Water lines, pump repairs, audit discussed at City Council meeting
By Stephan Drew, Editor
When the Darlington City Council met on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, the chief topic discussed was the continued improvements to the water lines and pump stations in the city limits. Three of the four pump stations have been upgraded and damaged water lines are continually being replaced. Darlington Water and Sewer Department Director Charles Shugart reported on these upgrades. He stated that a new sinkhole has opened up on D. Avenue and reported that a previous sinkhole, on 3rd Street and B Avenue, was repaired. Councilmember Sheila Baccus asked, “What’s the spatus on the Allen Street pump station? We spent millions on it and there’s a temporary pump there,” Baccus stated. Shugart explained that the old equipment at the water pump/station on Allen Street is currently being replaced and improved. Approximately $500,000 has been allotted for the Allen Street pump station work but, the construction is estimated to cost about $750,000. There is a temporary pump there because the new pump that manufacturers sent contained a faulty part within the mechanism. Rather than replace the entire new pump, the new part was ordered and has not come in yet. “How long will it take to repair?” Baccus asked. Shugart responded, “We’ll get the new part in this week.” Baccus asked “What is causing all these problems?” Shugart responded, “The pipes are very old.” Shugart reported that a lot of the water pipes within the city are made up of what is called “Orangeburg Pipe” (a 1940s combination of sawdust and coal oil products. At the time it was installed, this sort of pipe was cheap and plentiful. After approximately 80 years, it is crumbling and causing problems. Shugart explained that a 30 ft hole was opened up to check the status of the water lines in the area of the sinkhole. Shugart detailed the process of fixing that particular pipeline and said it will take up to approximately $67,000 to repair it. Councilmember Bryant Gardner maid the motion to increase funding for the job to $67,000. and the motion was carried. Bill Hancock, CPA (Certified Public Accountant) with The Brittingham Group LLP in Columbia, SC, gave the report of the City Audit for fiscal year 2021-2022. He stated that he found no irregularities, no abnormalities and no “red flags” during his extensive audit. (See CITY AUDIT on Page 1). He stated that the city’s accounting system conformed with state and federal guidelines and that the City of Darlington was fully compliant with all regulations and policies laid down for such bookkeeping processes. The Darlington Water Department showed a profit of $500,000 with revenue outpacing expenditures. In other business, Darlington Codes Enforcement Officer & City Building Inspector Sheila Jones reported that there are numerous abandoned and condemned properties within the city limits. The department is working with property owners to have these properties destroyed and the debris removed as quickly as possible to provide a more beautiful, hygienic landscape to the city. Darlington Police Chief James “Jimmy” Davis praised School Safety Liaison Capt. Kimberley Nelson and the entire Darlington Police Department for their rapid response and professional handling of the recent electronic threats which were received by Darlington High School. Law Enforcement had a suspect in custody within 36 hours of the first threat. Davis also asked that the city approve a request from his department for an additional $35,123.11 which will be used to purchase new police radio equipment. VEI Communications, Inc., was the chosen bid and their price was $149,129.11. The department was allotted $114,000 for this purchase and the additional funds would allow them to purchase the equipment for the bid price. Council approved the additional amount. Darlington Parks and Recreation Director Lee Andrews gave an update on the splash pad the city has decided to purchase and place at the Hampton Street park. The Vortex is an immersive, zero-depth aquatic play area, approximately 60ft by 70ft (4200 sq. ft.) which can have water sprays and other attachments. The cost of the Vortex splash pad is $361,074.65 installed. The Bliss splash pad is similar but slightly smaller. It is 50ft by 50ft (2500 sq. ft.) and the cost is $271,850 installed. Council withheld a decision and Andrews stated he will continue to study the matter. Council heard the 2nd reading of Ordinance 2022-14, which changes residential uses in areas zoned “General/Commercial” to include multifamily apartments. Council also heard the 2nd reading of Ordinance 0223-01, which changes minimum lot widths in the R6 zone from 50ft wide to 60ft wide. This would not apply to current residences in R6. The next meeting of the Darlington City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7, 2023.