County Council approves funds for pet shelter and hears crime report
By Stephan Drew, Editor
On Monday, March 6, 2023, the Darlington County Council met for their regular meeting and heard a plea for funds to the animal shelter as well as a full crime report. Darlington County resident Wayne Dublin spoke and requested that council approve an $8,000 request from the Darlington County Animal Shelter, in order to continue their program of spaying or neutering each animal housed there. Dublin explained that he and his wife truly love all animals and have several of their own. He said there are so many animals at the shelter that they have no space for new ones and, some kept there now may have to be destroyed if they can’t be adopted out. “Our shelter is a kill shelter,” Dublin stated. Spaying and neutering helps keep future pet populations down. Council voted and approved funds for the program to continue.
Society Hill Mayor Wayne Duke spoke of progress with the cleanup of the Galey and Lord facility, located at 670 N. Main Street in Society Hill. Duke explained that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stepped in and will complete the cleanup process at the facility as well as conducting systemic testing of the water supply. Bids on contracts for testing will be accepted soon, according to Duke.
He went on to say that the EPA declared it the “worst site ever”, even though they are aware of no toxic chemical spills. Duke stated that there has been an assault and the level of crime and violence conducted at the site are extremely concerning. Duke said, “Now that there’s been a victim, the law can get involved.” A Bennettsville man was arrested at the site for manufacturing Schedules I, II and III controlled substances with intent to distribute. Duke reiterated his dedication to cleaning up the site when he said, “As Mayor of Society Hill, I will do anything I can.” He also reported that a brush fire the afternoon had caused quite a bit of alarm. Fire District Chief Ricky Flowers said the fire was started when an individual was burning debris and it “got out of hand, burning between 4 and 5 acres of small brush.”
Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson Jr. gave a yearly update. Hudson stated that, in 2022, his department answered over 25,000 calls, wrote over 6,000 reports, made 1,000 arrests, and executed over 1,200 search warrants. In addition, he reported, the Sheriff’s Department made 1,400 traffic stops, issued 351 traffic tickets, made 174 mental patient transports and 370 funeral escorts. His department assisted other agencies 400 times, reported 382 burglaries, 1,000 domestic violence calls, 269 vehicle break-ins, 199 stolen vehicles, 576 larcenies, 550 assaults, 651 weapons/firearms calls, 1,500 suspicious person calls, 608 animal calls, 657 harassment/stalking calls, and served 3,000 civil papers. Hudson reported that there were 9 homicides last year and his department solved all of them. There were also 11 shootings, 2 suicides, 2 attempted murders and 1 fire death. The Sheriff’s Department also supplies protection during General Sessions Court, Magistrate Court and Probate Court. “When the new courthouse goes up,” Hudson said, “we’re going to be very busy because then we’ll have two spaces to occupy. But, I’m very proud of Darlington County law enforcement for all of their hard work.”
Council discussed allocating $7,000,000 of American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) money to the “Pay-A-You-Go” Capital Fund of the new courthouse. Councilmembers Joyce Thomas and Angie Godbold requested a work session at a later time to discuss the specifics of this transfer in detail. Vice-Chairman Le Flowers explained that the matter could still be discussed after the vote because the money would still be there, only in a different account. A vote was taken and the measure was passed.
County Administrator Charles Stewart reported that Spectrum continues its progress with the installation and upgrades to the county’s internet system and the work should be completed by the end of 2024. New courthouse construction was discussed and Stewart told council that shipping of the rooftop air conditioning unit was delayed but should be shipped this month. Stewart and Fire District Chief Ricky Flowers reported that Fire Captain Johnny Deas is back at home after being burned in an accidental explosion while off-duty.
At the February meeting, several parents complained about questionable activities pertaining to Parks and Recreation Department events. Some parents reported in that meeting that their children had been assaulted and their complaints were ignored. Council member Angie Godbold asked Stewart if anything has been done or if an Executive Session was required to discuss the matter. Stewart stated that an Executive Session could be held to delve further into the situation.
In other business, council approved the Third Reading of Ordinance 23-01, which allows for a Fee-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (FILOT) Agreement between Darlington County and Hawfinch Solar, LLC. No action was taken during the First Reading of Ordinance 23-02, which allows for the transfer of property owned by the county to the Industrial Park, owned and/or operated by Hawfinch Solar, LLC.
The Darlington County Council will next meet on April 3, 2023.