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Bethune Town Council working on message sign rules
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The town of Bethune is expected to have a new programmable message sign in place and operating by the end of the month, according to Councilman Don Witham. Witham reported the progress at council’s monthly meeting Oct. 8. He also said council is working on a policy of what can be announced on the sign, which will be controlled from Bethune Town Hall.

“We’re currently working on a policy, but I just want to read to you some ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ that we’re going to have as they relate to the sign,” Witham said. “After the meeting, if you have suggestions, please come to me and let me know what they may be.”

Witham said allowable announcements would include elections, town meetings, emergencies, city club meetings, benefits, special church services, ribbon cuttings for new businesses and special events.

Prohibited announcements include individuals’ birthdays, anniversaries, personal graduation announcements, birth announcements, advertisements and private meetings.

Witham also updated council and the public on a grant application for refurbishing and repairing the town’s water system.

“We’ve done everything we’re supposed to do in the way of forms and responding to requests. The PER (Preliminary Engineering Report), which is the base document you have to have for the grant people to approve or disapprove is probably 95 percent complete,” Witham said. “We should get that at any time.”

Councilman John Fulmer reported on a meeting held Sept. 17 at Bethune Elementary School with members of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees to get public input on a possible referendum which could affect, or even close, Bethune Elementary. The council has openly said they are against closing the school.

“We’re sticking by our guns on this thing. We want to keep our school, if at all possible, right where it is and add on to it or renovate it, or whatever,” Fulmer said. “If we can’t get that, we could have a consolidated school between Bethune and Mt. Pisgah, that would be good, too. We don’t have a third option.”

Fulmer said the school district held another meeting at Mt. Pisgah Elementary School the following week.

In other business, council voted to spend up to $800 to hire someone to clean out the former bank building in downtown Bethune to prepare it for sale. The town owns the building and councilmen who have seen the interior fear no one would want to bid on the building in its current condition.

“I think it needs to be cleaned up. We will not be offered anything if somebody walks in there and looks at it,” Witham said.

Mayor Charles McCoy reminded council and the public about election day coming up on Nov. 3. Council seats currently held by John Heflin and Cindy Hunter are up for consideration. Voting will be held at the Bethune Recreation Building, where council holds its meetings.

Heflin reported on the town’s call alert system, an automatic phone service which tells town residents about council meetings, emergencies and other important information. He said under the plan the town uses, up to 250 phones can be on the call list for a cost of $15 a month. Heflin suggested going to a larger plan that would allow the system to alert more people, up to 1,000, for $45 a month.

McCoy said out of the 250 phones which could be on the system at this time, there are 97 spots available. He suggested encouraging people to use those 97 spots before upgrading to a system with more capacity. He said some people have asked to be taken off the list because they feel the calls are a nuisance.

“What I’m asking you to do, if these people want to go on this call list that we’ve got, let’s go ahead and fill these 97 slots first and then we’ll go from there,” McCoy said. “Let’s see how many people are really interested in it.”

McCoy also had words of praise for the S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) for keeping Bethune’s streets cleared during the recent record rainfall and flooding.

“DOT did a wonderful job. They got these drains cleaned out. I came out six times Friday night (Oct. 2), every hour. I checked every business in town, every street and every house. I even talked to DOT. They were out the biggest part of the night,” McCoy said, explaining he talked to an individual employee. “I thanked him for what he had done and he said ‘now, those drains are mine, but the leaves are yours,” and I said I understood that. They apparently got them cleaned out the last time they worked on them and we didn’t have any standing water. I was just amazed. I couldn’t believe it.”