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Bethune sells former bank building

Posted: February 20, 2014 5:54 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Bethune Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to sell a former bank building it owns to a Chesterfield woman. Council held its meeting Tuesday after postponing the meeting from its original date of Feb. 13, due to poor weather and road conditions.

Council negotiated a “rent-to-own” agreement with Anna Woods, who said she intends to both open a “new and used” retail shop and live in the building. Council agreed on a selling price of $25,000, with monthly payments of $250. Negotiations took place during a closed executive session. Mayor Charles McCoy later said Woods made a lower offer and the council proposed a counter offer before the final price was agreed upon.

“I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to being able to be part of this community. It seems to be a nice community. I’ve been coming here for years,” Woods said after the meeting. “I just love being around here.”

Sandhills Bank used the building until January 2003 when it was damaged in a large fire that also destroyed three downtown businesses and damaged others. Sandhills deeded the property to the town and built a new branch on King Street (U.S. 1).

In other action Tuesday, council unanimously approved transferring ownership of the Bethune Rescue Squad building on Main Street to Kershaw County to be used as a fire station.

“The main part of the squad building is on county land but the new building, the last bay we put in next to the library, is on town land,” McCoy said. “They (Kershaw County) need us to sign them over a deed for just that portion of land so they can continue with their plans to make a fire department out of it.”

Under old business, council approved repairs and repainting of the town’s water tank following a presentation written by Councilman John Fulmer and read by Councilman Don Witham. The town applied for a grant from the Rural Infrastructure Authority that would pay 75 percent of the expense to update the 79-year-old tank.

“The interior of the tank was originally painted with lead-based paint. A cold wax coating has been used in the past to coat the inside of the tank and provide a barrier between the water and the paint. That’s been done several times, the last time was 2003,” Witham read. “This time, all lead paint will be removed from the interior, disposed of according to state and federal regulations and a new epoxy coat applied. It’s going to cost approximately $20,000 more, but we feel like it’s in the best interest of our water system to do that.”

The outside of the tank will also be stripped, primed and repainted. Witham said a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) inspection last September pointed out the need to upgrade the tank. The plan is to have the work done this coming fall, when water usage is lower. The town will empty the tank and purchase water from another supplier while the work is being done.

“Refurbishing the town water tank will bring the tank into compliance with DHEC regulations and extend the life of the tank for continued use. The project will be carried out by a private contractor that specializes in water tank refurbishing and will be recommended by the Bethune town government,” Witham said. “We are recommending that we select the Municipal Tank Coating and Sandblasting Co. Inc. of Hamlet, N.C. They have quoted us a price of $73,800. If we get the grant, it would cover $55,350 of that, leaving us responsible for $18,450. We’re doing all we can to get that grant, but if we don’t get it, we still have to do this. We have no choice.”

Also Tuesday, Fulmer reported on a proposal from the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) to build a consolidated elementary school near North Central High School, eliminating Bethune and Mt. Pisgah elementary schools. Fulmer said a referendum is scheduled for the November general election and voters could approve or reject the plan. He said council is against closing the schools in the Bethune area.

“We want to revitalize this town, get it back to where it was 20 or 30 years ago. We’ve lost 16 businesses in this town since the high school closed in 1999,” Fulmer said. “We’re going to talk to the superintendent to see if there’s something we can reach to keep those schools where they are, or at least closer -- say a consolidated school between here and Mt. Pisgah.”

Fulmer said the council will need help from area residents.

“I’ve talked to people in the Bethune community and Mt. Pisgah and some people are for this and some people aren’t. I know what happened last time they talked about closing Bethune and Mt. Pisgah (schools). A group of people went to a meeting and let their voices be heard and they didn’t close our schools,” Fulmer said. “It’s economically important to our town to have the school. We’re going to talk to the business owners, too. If you have any ideas on this that will help us, please share them with us.”

In other old business:

• McCoy said fire hydrant repairs discussed at council’s January meeting are now scheduled to begin.

• Fulmer reported registered letters had been sent to six select property owners, requesting they clean up unsightly debris and junk under the town’s nuisance ordinance. He said the town is waiting for responses.

Under new business, Witham reported new computer software is needed for town hall, with the current system dating back to 2011.

“It’s basically outdated,” Witham said. “That system helps us keep up with the finances, those receipts, disbursements of all monies coming in and out of the town and also does the same thing for the water system.”

Council unanimously approved the software purchase at a cost of $979.

Council also unanimously approved the purchase of a fully-equipped 2012 Dodge Charger police car. McCoy said the car’s original sale price was $16,500, but did not include a video camera or radar. In approving the purchase, council added in those two items, bringing the total cost to just more than $23,000. Sandhills Bank will finance the purchase.

In other new business, council unanimously approved implementing a drug and alcohol testing program for town employees that will result in a 5 percent decrease in insurance premiums.

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