Barnwell County Council sets goals for 2016-2017

The goals of 2015-16 were reviewed by the Barnwell County Council on Friday, Jan. 13 and new goals for the next two years were determined.

The council members met at the Barnwell County Library for nearly three hours to informally discuss the things they want to achieve in the coming two years. The council sets goals bi-annually and the retreat is an opportunity for them to review those goals.

Attending the meeting were Chairman Lowell Jowers, Councilman Harold Buckmon, Freddie Houston, Don Harper, Ben Kinlaw and County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr.

The top five goals for 2015-16 included: rail spurs for economic development, a county-wide water system, improving relationships with the municipalities and constituents, litter control, and passage of the 1 percent capital sales tax.

Passage of the 1 percent sales tax was considered to be the greatest achievement for the county in the last two years, according to the councilmen. Voters last November approved the tax which will fund a list of projects not only for the county but also within the municipalities.

The next achievement was in the area of litter.

Councilman Buckmon said, “We have improved the recycling program tremendously, but there is room for growth.”

Highlights include the hiring of a litter officer through the sheriff’s office and improvements made at the landfill.

Improving relationships between the council and the municipalities, as well as constituents, is an area the councilmen agreed continues to need work.

Goals of additional rail spurs and a county-wide water system have not been achieved.

Over the course of the three-hour Friday morning meeting, the councilmen agreed on at least two goals - improvement of healthcare in the county and possible pay increases for county employees.

Each of the councilmen was given an opportunity to discuss what they would like to see accomplished over the next two years.

Harold Buckmon said he thinks the recycling program can be extended an additional 30 percent. He also wants a plan to replace aging equipment. Additionally, Buckmon said he wants to see improvements to the county-maintained dirt roads.

Jerry Creech said the Economic Development Commission and SouthernCarolina Alliance are working well together.

He also said he thought the Barnwell County Career Center was one of the most under-utilized assets in the county, especially for training youth for jobs in Barnwell County. “My whole point is why can’t we as a county council approach the schools and the industries and say, ‘Do what Medshore did and have industry pay for classes’. Why can’t we start the initiative to make it happen? Let's be proactive and start doing something,” said Creech.

During the meeting Creech also said he wants to rebuild the trust in the county council, inside and outside the community.

Freddie Houston said he wants to see more civility and respect on council. “As a board we need to respect each other,” he said. Houston asked that councilmen talk with each other to see how each stands on an issue. “Don’t wait until a public meeting and embarrass a person. We can attack an issue without attacking the person.”

“The main thing is for this council to work together. We have to first recognize and respect each other. Keep each other informed,” he said.

Houston asked the others on council to “make sure you have the buy-in of the council before bringing (an issue) up to council. If so, we will have a better working relationship and trust of each other and that will spill over to the municipalities.”

Councilman Jowers said his list includes wanting the council to re-evaluate all the boards and commissions in the county, continued focus on litter control, review all departments for cost savings, and discuss with the municipalities the possibility of a county-wide police force. He said he would also like to see proper handling of the 1 percent sales tax money from the very start.

Councilman Ben Kinlaw, who is new on council, said he would like to see a better means of the department heads as well as boards/commissions keeping the council up to date. Additionally he said he wants the council to be more informed before making decisions. “The best decision we can make is an informed decision,” he said.

Kinlaw said he will be asking on many issues – “Will it add value?”

Councilman Don Harper concurred with his fellow councilmen on the topics of salaries, education directed to local industries and making informed decisions. “I hope I can make a contribution,” said the newly-elected councilman. “I am looking forward to working with all of you. There is a lot going to be addressed daily. If we are going to be better, we need to work as a body. Sure, we will have our disagreements, but we can work through them. Show me the facts and show me the data and go from there,” he said.

Councilman David Kenner could not attend the meeting and sent his list which was read by Chairman Jowers. His list included better utilization of the Blackville Industrial Park, additional recreational opportunities in the towns, and working on community development. He also wants to see improvements for Denmark Technical College as well as the Boys and Girls Club.

Jowers concluded the meeting saying, “I think we have a job to do and it’s a monumental job.

We need to educate the public on how the council operates.”

“The biggest thing we need to overcome is we have to work among ourselves and not against one another,” said Jowers. “We are all intelligent men. We need to discuss points like grown men.”