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EBT scam suspects may lose business licenses

Council to hold public hearing Tuesday

Posted: September 24, 2010 2:30 p.m.
Updated: September 27, 2010 5:00 a.m.

The owners of Midtown Market on Rutledge Street and the Stop-N-Go convenience store on North Broad Street may lose their business licenses. Camden City Council will hold a public hearing on exactly that possibility as part of its regular meeting Tuesday morning.

Midtown Market owner Audrey Clark and her husband were arrested Sept. 3 at their store. Stop-N-Go owner Kirtikumar Patel was arrested Aug. 24 after turning himself in on a separate weapons charge. All are charged with multiple counts of what is still known as food stamp fraud. They are accused of allowing Department of Social Services (DSS) clients to use special electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, cards to either purchase items not allowed by DSS or to get cash back on their purchases.

A Camden Police Department (CPD) undercover investigation assisted by DSS led to evidence showing Patel conducted some $3,000 to $4,000 worth of EBT transactions a month when the average for similar stores in Kershaw County is under $500. Clark at one point was able to conduct $20,000 worth of transactions in a single month, taking a sizeable percentage for herself.

The Clarks and Patel could face state or federal charges or both.

Council discussed the matter in executive session at the end of a work session Thursday. The hearing to consider the license revocations will be the first regular item on Tuesday's agenda. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Other items on Tuesday's agenda will include:

* First reading of an ordinance accepting ownership of streets within the Rutledge Place subdivision;

* consideration of a resolution authorizing the consumption of beer and wine during the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival;

* a proclamation naming the month of October as Archives Month;

* a proclamation naming the month of October as Disability Employment Awareness Month; and

* consideration of a façade grant for $2,500 to Blake & Ford Inc. to improve its rear entrance.

Council will also consider awarding a bid to Conder Construction Inc. in an amount not to exceed $120,260 to close one of two lagoons at Camden's existing wastewater treatement plant. Part of the project would include stockpiling the lagoon's sludge.

The work would entail removing and disposing of the existing inlet pipe locate at the lagoon's northeast corner and then moving all the sludge at the bottom of the lagoon in that corner. The sludge would be stockpiled so that all runoff is contained inside the lagoon's dikes. Silt fencing and a 3-foot-wide by 2-foot-deep trench would be installed around the base of the stockpile. A sump pump would then be installed along the base of the north dike. The stockpile will be seeded with Rye and Common Burmuda grass and the covered with straw mulch.

BP Barber, the city's engineering firm, has proposed allowing Conder Construction to work on a per-hour basis, stating the city might actually save money on the deal.

The lagoon closure is just one of many steps along the way to replacing the wastewater treatment plant with one to be constructed under a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) mandate. Thursday, City Manager Kevin Bronson briefed council on an anlaysis of the discharge requirements for the proposed 4 million gallon per day (mgd) wastewater treatment plant. The analysis was performed after Councilman Pat Partin asked that two questions be answered: Are DHEC's requirements too stringent for the 4 mgd plant the city is required to build? And should the city of Camden built a plant that exceeds DHEC requirements?

Bronson said the ultimate measure of what the plant will be required to do is measured as the ultimate oxygen demand, or UOD. In 2006, when the city transferred water planning from the Central Midlands Council of Governments (COG) to the Santee-Lynches COG, the city of Camden's UOD was set at 2,525 pounds of discharged material per day (lb/d). The UOD remains the same whether flow out of the city's wastewater treatment plant decreases or increases. Thus, it will make no difference whether the proposed wastewater treatment plant handles 4 mgd or 1.75 mgd, the UOD of 2,525 lb/d stays the same.

BP Barber has proposed building the 4 mgd plant as a "secondary treatment facility" and DHEC has agreed. Secondary treatment substantially degrades the biological content of the sewage derived from human and food waste, soaps and detergent, according to a memo from Bronson to council. The new plant will be produce a cleaner discharge than the current facility can produce, said Bronson.

To increase the quality of water being discharged into the Wateree River, the plant would have to be constructed as a tertiary treatment facility. Bronson said the estimated financial impact would range from an additional $6 million to $8 million. The plant is already estimated to cost nearly $30 million to build.

Bronson also noted that Camden is only one of 73 discharge points on the river and even at 4 mgd, the city would only account for 1.9 percent of that discharge. Charlotte, N.C., he said, has five wastewater treatment plants with a combined 123 mgd capacity; Rock Hill, 20 mgd; and Columbia, 60 mgd.

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