Darlington votes to fund PDRTABy Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of Darlington voted to assist municipal bus service PDRTA for $12,000, making the city the only municipal partner in the transit system’s quest to maintain services after a radical federal cut in funding a few years ago.
After meeting in executive session, council shared with the News and Press that they plan to sell the 101-103 Exchange Street property to a developer, Victor Webster. Webster looked at several properties for sale in the city before deciding on this one. He plans to renovate and open a pub and grill in the downstairs, with a possible cigar bar on the second floor. City planner Lisa Chalian-Rock said the project will take potentially 18 months to complete, and that Webster hopes to be open prior to the Southern 500 Race in September of 2016.
Darlington resident James Stubbs addressed council on behalf of riders of the PDRTA Buses. Stubbs also spoke during last year’s May council meeting, and reiterated his plea that the City consider assisting PDRTA with funding.
“I am legally blind, and without the services of this bus I would not be able to get to work,” said Stubbs. He works at the library in Florence. “I moved from Hartsville to Darlington when they discontinued bus services there. Although I work in Florence, I come home to Darlington, and I spend money and shop here. But without this bus, I would have to move to Florence.”
Patsy Sawyer of Macedonia Baptist Church also spoke on behalf of the bus service.
“The buses allow children to attend our church,” said Sawyer. “We served 343 children last year at our youth programs, and 90% of them do not have access to transportation. Not everyone is as fortunate to have transportation, and it is not the children’s fault that they do not.”
Albert “Uncle Albert” Johnson addressed council again, saying that he is yet to receive requested “unedited versions” of tapes of a traffic stop he underwent earlier this year by Darlington city police officers.
“He showed me bits and pieces,” said Johnson. “I want to see the whole tapes.”
Darlington Police Chief Danny Watson addressed council and said he has repeatedly tried to give Johnson a copy, and sent a certified letter with the DVD to his home that day; Watson had a DVD in hand, and attempted to give it to Johnson, which he refused.
After the meeting, Johnson told News and Press that he is not satisfied that the tapes are unedited. “I want this matter to be settled locally, and to be apologized to. I love my city, but I was pulled over unnecessarily and the tapes I saw are not what actually happened.”
PDRTA: Chuck McNeil, Executive Director of the Pee Dee Regional Transport shared that ridership both on the DART (Darlington Transit) and the Darlington-Floreence Commuter bus are both increasing.
“We were able to receive funds not only from the City, but from Genesis Health Care, Inc., Darlington County Adult Education, the Darlington Housing Authority, and the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church to allow us to continue to provide this needed service,” said McNeil. “As you heard from citizens last year and this year, the bus helps. Not only are people using it to get to the doctor and to shop, they are using it to get to school at Adult Ed and Florence Darlington Tech., and to work. That makes this a solid economic investment as well as a community outreach one.”
In addition to free rides to Genesis Healthcare, the bus service is beginning a new “summer ride program” for student passes of $20.
He requested $25,000 from the city.
Council member Jimmy Cooper got up and spoke privately to each council member, returning to his seat and proposed a motion to up the level of giving from the proposed $10,000 to $12,000.
After a vote, the motion passed. All were in agreement, with the exception of Wayne Chapman who voted against.
“We are proud that we can offer this to our citizens,” said Watkins. “We have a commitment to our community, and although we wish we could give more, we hope you will be able to seek the additional funding you need – as you were able to do last year- to keep this needed service going.”
Uniform Business License Application: Councilwoman Dyan Cohen suggested that council consider adopting the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) Standardized Business License Application currently in use by 70 other cities in the state. City manager Howard Garland agreed with the suggestion, and offered it may be valuable to adopt this more uniform license, familiar to many business owners particularly those from other states. Council approved.
Tree Trimming /Pruning Update: City planner Lisa Chalian-Rock showed council photographs showing the condition of many city trees that need to be trimmed, pruned, and several removed around the city, including trees on Oak Street, Spring Street, N Ervin, Woods Street and Cashua Based on the high number of trees uprooting and dropping large limbs in recent months, the tree situation is one that is now high priority.
No plans are made at this time for replanting, but the cherry trees planted on Cashua Street to replace Bradford pear trees removed several months ago are doing very well.