Clinton Mayor Bob McLean’s opinion on the Capital Improvement Sales Tax – which, by the way, is a long way from happening, if at all – is rather simple.
McLean figures if the tax, which must be passed in a referendum to be held on Nov. 3, 2020, brings in $40 million over five years, which is what the state estimates, then he figures further that Clinton ought to get $10 million, Laurens $10 million, other cities in the county $10 million between them, and Laurens County $10 million.
Simple as pie. Or pi. Whatever pi(e) is. Piece of cake works just as well.
Except it doesn’t. A detailed list of priorities and specifications on how the money, if it ever materializes, is to be determined by a county sales tax commission, which has six members and half of them are to be chosen by county government.
McLean said that most of the taxes are going to come from the cities, so the cities deserve the predominant amount of the proceeds.
Good luck with that.
Only two members have been selected. Clinton has appointed Walter Hughes Jr. Laurens has appointed former mayor Sharon Brownlee. Hughes and Brownlee are charged with selecting a member to represent the county’s three other incorporated towns – Gray Court, Waterloo and Fountain Inn, with the betting line tilted toward the last – and the county has decided to withhold its appointees until the rest of the commission is set.
Most of the process is guided by state law.
McLean noted that Clinton had dutifully made its appointment in response to the urgency expressed by county officials, and he found it irksome that the county had not followed suit.
Hughes’ job is to represent the city. He’s going to be on a pretty tight leash. One of the items on Thursday’s “special called” meeting agenda was to submit the city’s choices, but after a good deal of discussion, Council, at the urging of Councilman Ronnie Roth, decided to table the matter for now. Hughes explained how, as he understands it, the process is going to work. He addressed much of the confusion from Council members regarding whether the city is supposed to submit just one project, or more, whether each member can make his or her own preference, etc., and City Council’s general response was that it needed to have “a workshop” about the whole matter, which, by the way, the county as a whole has already had.
Deciding what these chickens are going to be before they are hatched is going to be quite the coop.
Hughes explained that, first of all, the commission must be cautious because, even if the referendum passes, it may not raise the estimated $40 million. Greenwood is one of several counties where similar taxes wound up raising less than expected.
Most of Thursday’s business was transacted after a lengthy executive session, and no action was taken on that, either. The listed items of business were “related to matters covered by attorney-client privilege” and a separate meeting with counsel to discuss “municipal finance matters.”
Council also took up and voted to move ahead on the Millers Fork Trail, a matter of some untidiness at the previous meeting.
“If Council looked dumbfounded, it’s because they were,” said McLean, who said a Planning Commission recommendation of funding the trail had been brought before Council without its being notified in advance.
The city must move ahead in order to receive a $99,000 state grant with a 20 percent match from the city. City Manager Bill Ed Cannon had raised questions about the site being outside the city limits and thus outside city police jurisdiction. What led Council to unanimously approve the project – the city can use $12,700 of accommodation tax funds – was a letter from Sheriff Don Reynolds stipulating that county deputies could provide service to and patrols of the trail site. The trail runs for 7/10ths of a mile, and the city will be required to maintain it for 25 years. The city must also comply with the requirements of the grant by Jan. 31, 2020.
The Mayor had a number of reports and recommendations. McLean said he and Cannon were concerned about dilapidated and abandoned mobile homes in an area of Clinton Mill where nearby residents had complained of the absence of upkeep and repair. An owner who promised to clean up the area has failed to do so, and the problem requires intervention by city officials. McLean said it was “a severe fire hazard,” and that buildings were overturned and in pieces.
“We need to do something,” he said. “People are saying ‘the city made my neighbor clean his yard’ and ‘why don’t they have to clean that up?’”
Also discussed were problems with automated garbage collection in which many customers have complained of receptacles being damaged by the truck.
“We need to fix this,” McLean said. “If we’re doing the damage, it’s our responsibility to repair or replace it.”
Councilwoman Shirley Jenkins brought up the availability of funding at the old Martha Dendy school, a recurring topic at recent meetings. Since the adjoining park is the site of basketball tournaments, she was told that the old building, which has been boarded up, could be eligible for the use of tourism funds in future years.
Councilwoman Megan Walsh inquired about the operations of the Planning Commission. She expressed a need for the commission to meet more often because “we need to be more proactive in our planning.”
Councilman Danny Cook was absent, having undergone surgery on Thursday morning.