Councilman retires after 22 years
Barnwell City Council recognized one of its own for dedicating 22 years of service to the city.
Ben Duncan has served on city council for 22 years, but did not seek re-election this year. He was thanked by his fellow councilmen for his service during his last council meeting on Dec. 4, which included a reception in his honor at the end.
“He’s been a great benefit to us,” said Mayor Edward Lemon, who called Duncan “friendly and helpful.”
Harris T. Barker is taking Duncan’s place and will be sworn in next month. Since Barker (District 3), Billy Dozier (District 1) and Robert S. Pattillo Jr. (District 5) were unopposed, no election was held in November. During last week’s meeting, council approved the cancellation of elections and certification of candidates. This is the last time the city or any other municipality can cancel an election because a change in state law goes into effect in 2018 that will require an election be held, even if there is no opposition.
Council also welcomed two new police officers. Officers Arielle Griffin and William Beard took the oath of office, which was led by Mayor Lemon.
Barnwell Police Chief Brian Johnson asked council for permission to restructure his department.
The department previously had two captain positions, including one Johnson vacated to become chief. Instead of hiring a replacement, Johnson wants to use the money to make several promotions.
“I want to put supervisors in place where I need them and bring the pay scale up a bit to help retain officers,” he said to council.
Johnson also requested to use the funds that were allocated for the defunct K9 program for uniforms and training. The cost of uniforms for new officers is higher than he anticipated, so part of the funds would pay for that. As they look to hold more in-house training, some funds would pay for training. Johnson said several officers have taken courses and can teach their fellow officers in certain areas.
As they look forward to a new police department building in the future, Johnson wants to update the department’s logo and badges. The change would gradually be reflected on the vehicles as they replace older vehicles, so there would not be an extra cost.
Council unanimously approved all of Johnson’s requests.
Administrator John Zawacki said the city received a $500,000 grant from SCRIA to construct a new digester at the wastewater treatment plant because the current one is at the end of its useful life.
Zawacki also passed out photos of work to the aeration basins at the wastewater treatment plant to show progress that has been made in the cleanup and refurbishment of the system. The plant’s three workers are doing the work, which is saving the city $35,000.
Public Safety Buildings
The survey of the property for the public safety buildings is moving forward and should be in the hands of the city’s architect after the holidays. Drawings and specifications for council’s review will then be submitted, said Zawacki.
Council approved a $116,294 contract with Alternative Construction & Environmental Solutions, Inc. to remove asbestos from four buildings that will be torn down to make way for new police and fire departments. The contract includes the demolition of the buildings that are located at 280 Washington Street, 124 Burr Street, 150 Burr Street, and 125 Burr Street.
Lynn McEwen, the city’s human resources/downtown development director, said they have a second meeting planned with USDA regarding possible rural development grants to help fund the new public safety building.
In other news:
• No action was taken following a closed session to discuss the administrator’s position.
• Council approved the annual Christmas bonuses for the city’s volunteer firefighters. The bonus is $5 per call or drill attended, which adds up to $7,560. This is only $60 higher than what was budgeted.
• Council approved the 2018 Holiday Schedule, which is in line with the state’s schedule. They also approved the schedule of council meetings for 2018: Jan. 8, Feb. 5, March 5, April 2, May 7, June 4, July 2, August 6, Sept. 10, Oct. 1, Nov. 5, and Dec. 3, 2018.