Changing form of government on agenda for Council meeting March 2

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By David Meade

Williamston Town Council held a work session Monday during which three members of Council and the mayor aired out differences which came to a head recently over the the town’s street enhancement project and which led to an effort to change the town’s current form of government. Jeff Shaker of the SC Municipal Association was also present at the meeting.

All three members of council in favor of the referendum had indicated that they feel they are not being kept informed on major issues affecting the town.

Councilman Otis Scott, who made the original motion to change the form of government during the February council meeting, said that he was elected by the people to represent them and he wants the people to decide if there should be a change.

Councilman Rockey Burgess pointed out several instances in which decisions were made and council found out about them after people in his Ward began complaining and questioning why something was done.

Burgess said, “It is very important that people know what is going on.”

Mayor Mack Durham acknowledged that he has made decisions and tried to build support for certain initiatives prior to bringing them before council.

He said he has pushed for certain projects in an effort to facilitate economic development and enhance community attributes.

Durham said that a comprehensive master plan the town is beginning to develop will “lift a big burden” from him as mayor by developing a longterm plan for the town.

Shaker also suggested the town implement an annual work plan stating long term goals and objectives they would like to accomplish

He said a work plan states specific tasks for the town to pursue during the year and can be used to inform the budget process.

Shaker said that in his experience with councils that don’t get along it is “usually those councils that don’t have plan.”

An ordinance to change the form of government will be presented to council at their March 2 meeting.

Councilman David Harvell, Scott and Burgess are in support of pursuing the referendum on the issue.

During the February meeting of council, all three members voted in favor of an ordinance establishing a referendum for voters to decide if the town should change the form of government. Councilman Tony Hagood and Mayor Durham were opposed.

Williamston operates under a strong mayor form of government, which basically gives the mayor authority to run the town on a day to day basis and to make major decisions.

Council is responsible for setting policy and approving the mayor’s budget for the town

In preparation for the council meeting next week, there was also discussion on accepting a lot from an individual needed to allow a temporary road access into the Gatewood subdivision, and use of hospitality tax funds for events.

Council will entertain a request from The Greater Williamston Business Association for funding for a Party in the Park event in May.

There was also brief discussion on concrete testing on the Mineral Spring Trail project which is expected to begin soon.