Council passes rural fire department funding, discusses wages, crime and expanding broadband internet service
By Stephan Drew, Editor
Funding the Fire Department, increasing county employees’ wages, county crime and broadband service were among the issues discussed at the Darlington County Council meeting on Monday, August 8th.
An ordinance passed which will allow the Palmetto Rural Fire Dept. to issue General Obligation Bonds up to the amount of $1.6 million to pay off old debt, update and purchase new equipment. Fire Chief Thomas Spivey stated the department would not need more than $1.3 million to cover everything necessary.
Council also approved the 2nd reading of an ordinance which, if passed, will give all county employees a 3% pay increase. Originally, the ordinance granted the pay raise to specific categories of county employees, including those who made less than $50,000, EMS/First Responders who occasionally work 24-hour shifts, Class I Law Enforcement Officers, Class II Correctional Officers, the Sheriff, Clerk of Court, Probate Judge and Coroner. However, during the meeting, County Administrator Charles Stewart notified council that he had observed online comments from the community requesting that the pay raise be extended to all county employees. Council requested that Stewart obtain the necessary data to show what the figures would be if they included all county personnel. Stewart agreed to obtain that information so that the measure might be amended before its final reading and voting takes place.
Stewart also reported on the county’s recent hiring event, noting that approximately 60 people attended, 33 filled out applications, 14 were drug-screened and 9 people were hired from the event.
In other business, Council member Joyce Thomas stated she had received several calls from the community about poor road conditions and asked how citizens may personally request road resurfacing. Chairman Bobby Hudson explained that the citizen would need to attend a meeting of the Darlington County Transportation Committee (CTC) and make the formal request there. CTC is a separate and autonomous committee appointed by the S.C. Senate and not a sub-committee of County Council. Council was notified that the CTC may not be meeting live but may still be conducting tele-conferences at this time. Later in the meeting, Thomas also moved to appoint Mr. Reginald Gardner to the Airport Commission and the motion passed.
Darlington Sheriff James Hudson presented a detailed report on criminal activity and the actions of county law enforcement over the past month, including the fact that the Darlington County Sheriff’s office responded to 2100 calls and served 123 warrants during the month of July.
Hudson went on to say that, with school now in progress again, he had taken steps to insure that “every school in Darlington County has an armed Special Resources Officer (SRO) inside the school and another officer in a marked vehicle on the premises” during school hours. When asked by Council member Thomas if his department kept records of which age groups were committing the majority of certain crimes, Hudson acknowledged that they do compile such data continually and that the report will be finalized and presented by the end of the year.
Joe Prater of Charter Communications gave an update on Spectrum’s broadband work in the county. Originally the contract was expected to provide approximately 1,339 additional residents with broadband internet service. However, when he presented a video map showing which areas already have service and which would be added when the project was done, the number of residents adding internet would reach 3,687.
After Mrs. Thomas asked about student internet coverage, Prater went on to say that he would welcome working with the school district to assist in providing as many students with internet as possible.
The council meets next on Monday, September 12th at 6 p.m.