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Sheriff's traffic unit request clears second reading

Posted: January 27, 2011 5:18 p.m.
Updated: January 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. cast the lone dissenting vote Tuesday night following a motion to grant Sheriff Jim Matthews his request for funding an additional four patrolmen for the formation of a traffic unit.

The 6-1 approval vote was for second reading. Third and final reading will come at the Feb. 8 council meeting.

 “I’m not trying to tell you how to run your department,” said Tucker on Tuesday, “…I’m looking at a sheet that was given to us from our former administrator talking about possibly laying off 10 to 15 people in Kershaw County, cuts from the state, doing furloughs … even having to reduce services.

“I’m all for what you’re talking about,” Tucker said in reference to Matthews’ desire to create a traffic unit. “I don’t think I’m on the same page of getting there … as you are.”

Tucker lost the sheriff’s race to Matthews during November’s general election.

Earlier this month, in his first week on the job, Matthews came before full council -- as well as council’s finance committee -- to request $250,000 from county reserves to fund a four-man traffic unit focused on targeting driving under the influence and excessive speeding. Matthews said he believes the traffic unit will eventually fund itself, and likely even produce a surplus between speeding and DUI tickets.

Tucker said he spoke with council members and “colleagues” from Lee County to research the proposed traffic unit. He asked several questions, including what would be the “quota” for tickets in order for the unit to fund itself, and whether the county patrolmen would help with the S.C. Highway Patrol in the cases of accidents.

Matthews said the new patrolmen would only help the Highway Patrol if they “needed help.”

Tucker, a former trooper, said he promises the sheriff that the Highway Patrol will need help.

Council also voted 6-1 in favor of granting the sheriff’s office two additional victims advocate positions, with Bobby Gary casting the only opposition. Council unanimously approved a move to provide and fund a victims advocate position in the Kershaw County Magistrate’s Office.

Councilman Jimmy Jones repeatedly stressed, as he did last meeting, that both Matthews and Gene Hartis, head magistrate judge, agreed the victims advocate positions would be revenue neutral within a couple years, or they would be cut.

“Working with the magistrate and working with the sheriff, both have stated time and time again this will be at no extra cost to the taxpayers,” Jones said.

In other business:

• Kershaw County Library Director Amy Schofield briefed council on an upcoming move to join a statewide library consortium known as SC LENDS, which will significantly enhance the material available online through the Kershaw County Library.

Schofield said there will be more than 2.5 million volumes available through the new system, which will become available in Kershaw County sometime in February.

• Council approved several appointments to various county boards and commissions, including: George Gibson and Lewis Shaw to the planning and zoning commission; James Bennett to the Wateree Community Actions board; and Stephen Staley and William Denton to the zoning board of appeals.

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