2005-12-16 / Government / Neighborhood

Richland County Council Meeting • December 13, 2005 • 6 pm

By Mike Cox

Roll Call

Members present were Anthony Mizzell, Doris Corley, Joyce Dickerson, Valerie Hutchinson, Damon Jeter, Paul Livingston, Joseph McEachern, Michael Montgomery, Greg Pearce, Bernice Scott, and Kit Smith.

Getting Started

Chairman Anthony Mizzell called the meeting to order shortly after 6 pm. Mizzell gave the Invocation, then led the citizens in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Presentation

Greg Pearce and Paul Livingston presented Dr. Barry Russell , outgoing president of Midlands Tech, with a proclamation honoring his accomplishments while president of the local community college. Russell has been in charge of Midlands Tech since September, 1999, and is leaving to become president of the SC system of technical institutions.

Russell, who began his career in education as a high school teacher in Westminster, thanked the council for the presentation and said it was a privilege and an honor to be recognized by the council rather than begging for more money.

The Agenda

A couple of items were moved on the agenda before it was approved. The redevelopment plan for the Olympia area was moved to the top of the agenda, to be followed by the report of the Economic Development Committee. These moves were made to accommodate Doris Corley, who had to leave early to care for her sick mother. A public hearing on the Olympia item was added, and the Southeast Richland Neighborhood Plan was removed. The agenda was approved with the changes

Citizen’s Input

Vi Hendley spoke in favor of rerouting traffic from Olympia Avenue. According to a traffic study, 18–wheelers begin traveling Olympia around 3 am and continue until 7 pm with 1.5 trucks coming by every ten minutes. Hendley pointed out the lack of sidewalks made pedestrian traffic unsafe;. One death and several injuries have been linked to the large truck traffic.

Getting Started

Last week’s minutes were approved without changes and the county attorney informed the council of two items needing discussion in executive session. One, a personnel matter, involved the clerk’s new contract. The other item concerned legal issues with Innovista Garage obligation bonds.

The county administrator reminded the council the dates for the retreat were not settled yet. The council agreed to have a plan by next week’s special called meeting.

The clerk of council gave the council members the final schedule for next Tuesday’s meetings. The chairman’s report consisted of asking for volunteers for two boards needing members. Pearce agreed to join the Central Midlands Transit Authority and Livingston was added to the Lake Murray Tourism Board.

The Agenda

The Olympia public hearing was first on the night’s agenda. Vi Hendley did double duty and spoke in favor of the neighborhood improvement plan. She asked the council to please consider alternate funding if the TIF was determined to be unacceptable.

Larry Gates spoke next and seemed to be unaware of the two minute time limit for speakers. He began listing the things it takes to make a good community. Gates mentioned character and integrity, then listed churches, schools, and leadership, before the timer sounded. Gates was asked to wrap things up and was cut off when he began quoting proverbs.

Bob Guild told of his community’s high sense of expectation, anticipation, and hope. He said the hopes are lost if the community improvement plan isn’t approved. Guild reminded the council members that the citizens were depending on them and hopes there is an alternative funding plan if the TIF is voted down.

After the public hearing, the consent items were approved. The first item actually discussed was the Olympia TIF ordinance, moved up earlier in the night. Bernice Scott asked for this item to be tabled until the staff can find suitable funding for the neighborhood improvement projects. After the approval vote, Scott assured those in attendance the projects would be funded, it was a matter of finding a revenue source.

The Economic Development Committee report, also moved up on the agenda, was next. Livingston asked for approval for a FILOT agreement with Consolidated Properties. This type agreement gives certain consideration to taxpayers. Consolidated Properties petitioned for their agreement to include certain leased properties. The council agreed and passed the amendment. A mild looking item called Project Fish Fry generated much discussion. Livingston presented the item, which is a public\private agreement to provide support for a baseball team in the Sandhills area, without any recommendation from his committee. He asked for a MOU from staff and for the proposal to be discussed during the early 2006 retreat.

Mike Montgomery asked for a friendly amendment to be added, directing the staff to include six areas of information before granting the MOU. Montgomery made good points with his amendment suggestion, but went a little overboard with the wording. If Strom was still in office, he could have used this for filibuster material.

Scott said she felt the staff would gather information consistent with Montgomery’s suggestions anyway and felt the amendment was unnecessary. Kit Smith said the MOU would need to be presented first, with all parties involved agreeing on the terms. She also said impact studies would then need to be done.

Jeter was next and disclosed to the public and council he had a business relationship with one of the particulars in this proposal. He wasn’t abstaining from anything but wanted to publicly disclose the relationship.

Livingston said his only intention was to gather information and determine if this was a good move for Richland County. Val Hutchinson asked whether the information could be gathered before a MOU was put together.

Joyce Dickerson said she had heard from several of her constituents. Most were in favor of the plan, and she felt the proposal was a good idea. Montgomery said he liked the idea also but was concerned about the process and the effect such a thing would have on county taxpayers. He also reminded the council of pending state legislation on property taxes which would increase the county’s responsibility for funding necessary services.

Smith offered an amendment to provide the staff with any outside support from financial and legal experts to help them gather appropriate information to help the council determine if Project Fish Fry is a worthy undertaking. Her motion passed 7–3.

After the amendment passed, Scott spoke about how the county’s citizens liked the idea of baseball, and the folks involved are good people. She said the council would look at the information at the retreat and decide. Livingston said he was only trying to get information so this proposal could be discussed at the retreat; he didn’t intend for it to be debated at this meeting.

Pearce agreed, saying his understanding was to get this proposal on the table, gather information, and work on the specifics at the retreat. Mizzell agreed with Pearce’s remarks and said the discussion had gone on way too long. Smith closed the discussion by asking if anything had been presented officially. When she was told no, a vote was finally taken. The Livingston motion was passed unanimously. All other agenda items were also approved.

Committees

McEachern informed the council of vacancies on the Historic Columbia Foundation and the Performing Arts Center Board, asked for and received approval to advertise for those positions. He also asked to re–advertise vacancies for the Music Festival Commission and the Performing Arts Center Board. There were no applications for either of those vacancies.

The council voted in new members for a couple of committees. Margaret Gregory and Victoria Kelly were re–appointed to LRADAC. Bill Bradshaw , Jerry Odom , and Ann Pringle Washington were voted to the Richland Memorial Hospital Board.

Executive Session

The council moved into executive session to discuss personnel issues and contractual matters. In a major upset, a new world record was established as the council reconvened after 20 minutes behind closed doors. The clerk’s contract was approved as suggested, and the Innovista Garage information was just that, information.

No one spoke during citizen’s input. During motion period, McEachern asked for a report on the procedure involved with the garbage contractors handling of customer complaints. He said he was getting a lot of calls from citizens about the poor performance of the garbage collectors.

After requests for presentations at upcoming meetings by Pearce and Scott, the meeting was adjourned.

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