Gray Drive bridge, shed remain in limbo

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By David Meade

During the Williamston Town Council meeting Monday, Pamela Owens, a resident of the Gray Drive area, asked about several items related to the neighborhood including the status of the Gray Drive bridge and a shed for the Gray Drive park. Owens has repeatedly asked about the projects during public comments portion of council meetings over the past few months.

Owens asked the town to write a letter or show some support to the County regarding the Gray Drive bridge. The bridge, which is in need of major repair, has been closed for more than a year during which the County and Greenville and Western Railroad have been in discussions about it.

Mayor Durham said the town has passed a resolution and voiced support to have the bridge opened. Town attorney Richard Thompson said the county has not decided whether to pursue legal action to have the bridge repaired and reopened.

Thompson said if the county does attempt to enforce a court order to have it fixed, the railroad will say that “it will cost to much.”

Owens also asked about a shed and cameras for the Gray Drive park. Councilman Rockey Burgess said that providing a camera was not feasible at this time because of the need for a wifi relay.

Several residents have asked the town to place a shed and picnic talbe at the neighborhood park. Owens said the estimated cost is $6000. The town has been trying to find funding either from the county or a grant to for the project.

There was considerable discussion as to whether Hospitality Tax funds could be used for the project.

Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said hospitality funds can be used for tourism related projects, but stated the park has no public parking and no public events and is essentially a neighborhood gathering place. “I don’t feel it qualifies as a hospitality expenditure,” the mayor said.

Durham said it was not the intention of the town or the neighborhood to have people from Charleston visit it or to publicize it as a public park.

The town attorney Richard Thompson said the hospitality tax law states that the funds are to be used to get new people into a town. He said it depends on how the park is marketed and what the town is using the park for.

“If you cant’t, In good conscience, say it is a public park, then don’t market it that way.”

There was also some discussion on the effect on the budget if the funding came out of the general fund as an unbudgeted expenditure.

Thompson said that if the town spends more than budgeted, it will come out of the contingency fund. “You will be reaching to get money you didn’t budget.”

Councilman Otis Scott said he would contact County Council representative Cindy Wilson about funding for the shed.

Following the discussion, Council unanimously approved a motion by Burgess to seek alternative funding and to address the issue in January.