Darlington City Council completes busy March agenda

Darlington Girl Scouts with Mayor Gloria C. Hines                                photo by Jana E. Pye

Darlington Girl Scouts with Mayor Gloria C. Hines photo by Jana E. Pye

By Jana E. Pye, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

Darlington City Council met for their monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 1 at City Hall, and kept a brisk pace for an ambitious agenda that included many agenda items – but began with some adorable cookie entrepreneurs, members of the Girl Scout Troop #88.

Girl Scout Week Proclamation

Mayor Gloria Hines read the proclamation declaring March 6 – 12, 2016 to be Girl Scout Week in the City of Darlington. The Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. are celebrating their 104th year, founded in 1912 in Savannah, GA. Mayor Gloria C. Hines posed for a photo with the young ladies of local Troop #88.

“We are so happy to have you hear tonight doing great things in Darlington. Now remember when you go to school, get your lessons, and study hard…doctors, lawyers, Mayors of Darlington, Presidents, nurses, physical therapists, a little bit of everything, just do good, alright?” said Mayor Hines. “You’ve got to support them, you have got to buy Girl Scout cookies. I want three boxes!”

Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association: Lisa Chalian-Rock, executive director of DDRA, shared a number of events coming in the near future, including:

• Beautification Board’s Trees on the Square dedication ceremony for sponsors on March 9 on Cashua St. near Carolina Bank. (See photo in next week’s paper.)

• DDRA Golf Tournament, which will be held Wednesday, April 8 at the Darlington Country Club with lunch buffet at 11:30 a.m. and shotgun start at 1 p.m.

• Taste of Darlington, held Thursday, April 21 from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Darlington Raceway. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door, for adults 21 and over.

• Summer Concert Series, a selection of free concerts with live bands at Liberty Lane downtown, begins on Friday June 10 from 6 – 9 p.m. Beverages and food will be available for purchase.

• Yam Jam returns to Darlington on Friday October 7, the night before the annual S.C. Sweet Potato Festival on the Square. The event will be hosted by Palmetto Office Furniture on S. Main Street, and will feature great music and fun for residents and visitors who are in town to attend the popular festival the next day.

“We are coordinating with the Pilot club to increase the impact of the tourism dollars generated by the club’s festival, which brings 20,000 people to town,” said Rock. “It is the second biggest event for Darlington each year.”

The events help to fund various projects within the city, including decorations for Race Week, beautification projects, business seminars, the Market on Darlington Square, Darlington Veterans Memorial, and the DDRA Improvement Incentive Grant, and more. She asked that anyone interested in being a sponsor or play for the golf tournament, or to be a chef or sponsor for the Taste event to contact her: Lisa Rock at: 843-398-4000 x 103, or email: darlingtonplanner@gmail.com.

She also shared that the DDRA continues their membership drive through March. New members will be entered into a drawing for $500 advertising credit chosen at the Taste.

Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce- Norman “Norm” Steadman

Chamber board chair Jannie Lathan introduced the new chamber executive director Norm Steadman to the council, mayor and city manager. Steadman, who was featured in the News & Press in last week’s issue, worked at the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce since 2013 as Administrative Assistant and promoted to Communications Specialist. He replaces Sabrina Derry, who held the office from September to February.

Steadman shared that he was present for the first ever Pee Dee Chamber Coalition meeting, “ All the chambers in the Pee Dee coming together to share best practices and also to think regionally when we think about supporting one another and enriching this region.”

Plans are already underway for 3rd Annual Freedom Fest event on July 4th at the Darlington Raceway, the largest fireworks display and Independence Day event in the entire Pee Dee Region. “We have some big things planned, we think the entire area is really going to be excited about what we are going to accomplish this year.” said Steadman.

He will be working on visiting new and former members of the chamber, which encompasses Darlington, Lamar and Society Hill.

“Upcoming events, we have Administrative Professional’s day on April 27th at the SiMT building,” he continued. “This is a great way for employers to reward their administrative professionals with a luncheon just for them. We are partnering with the Florence Chamber on this there are tickets and booth sponsorships available and we’ll have more information about that to come.”

Pastor Kendall Williams First Church of God- Soup Kitchen:

Pastor Williams requested the approval and blessing of council and mayor to use a city owned building for a future site of a proposed soup kitchen that will begin on Saturday mornings to begin. [See story on 1 B for more details.] Williams shared that when he pastoring a church in Myrtle Beach, he assisted with the Street Reach homeless outreach ministry.

“ I am a lifelong resident of Darlington and I retuned back to Darlington after pastoring a church in Myrtle Beach about three years ago and became the interim pastor here at First Church of God, I am still presently,” said Williams. “While I was down there, I had quite a bit of experience in the homeless ministry and feeding homeless people and ministering to those who are less fortunate than we are. And when I came back to Darlington, I noticed that we do have that here in Darlington also. God just broke my heart, I guess you would say, for the people in our country and our city too that have found themselves on hard times and not able to have the things that we have. So I began to minister to several of the people around here.”

He requested that the city allow his fledgling team – comprised of volunteers from ten area churches – to operate Saturday food distribution to start with, using the city-owned old Darlington Builder’s Supply building on West Broad Street.

The building is presently used for meetings during the week.

Council member John Milling said, “I think it is a great idea. I just ask that Mr. James check into any legal documents to see if there is anything we need to address.”

Mayor Hines said, “Pastor Williams, I really admire that vision that God gave you because I have been talking about a Soup Kitchen ever since I came on council, and a homeless shelter, and God sent you to me. I am God put you – God put people in place to help me move Darlington forward. And God is just doing on that. I believe it happens like that.”

Council voted to approve the request, and Pastor Williams will return in April with plans made from the volunteer board.

Tonya Flowers- Funding Request

Tonya Flowers, as seen also on page 1 B, requested funds for operating costs for her battered women’s ministry, House of Refuge Outreach Ministry. Flowers stated that her ministry has recently acquired 501 c 3 status, a prerequisite for funding request from the City of Darlington. She also shared that the battered women’s shelter will be moving closer to town, to facilitate the needed counseling, education, and job skill training the women need. “We are so far out, it’s hard to do that.” Flowers opened an office on City Lane last week, and requested assistance to operate the office. She previously had a location on Cashua Street for a period of time.

City Manager Howard Garland said that funds could be available from the city’s contingency fund. Mayor Hines said that after receiving a copy of the 501 c 3, council will confer with the city manager to determine what the city may be able to provide.

Williamson Park- Dr. Peggy Cohen:

“We call before council to propose that the city add electric power to the park in the event area,” said Cohen. “Historically, there was power to the park before (Hurricane) Hugo right now there is no power at Williamson park. It is a city park, we could use power in the park for special events.”

Cohen shared a power point to council and audience. Duke Energy would install a power pole and run underground cable to a pedestal at the open event area at the park at no charge. The only stipulation would be that a single tree, which happens to show signs of disease, to be removed by the city. The adjoining property owner of the tree location has given permission for the tree removal; the tree lies on a right of way, and if it were to fall it would be the city’s responsibility.

Council voted to approve the request. The tree will be removed at an estimated cost of $900 to $1000.

First Reading Ordinance 2016-01 SCRLF Sewer Bond:

By suggestion of city manager Howard Garland, council voted to approve a bond to fund the 52 Bypass wastewater project.

“It’s for 1 ½ percent bond match from EPA for sewer grant for $521,000, and we would match that with around $281,000. Bids came in last week, the low bid was $805,000.” said Garland. “Rather than take from our Water Sewer Reserve Fund which we are trying to build up, we take this and spread it out over 30 years while interest rates are still historically low this seems to be a good deal for the city.”

Council approved unanimously of first reading.

First Reading Ordinance 2016-02 Mayor/Council Filing Fee Change

Council also voted to approve first reading of the mayor/council filing fee change to raise mayor fee from $100 to $240, and council from $35 to $140.

Rural Infrastructure Grant Application- Chalmers Street Ditch

Council voted unanimously to allow city to apply for a Rural Infrastructure Grant to fund a project to close the large open ditch near Chalmers Street with underground reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) and provide underground RCP throughout the project area to include Chalmers and Coker Streets; in addition, approximately 34 new catch basins will be installed; four existing catch basins will be abandoned, as well as 750 feet of old pipe.

The total cost of the project is: $531,190.
The total EPA grant request is $444,870.
Land acquistion/easements: $10,000
Total engineering and construction management/inspection: $64,320
Total project administration cost: $12,000
Total cost funded by the City is: $86,320.

April Council Meeting Date Change:

Due to the voting for Ward 2 council seat on Tuesday April 5, the next meeting for city council will be held on Tuesday April 12. The newly elected council member for Ward 2 will be sworn in that night; the seat was formerly held by Mayor Gloria Hines.

Temporary Sign Ordinance Proposed Changes- Lisa Chalian-Rock

City Planner Lisa Chalian-Rock shared a power point from the Planning Commission regarding proposed changes in the sign ordinance.

Items noted were:

A-frame signs: proposed update to include that these signs must be placed near the business entrance and allow for a minimum of four (4) feet for pedestrian traffic. Signs must also be displayed during operation hours only.

A concern felt by planning commission was that several businesses used A-frame signs that limited the flow of pedestrian traffic, specifically those in wheelchairs.

Inflatable signs: proposed update to include that the signs must be placed near the building, at least 10 feet from a public street. Commission members felt they were a big distraction for motorists.

Window signs: proposed update to include that temporary signage may only cover 30% of the window area in a storefront, which lowers the signage from 50%. Commission members felt covering half of a business owner’s window displays “was simply too much and too distracting.”

Permit fees: proposed update to require temporary sign permits for businesses to put up banners, A-frames, inflatable’s, and portable signs at a permit fee of $15. The permits would allow Codes Enforcement to track the installation and removal time of the signs.

After much discussion, many council members and mayor voiced concerns that the proposals were too prohibiting to businesses.

“We are trying to get more businesses, not drive them away,” said council member Bryant Gardner.

Rock will return with updated proposals from the Planning Commission.

Commission members include: Linda Byrd, Ouida Page, Henrietta Pauley-Nelson, Ronda Duke Brown, Joan Alston, and Planning Director Lisa Chalian-Rock.

Christmas Decorations- Lisa Chalian Rock: Rock shared another Power Point presentation to mayor and council regarding the city’s Christmas decorations.

“People voiced many concerns over last year’s decorations,” said Rock.

She provided three options for members to consider, ranging from suggestions of $7,000 to $45,000, including:

adding more lights to the garland and wreaths on decorative poles purchased last year; large wreaths for four city buildings; adding new pole decorations (such as snowflakes) around the Square; replacement bulbs for the old angels and/or trees; and perhaps adding 30 pole decorations along South Main Street.

She suggested that the city make a decision, as prices for Christmas decorations are at an annual low until April.

City council member Bryant Gardner proposed developing a team to clean up the old pole decorations to see if they can be salvaged.

Council and mayor voted unanimously to fund a city Christmas decoration fund of $40,000, using funds from the Hospitality fund.

The next city council meeting will be April 12, at 7 p.m.

Author: Duane Childers

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