Darlington council discusses storm water and sidewalks

Jannie Lathan Photo by Jana E. Pye

Jannie Lathan
Photo by Jana E. Pye

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

No decisons were made, but many issues were discussed regarding the ongoing storm water issue in the City of Darlington at the February 9, 2016 City Council meeting.

“Several years ago, we asked Lathan Consulting Company to do a master plan of storm water study,” said Mayor Gloria Hines. “It was a very good study. I think it’s time for us to use it. Because all of us know that October the 3rd of last year we had heavy rain all over the city. Water was standing everywhere. I think we need to address this issue and bring it back up, …and I think we need to start doing things for the city, and not ‘paying for it and not using them’. I think we have a lot of complaints here tonight about storm water all over the city. We only had one or two address it tonight, but I saw storm water myself all over the city and it’s time now for us to stand up.”

At Hines’ request, Lathan addressed council, with comments and suggestions from city manager Howard Garland, city water and sewer director Freddie Kinsaul and contractors Davis & Brown.

Lathan described the storm water plan that was completed in 2011, in which the city was mapped into four quadrants and issues were prioritized with the most severe flooding issues.

She continued that the data was used to apply for several grants, and work constructed in southeast Darlington improved storm water issues and flooding funded by CDBG grants funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“That comprehensive plan also looked at maintenance issues, because as some of the residents were noting, some of the issues we can readily address by comprehensive storm water maintenance plan,” said Lathan. “We began to do some work on that some time ago. I talked to the city manager and his intent is to get that into maintenance plans which means on a routine basis once you decide what your plan should be, you are routinely cleaning out these storm drains and you are routinely reshaping your drainage ditches that helps some of this water be able to move.”

The Chalmers Street “The Ditch” issues with the unbearable smell is the next issue the city faces.

“We submitted a grant to the Rural Infrastructure Authority, which we submitted a grant last funding round,” continued Lathan. “And it was not funded; they get a little over $14 million dollars each year for funding they usually break that up into $7 million per funding round. This funding round, because of the Volvo plant coming in bringing 2,000 jobs to the state and 10,000 jobs over the next 5 years, they disproportioned the funding and let go of $9 million dollars of that funding round. So a number of applications that would normally be considered were not considered.”

The city has already planned to resubmit, but Lathan said that the city may need to seek other sources of funding. Since Darlington is classified as an MS4, it allows for a revenue stream to come in from taxpayers in form of a fee, to provide revenue to help pay for issues such as the Darlington has seen in the past few decades.

“It is going to take some time,” said Hines. “I know everybody is worried about the water and we are trying to work on it the best way we know how. It didn’t happen overnight it is going to take some time to get ride of if. I feel sympathy for the people of Darlington because the water is the way it is, hopefully we will continue with our grants and working with it and we will we might need to have a little help. We might have to go up a little bit on the water bill.”

Nearby Hartsville has already instituted a fee to address storm water issues, and has been collecting revenue for the past few years.
Garland noted that the issue is not just city issue, but a county one.

According to Lathan, the county watershed project that had been on the books for over 20 years was closed out in summer of 2015.

Mayor Hines asked her, “So Darlington is suffering, and the county had 20 years of the water shed project and didn’t do anything with it so if we are not working together now. If we work on it, what is that going to do for the county? If we can get $380.000 for storm drain for South Darlington, right? If we can work on it, what would do that for the county?”

Lathan answered, “I don’t know if Darlington County has a comprehensive storm water plan like the city does. It’s inappropriate for me to say.”

Mr. Davis added, “I do want to emphasize something Janie mentioned, the maintenance issue. I really feel like that would be Priority One for the storm drainage the staff just doesn’t have the proper equipment to do the clean up and proper management to do that. I think it would help a lot if they had proper equipment.”

Garland agreed. “It goes back to that we need $500,000 to $600,000 to get some heavy equipment that we talked about.”

“Trucks are $350,000,” called out Freddie Kinsaul.

“Our mindset has always been to buy used things; we have got to change our mindset. We need newer equipment frankly if we are going to be going on the bypass and take care of things we’ve never done before. For example Chalmers, when is the last time we’ve done that kind of work? I don’t remember. A comprehensive maintenance plan that we can be working on throughout the year is going to be critical.”

DDRA: Lisa Rock, City Planner and Executive Director of Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association (DDRA) addressed council and spoke about the upcoming 2016 South Carolina Ag & Art Tour on June 4-5, featuring farms and artists from Darlington, Chesterfield, and Horry County. Other upcoming events include:

DDRA Golf Tournament will be held on April 13 at Darlington Country Club.

Annual Taste of Darlington will be held April 21 at Darlington Raceway.

Rock reminded council that the Build Up Darlington program still has $24,000 available to lend to new or existing businesses.

The DDRA also has a Incentive Improvement Grant available for a 50-50 reimbursable grant to fund businesses wishing to upgrade their awnings, façade, exterior painting or signage for commercial properties. Details on both the grant and the loan program are available on the city website or contact Rock for more details at 843-398-4000 ext. 103.

Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce: Sabrina Derry shared with council that she has stepped down from the executive director position at the Chamber to pursue another career. Her replacement will be announced by the Board of Directors. She thanked the council for their commitment to the Chamber, and shared that the membership had increased in 2015 10%, from 202 to 222 members.

Citizens appearing before council:

Burt Jordan, an area real estate broker, approached council regarding a flooding issue affecting a potential sale of property in the Oakdale community bordering Maryland and Tennessee Street. He requested that the city provide some relief from the issue, which appears to be stemming from a broken pipe and stopped up drains.

After much discussion between Jordan and one of the homeowners, water and sewer staff and city council members, the parties agreed to contact an adjacent property owner to obtain permission for the city to go onto her property to investigate the issue.

BoBBy Ross approached council regarding a performing arts project he wishes to undertake with the Darlington Area Recreation Department as part of the A.W.”Man” Stanley Leadership Institute. After sharing a rendition of a song he wrote with the theme “One Darlington,” Ross was urged by Mayor Gloria Hines to seek people for his committee.

Mayoral/Council filing fee change proposal: Hoyt Campbell, Director of the Voting Commission for Darlington County, approached council at the request of city manager Howard Garland and City Clerk Gloria Pridgeon to address the issue of the low filing fees the city currently charges. “What I want to suggest is change the filing fee,” said Campbell. “As it is right now it is cheaper to run for office in the city of Darlington than any other municipality in Darlington County. Lamar has adopted the same fee schedule that the county, state anywhere from county council to us senate in South Carolina is 1% of your salary times the number of years.”

He explained that with council salary being $3,500 a year the fee would be $35 x 4 years, for a total of $140. The mayor’s salary at $6,000 would be a filing fee of $240.

“If the city of Darlington would have had that in place in the last election it would have been something like $1800 the city would have collected additional money.”

Council accepted his proposal as information, and it will go to a first and second reading for an eventual vote.

SCDOT Application for TAP Sidewalk Grant

City manager Howard Garland said that Senator Malloy strongly suggested that the city apply for a TAP Sidewalk Grant to address the need for safe pedestrian walkways to the new Wal-Mart shopping area in Darlington, from F Avenue out, for a total of 4,400 linear sidewalk “Total grant cost from will be $482,000 roughly and our match $96,403,” said Garland. “Senator Malloy suggested we go to County Transportaion Commission to help with that match. Eventually we hope to apply for another TAP grant for the west side of that sidewalk.”

Council voted unanimously to apply for the grant.

USDA Grant Application for a Yard Debris Hauler:

“We haven’t had a cherry picker in a long time,” said Mayor Hines.

Garland said that now that the USDA grant for the renovated courtroom has closed out, that the USDA strongly suggested that the city apply for this need.
Council agreed. Vote was unanimous to apply for the grant consideration.

First Reading of Ordinance for 2016-02 Pet Owners and Pet Waste:

After much discussion, reading a draft from city planner Lisa Rock on a proposed ordinance, and debates on “how to prove which dog pooped,” the council decided to see another draft of how to incorporate the issue into a ordinance about litter.

The issue will be brought up at the next meeting.

Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce Funding Request:

Track President of the Darlington Raceway Chip Wile addressed council on behalf of the board of directors for the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce to request the same funding as the city provided the past two years – $15,000 -for the Freedom Fest event on July 4th which provides fireworks and entertainment for the community at no charge.

“We have a great committee it was certainly puts their hearts and souls behind it,” said Wile. “They are certainly proud to be able to host it for free, that is the key to this. We have people ask why we don’t charge, and we feel its for the community and it’s the right thing to do.”

The event had 13,500 attendees in 2014, and over 30,000 in 2015.

“People shut their businesses in Florence and Hartsville down to come to this event,” continued Wile. “And that is what we want, is for them to come to eat at our restaurants and spend money in our town. That is the goal again.”

The event this year will be held on the actual holiday, Monday July 4th, with the hopes that people will be returning home and seek something to do.
Council voted unanimously to fund at the same rate of $15,000.

FLATS Representation:

Mayor Hines asked for a council member to volunteer to serve on the FLATS Transportation committee to replace outgoing chamber member Dyan Cohen.
Council member Bryant Gardner agreed to serve.

The next meeting for the Darlington City Council will be held on Tuesday, March 1 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Author: Duane Childers

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