City Council discusses land sale and street damage

The city-owned property, located at 207 Siskron Street in Darlinton. PHOTO BY STEPHAN DREW

Known as the old Po Boys Seafood Restaurant, the city is selling the building (approx. less than 1,000 sq. ft.) and the small asphalt driveway and parking area immediately surrounding the building. PHOTO BY STEPHAN DREW

The property is located at one end of the city-owned Hampton Street Park. PICTURED HERE: Looking from the Hampton Street Park to the rear of the Siskron Street property. PHOTO BY STEPHAN DREW

By Stephan Drew, Editor

When the Darlington City Council met on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, much of the meeting was taken up with the discussion of the city’s sale of land, located at 207 Siskron Street. This property was the former Po Boy’s Seafood Restaurant which was sold to the city on September 11, 2018. Most of the property, which extends from Hampton Street to Siskron, is utilitized by the city as the Hampton Street Park. The city is looking to sell the unused portion which contains the old Po Boy’s building and a small asphalt parking area around that building. The City of Darlington paid $80,000 for the entire property in 2018 and the property in question was opened up for bids previously but, the offered bid fell through. This is the second time bids were requested and only one was received, for $35,000, according to City Manager John Payne.

A public hearing was held during the council meeting, allowing citizens time to address the issue. Janie Latham, owner of Latham Consultants, questioned the manner in which the hearing was conducted. “We do not afford the citizens of Darlington a public hearing,” Latham stated, “we end up with these fake public hearings, noted as an agenda item on a regular City Council meeting.” Payne and councilmember John Milling explained that the S.C. Municipal Association had been contacted and approved the scheduling of public hearings during regular City Council meetings. Councilmember Elaine Reed brought up the fact that previous public hearings were handled differently. In the past, many public hearings were held separately from city council meetings.  The Second Reading was approved and will be afforded a Third Reading before a final vote during its April meeting.

Calvin Hammond addressed  the speech and procedures of the council. He also questioned councilmembers’ presence within the community. “This is my first city council meeting,” Hammond stated, “ and I’m kind of disgusted at what I’m listening to.  Y’all keep saying ‘citizens’. What citizens are y’all talking about?  When y’all walk in the neighborhood, they don’t know y’all. We don’t know y’all or what y’all are doing for them up here.”

Rita Archer of The Archer Company, presented her findings and reported the details of her research into the Wage and Classification Study. City Manager John Payne  requested the study when he took office over 18 months ago to grant equity among city employees and make sure that wages in the city were competitive with other parts of the state.  The study recommends a Cost-Of-Living-Allowance (COLA)  increase of 6.9% with a further increase of 6% above that. The city hopes to begin implementing the raises by May of this year.

Lee Andrews, Director of the Darlington Recreation Dept., spoke to council of the need for $10,308.60 for shirts and hats for 345 children involved in city athletic events. The amount equals approximately $27 per child. Andrews explained that this money will come out of the Recreation Dept. budget but is covered by numerous $500 sponsorships from various businesses, citizens and organizations around the city. Council approved the measure.

Alex Gainey, Director of Streets and Sanitation, stood before council to request $21,240.71 for the purchase of new trash carts around the city. The money will be used to purchase 250 green rollcarts and 50 blue rollcarts. Gainey stated that the new rollcarts could be in place for use approximately 4 to 5 weeks after ordering them. Council approved the measure.

City Manger John Payne asked that council approve funding for the Hospitality Grants to be issued for the 2023 calendar year. When asked how much was needed, Payne stated, “It was $35,000 last year but, that is up to the council.” Payne explained that he needed a specific figure so that organizations would know how much was available to be dispensed. Council approved the $35,000 figure. Payne told council that Rep. Robert Williams had secured $300,000 in appropriations last year. Council voted to use $250,000 of that amount for the new splash pad and, Williams has requested that the remaining $50,000 in funds be donated to 7 different organizations. They are: Crazy Hope Community Center, Mayo Alumni Association, the Family Engagement Center, Terrence Carraway Memorial Park, the Veterans Memorial Park, the West End Heritage Park and the Grand Old Post Office Foundation. Council voted to appropriate the funds. These amounts will not come from the city budget

Councilmember Elaine Reed told council of a pedestrian who fell through a manhole cover on Edwards Avenue because the cover was too small for the hole where it is placed. Sanitation Director Gainey stated that the manhole may contain an abandoned water meter. “If that is the case,” Gainey said, “we may be able to take it out and pour concrete over it.” Councilmember Sheila Baccus questioned why the “Hotbox” (asphalt truck for small paving jobs) was not being utilized more frequently to repair holes and washouts from water line breakages. “On Avenue B,” Baccus stated, “the city cut that hole over a year ago and it hasn’t been paved.”  Gainey stated he would look into the matter.

The next meeting of the Darlington City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

Author: Stephan Drew

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