County extends public health emergency, delays budget vote
By Samantha Lyles
Due to the continuing COVID-19 threat, Darlington County Council’s May 18 meeting was again broadcast to the public via Facebook while members of council and staff wore personal protective equipment and sat at least 6 feet apart in the council chamber.
The meeting lasted just over 10 minutes, and council wasted little time moving through the evening’s agenda.
Council extended Emergency Ordinance No. 20-E3, which declares a public health emergency in response to the public safety threat of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”). First enacted March 17, this emergency ordinance empowers county administrator Charles Stewart to take an array of actions to limit disease exposure for county citizens. These measures include:
“1. Utilize all available resources of county government as reasonably necessary to cope with the COVID-19 emergency; and
“2. Transfer the direction, personnel, or functions of county departments and agencies or units thereof for purposes of facilitating or performing emergency services as necessary or desirable; and
“3. Contract, requisition, and compensate for goods and services from private sources; and
“4. Perform and execute measures as prescribed by Darlington County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 14 (Civil Emergencies), Section 14-5(c) (State of Disaster Or Emergency; Proclamation, Powers Of Council); and
“5. Suspend or limit non-emergency activities and prohibit public assemblies; and
“6. Any and all other actions deemed necessary for the preservation of the health, safety, and welfare of citizens, residents, and visitors of Darlington County, South Carolina.”
This emergency ordinance will remain in effect until further notice or until 61 days after its declaration.
Ordinance No. 20-01 – final reading for the Updated Comprehensive Plan for Darlington County – was again carried over for further review. The plan was originally presented to council months ago and a carry over was requested to allow members time for in depth consideration of the various elements, which included land use plans, economic development strategies, and needs assessments.
While the pandemic persists, no work sessions have been scheduled to discuss the comprehensive plan.
Second reading for the fiscal year 2020/2021 budget was also carried over.
The current budget year ends on June 30, and any proposed budget must clear two more readings and a public hearing before it can be adopted.
Council carried over Ordinance No. 20-03, the ordinance which designates an agency to provide alcohol and drug abuse planning and programs. According to the ordinance, the county plans to renew its arrangement with Rubicon Counseling and Substance Abuse Programs, Inc., dba Rubicon Family Counseling Center.
The alcohol and drug abuse planning and programs will be funded by excise tax revenue for fiscal year 2020/2021, with $160,000 in minibottle revenue designated for Rubicon’s related salaries and operational expenses.
Council also extended the provision allowing their meetings to be conducted electronically and streamed live on the Internet.
Until further notice, Darlington County Council meetings will be live streamed on Facebook @DarlingtonCountyCouncilLiveMeetings, then archived at www.darcosc.com.
During this period, citizen comments will be accepted in writing. You can send your comments via email to the Clerk to Council at email@example.com or mail them to the County Administrator’s Office, 1 Public Square, Room 210, Darlington, SC 29532. Written comments must include your contact information and be received by noon on the day of the meeting. Council has also arranged to accept citizen comments during the meeting via telephone at 843-398-4469 beginning at 5:45 p.m. to be placed on the Citizen Comments roster.
The next scheduled meeting of Darlington County Council will be Monday, June 15, at 6 p.m.