City pledges $14,000 to PDRTA

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

For the past few years, the Darlington City Council’s May meeting has been a standing room only event, as patrons of the Pee Dee Regional Transit Authority (PDRTA) gather pre-budget time to ask city council to support the public DART bus. The audience at the May 3rd meeting was smaller than past years, but jubilant as Mayor Gloria Hines shared that the city has decided to award $14,000 in funding.

“We know it is important to our residents,” said Hines at the May 3rd meeting. “And with the new Walmart bringing jobs and more shopping to the area, we need it more than ever.”

Chuck McNeil, executive director of PDRTA, shared data with the council members.

The bulk of the funding for bus service to operate in Darlington comes from federal funds at 63%, followed by an equal share of 18.5% of local share and state mass transit funds. Only 4% comes from the farebox revenues.

“We know the fare from the bus riders will not pay for the service,” said McNeil. “But many are not blessed to have their own form of transportation like you and I do.”

McNeil went on to say that Genesis Health Care has been a major contributor of the service, proving free bus service to all their patients. They give approximately $5,000 a month for this.

Other contributors to the bus service, in addition to the City of Darlington, include Darlington County School District Adult Education, Florence-Darlington Technical College, and Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. New bus routes have been added for Lamar, Olanta, and Timmonsville, all areas that are served by Genesis Healthcare.

Mayor Gloria Hines told McNeil that she talked to Kevin Lane, manager of the new Walmart in Darlington, and he told her he would donate $1,000 to them. She also suggested that PDRTA contact McLeod Hospital Systems to see if they would contribute.
Other citizens in support included: Hannah Dixon, who shared that although she does not use the bus system, she sees a great neat for it for the community. James Stubbs, a resident of Darlington that is legally blind; he has been employed by the Florence Library System for over 7 years, and moved from Hartsville after they disbanded their bus services. “If it were not for this bus, I would not be able to get to my job – I cannot drive.” He is a librarian in the Florence Library System.

Gracie Lide, a resident of B Avenue in Darlington, addressed council about her high water bill. “This is not my first trip up here for the same old, same old,” said Lide. “This high water bill. Last month I got a water bill for $72.58. They checked the meter, no leak. This month, it came up to $76.77. And I want to know why.”

Lide, who lives alone, said that her nearby neighbors’ bills are in the low $50 range; despite having a plumber come out and search for leaks, she has had this issue in the past and is frustrated by the inconsistencies.

City manager and council recommended that the city provide a new water meter to her to see if that takes care of the problem. “I don’t mind paying for something I use, but I am sick and tired of coming down here.”

Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association (DDRA):
Director Lisa Chalian Rock shared that the Beautifcation Board had three dozen volunteers participate in the Clean Up Darlington Day on April 16.

The Kalmia Garden Study Club’s Trees on the Square project will near completion as 20 pots will be installed on Pearl Street as part of a grant received from the Palmetto Pride Community Grant Award.
She reported that The Market on Darlington Square would begin May 7 (see page 1B), and follow the first Saturday of the month through October from 9 – 1 p.m.

The DDRA will host two free spring concerts at Liberty Lane beginning Saturday, May 21 from 6 – 9 p.m. with Radio Vibe of Darlington sponsored by Kilgo Law Firm. The second concert will be Friday, June 10 with local beach music group The Recollections sponsored by Darlington County Sheriff Wayne Byrd and Kilgo Law Firm

Greater Darlington chamber of Commerce: Chamber Director Norm Steadman told council that the chamber hired a temporary assistant, Elizabeth Gainey.

He said the Administrative Professionals Day Luncheon joint event at SiMT on April 22 with the Florence Chamber was very well attended; he plans to do more joint collaboration with that larger chamber in the future. Two new members joined in the month of April, the Darlington Bait and Tackle store on South Main Street, and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Carolina. Upcoming events include golf tournament at Darlington County Club on Friday May13. The biggest family fireworks event in the Pee Dee, Freedom Fest at the Darlington Raceway, will be held July 4th from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. featuring a larger kids’ zone and the musical groups The Blue Dogs, Morgan’s Road, TJ Laser (a funk group) and the Rick Strickland Band.

First Reading Ordinance 2016-03 – Budget Ordinance 2016-2017 was passed by council. The next budget meeting workshops for council members will be held May 10 from 6 – 8 p.m., Tuesday May 17 from 6 – 8 p.m., and Tuesday May 24 from 6 – 8 p.m., all at City Hall on Pearl Street.

Curbside Furniture Report: Karen Carroll approached council with suggestions on how to best address the issue of abandoned furniture and mattresses cluttering up the residential sections of the City of Darlington. Council addressed the subject at length, noting that it is not always apparent who the items belong to, as items can be moved to other locations. Suggestions such as purchasing stickers for a fee to have the items picked up by city workers, adding fines to water bills of owners of the property where the items were found; and giving warnings to residents to remove the items or face a fine were all discussed. City Planner Lisa Chalian Rock suggested that public hearings be made to educate residents on the proposed plans may be advantageous. Council member John Segars suggested that the information be taken as information until a plan has been set. Mayor Hines said that the information would be added to a work session in the near future.

Estimate for Clean Up Street Department Building
Estimates to remove mold from the city’s street department building were heard by council; the building will take over $54,000 to be deemed “mold free” and joins the administration building on Pearl Street in city owned buildings severely affected by the heavy rains in October.

Update on City Recreation Parks:
The option to purchase 100 acres of property on Lawson Road for city baseball and softball fields has been completed, according to the City Manager’s report. The city paid $1,000 for the option and a wetland report is being conducted.
A letter was sent by Mayor Gloria Hines to the Darlington County School District superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram on May 2, requesting a 100 foot right of way along Swift Creek for a city walking trail.

The next Darlington City Council will be held Tuesday, June 7th at City Hall.

Author: Duane Childers

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