Cohen surprised by PDRTA award at Nov. council meeting

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

During the public portion of the Darlington City Council’s November meeting, Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority: Chuck McNeil, Executive Director of PDRTA thanked council and mayor for their support of the bus service: “It is an asset to the community, and it speaks well to market Darlington to the outside world and respective businesses, or people thinking of moving here, that you have a public bus service and it’s growing. …By the way, probably the biggest compliment for the good work you do is when someone else copies it. I was asked to appear before the city of Hartsville’s city council this summer to answer questions about PDRTA and what is going on over there in Darlington that looks like a good deal how we can make it work here. That is a work in progress with community stakeholders to see if they can restore public bus service over there.”

McNeil then shared the service’s newly published map, then thanked Dyan Cohen: “I want to extend an appreciation to Dyan Cohen. When I first came here four years ago, Dyan reached out to me and I was floored by how interested she was in the service and how tirelessly she was willing to work. It was almost like an unpaid volunteer on my staff. I couldn’t think of what would be significant enough to thank her; I wanted to present to Dyan in appreciation for all of us at PDRTA …I think this is historic the first ever issued, an honorary lifetime bus pass.(a large engraved glass one!) In recognition and sincere appreciation for her distinguished support.”

Dyan Cohen was surprised by a special award by Pee Dee Regional Transportation executive director Chuck McNeil at the Nov. 10 meeting, a Lifetime Bus Pass, to thank her for her tireless work advocating for the bus service in Darlington.				 Photos by Jana E. Pye

Dyan Cohen was surprised by a special award by Pee Dee Regional Transportation executive director Chuck McNeil at the Nov. 10 meeting, a Lifetime Bus Pass, to thank her for her tireless work advocating for the bus service in Darlington. Photos by Jana E. Pye

Resolution to Allow Exemption from SC Blue Laws:
In preparation for the upcoming holiday shopping season, council voted to approve a blue law waiver for Thanksgiving and Christmas retail season, to suspend the 1:30 p.m. opening hour to allow businesses in the City of Darlington to operate at an earlier time on Sundays after the hour of 10:00 a.m. through the end of the 2015 calendar year.

2nd Reading Ordinance 2015-04 “Transfer Portion of Patience Street to Miriam W. Jones”

Mayor Tony Watkins shared with council the significance of the generosity of Mrs. Jones: “Because of the generosity of Miriam Jones, she was gracious enough to offer and not oppose any kind of encroachment on her property allowed us to be able to close Patience Street. We were able to get DOT’s permission to construct those traffic lights, and the intersection; which, by the way, was a condition given to us by DOT, In other words, it would have been a deal breaker… if she had resisted. We owe her a great deal of thanks. She is a wonderful person. We promised her we would transfer that portion of the street to her, for her own use…becomes her yard. It’s already been sectioned off. We will also do some planting sod, and planting of bushes and so forth to make it acceptable aesthetically, so it looks like part of her yard, which it is.”

Council voted in favor of transferring the portion of the street to Jones.

“We give big thanks to her.” said Watkins.

Paving Funding Request SCDOT: Orange/Wells Street:
Per letter shared by city manager Howard Garland, South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) prepared an estimate for the repair, replacement and upgrade of the old existing clay storm drain system down Wells Street beginning at Pearl Street, crossing Orange Street. They estimate a cost of of $300,198, with a request for the city to assist with a joint funding effort.

Howard Garland told council, “This was on our meeting agenda at the last meeting; as you know we have had plenty of issues with sink holes on Orange and Wells Streets, after many months we got SCDOT to agree it’s their problem and not ours. But their paving budget does not allow for them to pave this completely. The paving is over $300,000. They are asking the city of Darlington to kick in some money. It would be our recommendation to put in $50,000 for this project.”
Outgoing councilman Wayne Chapman asked, “What if we don’t put up the $50,000? Will they have to come up with the balance of it? It just sits there if we don’t do anything, or…?”

“I think they would approach CTC for some of- county transportation- but since our facilities cover a good portion of it …it’s a fair request. It’s 1/6th of the total cost.”

Mayor Tony Watkins added: “If they go to CTC it will offset funds that we may ask for anyway. A lot of this impacts our ability to stay in this building because of the fire department but that is a good question but I think we need to step up.”

All council members voted to contribute the $50,000.

Phase II Renaissance Grant Update:
David Brown of Davis & Brown Inc. Engineering addressed council regarding concerns in the construction of the Phase II Renaissance Grant. Last month council learned that during smoke testing of sanitary sewers in the area, smoke came out of the storm water catch basin. Upon further investigation, numerous issues were found with the construction, including plastic sewer pops with plastic connector in the catch basin, and grading/elevation issues – some up to 1 – 2 feet deep.

“We wrote Stone Engineering and asked them to respond, to our concerns” said Brown. “Major concerns being surface penetration, grading issues, and pipe issues… They got back with the contractor and the contractor agreed to fix the surface penetration issues, but not the other two. We do not feel this is acceptable, and we are in the process in responding to that. We are going to request a face-to-face meeting. Hopefully we can get the issue resolved.

Segars asked, “Have they ever done any work with us before? Stone Engineering?”

Howard Garland replied, “Stone Engineering did the storm water engineering with Lathan Consulting.”

Dog Waste Ordinance:
Lisa Chalian-Rock, as City Planner, addressed council regarding a request from a citizen concerned with an inordinate amount of dog waste on her lawn. Rock shared research she compiled on the topic, and noted that nationally 40% of dog owners don’t pick up after their pets and 44% of dog walkers that don’t pick up their pet waste indicated they still would refuse to do so even if confronted by neighbors, threatened with fines, or provided with sanitary options. “So half of those people are just not going to do it, period. “ said Rock. Greenville County made a humorous billboard that stated, “There is no poop fairy” urging pet owners to clean up after their pets. Ordinances around the state vary, with penalties can run from fines or tickets of $50 to $500 for offense, court costs, up to 30 days in jail, and community service hours. “The City of Hartsville specifically addresses it as well, and says they must remove pet waste on public or private property; its classified in city of Hartsville as a misdemeanor, punishable up to a fine of $500 or 30 days imprisonment or both. The city of Florence specifically does not address pet waste, they don’t consider it a big issue.”

Council voted to table the discussion.

Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association (DDRA) update from director Lisa Chalian-Rock:
Rock shared two events planned by DDRA to encourage people to “Shop Darlington”:

• “Fuel Up Before You Shop Small” a kick off to Christmas shopping on Small Business Saturday, on Saturday, Nov. 28th a free buffet breakfast at Darlington Country Club from 7 – 9:30 a.m. sponsored by DDRA to encourage residents to shop locally and keep their dollars in Darlington. Businesses wishing to participate may contact her.

• Downtown Christmas Market on Saturday, December 12 at Trinity United Methodist Church fellowship hall, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature music and dance entertainers performing throughout the day, and face painting for kids in addition to vendors for gifts. A map of local shops in area will be given to shoppers.
Rock plans to offer the Shop Darlington contest again to reward local shoppers with the chance to win three $100 gas gift cards. Shoppers are encouraged to complete an entry form and send in five receipts from local shops between Thanksgiving and Christmas. “Rules and entry forms on Facebook page DowntonDarlington, and around town,” said Rock. “We are also asking shoppers to use hashtags #ShopDarlington and #shopsmall and #DarlingtonPride.”

She said the Scare on Square held the Thursday before Halloween even more children than last year with 1000 – 1,2000 kids, with over 30 businesses and non-profits handing out candy. She thanked the Recreation, Fire and Police Departments for their help, and stated that they are looking on blocking off the street entirely because of how many kids attended the event. The DDRA Business Costume Contest winner was Carolina Bank once again.

Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce update from director Sabrina Derry:
Derry thanked the Mayor, city employees and staff for another successful Toast of Darlington event, with over 200 people in attendance. Wilson Senior Care won the Cookoff Challenge. “Darlington Chamber business membership continues to grow,” said Derry. “Upcoming events include the February Annual Awards Banquet.

[Ed. Note: see Society Page 2 B for information on nominations for this event.] She is currently working on the calendar for 2016 for Business After Hours and Lunch and Learn events in Darlington, Society Hill and Lamar.

The final city council meeting for 2015 will be held on December 1 at 7 p.m.; this will be the last official meeting for Mayor Tony Watkins, Councilwoman Dyan Cohen, Councilman James “Jimmy” Cooper, and Councilman Wayne Chapman. The meeting is open to the public.

Author: Duane Childers

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