Controversial Fees

BIG CROWD - The County Council Chambers was packed Mon., Sept. 9, with most in attendance there to oppose two fees proposed by County Council. The fees were defeated when the motion on both did not get seconds. (Standard-Sentinel photo)

Controversial County Fees
Die For Lack Of A Second

  Saluda County Council’s idea to raise funds by imposing fees on vehicles and buildings died from the lack of a second to a motion Mon., Sept. 9, before a packed house in Council Chambers.
  Following public hearings in which no one spoke in favor of the fees, Vice-Chairman Frank Daniels, presiding in the absence of Chairman Derrick Jones, asked for a motion to give second reading to both ordinances. In both cases, Councilman Jones Butler made the motion, but neither Councilmen Wayne Grice nor Justin Anderson seconded, thus the motion died.
  One ordinance was called a “Uniform Service Charge for Public Safety in Saluda County, South Carolina.”
  If passed the ordinance would impose a $50 fee on the 9800 taxable structures in the county. It would be used to partially fund the fire departments, EMS and Sheriff’s Office.
  The other ordinance, “A Uniform Service Charge for Motorized Vehicle Users on the County Roads of Saluda County, South Carolina,” would impose a $20 fee on every licensed vehicle. The money raised would go toward improving roads and streets.
  In the public hearing, many expressed the hardships faced by the many citizens on fixed incomes if the fees were imposed. They said those who rent properties can pass the fees on to the renters, but those who own their houses must absorb the costs.
  Other said the fees were nothing more than a tax increase, and one asked where the one percent sales tax increase was going.
  One citizen asked why the county was going to build a 100-cell jail, when it has never exceeded its current 40-cell capacity, and suggested Council should balance the budget, rather than relying on reserve funds.
 Another suggested the County should dissolved into surrounding counties, because Saluda County is “dead in the water.”
  The other public hearing was on an ordinance providing for an installment plan of finance for certain capital projects and equipment; authorizing the issuance of not exceeding, in the aggregate, the county’s constitutional bonded debt limit in general obligation bonds, in one or more series, tax-exempt or taxable to acquire undivided interests in such capitol projects and equipment, and other related matters.
  Attorney Ray Jones said financing for the new detention center would be funded through a non-profit corporation, and the county would not have to increase millage or use the eight percent bonded indebtedness limit.
  Jack Atkinson, who spoke on all three public hearings, said this was a “terrible idea.”
  When this motion came to a vote, it passed with Butler, Daniel and Grice voting in favor and Anderson voting against.
    Theo L. Lane from Duke Energy, who said he owned a house in Saluda County, presented a grant check for the OnPoint EMS Network. (See the related story.)
  Mac McNeil of the U.S. Census Bureau asked the county’s help in promoting the 2020 Census which will begin April 1 next year. McNeil said Saluda County had 73 percent participation in 2010. One new innovation with the 2020 Census is citizens can fill out census forms online.
  Council gave third and final reading to an ordinance to renew the contract of Saluda Sky Aviation, LLC, as the fixed base operator at the Saluda County Airport.
  The Fiscal Year 2019-2020 millage for the county and School District One was approved.
  The total council millage, including operating, special millage and bonds is 155.80. The millage last year was 151.57.
  The school millage is 185.80, including operating and bonds. The total last year was 192.87.
  Both millage totals are proposed. Millage is set by the Auditor and Treasurer.
  At the recommendation of Emergency Management Director Josh Morton, Council approved a new Emergency Operations Plan. The previous plan was 500-pages long. The new one is only 35.
  Council also approved Morton’s recommendation to  decommission the tornado siren system in the county. Morton said keeping the sirens up is cost prohibitive.
  In place of the sirens, the county will contract with OnSolve to provide mass emergency communication to the citizens by cell phone, land line or email. The citizens will have to sign-up for the program. The money budgeted for the sirens will be used for the communication program.
  Morton reported the county now has an overall ISO rating of five, which should create a cost saving to many citizens on their homeowners insurance.
  The meeting was the first for new District 2 Councilman Grice. Daniel presented a plaque of appreciation to  Grice’s predecessor D.J. Miller, who had to resign his position when he moved to a new home, located out of District 2.

PRESENTATION - Pictured from left to right: Theo Lane, Daniel Patterson, and Jacob Starnes. (Standard-Sentinel photo)

Duke Energy Award To
On Point Ems Network

  Recently, On Point EMS Network was presented a check for $2,500 from Duke Energy Manager for Government and Community Relations, Theo Lane.
  Daniel Patterson, president of On Point, received the check with the proceeds to go toward the purchase of a transport gurney for emergency medical services in the Saluda County area. The gurney will attach to the John Deere Gator given to EMS by the Charlie Foundation in March; the total cost of the bed being $3,265.
  Lane’s presentation marks the culmination of Duke Energy’s desire to aid the county in some way during Don Hancock’s tenure as chairman of county council until 2017, upon his passing.   He said, “Don was a great friend to me and we were working together on several ideas for Saluda County at the time he became ill. When I was made aware of the Gator, it was apparent the addition of the gurney was necessary to assure safe transport of victims that ambulances could not reach. It is my hope this donation by Duke Energy will accomplish that goal, and honor Don Hancock and his legacy of love for Saluda County.”
  On Point EMS Network is a 501(c)3 (nonprofit) organization dedicated to the support of emergency medical services in the Saluda County area. Its board members are Patterson as president; Jacob Schumpert, vice president; Brandy Cromley, secretary; Gwen C. Shealy, treasurer; and Ricky Bailey.  
  This organization depends solely on donations, fund-raisers, and grants. If anyone would like to make a tax-deductible contribution, the mailing address is On Point EMS Network, 275 Grigsby Circle, Saluda, SC 29138.