics, even cooking.”

Stephens requested that council either give him the old St. David’s Academy building to use for his program or offer him a long-term lease, given the fact that a lot of money would be required from the program to update the building.

“We would like to use this school, if possible,” Stephens said. “As you can see, it will take a lot to bring it back up to usability. We are asking today if you would consider even donating this building.”

Council did not make a motion but told Stephens that they would take all the information he had given them and get back to him with their decision.

Kenny Stratton, representing St. David’s Asylum Haunted House, also spoke to council inquiring about the old school building. The haunted house was run out of the building in 2015 before being shut down for ‘fire and life safety code violations as well as some issues with statutory compliance’, according to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Division of Fire and Life Safety with the state fire marshal’s office. Stratton requested that the haunted house crew be allowed to make updates to the building to bring it up to code and resume their scaring. Council also told Stratton that they would review his request and get back to him.

Mike Bedenbaugh with Preservation South Carolina gave council an overview of the work that he and his organization have been doing in the town to preserve several of their historic buildings. He said they currently own around 15 acres on Main Street facing town hall and are seeking parties interested in purchasing the Coker Rogers Store and other buildings for renovation and preservation. Bedenbaugh said that Society Hill has a lot of historic value and he would love to see someone come in, restore the buildings and possibly use one of them as a restaurant and entertainment space.

Author: Duane Childers

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