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Long, Polk sworn in; take office Dec. 1

Posted: November 23, 2010 3:10 p.m.
Updated: November 24, 2010 5:00 a.m.
Martin L Cahn/C-I

Re-elected Councilman Walter Long, accompanied by his wife, Staci, and children Leila, Mac, and Lizzie, takes the oath of office Tuesday morning from Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham. Long said he would do the “best possible job” in the next four years.

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In a lightly attended ceremony, re-elected Camden City Councilman Walter Long and newly elected Councilman X. Willard Polk took their oaths of office Tuesday morning. They will officially take office Dec. 1. Polk will attend his first meeting as a sitting councilman during a Dec. 9 afternoon work session. His first regular meeting will be Dec. 14.

Polk called his and Long’s swearing-in a “solemn, meaningful occasion.”

“I’m looking forward to working with council,” Polk said after taking the oath of office with his wife, Kay, and nephew, X. William Lee, at his side.

Polk said -- as he had throughout his campaign -- that Camden was at a crossroads and he was honored to help council take “great strides” into the future.

“When I transferred the flag as the head of the (Camden) Parks and Streets Commission to Claire Shell, I thought I would be enjoying my boat,” said Polk. “But in talking with people and the guidance of my wife … I was convinced to do this … as an extension of my years of public service.”

Polk ended his speech quoting from Gen. Robert E. Lee: “Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.”

“I view this as my duty,” said Polk, who was presented a city of Camden pin upon taking the oath of office from Mayor Jeffrey Graham.

Long spoke briefly after being sworn in. He was accompanied by his wife, Staci; two daughters, Leila and Lizzie; and son, Mac.

“I just want to say it’s truly an honor and privilege to be here,” Long said, “and I promise to do the best possible job in the next four years.”

The swearing-in ceremony came after outgoing Councilman Ned Towell’s final council meeting. Near the beginning of that meeting, Towell was presented a city of Camden rocking chair in appreciation of his four years of service on council. Graham noted Towell was the youngest serving member of council and thanked him for his initiatives.

For his part, Towell said that while he and the rest of council haven’t always agreed on issues, they have amicably agreed to disagree.

“Look, I’m not retiring. I’ll be around,” said Towell, 28. “It’s been a blast working with you guys.”

Following the meeting and swearing-in ceremony, council joined Long, Polk and members of the public for a reception inside Fire Station No. 1 attached to city hall.

During the meeting, council heard a synopsis of an audit of the city’s Fiscal Year 2010 finances from Finance Department Director Mel Pearson. Pearson called the year a good one, noting the city has both reduced debt while enjoying a nearly 4 percent increase in net assets, leaving a general fund balance that has increased by $166,000 for 124 days of cash on hand. The utility fund as well, said Pearson, has seen a 5.5 percent increase in kilowatt hours of electricity sold. The net effect for the utility fund, he said, was a $900,000 increase in fund balance, including $400,000 cash on hand.

“2010 was a good year with a good platform to continue what we’re doing,” said Pearson. “In February, we didn’t think we were going to be where we are right now. Without the department heads being creative in doing more with less, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Councilman Pat Partin praised the city’s financials and the work that has gone into making them sound.

“Mel and I have both been here for 10 years. What have we, as a city, done?” Partin asked rhetorically. “We knew we needed to build a balance to do things. I understand we’ve repaved all the streets we can at this time. We’ve increased the millage over the years, but not in the last two years. That we have a positive finish speaks volumes about the people who work for the city of Camden.”

Partin noted that fund balances had increased, in some cases two-fold thanks to what he called “good business management.”

In other business:

• Council voted unanimously, on second reading, to accept ownership of streets in the Rutledge Place subdivision.

• Council voted unanimously, on second reading, to affirm city of Camden voters’ referendum to lift Sunday “blue law” restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Graham said those businesses wishing to apply for Sunday alcohol sale permits can now do so through the S.C. Department of Revenue. Information about the permitting process can be found on the city’s website. According to that information, restaurants applying for permits for on-premise Sunday sale and consumption of beer, wine and liquor would pay a fee based on $200 per individual Sunday through Aug. 28, 2011, or $2,300. Convenience stores and other businesses wishing to sell beer and wine will pay an $800 fee for a permit good through March 1, 2011.

• Council voted unanimously to award Sumter Utilities a $138,588 bid to replace underground electric service at Pine Creek Subdivision and Sycamore Road and to convert overhead electric service to underground at Kirkwood Town Apartments.

• Council unanimously proclaimed Dec. 3 as Arbor Day in Camden.

• Council unanimously accepted front and rear façade grant applications for the DuBose-Robinson law office and a neighboring structure.

• Council spent approximately 20 minutes in executive session discussing an “unsafe building structure.” The item was added to council’s agenda Thursday following a briefing by City Manager Kevin Bronson regarding the old Hazelwood Cleaners/Majestic Theater building on DeKalb Street.

Towell was given the honor of calling for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Mayor Graham normally does so, calling for a show of hands. Towell asked that all those in favor of adjourning say “aye” instead.

The “ayes” had it, unanimously.

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