Wood elected chairman of County Council

The northern area of Laurens County needs a full-time Laurens County Sheriff’s Office presence, the head of security for ZF Transmissions told the county council Tuesday night.

After dressing down the council for about 20 minutes, Scott Nelson was responded to by County Vice-Chairman Joe Wood. “How much profit does ZF make? We’re doing the best we can,” Wood said.

If we have an incident, you are going to be brought to the forefront to answer these questions,” Nelson said.

The issue involves the county council not moving forward with a consultant’s study of a new Sheriff-Coroner center. The council has approved a consultant’s study for a new EMS-Emergency Management center. Nelson said the current LCSO in downtown Laurens is a disgrace: “They have a tent inside the building covering their evidence.”

Nelson said LCSO response time to a stabbing at Teknor-Apex was 11 minutes, and the response time to a shooting at Yanfeng (Automotive Interiors) was 16-1/2 minutes. By contrast, it took a gunman in Dayton, Ohio, 32 seconds to kill nine people, Nelson said.

The county sponsors regular roundtable discussions about what industries in the north area want in terms of county services: law enforcement, fire and EMS, and public works.

Fire and EMS response is good, Nelson said: “We have plenty of shiny new fire trucks.” After Nelson left, the council authorized spending $3.5 million to lease-purchase 11 new fire-response vehicles.

Nelson said the LCSO should move into a new county building in the north area.

State money built an EMS station just a few yards from ZF’s front gate, but it is not furnished or occupied. The cost, from state sources, was $900,000.

Council Chairman Dr. David Pitts said that would be a decision for Sheriff Don Reynolds to make. Pitts said, “We approve their FTEs (Full Time Equivalent), but the sheriff runs the day-to-day operation.”

Pitts said, like school districts that want a SRO (school resource officer), industries could combine their resources to pay a deputy’s salary.

The council took the northern area industries presentation as information.

Later, Wood said, “I thought he was talking down to the council. It’s all about the bottom line. We spent hours and hours on the budget, and we’ve done a wonderful job (developing a 2019-20 budget). He was blaming the council that we did not put enough money in the sheriff’s office. We put all the money we could put in the sheriff’s office. We raised the millage the maximum we could (to the rate of inflation; Wood was corrected that this year’s budget contained no millage increase).”

Pitts said, “Our job is to balance constituent service with the amount to run services. We have to set priorities. All our employees are underpaid. Some qualify for assistance because they are below the poverty level; some work two jobs. Everyone has cut back. The Highway Patrol has reduced employees. One trooper covers two counties on the night shift. We want to make Laurens County a safe place to live and work and play.”