Gang task force funding approved

First Byline: 
David Purtell - Staff Writer

Barnwell City Council gave official approval to the Sheriff's gang task force plan during its regular meeting Feb. 3.
Council unanimously approved to enter into the intergovernmental agreement and help fund the task force. The cost to city will be $47,500 this year - $10 per resident based on the 2010 census. Council members said they still want more clarification from the county and Sheriff Ed Carroll on the program's budget - how the money will be spent - and when the task force will begin operation. Council also wants regular updates on the task force and its budget. The contract says there will be "periodic" updates, but council wants that wording to be more specific.
Williston Town Council voted Monday night during their regular meeting to join the intergovernmental agreement too. Williston's share of the cost is $31,000. Each year, councils have to vote to re-approve funding for the task force.
Williston's council had a copy of the budget for the task force - it was received after Councilman Dwayne Cagle called the county to personally request one. The budget totals $310,803 for the first year and includes the purchase of vehicles and equipment such as guns, ballistic vests, and radios. The salaries are listed at $30,000 each for four investigators.
Sheriff Carroll wants a four-man task force that will focus solely on gang and drug activity in the county. He said in an email Tuesday he would like to start the task force "ASAP," but he added it would take a while to get the correct personnel in place.
Barnwell City Council also voted to have City Administrator John Zawacki put together a list of projects the city needs completed as part of Barnwell County Council's push to get a referendum for a capital-project sales tax on the November elections ballot.
Voters would decide whether to enact the 1-percent tax. But before anything can be put on the ballot, the city, towns and county must put together a list of projects that the money would go toward. This list must be organized and finalized by a commission made up of representatives from the county and the municipalities, according to the state law on the tax. The commission chooses what projects get tax money and how much. Since the tax would be county-wide, it makes sense for all the towns to make a list of projects for a potential commission to review.
County council must pass a resolution creating the commission, and once the commission finishes its work county council must pass an ordinance creating the referendum to be on the ballot in November. This must all be done before Aug. 15 - the deadline for any referendums to be submitted to the county election office.
"The way I look at it is if it passes that means our constituents don't mind doing it. And if we don't do it, it means we get left out in the cold," Barnwell Mayor Ed Lemon said.
In other business:
Third Thursday is being scaled back this year. There will two events this year: one on April 10 and another on October 16.
Zawacki said bids should go out on the Hagood Avenue water project the week of Feb. 20. He also said he should hear back from the state's Rural Infrastructure Authority regarding a grant for another water project in the third and fourth streets area of the city.