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Jones expresses frustration with KershawHealth

Also, meeting held on Cassatt Water grant

Posted: March 28, 2013 5:27 p.m.
Updated: March 29, 2013 5:00 a.m.
C-I file photo/

Kershaw County Councilman Jimmy Jones

Despite declining to appear at a KershawHealth’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday, based on his attorney’s advice, Kershaw County Councilman Jimmy Jones took time at Tuesday’s county council meeting to comment about the hospital board and administration.

Even before the meeting began, Jones said that although Tuesday night’s meeting would run without much debate, upcoming meetings were likely to be “more heated.” In addition to speaking about KershawHealth, Jones also commented on a recent Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site request for funds to operate as a welcome center.

Jones said his constituents have been asking him questions regarding the situation at KershawHealth and that he has not been able to give them answers because he does not have the necessary information. He said that this is the reason he is now asking questions himself.

“I want more information regarding the operations and negotiations involving the pediatric contract, surgeon contract, purchasing of real-estate, the ER, the lab services and whatever else requires money to be spent,” Jones said.

He also said council should have access to the hospital’s spending history.

“If we’re going to be asked to pay for hospital programs with taxpayer funds, then we, the taxpayers’ representatives need to see the hospital books,” Jones said. “The taxpayers deserve to know why they’re being asked to pay for hospital expenses and programs previously covered by the hospital’s own budget. The answers are especially important during this economic downturn and in the face of seemingly lavish contracts and salaries.”

Jones also said that it isn’t fair that the administration is receiving raises and bonuses while nurses and hourly workers are left with reduced hours and eliminated benefits. Jones compared the situation to the story of Roman Emperor Nero “fiddling in his palace while Rome burned.”

“Nobody can come before council and ask for funding without expecting to explain themselves,” said Jones in reference to KershawHealth President and CEO Donnie Weeks’ request for the county to take over an ongoing deficit of emergency management services.

Jones also promised taxpayers that there would be an ambulance service “regardless of the threats by hospital management.” He then concluded by saying he will keep an open mind about the hospital but that he does want to know the answers and will get them. He also said that he looks forward to Weeks’ appearance before council in April.

Jones then addressed Historic Camden’s request.

“To me, it just doesn’t make good business sense,” said Jones of the idea of becoming a welcome center.

He said he believes the transition would spend thousands of dollars to duplicate services that are already being provided.

“I just don’t think we would be doing our job of being good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars by spending this kind of money for a duplication of services we are already receiving from our chamber… this isn’t Myrtle Beach,” he said.

Jones said that bringing Historic Camden’s facilities up to par with facilities that are already acting as a visitors center would cost $50,000 in the first year and then additional amounts of funding each year after.

While Jones did express frustration with KershawHealth and Historic Camden’s requests, he also congratulated Chairman Gene Wise for establishing a vetting process for the hospital board.

Cassatt Water Company

Council held a special meeting Thursday to discuss a request from Cassatt Water Co. for a letter from council in connection with a grant application. Cassatt Water said it needs a letter of support from council in order to apply for a grant that would go towards rural infrastructure.

Cassatt Water Co. President Julius Gause and CEO Charles Litchfield appeared at the meeting. They said the grant would go to a Highway 521 Booster Pump Station and Sawmill Road improvements project. While Gause said that the grant would benefit Lancaster County more than Kershaw County, the construction on the project would take place in Kershaw County. Kershaw County is not eligible for the grant but Lancaster County is, he explained. The cost of the project is $70,156 and requires no financial commitment from the county.

“If it benefits Cassatt Water, it benefits Kershaw County,” Council Vice Chair Stephen Smoak said.

Absent from the meeting were Councilmen Sammie Tucker and Jimmy Jones, and Chairman Gene Wise.

Back on Tuesday, council unanimously approved a request from Solicitor Dan Johnson to give $24,374 awarded from a lawsuit against Lending Tree to the ALPHA Center’s Youth Arbitration program. Councilman Jones abstained from the vote due to his personal affiliation with the ALPHA Center.

Council also approved a standard agreement regarding the temporary transfer of Kershaw County law enforcement with the Pelion Police Department.

A bulk copy paper bid was also approved of as part of the Synergy collaboration between Kershaw County School District and the county. A resolution to amend the Administrator Vic Carpenter’s contract was also approved extending the contract from two years to three years but making no other changes.

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