Crime concerns residents, Barnwell police

Crime was the major topic at the April 1 regular Barnwell City Council meeting.
For the second time this year, a resident expressed concern to council about gunfire at the Big T club near Marlboro and Church streets.
The resident, who asked for their name not to be published, said there is always random gunfire outside the club on weekend nights. The resident said they feared a bullet will hit their house since they live nearby.
At the January regular meeting, a different resident offered a very similar complaint to council about constant gunfire outside the club on Friday and Saturday nights.
At the February meeting, the owner of the club, Jimmy Hallingquest, told council there are no problems at the Big T and he has security guards who make sure people leave when the club closes. He said he works with police to make sure there isn't any trouble.
Police Chief Todd Gantt has been in contact with Hallingquest regarding the complaints.
At the meeting, City Administrator John Zawacki said a letter will be sent to Hallingquest stating the club's business license will be revoked if there are further complaints.
Later in the meeting, Gantt addressed the "epidemic" of reports of gunfire across the city.
He said people are just shooting into the air and then driving off.
"Unfortunately we have shots fired all over town," he said.
He said some bullets have come down through the roofs of businesses.
"My fear is that a bullet will come down and kill somebody," he said.
Short of hiring more officers, Gantt said it's a problem he doesn't know how to fix, Gantt said.
The city's budget continues to shrink, leaving few options to increase police presence other than having officers work extended overtime.
Gantt said crime has been increasing in Barnwell since 1998. And the number of burglary and larceny reports is up 33 percent from this time last year, he added.
He said police are making arrests in most cases, but convictions lead to probation, not jail time.
It's a "revolving door," he said about solicitors and judges putting people back on the street.
In other business
Council passed a resolution to provide matching funds toward a Community Development Block Grant. The grant is from the state commerce department and will be used to make improvements to the waterline system in the Hagood Avenue area. If its application is accepted the city will receive $440,000. The city must match ten percent of the total ($44,000).
Council passed the resolution 4 to 0; Mayor Edward Lemon and council members Steve Walling and Robert Patillo were not at the meeting.
Council unanimously passed a resolution and an ordinance for a tax break regarding the redevelopment of the old Reid's Plaza. Tennessee based Hutton Growth company will get a tax credit of 25 percent of its total rehabilitation expenses toward its property taxes for eight years. Rehabilitation expenses are projected to be $2.3 million. The credit applies to the first 75 percent of the total property tax amount.
Dale Brady, with the Barnwell Tea Party Patriots, asked council if they'd had a chance to look at a resolution regarding property rights he presented them at the regular meeting in November.
The resolution asks council to provide full notice and disclosure to the affected property owners regarding instances where they have their rights infringed. It also gives individual property owners the power to stop council from accepting grant money and rezoning land.
Mayor Pro Tem Pickens Williams said council had looked at the ordinance but will have to hold off on a possible vote until the future. Zawacki said the resolution conflicts with the city's current zoning ordinance and several steps would have to be taken before it could face a council vote.
Zawacki said the grand opening for Family Dollar and O'Reilly Auto Parts in the old Reid's plaza is scheduled for June 1. Construction will continue at other store fronts in the plaza and will be fenced off. A Tractor Supply is expected to open in the future.
The initial stages of the demolition of the Milliken Plant are now underway. Zawacki said asbestos cleanup will be done before the building is torn down later in the year. The textile plant closed in 2009.
Department of Parks and Recreation Director Mike Shumaker said plans for a farmers market at Fuller Park are moving ahead. He expects the market to open May 28.
"It's like any kind of startup ... you lose money in the first couple years before its self supporting," he said about the market's budget.
Community Development Coordinator Lynn Cox said community cleanup events are planned for April 19 and 20. She also said saxophonist Bo Gardener will perform at next week's (April 18) Third Thursday at the Circle.