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KCC continues debate on ‘emergency’ funding

Posted: July 25, 2013 5:02 p.m.
Updated: July 26, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Debate continued at Kershaw County Council’s meeting Tuesday over funding for emergency situations. At its last meeting, council passed first reading of an ordinance that would amend the county’s procurement code to account for emergency funding. The amendment allows County Administrator Vic Carpenter to expend up to $25,000 for emergency purposes as long as he informs council of the purchase. Any such funding over the $25,000 limit would have to go to council for a vote.

Tuesday evening, council -- after some debate -- voted unanimously on a second amendment that would allow Carpenter to expend up to $1,000 on emergency funding without having to inform council.

After meeting with Finance Director Angie Helms and Purchasing Coordinator Sarah Williams, County Attorney Ken DuBose said they recommended creating the $1,000 threshold due to how often emergencies requiring that level of funding occur. DuBose said Helms and Williams told him this could cover anything from replaced locks to broken down patrol cars or a backed-up sewer.

“I don’t want a call from Vic Carpenter about all of these things or an email,” Vice Chairman Stephen Smoak said.

“Anything over $1,000 is a little bigger and council should probably be informed,” DuBose said of the information given to him by Helms and Williams. “(Carpenter) can do anything under $25,000 … anything over $25,000 requires a bid. The emergency procurement is an exception to that. The theory is that an emergency is something that needs to be done right away and you don’t have the time.”

DuBose said that anything under $25,000 requires quotes and that it gets “less and less formal the lower it goes” in terms of spending.

“I don’t want to be tying the administrator’s hands over $1,000 worth of emergencies to do his job,” Councilman Sammie Tucker said.

Councilman Jimmy Jones disagreed with Tucker’s assessment.

“With all due respect … it’s ridiculous to think it’s going to handicap the administrator and it’s ridiculous to think that it’s going to put a burden on staff,” Jones said. “It’s what they get paid to do … it’s good business. And even if it was to put a burden on staff, I really don’t care, you know; that’s what we’re in the business for. So, I have no sympathy for anyone who thinks this is a burden or anything else.”

Smoak said Carpenter wouldn’t need council’s approval, just be required to inform them of the purchase. Carpenter indicated it would not be a handicap.

“Still, if there’s an emergency, we’re going to respond to it as we always have and as we always would,” Carpenter said. “If I made the determination that something is an emergency purchase, this would just formally require me to notify you that I have made this determination that it’s an emergency and if that opens up the need for further explanation, then we go that direction.”

Carpenter said his recent decision to install a security fence behind the Kershaw County Courthouse is the first and only time since being hired that he’s had to encounter an emergency situation.

“I don’t want to rehash if this was actually an emergency or not. I don’t think it’s something that’s going to happen often or, maybe, ever again,” Smoak said.

Council unanimously approved of the amendment to Procurement Code Section 2-37 after a few moments of hesitation.

“I don’t like this ordinance particularly, but I will make the motion,” Jones said.

After passing the amendment, council also unanimously passed second reading of the ordinance amending the procurement code.

In other business, Smoak asked during council briefings for DuBose to look further into an issue surrounding Palmetto Utilities of Richland County. Palmetto Utilities recently asked council to support a change to a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control permit to discharge wastewater into Spears Creek in Kershaw County rather than the Wateree River.

“The way it was presented, we had three options: to oppose the transfer of the permit, to support the transfer of the permit or to not take a position …. it seems like it’s a little more complicated than that,” Smoak said.

In his administrator’s briefing, Carpenter informed council that Recreation Director Joe Eason would be contacting them soon regarding giving some additional activity to the Kershaw County Recreation Commission.

“He is very committed to working with them and through them for the improvement of the parks and recreation of the county,” Carpenter said.

In other news, council unanimously approved appointing Robert Vaughn to the Kershaw County Library Board. A paving bid award was removed from the agenda.

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