Lamar gets new Chief of Police
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lamar Town Council held their regular monthly meeting January 9 and introduced Jason Chaney as the town’s new police chief.
A Virginia native who lives in the Syracuse community, Chaney began his law enforcement career with the Florence Police Department in 2008, graduating the South Carolina Police Academy in 2009. He has also worked part time with the Lamar Police Department for four years. Chaney says the familiar small town atmosphere of Lamar reminds him of his Virginia roots, and he felt little hesitation about taking the position as chief.
“I like the community and the people. I know pretty much everybody over here. I’m originally from a small town, so this reminds me of being at home,” says Chaney.
Chaney replaces George Wilkes, who headed the LPD for about one month. Wilkes, by turn, replaced former longtime chief Charles Woodle, who recently left the department to become Lieutenant of the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division.
Chief Chaney is already working to get two newly acquired patrol cars (purchased used from Charleston County Police Department) on the street for use by the department’s two full-time and three part-time officers.
“We’re in the process of getting them painted, and one of the plans we have is to have them striped and integrate the Lamar High School colors (silver and black) to give more of a sense of the community,” says Chaney.
On the regular meeting agenda, council discussed the December 19 special meeting where they voted to pursue a loan/grant package to finance $2.6 million in repairs and updates for Lamar’s municipal water system. The project would address several key system needs, including building a new water treatment plant at a cost of $1.2 million, sinking a new 250 GPM (gallons per minute) well for $362,700, and replacing dated and unreliable water meters with new RF (radio frequency) models.
The Town of Lamar has been purchasing all of its municipal water from the Darlington County Water and Sewer Authority (DCWSA) since February of 2016, when South Carolina DHEC shut down the second of Lamar’s two water wells due to trace radium detection. Sinking a new well and building a new treatment plant would allow the town to resume selling water to its residential and commercial customers, and could save Lamar a considerable amount of money each month.
Numerous leaks from broken water lines, faulty hydrants, and various plumbing leaks causes the town’s monthly DCWSA bill to sometimes exceed $13,000, well over the monthly average of $9,000 the town bills its water customers. While the town continues to isolate and repair many of these leaks, council agreed that buying water from the county is not a cost effective long-term solution. Lamar’s proprietary water system was able to produce 1,000 gallons of water for around 75 cents; purchasing that same quantity of water from DCWSA costs about $2.73.
At the Jan. 9 meeting, council member Mike Lloyd voiced doubts about council’s decision to remove one element – painting the town’s two elevated water towers at a cost of $477,500 – from the comprehensive project package. On advice from engineer Mike Hanna, council agreed at the Dec. 19 meeting to separate that project and pursue S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) funds to repaint the towers.
Hanna had suggested that Lamar stands a strong chance of securing grant money from RIA to cover painting the two water tanks, so that cost could be subtracted from the initial project estimate of $3,069,000, bringing their loan/grant request to USDA Rural Development down to $2.6 million.
Lloyd did not ask that the water tank issue be put to another vote, but said he wanted his reservations about the matter put on the record.
Lloyd also discussed the ongoing work to locate and repair multiple costly water leaks around town. He noted that in Lamar’s latest statement from DCWSA, the town was billed for 42 percent more water than they billed to customers, constituting a loss of about $3,500. Lloyd said he now suspects faulty water meters are responsible for much of the discrepancy, but replacing bad meters would be a waste of money since they would need to be replaced again when the RF system is installed.
Mayor Randy Reynolds said he expects to talk with Mike Hanna again soon and there should be new information to discuss at council’s February 13 meeting.