By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hartsville City Council’s Dec. 10 meeting was a bittersweet occasion, as council welcomed a new member and said goodbye to a beloved, long-serving member.
After holding the District #2 seat since 2007, Councilman Bernice Wilson elected not to run for re-election this year, and this was his last official meeting. Wilson received a plaque commemorating his service, and the occasion drew expressions of respect and affection from his fellow Council members.
“It’s been such an honor to be in your presence and serve with you,” said Mayor Mel Pennington. “We certainly wouldn’t be in the situation we are now without you having gotten us there. We will forever be indebted to your passion and your fairness in your governance of this city.”
“(I am) a person who loves this city. Born and raised here, wouldn’t trade Hartsville for nothing. I love the citizens of this place,” said Wilson. “I just want to say to my fellow council members that I’ll miss you and I love you, but I’ll be here to check on you every now and then.”
Bryson S. Caldwell was sworn in as the new District #2 representative. Caldwell is a Hartsville High School graduate and owner/president of Caldwell Insurance Consultants. Though he kept his remarks brief, Caldwell expressed admiration and respect for Wilson, and said he was ready to get to work.
On his departure, Wilson offered a word of advice to Caldwell to help him deal with any challenges that lie ahead. “If you do your very best, there’s nothing else for you to do but tell the people what you’ve done,” said Wilson. “If you can do it, you do it. And if you can’t, you let them know. Don’t run and hide from them.”
Also at this meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Andrews (District #4) and Council member Bobby McGee (District #6) were sworn in for new terms.
On the regular agenda, Council heard from Rev. Reginald Alford and Rev. Chris Robinson regarding the S.P. Coker Cotton Gin located at 311 Sumter Ave. They described environmental concerns such as dust and particulates coating homes and vehicles, clogging street drains, and causing breathing difficulties for nearby residents.
Alford also noted that the gin facility claimed the right-of-way along the road, making it tougher for pedestrians to safely travel the street. He and Alford asked whether the city had any recourse to help improve these conditions.
Pennington explained that the City of Hartsville has investigated what it would take to relocate the gin outside the city, which would clean up the neighborhood and improve transportation access for the gin. He said it would take between $6 million and $8 million to move the plant, and while plant owners are amenable to relocation and the city is willing to foot some of the bill, the two parties have not found an agreeable cost-sharing plan.
The mayor added that Council member Tre Gammage (District #1) has confirmed with SC DHEC that the cotton gin meets all applicable health and safety regulations for an agricultural business.