Budget amendment on Milliken property purchase passes despite reservations

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Committee to look at renaming street to honor MLK

By Stan Welch – The issue of honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. appears headed for a peaceful resolution, following Monday’s Williamston Town Council meeting. Following comments by several citizens, all in support of a memorial for Dr. King, Mayor Carthel Crout appointed a committee of Councilmen as well as business and civic leaders, to find a solution to the issue; preferably one that would set aside a stretch of Greenville Drive to honor King but which would not impose a mandatory and disruptive address change on the twenty or so businesses along the road.

That stretch of Highway 20 is currently named after Earl Wooten, but Mayor Crout indicated that preliminary discussions with the SCDOT, the appropriate law enforcement and emergency agencies, and Senator Billy O’Dell indicate that there would be no logistical problem with designating a stretch of that road in honor of Dr. King.

Steve Ellison, who owns the Radio Shack on that stretch of Greenville Drive expressed his own support for a memorial, but stressed the economic hardship such a change of physical address would place on his and other businesses.

“My store accepts payments for 551 different companies, including Duke Power, Charter, you name it. That’s 551 companies we would have to inform of a change of address. In addition, if you type in my current address into your gps or do a mapquest, it will bring you to us. If we have to change to a whole new address, it could take us years to recover. I will help put the sign up myself commemorating Dr. King, but please do not place this burden on our businesses, especially now.”

Roosevelt Thompson’s remarks carried the tones and rhythms of a black preacher as he spoke of the welcome he and his family received in 1948 when they moved to Williamston and opened a funeral home. “We have always been able to reason together here and we must reason together now.”

The committee will include Council members Mike Looper and Tony Hagood, as well as businessmen Steve Ellison and Frankie Major, and civic leader Ted Mattison.

The mood became a bit more contentious when a first reading was given to an amendment to the budget to fund a $150,000 purchase of a tract of land from the Milliken-Pacolet site. Councilman Looper asked if a letter providing assurances that the site contained no brownfield areas or other environmental problems had been received from the companies.

Town Attorney Richard Thompson said that such a document would be normally provided at the closing which is scheduled for June 8. Councilman Mack Durham said that the vote on whether to budget the purchase amount would necessarily be affected by the assurances. He made a motion to table the amendment but discussion of the matter continued anyway, despite the parliamentary procedure that such a motion must be voted on immediately if it receives a second, without further discussion. The motion was not acknowledged, nor a second sought.

Thompson explained that he didn’t think he could make the companies provide such a letter prior to closing. Looper insisted that he would rather see the document first and made his own motion to table the amendment. Again, the motion went unacknowledged and no second was sought.

Thompson responded to a question about how the amendment could be delayed until the documents were received by saying the best way would be for the person making the motion to amend to agree to withdraw it and let it be tabled.

Mayor Crout, who made the original motion to amend, declined to withdraw his motion and pushed the vote through. The count was 4-1 with Looper opposing. A second reading and a public hearing will be needed before final approval. Thompson agreed to seek a draft document containing the assurances sought prior to that second reading.

An amendment to the budget providing $4,800 for the construction of restrooms at Brookdale Park was approved, with Councilman Looper advising the Council that he was seeking a work order to add a covered entrance to those bathrooms, to be amended to the budget at a later time.

The Council also voted to increase the Town’s towing fees to comply with those charged by the SCHP. The fees are based, oddly, on the number of points involved in the violation. Violations of two points invoke a fee of $175, while violations of four points invoke a fee of $200.

A budget workshop is scheduled for May 19th.