Kershaw County Council unanimously passed two resolutions recognizing Lugoff’s Swift Water Rescue Team and first responders from across the county during its meeting Tuesday for their actions during October’s historic flood event.
Reading from the first resolution, Chairman Julian Burns said the rescue team “launched into action late in the evening on October 4, 2015; in particular, rescue team member Captain Michael Stanfield entered Twenty-Five Mile Creek during the flooding to rescue a female trapped on top of a submerged car; Stanfield was assisted by rescue team members Lt. Eric Champe, Lt. Gavine Locklear and Engineer Tim Gillis, each of whom entered the water to retrieve and assist Standfield and the stranded female.”
Burns said council wanted to recognize the team “for their heroism, courage and selflessness in the face of unknown dangers…. We are grateful for their service to our community.”
A few minutes later, Burns read from the second resolution recognizing the county’s other first responders:
“Over 100 county employees representing the Public Works Department, Information Technology Department, the Sheriff’s department, EMS, Central Communications, Fire Service, Building & Maintenance, the Utilities Department, the (Kershaw County) Detention Center, the Solid Waste Department, along with numerous county fire and rescue organizations, banded together under the competent leadership provided by our county department heads to provide our citizens with over 1,000 hours of work time above and beyond their normal duties. It was through these selfless acts of dedication that our county was able to endure this historic event and it will be through their continued commitment we will recover.”
During the voting process for the proclamations, Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter read statements provided by Councilman Jimmy Jones, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting due to a family event. Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. was also absent Tuesday.
Jones called the service the swift water team provided “excellent” and said their actions “define what it means to be a hero.” Regarding the county’s first responders, Jones said employees have “proven yet again how fortunate we are to have such a dedicated and professional staff.”
Also Tuesday, council discussed the process by which it will replace three available seats on the Health Services District of Kershaw County Board of Trustees. Former Trustee Paul Napper vacated his seat in February. Trustees Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom and Bobby Jones’ terms expired Sept. 30, but continue to serve until such time as council names replacements.
The discussion focused on whether or not to use a process put in place only during the last round of appointments when council asked nominees to submit to three-minute in-person interviews. County Attorney Ken DuBose noted the health board is the only board or commission which council has required interviews of nominees.
As he had during for the swift water rescue and first responder proclamations, Carpenter read a statement from the absent Jones. Jones said the interview process “was devised during a different environment when that board was facing significant issues and challenges; happily, those challenges have been met.”
Through Carpenter, Jones suggested prospective members be nominated by council members and then voted on in alphabetical order.
“I do not believe it is any longer necessary or even appropriate that each prospective member be forced to come before this council and ask for our votes or to be grilled (with) questions,” Jones said.
Councilman Tom Gardner liked the idea of continuing the practice.
“I don’t necessarily disagree with Mr. Jones. The only problem I have is if there’s a candidate that we don’t know,” Gardner said. “It gives us a small opportunity to learn a little bit about them in that three minutes when they tell us a little bit about themselves and answer questions. That process doesn’t take a great deal of time, so I personally don’t think there’s any problem with vetting each candidate the way we did before.”
Councilman Willie Mickel agreed with Gardner.
“I don’t believe we’ve ever hired anybody without looking at them and talking to them,” Mickle said.
DuBose said council would have to re-adopt the procedure requiring the interviews to continue the practice. He also said the interview process would not apply to filling Napper’s vacancy. He said this is because the board forwarded a recommendation to fill Napper’s seat with Shannon West from the county’s Flat Rock Township, which Napper represented.
“In that case, you would have to accept their recommendation … if you reject their recommendation, they would have to make another recommendation,” DuBose said. “You don’t have to accept their recommendation, but you can’t make an appointment unless it’s recommended by the rest of the board for Mr. Napper’s seat.”
Burns said the county has passed a “critical transition point” from a government-owned hospital to one owned by Capella Healthcare, a for-profit enterprise.
“But it’s still our hospital,” Burns declared. “Watching its performance very much determines its profitability going forward. I’m not advocating for any given healthcare provider, but I will tell you, that using a Kershaw County business helps Kershaw County. We need to have faith in our own ability to take care of ourselves and the businesses that operate inside our domain.”
Burns also noted there are several million dollars -- between $10 million and $20 million -- conveyed at the time of the Capella lease/purchase.
“So, these trustees are going to exercise extraordinary authority with a lot of money for a period of time yet to be determined to include the Karesh wing, which will be managed for them by Capella. So, having qualified members as trustees certainly begs a certain amount of serious attention on our part to make sure we have the right people there,” Burns said.
Council instructed DuBose to research the matter further, but did decide to advertise the vacancies for Holmstrom and Jones’ seats. Carpenter asked for a formal vote to do so, which passed unanimously.
In other business, council:
• received an update on the Vision2030 Kershaw County project;
• unanimously passed the second of three readings authorizing a fee in lieu of taxes agreement with “Project Aurora;”
• unanimously appointed Pam Mahoney, Jennifer Poole and Ulice Lance to the county’s grievance committee;
• unanimously approved The Matheny-Burns Group of Lexington to work on the county’s next Comprehensive Plan;
• unanimously passed second of three readings to rezone a piece of property in Cassatt to allow for the construction of a Dollar General store;
• received an unmodified opinion on the county’s Fiscal Year 2015 audit;
• unanimously proclaimed Nov. 15-21 as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week in Kershaw County; and
• entered executive session to discuss Carpenter’s county administrator contract -- council took no action afterward.