Former Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy raised three issues during the Williamston Town Council meeting Monday which Mayor Carthel Crout addressed with The Journal after the meeting. The issues included a police radio grant, Milliken property purchase and a contract for operations at the town’s waste water treatment plant.
Police Grant – Speaking during the public comments portion of the meeting, Clardy again brought up a police radio grant which he claims was not handled properly. He has on several occassions provided information which he says shows the purchasing guidelines required by the grant were not followed by the town and police department and that there were other discrepancies in the paperwork.
This time, rather than going into details about the grant, Clardy directly addressed Mayor Crout and asked him if he would like to “retract” a statement in which the mayor described Clardy’s comments about the issue as “ludicrous and unfounded.” Clardy did not elaborate on why he offered the mayor the opportunity. Crout replied he would not.
Other than that, Crout did not respond to Clardy’s comments during the meeting, but afterward told The Journal that a state procurement inspector had recently investigated the handling of the grant in response to an ethics complaint by Clardy. He said that the inspector looked at the records and according to Crout, “said everything is fine and the town is in no jeopardy about future grants.”
Crout did indicate that there should have been bids taken on the recording equipment that was purchased instead of radios, however he said that the equipment was provided to the town “at cost.”
The equipment purchase was one of the things Clardy had mentioned when he initially brought up the issue.
Milliken Property purchase– During his comments, Clardy also accused Mayor Crout of not being transparent on the Milliken property purchase and of pushing the deal through without allowing the public to have knowledge on the issue.
Clardy said that the special called meeting the town held for second reading and a public hearing on the purchase was held on a Thursday morning when most people are at work and without proper notice to allow citizens to attend and comment. He blasted the town for having a special called meeting on the issue instead of handling it in a regular meeting. “What was so pressing that it constituted an emergency?” Clardy asked. He also asked if the property had been surveyed and if the town realized they purchased property that includes wetlands and the site once used as the town’s trash dump.
After the meeting, Crout admitted that the property purchase deal was done in a short time frame but said that he was not trying to circumvent any requirements or public notice by the way it was handled.
Crout said that the property purchase was related to an economic development push being made by the town and that the urgency was the result of town officials wanting to purchase the property before other parties did. He also said that it was held on Thursday morning because that was when the councilmembers could be there.
According to Crout, the property was listed for sale with a real estate company prior to the town becoming interested in it.
In response to question raised during the council meeting, he said that Milliken was paying to have the property surveyed and that the town’s attorneys are in the process of handling the paperwork on the deal.
During his public comments, Clardy also said that the state requires municipalities to buy or sell land by ordinance. Town Attorney Richard Thompson told The Journal that the town is not required to have an ordinance to buy or sell property and that there is no requirement for a public hearing.
Later in the meeting during a discussion on the upcoming budget process, Crout did state that the town will have to amend the current budget to reflect the property purchase. Amending the budget ordinance does require a public hearing and vote of council. Crout said this would probably be done in April.
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WWTP Operations Contract – Clardy also indicated that a contract with Goodwyn, Cawood and Mills for operation of the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) was approved by the mayor without the knowledge of at least one member of council.
In discussions after the meeting Crout told The Journal that during the process of working with RDA and RUS on the WWTP upgrade, council authorized the mayor to handle the related requirements necessary to meet the federal grant/loan guidelines.
Under those guidelines, the town is required to have an engineer and properly trained technicians operate and maintain the plant. Crout said he authorized the renewal of a contract in June of 2011with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc. to operate the plant.
Town Administrator Phyllis Lollis said that paying the company $19,017.38 monthly to operate and maintain the WWTP was less than it would cost if the town hired full time personnel to do it.
Under the contract, work at the WWTP includes sampling, analytical services, operations, process control changes and preparation of a Discharge Monitoring Report and other reports required by DHEC.
The company doing the work, ClearWater Solutions, will provide the services and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The company also orders and purchases all chemicals related to the normal operating process at the facility.
See related council story – Town to purchase camera system, request paving funds for park