Fees Fall

Proposed Fees Die ... Again

  For the second time in nine days, County Council’s attempt to give second reading to ordinances adding fees failed.
  At a called meeting Wed., Sept. 18, Council voted 4-1 against passage of both ordinances. Voting against both were Chairman Derrick Jones, and Councilmen Frank Daniel, Wayne Grice, and Justin Anderson. Councilman Jones Butler voted in favor.
  At the regular Council meeting on Mon., Sept. 9, both ordinances failed to pass due to lack of a second to the motions.
  Council held a budget work session on Mon., Sept. 16, and after hearing from County Attorney Chris Spradley, they voted to once again give second reading to the ordinances at a called meeting set for 5:30 p.m.
  Word spread and the Council Chambers was  packed, just as it was at the regular meeting.
  Chairman Jones asked Spradley to explain what he shared with Council on Monday.
  Spradley said Saluda County is in it dire financial situation due to the fact Councils have been borrowing from the reserve fund to balance the budgets since 2008.
  Spradley used a chart to show the following totals: 2008 - $161, 689; 2009 - $160,678; 2010 - $589,765; 2011 - $583,720; 2012 - $230,079; 2013 - $378,211; 2014 - $223,897; 2015 - $428, 198; 2017 - 634,883; 2108 - $922,921; 2019 - $1,018,420; 2020 - $1,027, 822.
  The county only has $2.6 million remaining in the reserve fund.
  Spradley said if the county budget next year is out of balance like the previous years, then the county will have to borrow money, and, obviously, pay back the loan with interest.
  Spradley said without the proposed fees, the county would have to eliminate 22.6 positions out of 146 employees.
  The $50 fee would be put on 9300 lots with structures. The money would go toward EMS and Law Enforcement.
  The $20 fee would be put on 20,200 licensed vehicles. That money would go to county roads.
  Some of the same concerns were expressed from those present that were expressed at the meeting nine days earlier.
  One man said he was on a fixed income, lived in a trailer and had three vehicles.
  “It will cost you $110,” Spadley said.
  “Where is that coming from?,” the manyasked.
  Others questioned why the State is forcing the county to build a new jail, and why is has to be a 100-cell jail when the county doesn’t exceed the current 40-cell capacity.
  Jail Administrator Janice Ergle said the State has cited substandard conditions at the current jail that could set the county up for litigation.
  Spradley said if the State closes the jail, then the county would have to pay other counties to house local prisoners.
  The county will have to borrow money to build the new jail and the current situation with using reserve fund money makes the county a lending risk, he said.
  Spradley answered a rumor that the county taking over EMS was causing a shortfall in funds. He said the expense for the county running the EMS is only $37,000 higher that when the nursing home ran the EMS, through county funding contributions.
  Many said the county should balance the budget first, before considering imposing fees.
  Some asked why the county granted a “fee in lieu of property taxes” to new businesses and industries. Spradley said that is what the State Department of Commerce recommends.
  Many of the comments were heated.
  Following Spradley’s presentation, Chairman Jones asked for a motion and second on the two ordinances. Unlike at the Sept. 9 meeting, there were seconds this time.
  When it came time to vote, both measures failed by a 4-1 vote.
  Council began meeting with department heads later in the week to discuss cutting staff.

Saluda pastor’s gun buy-back
program a wild success

  SALUDA – Almost two weeks after her church’s gun buy-back program, the Rev. Hillary Taylor is still elated with the results.
  “We bought back 19 guns in total,” said Rev. Taylor, pastor of Bethany and Zoar United Methodist churches in Saluda. “If we had bought only 10 guns, I would have been ecstatic.”
  Nine of the purchased guns came from persons living somewhere other than Saluda.
  “Individuals from Columbia to Inman who read about our program were so impressed that they drove all the way to Saluda to turn them in,” Rev. Taylor said. “The reasons for turning them over were as diverse as the people who brought them.”
  At the Sept. 7 “no-questions-asked” event, people who turned in guns received Walmart gift cards valued at $100-$200, depending on the type of gun.
  “We passed out a total of $2,100 in Walmart gift cards,” Rev. Taylor said. “We will be saving remaining cards for another gun buy-back program next year. This could not have been accomplished without many individuals and churches who donated to this project.”
  Following most gun buy-back events, the purchased weapons are destroyed. In this effort, however, the guns will be disabled and repurposed in the Saluda community as gardening tools or artwork – almost literally playing out Isaiah 2:4: “...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
  “We hope the next event will be more comprehensive in terms of mental health first aid,” Rev. Taylor said. “This is a topic many people are excited about, and I look forward to connecting churches and local businesses with the needs of the Saluda community in the future.”
  Rev. Taylor already has been in communication with another church and a non-profit organization interested in planning similar gun buy-back programs in other rural areas of South Carolina. An avid hunter and gun-owner herself, she hopes events like these will raise awareness about the rising suicide rates in South Carolina and ways to promote firearm safety.