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County vehicle use policy pending

Posted: January 6, 2011 5:13 p.m.
Updated: January 7, 2011 5:00 a.m.

While the bulk of a crowded Kershaw County Council meeting Tuesday belonged to new Sheriff Jim Matthews and his requests for additional manpower, a policy for the use of county-owned vehicles also brought about some contention between several council members.

By meeting’s end, a vehicle-use policy put forth by County Administrator Clay Young wasn’t adopted, but the discussion was marked by disagreement between Councilman Jimmy Jones and three of his colleagues -- Sammie Tucker Jr., Stephen Smoak and Tom Gardner, who was serving his first meeting. A motion was made by Jones to accept the policy, but the proposal failed on a 3-4 vote, with Smoak, Tucker, Gardner and Bobby Gary opposing, and Jones, C.R. Miles and Chairman Gene Wise in favor. The item will, however, be placed back on the next agenda later in January at Smoak’s request.

Jones brought forward concerns last month about how county employees were utilizing county-owned vehicles. Jones alleges that some county employees are using the vehicles for personal uses such as hauling items to their homes, and even driving the cars to second jobs outside the county. Jones stated in December that more than $236,000 has been spent on county vehicles in the first five months of the fiscal year.

“This is a sound, basic policy that will save the taxpayers’ money … bring checks and balances to something that has gotten a little out of control,” Jones said leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

The detailed policy touches on vehicle appearance, driver responsibilities, take-home vehicles, maintenance, fuel conservation, accident procedures, post-accident substance abuse and distracted driving.

Questioning Jones and Young, Tucker asked why the vehicle-use matter was being pulled from the county’s personnel policy draft as a separate item, and why it was being rushed through quickly.

Young said he had originally intended to include a vehicle-use policy within the new county personnel policy, but that the new guidelines are taking longer than expected. Since the vehicle policy was already completed, he brought it about as a stand-alone policy.

Smoak agreed with Tucker, suggesting the policy go through the appropriate course and be voted on next meeting, especially since a couple of his colleagues still had questions. If there were problems with county employees misusing vehicles in the interim, Smoak said, Young has the authority to discipline any county employees.

In other business:

• Tucker was again appointed vice chairman with 6-1 approval from his colleagues. Jones opposed Tucker’s appointment, saying he didn’t think one person should “dominate” the position. The finance committee will consist of Jones, Gardner and Smoak, and the recreation committee will consist of Gardner, Gary and Tucker. Both votes for members of council’s two committees were unanimous.

• Council unanimously approved Kershaw County Library Director Amy Schofield’s request to approve a $33,000 federal grant she received in November. Schofield said the grant will be aimed at early education for children in rural parts of the county. Specifically, the grant will fund two new part-time employees who will perform outreach to kids who are deemed at risk of not being prepared for school.


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