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Ordinance setting up voter-approved Sunday alcohol sales to be taken up Tuesday

Also, council to vote on new city manager contract

Posted: November 5, 2010 1:32 p.m.
Updated: November 8, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Merchants and restaurant owners within Camden’s city limits could begin selling alcohol on Sunday as soon as early December. Camden voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum allowing the possibility in the Nov. 2 general election.

Tuesday, Camden City Council will vote on first reading of an ordinance that will set the process in motion to make that happen. City Manager Kevin Bronson told council during a work session Thursday that once it approves the ordinance, on two readings, it will forward appropriate information to the S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) so that proprietors can begin applying for Sunday alcohol permits.

“We will make sure everything is done appropriately,” Bronson said. “We have been in touch with (SCDOR). They said they have been called by a lot of folks as soon as it passed.”

Mayor Jeffrey Graham mused that since this will only affect businesses within the city limits, it may entice those businesses that are outside the city to request annexation.

“I also know those restaurants existing within the city are excited about it,” Graham said. “Hopefully, they will choose to be open on Sunday.”

Bronson also noted that voters county-wide approved a similar ballot measure lifting the restriction on Sunday operating hours. He said while Kershaw County Council will have to take three readings to pass an ordinance codifying voters’ wishes, city businesses can already open early on Sundays through the rest of the year.

Council has set aside all the remaining Sundays in 2010 as holiday shopping days, allowing merchants to open before the 1:30 p.m. “Blue Law” restriction.

“For those who voted against it, I understand,” said Councilman Pat Partin. “We did this to help businesses, but we still support all forms of religious activities on Sunday.”

Council will also vote Tuesday to extend a new contract to Bronson, whose current contract will end Dec. 31, and was hired in spring 2009.

Council decided to add the item to Tuesday’s agenda following a brief executive session at the end of its work session Thursday afternoon. Graham said the reason a new contract is being offered -- rather than merely extending the current one -- is because it includes updated language reflecting changes in the city manager’s role since Bronson replaced former City Manager Frank Broom.

According to a draft of the contract, if council votes favorably, Bronson’s employment will be secured for four years, through 2014. He will also receive a substantial raise. Bronson currently earns $96,866 a year. The new contract would raise his salary to $105,000.

“We feel as though he is being underpaid,” said Graham following the meeting, referring to a table attached to the draft contract.

That table showed that most city managers working for similarly-sized municipalities are earning between $100,000 and $120,000 per year.

Another change reflected in the draft contract concerns Bronson’s monthly vehicle allowance. Bronson is already provided a sum of $6,000 annually to purchase, lease or own a vehicle. The new contract would reimburse Bronson when he travels on business beyond the greater Central Midlands area, defined as within a 50 mile radius of Camden City Hall.

“Mr. Bronson has done a great job and we are confident he will continue to do so,” said Graham.

If approved, the new contract would go into effect Jan. 1.

Other items on Tuesday’s agenda include:

* Presentation of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) award to the city’s water department. Bronson said AWOP is a voluntary program where water suppliers voluntarily submit to extra testing before water hits the water department’s screens in order to reduce turbidity.

“They exceeded the standards, which are higher than DHEC’s normal standards. It results in a cleaner process and cleaner water for us,” said Bronson. “They have done good work and undergone training to have cleaner water than we have to.”

Bronson said the award reflects 2009 testing where the water department met all the program’s requirements.

* First reading of an ordinance acceptance ownership of the streets within the Rutledge Street subdivision. The matter was originally intended to be taken up several meetings ago. Bronson said the city has now received all documents certifying that everything has met state standards.

* Consideration of a “Motion of Intent” to award bids connected to the Village Renaissance Community Development Block Grant project. Bronson explained that because the city will be using state funds, there are extra steps to be taken in awarding bids in this case.

The motion states that the city intends to award bids of just under $150,000 each to Southeast Pipe Survey Inc. of Patterson, Ga., and Lee Electrical Construction Inc. of Aberdeen for two portions of the multi-phase project. Southeast Pipe will handle sewer line rehabilitation on Lyttleton Street from city hall to York Street. Similarly, Lee Electrical will relocate utility lines underground along the same portion of Lyttleton Street.

Bronson noted it was actually Lake Murray Utility Company of Chapin, not Southeast Pipe, that was the low bidder for the sewer rehabilitation work.

“Due to prior experience … city staff does not recommend approval of their bid. Prior experience on their last two projects revealed unreliability in the quality of the work and unsatisfactory performance,” Bronson said in a formal memorandum to council.

“We’re under no legal obligation to award the low bid,” Bronson said, answering a question from Councilman Walter Long. “We would have to get a further legal opinion on whether or not we could not allow them to enter a future bid process. I’m not going to say we’re never going to use them again, but we don’t want them for this project.”

* Consideration of two façade grants submitted by a new financial planning firm moving into the old Sheorn Jewelers location at 1039 Broad St. The two grants would cover work on both the front and rear entrances to the business. The front façade work would cost $4,200, of which the city would match $2,100. The rear façade would cost $5,320, of which the city would match $2,500.

Partin said he has been approached by another merchant wanting to rehabilitate their front and rear façades at the same time and that he had no problem with approving such a request. Bronson said there is still $12,500 left over from work on council chambers that could be put to further façade requests.

Council discussed other matters Thursday. They included:

* A recommendation from the Camden Parks and Streets Commission to name the new park behind the Camden Archives and Museum either Archives Park or Chesnut Park. The land was purchased from the Kershaw County School District and was originally part of Camden Middle School; prior to that it was where the old Camden High School was located. Council decided to wait until its next work session to deal with the matter.

* Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford reported that the Santee-Lynches Council of Governments (COG) unanimously approved releasing $2.1 million in government funds towards an environmental study connected to the development of an approved truck route in Camden. That makes for a total of $3.1 million toward environmental studies for both portions of the truck route. The COG earlier granted $1 million toward the study.

“This is good,” Partin said of the COG’s vote, “but a big part of this is because we have a progressive council that looks for ways to better the community. I think we’re heading the right way. When you do things like that, it brings you to the front. When people see that, they are more willing to help.”

* Council also discussed some issues surrounding the Nov. 2 election. Long said he was concerned about the long lines, with some people having to wait one and a half hours to vote.

“While I think it’s incumbent on the county, we can do our part to get an additional voting booth. I don’t want to have that happen again,” said Long.

Graham said he was concerned about the number of political signs that cluttered up the city. He recommended looking into possibly strengthening the city’s sign ordinance and, certainly, enforcing what is currently on the books.

“We need to do something about it now so we’re ready for the next election,” said Graham.

“We have the staff to enforce it,” said Bronson, “but the mayor’s right -- Camden didn’t look as good as it usually does.”

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