More private talks about ‘annexation,’ Raceway

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

For the second time in three weeks, Darlington City Council met in closed session to discuss (among other items) something involving “annexation” and the Darlington Raceway. And for the second time in three weeks, council’s executive session ended with no votes taken and no explanation of what the problem, proposal or issue involving annexation and the Raceway might be. Since discussions in executive session are privileged – the council and city staff can’t talk about them – the mystery continues. At its previous meeting Nov. 10, council discussed, in closed session, an item listed on the agenda as “Contract Annexation Agreement Darlington Raceway.” No action was taken. At its latest meeting Dec. 1, council met in executive session in part to discuss what seemed to be the same, or a similar, issue although the wording was different: “Annexation Darlington Raceway, Other Annexation Options.” As long as no votes are taken on this issue, council is free to discuss it in executive session as many times as members wish, without explanation to the public. The News & Press has sought comment on the matter from Raceway President Kerry Tharp. In a Dec. 3 e-mail, Tharp said: “I’m not in a position to comment publicly about this at this time.” But in his first “State of the City” address, given Dec. 3 to the Darlington Kiwanis Club, Mayor Curtis Boyd hinted that at least some of the private discussions might have involved the city’s purchase of a large tract of land off Harry Byrd Highway as the basis for a recreation complex. That land is not in the city limits, it is near the Raceway, and the city would like to bring it into the city limits by annexing a “bridge” of small pieces of property, including perhaps some property owned by the Raceway. “We’re going to work with the racetrack now to get that annexed in,” Boyd said in his remarks. In other matters, there was some confusion as council was starting its regular session following its executive session. A member of the public who’d been waiting in the hallway for the regular session to start at City Hall said she was told that the session was only open to council, city staffers and the media because of COVID-19 precautions. The citizen, who didn’t want her name used, said she wasn’t upset because she was able to watch the session on her cellphone – the city live-streams its council meetings online. Boyd said this did not represent a change in council’s policy on COVID-19. When the city sent out its Dec. 1 agenda to news media, the e-mail noted: “Due to COVID restrictions, only staff, council and media are allowed in the courtroom.” During the long period when council was meeting at the Harmon Baldwin Gym so everyone could have plenty of space for “social distancing,” council encouraged the public to attend as long as citizens wore face masks and allowed a police officer to scan their temperature. But the courtroom at City Hall is small enough that officials feel there’s not enough room to guarantee everyone the customary 6 feet of space. In other business, council gave initial approval to an ordinance raising commercial garbage roll-cart fees from $28.50 a month to $45 a month and setting commercial recycling fees at $25 a month.

Author: Stephan Drew

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