Questions abound during council meeting
By Stephan Drew, Editor
The Darlington County Council met on Monday, November 7th, and there were as many questions as there were issues discussed. Council members considered the Flood Study Buyout Program, the intensive updating of the internet system, cleanup and repairs of businesses near the new courthouse, as well as the availability of ambulances.
Tanesha Clements, property owner and resident of Moses Drive, rose to address council regarding the Flood Study Buyout Program. She described how her property had been damaged by water during the 13 years she has lived there and she questioned why she felt unincluded in the decisionmaking process of the program. “I’m coming to you to ask. If you made the decision (to agree with the Flood Study Buyout) where were we? Where was I when you decided to put my home up to sell it and not discuss it with me?” she asked.
Clements expressed no desire to move and went on to report that FEMA had denied her water damage and, so far, she has received no help to assist her in repairing the damage and restoring the safety of her home. “Give me the dirt I need to help me lift my house up,” she said. County Administrator Charles Stewart acknowledged that there are 4 areas which have been approved by the SCOR Flood Study program for possible engineering upgrades and repair grants – Chestnut Street/Virgil Wells Circle Area; Moses Drive/Watercrest Drive Area; Martin Luther King Drive/Russell Street Area; and Sampit Drive/Congaree Drive Area. The first 3 areas (one of which includes Clements’ area) may be ready for funding by February of 2023. Stewart asked for Clements’ contact information and agreed to speak with her in more detail about the details.
Joe Prater of Spectrum gave an update to council on the progress of the new upgrade of the local internet/cellular network throughout the county. Prater explained that over 121 miles of fiberoptic cable have already been laid out and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. Council member Joyce Thomas asked if county residents might experience any outages during the process. Prater said, “There should not be any issues with people’s power or services during our work.”
A previous agenda item was discussed regarding work being done on the rear facades of businesses which facing the north side of the Public Square. The rear of these properties face the new courthouse, which is under construction, and a grant of $50,000 had been set aside for minor repairs, removal of vegetation, painting and the erection of awnings. Although the work is progressing, some debris remains and awnings have not been placed over all the doors. It was also agreed that it will cost another $4,800, above the allotted amount, to finish the project as planned. Council member Angie Godbold asked, “The bid proposal exceeds $50,000 by about $4,800. How is that going to be taken care of? Where are those funds going to come from?” City Manager John Payne explained that the city had some funds available and responded, “We’re going to use budgeted funds to finish this project.”
Mayor Curtis Boyd related to council the differences in the structure of each business’s rear facade and described how difficult it is to place an awning over some of them. “There’s one that has an air conditioning unit right over it. You can’t put an awning there.” Godbold stated, “All these businesses need this work. Everything in that footprint needs it.” Boyd agreed, “We want to do it. We’ll do it however you want and is best.”
Council member Joyce Thomas asked for closer contact and more frequent updates on the work. “Communication is the key,” she said, “Everybody needs to work together.” Mayor Boyd agreed, “Just let us know what you all would like to do. We need communication from you as well.” Council member Godbold described a telephone call she received and asked about the number of EMS vehicles. She had been told there were 4 ambulances servicing the entire county. “How many ambulances do we have?” she stated. County Administrator Stewart resonded, “We have 10. We try to run at least 6 but, with short staff, it’s usually 6 during the day and 5 at night. But, we have 10 ambulances.”
In other business, council approved Resolution 750, declaring November 11th as Darlington County Veterans Day and honoring the service and sacrifice of all United States Military Personnel. They also passed Ordinance No. 22-14, which allows the issuance of a General Obligation Bond of not more than $685,000 for the acquisition, construction, furnishing of and equipping vehicles and other equipment for use by the Darlington County Fire District.
Council also approved the continuation of work on the Summerville Subdivision and acceptance of Eastpark Drive and Windermere Road. This is the area under construction out near Hoffmeyer Road, past Trinity Collegiate School. Council next meets on Monday, December 5th.