Blackville moves ahead with code enforcement

Code enforcement and the demolition of buildings encompassed most of the discussion by the Blackville Town Council during its regular meeting Monday, Aug. 21.

Mayor Michael Beasley briefed the council on the demolition of several buildings located on Main Street. “We own the buildings but the railroad owns the property,” said Beasley.

He said the town has been maintaining the property for years and is now getting information to acquire the property from the CSX.

He said two bids were submitted for the demolition – one for $7,000 and the other for $33,000. Deciding who to award the bid to “was a no-brainer,” said the mayor.

He said the buildings will be torn down, debris hauled away and the ground graded starting the Wednesday after the meeting.

A building which formerly housed a theater is also on track for eventual demolition, said Beasley. He said there are two owners. “We have one signature (on necessary paperwork) but we need the second signature.”

Enforcement of building codes has been a priority of the Blackville Town Council in recent years in an effort to clean up the community. Code enforcement includes the cleaning up of derelict property and demolition of dilapidated structures in the town.

“Once we start, we need to go full steam,” said Beasley. “It’s time.”

While all on council have been in favor of code enforcement, Councilman Fred Orr noted, “We don’t want Blackville to lose history” in its effort to clean up the town.

“I can say that the buildings we are looking at are not historical,” said Beasley. “They look like shacks.”

“To me it is a safety issue,” he said.

Councilman Allen Harrison moved to approve the lowest bid for demolition. Councilman Kelvin Isaac seconded the motion. The vote to approve was 5-0 with Councilwoman Vivian Alston absent from the meeting.

Police Chief John Holston also gave a report on code enforcement as his department is involved in the legal side of the effort.

“The hammer and nails are already there,” said Holston of the ordinances in place for the town to move forward with code enforcement.

“The only thing that is not there is the financial source for an officer that would work under the umbrella of the police department, but work on code enforcement,” said Chief Holston. “Code enforcement takes a lot of time,” he said, something that is not available to officers currently on staff.

“My recommendation would be to have a part-time person, maybe 20 to 25 hours a week,” said Holston.

The mayor asked Holston to gather information for the council on the cost of hiring a part-time person for code enforcement.

The mayor also reminded those present that $500,000 of the town’s “penny tax projects” is designated for demolition of dilapidated buildings.

EDC update

Councilman Steve Jowers updated the council on the Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation/Commission. Jowers serves as Blackville’s representative on the commission and is the EDC commission chairman.

“Most of you know that the EDC has been in litigation for some time now due to the actions of the previous EDC commissioners,” said Jowers. “Right now we are still in court. It’s an on-going challenge.”

He said the commission recently ratified a resolution that “we had no awareness” of the previous actions by the former commissioners. “What we are aware of now is to make sure we are doing it right and for the people of Barnwell County.”

Jowers said, “It is important for us to be enhancing our town for an opportunity for growth. Whatever comes to Barnwell County can be a benefit to this town.”

Water

In response to a question about the quality of water in the town, Mayor Beasley in his report to council said that the town’s aging water system “has lots of leaks and breaks in the lines” which can cause stagnated and smelly water.

“We just spent $25,000 on a box to control the water system. In addition we have a screen and auger break which is a $46,000 cost to repair,” he said.

The mayor noted that $900,000 of the penny sales tax revenue is designated for improving the water and sewer system which has lines over a hundred years old.

He said the process of improving the system will take time but the effort has begun. “If it weren’t for the penny sales tax, I don’t know what we would do,” said Beasley. “I wish I could just snap my fingers and replace all the pipes in the town.”