Darlington city council hosts last meeting of the year
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
The final meeting of the year for the Darlington City Council ended at 10 p.m., with tired council members and city employees hoping that the new year will find a site for the oft discussed recreation complex.
Although the Lawson Road location was sold, and the Phillips Street location has hit some snags, a new tract of land has been added to the list – a nearly 44 acre tract of land near the bypass being sold by Michael Sprott.
According to Lee Andrews, the land joins three additional pieces of land that may become available for purchase. “We are very early at this stage,” said Andrews. But it may be a good fit and location for what we want to do.”
The site does have wetlands, an issue that has come up in previous land discussions. The property has some sports history, as it was the location of the former old “Mill Hill” Milliken ball fields of yesteryear, and would be easier to annex as it is closer to the city limits. He hopes to build no less than six ballfields.
The property at Phillips Street is awaiting the final environmental report; one portion of the land has is a confirmed burial site of 40 graves from a former plantation on the land.
Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association: DDRA Director Lisa Chalian-Rock addressed council and shared that the Shop Small Downtown Open House went well. The DDRA partnered with the Darlington Area Recreation Department to provide a fun filled night for children and their families, with music from Dan E. Lockemy, a snow machine, prizes from local businesses, and Shop Small free bags to the first 200 shoppers.
She noted the DDRA gave their first sign grant to the Darlington County Habitat for Humanity ReStore on South Main Street for 50% of their new sign. The DDRA still has $4,500 in that fund for businesses to apply for the 50/50 grant funds.
A new tourism website is in the works for the DDRA, to serve as a tourism tool for residents and visitors to find sites of interest, photos, menus, maps and more. The launch date for the site will be January 26, 2017.
Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce: Director Norm Steadman addressed council, and shared that the Chamber held their annual retreat on Nov. 2 at Nucor, electing the following new officers for the 2017 year: Chair, Harriet Hobbs of Genesis Healthcare; Vice-Chair, John Griggs of Embrace Hospice: Treasurer, Graham Segars of Sonoco; and Secretary Danny Brawn of Manheim Darlington. The chamber’s annual banquet will be held February 9. Freedom Fest will be held on July 1, 2017, a departure from the traditional 4th to remain on the weekend; and the Toast of Darlington will be held on October 5, 2017. Steadman said the Chamber gained 27 new members this year, with a total membership of 248 at this time. He urged council to consider nominating residents for the annual awards banquet.
Citizens wishing to speak to Council:
Ben Williamson: Mr. Williamson addressed council about his offer to gift land at base of Williamson Park, and offered that other landowners have also offered to donate land to the city. New city attorney Kevin Etheridge noted that he will get the file from former city attorney and report back to council about the donation.
Leonard Epps: Mr. Epps addressed council that longtime city manager Howard Garland’s contract is up in a year, and he urged council to secure his contract. “Over 20% of our city budget is grants,” said Epps, nothing that the current run of Darlington County administrators has been a warning that the city should heed. “I suggest we secure his contract, he will look out for all of us.”
2014-2015 Audit Report Approval: Council voted to approve the audit report, which had been greatly delayed by Rob Jordan.
B.A. Gary Tennis Courts: Lee Andrews, via suggestion by councilwoman Elaine Reed to look into the dilapidated tennis courts on Magnolia Street, brought good news to the council members. “I have something better than tennis courts,” said Andrews. Noting that the tennis courts in the center of town were in great shape, he shared plans to transform the area into a new playground system that would serve many age levels, with playground equipment for younger children and a 12 station workout area for adults (including: in ground elliptical unit, chest press, leg extension, hand cycle, captains chair, cardio walker, lat pull down, situp/back extension, recumbent cycle, and leg press and more) swings, and walking trail. The price is comparable to what resurfacing the tennis courts would be, and will serve more age groups and abilities.
Phillips Street Recreation Site: The Rec. Department is awaiting environmental report.
Grievance Committee Report: Nine employees will be appointed in staggering length of years served. Council suggested changing wording of quorum to be “no less than five members” instead of 2/3. Council members all agreed that they will not interfere with any proceedings with that committee.
Mullins and Associates Housing Demolition Bid: City building inspector said that the request for the Mullins and Associates to fulfill the former demolitions bid from Talbert Construction cannot be granted; the demolition plan must be set out for re bid, as required by South Carolina state law, noting page 16 of the Section 11-35-1520 of S.C. Legislation. He noted that he was not entirely certain why the SC Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHEC) had halted the former project, as it was before he was working for the city, but moving forward the department would be working diligently to remove the offending houses in the city limits in a timely fashion.
Will Isgett, Miss Darlington Pageant: Mr. Isgett shared his plans for a Miss Darlington and Miss Darlington Teen Pageant to be held on May 21, 2016 with emcee Nicole Boone, and introduced members of his committee including many Darlington residents. Council discussed helping him with funds after the first of the year, noting that they are in a freeze until all taxes are paid to the city. Elaine Reed agreed to be a committee member to represent the City.
Leadership Strategy Consulting Toyinda L. Smith: Ms. Smith shared her business that helps with team building exercises; she said she would charge $2,200. Council took it as information.
Green Bulb Light: Michael McClain: Representatives heard proposal by Green Bulb Light, who have already installed LED fixtures and bulbs at several city owned interior buildings including the gymnasiums and plans for the Fire Department. They laud a savings of KW hours, maintenance, and bulb replacement and disposal fees – with more than enough savings to pay back the investment. They shared that the city would be eligible for a SC Energy Fund loan at 1.5% at a 10-year loan schedule with no payment the first year as a way to purchase the energy efficient light fixtures and bulbs. They note the lighting is closer to daylight, and is a consistent light rather than the variable lighting found in old fluorescent bulbs.
Old Christmas Decorations: a Key to the City was presented by Mayor Gloria Hines to Cathy Britt Kemmerlin and her merry band of Christmas light elves for their help in restringing the vintage Christmas angel and tree light fixtures in the City of Darlington.
Economic Development Incentives: Lisa Chalian Rock in her dual role as city planner addressed council about proposed economic incentives comparing incentives offered to businesses in Greenville and neighboring city of Hartsville, and Cheraw. Rock suggested the following: Building Permit Fee – 50% abatement of fees for 100 full time jobs or $150,000 investment, 100% abatement of permit fees for 200 full time jobs or $300,000 investment; Hospitality and Accommodation Taxes fee abatement of taxes collected in varying increments; Business License Fee abatement in varying increments; and Façade Improvement Grants drafted under approval of council with full planning commission approval.
Council asked if it would be just for new businesses, but Rock said it would be up to them to decide if existing could enjoy the incentives. Councilman Bryant Gardner voiced support of it being for both new and existing.
John Milling suggested that they look over the language on the proposals very carefully to avoid the problems that Marion County faced with their incentive programs.
City manager Howard Garland noted that perhaps having the business pay up front and get reimbursed would eliminate fraud, and suggested to council that they ought to approve since Darlington is uniquely situated 4 miles from 95 and needs to move forward on attracting new businesses to consider Darlington as a location to move to.
Council voted to approve for first reading, and will see changes in recommended language before final approval.
Hurricane Matthew FEMA Report: Jannie Lathan reported that the city is awaiting final determination on the FEMA report; “We left no stones unturned,” said Lathan. “We were very precise in our report, and we hope to get word back soon on how much they will approve so we can move forward on much needed repairs.
Update Procurement Policy CDBG: council voted to approve, moving forward on the Phase III Renaissance water and sewer upgrades for the city.
Christmas Holidays: all Darlington City offices will be closed Friday – Tuesday, December 23 – 27
New Year’s Holidays: City offices closed Monday, January 2, 2017
Next Monthly Meeting of City Council: Tuesday, January 3, 2017