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Bethune Town Council welcomes new police chief

Posted: July 11, 2014 2:36 p.m.
Updated: July 14, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Bethune Town Council is considering taking stronger measures against property owners who allow their property to become cluttered and unsightly. One example frequently given by council members is this property across the street from the Bethune Post Office, which Councilman John Fulmer called “the biggest eyesore in South Carolina.”

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Bethune Town Council introduced the town’s new police chief at its meeting Thursday.

Joey Cobb served as a security policeman in the U.S. Air Force and worked for the S.C. Highway Patrol from 1988 to 1995, assigned to Aiken County. He moved to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 1995 and stayed until he retired in 2012.

“I stayed out of the law enforcement community for a brief period of time, but I couldn’t get it out of my system so I’m back in it again,” Cobb said. “I really appreciate the opportunity to come work here. I love this little place. With DNR, I used to work up here all the time. I just like this area.”

With a police officer salary of $15,500, Cobb is working part time. However, Mayor Charles McCoy said grants and other funding sources are being sought to make Cobb a full-time employee. He added that Cobb’s hours will vary, giving the town the best possible coverage.

“You’re not going to see him every day. He’s got a flexible schedule, so you may see him in the morning time, you may see him in the afternoon and he may be here late at night and you might not even see him if you’re not up at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” McCoy said. “Hopefully, we can get that changed by the first of the year. We’re working on it.”

In other business, Councilman Don Witham gave a report on the status of the planned repair and refurbishment of the town water tower. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control  is requiring the repairs to bring the water tower into compliance with state regulations. The estimated cost is approximately $80,000, but Witham has said the town hopes to receive a $55,000 grant from the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA). Witham reported that the way the bids for the work were obtained doesn’t meet RIA’s criteria and will have to be redone.

“We didn’t lose the grant,” he said. “We’ve got to go back through the bid process and go through a sealed-bid procedure. We are currently in the process of doing that. We have run an ad on a state (Internet) site that all contractors can look at and determine if they want to bid on certain projects.

“We currently have our verbiage for our ad ready that will probably go on that site next week. We have to have all the paperwork ready so if a contractor says, ‘we want to bid,’ we have to give them a package that outlines the specifications.”

Councilman John Fulmer gave an update as well, speaking about unsightly properties in town. He said letters have been sent to property owners and personal visits have been made to some, but little improvement has been made.

“Mayor McCoy and I went to see a couple of people and said, ‘when are you going to do something?” We’ve come to the realization that we’re not told the truth every time we talk to people. There’s no better way to say it. They’ll tell us one thing and then nothing happens,” Fulmer said. “As a legislative body and an elected body, we can issue these people a summons to appear before council and we’re looking strongly into that. It’s a legal process. If they ignore the summons then it becomes even more illegal and we’ll get Officer Cobb involved. Like this mess down here across from the post office -- the biggest eyesore in South Carolina. Talked to one of the owners two or three weeks ago, he assured us, ‘we’ll be up here in two weeks.’ They came up here but they got the stuff from the inside and took it off, but didn’t do anything about the outside.”

At council’s June meeting, a resident asked if the fountain at the town park could be repaired and made functional again. McCoy reported Thursday that fire ants had damaged the fountain and its lighting beyond repair.

“We’ve got power in places and we haven’t got power in places,” he said, and then made a motion for the lights be replaced with solar lights.

The motion passed unanimously. Councilman John Heflin made a similar motion for solar lights to illuminate the town’s welcome signs. Heflin’s motion also received unanimous approval.

Heflin reported on the formation of a planning and zoning committee for Bethune and offered six names as possible committee members: Brenda Wilkes, Carolyn Caldwell, Eddie Mumford, Kenneth McCaskill, Sylvia Davis and Jennifer Kelly.

“These individuals have done planning and zoning before,” Heflin said.

Finally, McCoy said the town needs to step up enforcement of its existing leash law, as animals are leaving their waste in inconvenient places.

“We do have a leash law. We don’t enforce it, but we’re going to have to sooner or later. Dogs are running loose everywhere,” McCoy said. “Every time I go out to cut my grass or work on my flowers … dogs and cats have come over there and relieved themselves. It’s an everyday thing. I guess we’re going to get with Joey (Cobb). I’m not going to make him a catcher of dogs or anything, but we’re going to have to start talking to some people. Basically it’s the same people who don’t do the clean up.”


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