Williston discusses EDC

Williston town council spent over an hour in closed session discussing the situation with the Barnwell County Economic Development Commission during the regular meeting Jan. 13.
Council took no action after the session. After the meeting, Mayor Jason Stapleton said council discussed the proposal county council made regarding changing the make up of the EDC board.
County council had proposed letting the municipalities choose representatives for the board - previously, county council appointed all the members. But when asked if that is something Williston is willing to go along with, he said there probably will need to be more discussion between the towns and county council.
Late last year, members of the EDC board "donated" property managed by the board to Williston, Blackville, Barnwell city and South Georgia Tissue, a private company.
When county council members learned of what had happened, they voted to remove all sitting members from the EDC board. Now, the county is trying to get the donated property back and maintains everything the board members did was illegal.
The hope is that an agreement would be reached, and the towns would give the property back to the county, but that hasn't happened yet.
Exactly where the situation is heading is uncertain, but as more time passes it becomes more and more likely the dilemma will be settled in court. The towns were given legal notice from the county's attorney Jan. 2 that a "civil action" may be filed against them regarding the donated properties.
Also during the meeting:
• Council received the annual audit report from Todd Highsmith, an accountant with Highsmith and Highsmith, LLC, based in Greenville.
He said the town got a "clean opinion" for this year's audit, which means there were no major concerns auditors had with the town's financial reporting.
Williston's assets exceeded its liabilities by $8.8 million at the end of the last fiscal year, June 30, and the town had an unassigned fund balance - reserve money - of $1.2 million.
• Town Administrator Kenny Cook said two wells the town had planned to have abandoned (filled) are no longer a worry to the town. The West Street well will be taken over by the Department of Natural Resouces, he said, and the old town hall well on Bennett Street is on private property.
• Cook said he is working on getting grant funding for the Elko Street area water improvement project. A larger water line needs to be put in so fire hydrants can be installed in the area, Cook said. The town is also trying to get grant money to put digital cameras in the police cars. Most of the vehicles are still using VHS cameras, Cook said.
• Council voted to approve a request from the KEES School Improvement Council to hold the second annual African-American Heritage Parade Feb. 23 at 4 p.m.