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County to study fire service

Posted: August 14, 2017 5:36 p.m.
Updated: August 15, 2017 1:00 a.m.
C-I file photos/

Julian Burns, Jimmy Jones, Al Bozard

Like many other sectors within county services, Kershaw County’s fire service is feeling some serious growing pains.

Kershaw County Council voted to have KCC Chair Julian Burns appoint an ad hoc committee to study the county fire service and make recommendations to council that could very well lead to some referendum questions on the 2018 general election ballot.

Councilman Al Bozard initiated the discussion and made the motion to ask for the committee to be formed.

“The situation is not good,” Bozard said. “In some parts of the West Wateree area, we’re having to tone out three or four departments on one call because they are all staffed by volunteers who, due to work circumstances, sometimes just aren’t available or able to respond. I know of one situation recently where only one firefighter was available for a call -- and he had to get a deputy sheriff to help him deal with it.”

The problem is one that virtually every county -- especially those who have been rural in nature but are changing demographically and becoming more urbanized -- is facing, Burns noted.

“Our volunteers are good, professional, dedicated people who care about our community,” he said. “But as the county grows, the resources are becoming strained. In the Vision 2030 plan, we recognize the growth issues that pressure our fire service.”

Councilman Jimmy Jones agreed, saying he believed an ad hoc committee would be a very important, positive step in addressing these issues.

“I think the ad hoc committee is the right direction for us to go,” he said. “Hopefully, they can provide us information that can help us develop some questions for the 2018 ballot.”

Council voted unanimously to have the chairman select members of the committee. The committee would then have 120 days to gather information and report and make recommendations to council.

Councilman Sammy Tucker Jr. was absent.

In other business discussed:

• Council awarded a bid to AECOM, a Columbia-based firm, for $92,500 for the entrance and roadway engineering, design, and construction work at Governor’s Hill Industrial Park. The work will include design and construction of a 1,100-linear-foot paved roadway, a 3,300-linear-foot one-lane gravel road, and access to a future shell building. The paved portion of roadway will start at Mt. Olivet Road and continue for 50 feet beyond the north side of the wetlands to provide access for a future shell building. The gravel road will continue from north of the asphalt road to Dr. Humphries Road.  AECOM was the low bidder and has done several projects for Kershaw County in the past, according to County Administrator Vic Carpenter.

• Council passed first reading of an amendment, by title only, to the county’s animal ordinance, which would remove imprisonment as a penalty prescribed by the ordinance. The amendment is needed because the ordinance currently contains penalties more severe than is allowed by the state, Carpenter said.

• On a recommendation from Carpenter, council unanimously approved raising Clerk of Court Janet Hasty’s salary from $59,000 to $68,000. Hasty, who served as deputy clerk of court for 28 years prior to her election, actually took a pay cut when she was elected to her present position. Carpenter recommended raising the salary level to a level commensurate to clerks of court in similar sized counties in South Carolina. He also noted that Hasty’s predecessor was earning around $90,000 a year when she retired.

• Council passed a resolution regarding the county’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Policy. The resolution ensures and acknowledges the county’s FOI policy is comensurate with the present state FOI laws.

• Council heard a presentation regarding the Wildwood Lane Pedestrian Trails.

• During public comment, council heard from Lugoff Fire-Rescue Chief  Dennis Ray regarding the Aug.5 train derailment incident. Ray commended the staff of  Kershaw County 911 Dispatch’s B shift, who worked the incident and provided invaluable service to the responders at the site. Ray also commended County Emergency Preparedeness Director Gene Faulkenberry, who arrived at the beginning of the response and stayed onsite with the command center throughout the entire incident.

“This was another example of our agencies working so well together -- we are blessed as a county and yo should be very proud of them,” Ray said.

• Council also heard from Kershaw County School District Superintendent Frank Morgan, who praised the Kershaw County Recreation Department for its assistance and participation with the district’s summer reading program. Morgan said not only was the department onboard from the very beginning, but thanks to their insight and assistance, the program was not only a major success for the district and the students who participated, but it will probably be a model for other district/county reading program partnerships.

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