Camden City Council met briefly Tuesday night to take care of a little city business and recognize award-winning South Carolina cartoonist Robert Ariail, who lives in Camden.
Ariail has won numerous international, national, regional and state awards for his work, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize three times.
Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford said each year the city puts out a magazine called “Camden: Classically Carolina,” Camden’s official city magazine, a collaboration between the city’s economic and tourism development department and Camden Media Co. (publisher of the Chronicle-Independent).
“This year’s issue features an amazing cover created by Robert Ariail,” she said.
Drakeford said there many people in the community who do amazing things that make Camden a place where folks want to come to “to live, work and play. Today, we’d like to recognize one individual who has done something that really captures the vibrancy and spirit of our city.”
The mayor unveiled a poster-sized rendition of the humorous and eye-catching cover of the magazine, a cartoon of a family in a car heading into Camden. Local landmarks like Springdale Race Course, Robert Mills Courthouse and Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site are depicted along with other things that make Camden famous, such as the Boykin Spaniel and popular Boykin Christmas Parade.
“Robert, you have a wonderful talent,” Drakeford said. “Your creativity has helped the city in many ways. You have been involved with our city tourism plan and many other projects.”
The mayor said the new issue of “Camden: Classically Carolina” will be one that “everyone will appreciate for a very long time. I am so happy and with this cover, you have really outdone yourself. It’s delightful, it’s lively and it represents our community beautifully. Thank you.”
An article about Ariail is included in the magazine and shares that he and his wife, Fair, moved to Camden in 2001 into an historic home on Broad Street.
In the article, entitled “Sketching the political landscape,” Ariail says his work “is an attempt to offer up his perspective on current events.” His syndicated work is distributed to about 630 newspapers across the country.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, council gave first reading to an ordinance regulating the use of electronic smoking devices in public places and removes any ambiguity about the use of those products.
According to the proposed ordinance, the use of electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes, vape pens, etc. can subject others to “the inhalation of nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals.”
If passed on second and final reading, the ordinance will regulate electronic smoking devices in public places in the city in the same manner as lighted tobacco products. The proposal will amend the city’s smoke-free workplace ordinance to include electronic smoking devices, defined as “any product containing or delivering nicotine or any other substance intended for human consumption that can be used by a person in any manner for the purpose of inhaling vapor or aerosol from the product. The term includes any such device, whether manufactured, distributed, marketed or sold as an e-cigarette, e-cigar, e-hookah or vape pen, or under any other product name or description.”
In other business, council:
• Approved second and final reading of an ordinance adopting the city’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 operating and capital budget of $47.5 million during its meeting Tuesday evening. The budget ordinance calls for a 6 mil tax increase and will go into effect July 1. According to language in the ordinance, the total millage levy for Camden will be 103.1 mils, including 10.2 mils for road paving/resurfacing and 13.8 mils for the city’s Project Improvement Fund.
At an April public hearing on the proposed budget, city manager Mel Pearson noted the city has not had a millage increase since 2015.
“The costs of participation in the state pension fund and other employee benefits have been going up steadily,” he said. “Our city is continuing to grow and prosper and we encourage that growth, but with that we have to provide additional services, which also cost.”
Pearson said the tax millage increase, if approved, will mean a homeowner “will pay $18 more per year on a $200,000 home.”
The balanced budget calls for a $10.714 million General Fund (a 4.41 percent increase from FY 2019), $34.795 million Utility Fund (a 4.82 percent increase), $1.1 million Local Tax Fund, and $857,400 Project Tax Fund. A “Budget in Brief” attached to the ordinance in Tuesday’s agenda packet indicates the Project Tax Fund is split between the Project Improvement and Paving funds at $488,700 and $368,700, respectively.
• Gave second reading to the “Fairness in Lodging Act,” which notes the city established a 1.5 percent local accommodations tax in 2002 and that “those who fail to collect and remit Accommodations Taxes and Sales Taxes in connection with accommodations provided to transients are competing unfairly against those who dutifully meet these obligations.”
The ordinance would establish a notice of sales tax due that would be included with such residences’ annual property bill. It would list out a total of 12 percent in taxes as follows: state sales tax (5 percent), state accommodations tax (2 percent), county local accommodations tax (1.5 percent), city accommodations tax (1.5 percent), local option sales tax (1 percent) and local education capital improvement tax (1 percent).
• Amended a resolution authorizing a change of application amount for a SRF drinking water loan. According to information in the council’s packet, the amount of the loan the city can apply to the State Authority for a loan from the Fund will be increased to $2.2 million. The project will repair and replace aging water lines in the areas of Kirkwood, Ancrum and Ehrenclou, many of which are cast iron or asbestos cement.