One issue, two sides, huge economic impacts

All the cards are on the table in the poker game between county council and three mayors over the future of the county's economic development commission.
Barnwell County Council met Thursday, Feb. 27, to discuss a proposal from the mayors of Williston, Blackville and Barnwell on how to re-organize the county's EDC board.
The proposal is essentially a power grab on the part of the mayors, an attempt to gain control over the direction a new EDC board will go. It's also an attempt to protect the EDC's property from any attempt by county council to liquidate those assets in the future - something the mayors have admitted they fear may happen.
The proposal is in stark contrast to an ordinance currently being developed by county council that will change the makeup of the EDC board.
The mayors recommended a nine-member board with six members appointed by the three municipalities and three chosen by county council. The board would elect its own chairperson and create new bylaws for the EDC, and the bylaws would have to be approved by the county and municipal governments. The mayors' proposal says board members can only be removed by the governing body that selected them. It says the assets will be given back to the EDC once the bylaws are approved.
Friday, Council Chairman Freddie Houston said county council will not go along with the mayors' proposal as written. He said the county's ordinance will be tweaked to give each town, including the four smaller ones, a representative on the board with the county having three - one from each school district.
"If they don't take it than that's it," Houston said, "We need to make a decision one way or the other."
That means the situation may end up in court for a judge to decide who has the rights to the EDC properties.
County council's ordinance currently says the towns would each get one appointment to the board and the county would get three and choose the chairperson. The smaller towns of Elko, Hilda, Snelling and Hilda would jointly nominate a representative to the board in the county's current ordinance - Houston said this part will be changed. It also says county council has final say on all board nominees. The ordinance needs one more vote of approval before taking effect.
The ordinance says the EDC board "shall take no action contrary to the will of Barnwell County Council." The mayors' plan says the board must get permission from the towns before selling property.
"The revised set of bylaws should include language to ensure the properties could not be transferred or given to a third party without the municipalities' agreement," reads the proposal - it's signed by Jason Stapleton of Williston, Mike Beasley of Blackville and Ed Lemon of Barnwell. The proposal was delivered to the county by Tom Boulware, who represents Barnwell and Williston. It says if the properties are "distributed," the land must first be offered to the municipalities.
County Council didn't take any action after discussing the matter in closed session. As of now, a final reading of their EDC ordinance is set for March 11.