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KCSO grants, discussions highlight KCC meeting

Posted: March 9, 2017 5:20 p.m.
Updated: March 10, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council unanimously passed a resolution during its Feb. 28 meeting supporting the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office’s (KCSO) application for a South Carolina Dept. of Justice (SCDOJ) Justice Assistance Grant to buy bullet proof vests for KCSO deputies

The grant requires no match at the county level, County Administrator Vic Carpenter said.

“It doesn’t cost us anything; all they have to do is spend the money on bullet proof vests,” Carpenter said.

Sheriff Jim Matthews noted that body armor is designed for each individual deputy and has a useful lifespan of about five years. Each body armor vest costs between $800 to $1,000. In fact, on those occasions when an officer leaves KCSO to take a job with another law enforcement agency, that agency often pays some reimbursement to KCSO for that officer’s vest.

Council also discussed funding for School Resource Officers. The SRO positions were created in 1998 and were partially funded through grants until 2012.

Councilman Tom Gardner said he believed it was time to have a discussion as to the county’s role in funding SROs.

“I think we’re all in agreement of the importance of the SROs, we don’t want to see that service interrupted, but we do need to have a conversation and make a decision as to what we are going to do,” he said.

Kershaw County currently appropriates $482,888 to fund SROs in schools located and around $189,000 a year to fund three SRO positions in schools located within the city limits of Camden. 

In 2012, then County Council Chairman Gene Wise asked for a legal opinion on the issue from county attorney Ken Dubose. Dubose opined that it would be inappropriate for KCC, a political subdivision, to appropriate money from its unrestricted fund balance to provide operating funds for KCSD, another political subdivision; it would also be inappropriate for KCC to appropriate money from its operating millage to provide operating funding for KCSD. In addition, the state attorney general issued an opinion in 2015 stating a SRO is used in the operation of a school and a county could not provide funds from funds derived from its millage to provide operating funds for KCSD; that amount to double taxation and would violate Act 388, the state statute that governs school funding.

Councilman Jimmy Jones pointed out that schools located in the city still educate county students. 

“Those positions need to be funded – how can the district fund them when they don’t have the resources or fiscal autonomy,” he said. 

A suggestion was made to come up with a plan for a transition period to transfer the funding responsibility. Council Chair Julian Burns suggested having the county administrator draft a proposal/plan for the possibility of phasing the funding to the district over a period of time. Council will revisit the matter at a later time.

Council also briefly discussed a recent proposal to put together a task force to study and address gang activity. Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. said he wanted to be involved and said he had been involved in a similar group several years ago. Jones said a meeting between some of the original individuals involved with that effort has already occurred and another one is scheduled for mid-March.

“Rest assured you will have a seat at the table – we all will,” Jones said.

Burns said the politicians need to leave the organization and direction of this effort to those who already work daily with at-risk youth such as ALPHA Center personnel, community leaders and organizations such as the Jackson Teen Center.

Council also discussed recent changes in KCSD’s plan for Wateree Elementary School. Originally, KCSD’s plan was to build on a site that would preserve four county ball fields currently on the property. However, due diligence revealed that soil preparation would be too cost prohibitive. Therefore, the new school will be built on the site of the ball fields.

However, KCSD has said it will assist the county in replacing the ballfields. Also, once the old school building is torn down, KCSD will pay to grade and grass that property for four new ball fields as well as preserve the current field house on the site as a community center. 

Jones and Councilmen Ben Connell and Jimmy Jones said they had met with KCSD officials and were not only comfortable with the district’s intentions but noted the district is willing to deed the new fields over to the county.

“I am comfortable with what they are proposing, but I do believe we need to codify it with an ordinance,” Connell said. 

Council also heard a presentation from several students from the Kershaw County Junior Leadership Class of 2017. Sixteen students from all three Kershaw County School District High Schools and Camden Military Academy, as well as  program leaders/advisors Laurie Parks and Ed Garrison, appeared before council to talk about some of their ideas regarding KCC’s Vision 2030 plan. Increased cultural, educational and recreational activities are the main areas upon which the students want to focus. Some of these ideas included expanding more cultural and arts opportunities into the smaller, outlying towns and areas of Kershaw County, increasing team sports opportunities through the Kershaw County Recreation Department, creating bike lanes on more roads, especially rural roads, in the county and developing more public access on Lake Wateree and the Wateree River. 

Another idea the students are interested in pursuing is the possibility of acquiring and renovating the now vacant bowling alley in the old Burndale Shopping Center for use as a regional community youth center.

Council members complimented the students on their ideas and diligence.

“They are already good leaders; they’re now learning to become even better leaders,” Councilman Sammy Tucker Jr. said, thanking Parks, Garrison and others involved with the program. 


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