Williamston Fire Volunteers well trained, public works busy

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Williamston Town Council heard reports from department heads and approved first reading on a setback ordinance during their meeting Monday. Councilmembers Rockey Burgess and David Harvell were absent.
During public comments Spring Water Festival Chairman David Meade thanked the Council for the town’s support and invited the mayor and council to the opening ceremony at 9:15 am Saturday, Aug. 25. The festival will begin on Friday, Aug. 24 at 6 p.m.
Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor announced that a book bag drive is being held by the Willliamston Police Department. Interested persons are asked to pre-register for the giveaway event being held this Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Municipal Center Auditorium.
The police department will sponsor a movie night at the Caroline Community Center in August, Chief Taylor said.
Envision Williamston Executive Director Sonya Crandall reported that other upcoming events include the Homesteading Festival in September and more Party in the Park events.
Crandall said that Envision Williamston projects are underway that “invite people to the town” and “improve the overall look and feel of the town.”
Among them are two new gateway projects, with a third location to be decided soon, and shaded rest stop locations,
Applications for the business facade grant program will be accepted until the end of the month, she said.
The next EW mural will be painted soon, she said. Palmetto High Art Teacher Gregg Davis and students are working on the project.
Crandall also announced that Envision Williamston is in the process of setting up a mobile phone app.
The mobile app will be a digital guide to historic downtown Williamston and will include a business listing, digital version of the new walking tour and more.
EW is working with the PBA on coordinated Economic Development with the Main Street Challenge.
Signs of economic growth in Williamston included a new gym coming soon to the artory and construction has begun on a Dollar Tree store, she said.
Mayor Mack Durham said, “The improvements readily show. The murals and rest stops are adding a lot of vibrancy to our community,”
Debbie Chapman presented the codes report stating that a number of “We buy Houses” signs placed throughout the town have been picked up recently. Signs have to be registered with the town and county, she said.
Chapman said the town has addressed 32 tall grass and weeds violations, mixed trash and construction and bushes blocking the roadway.
She also reported she has met with several people about building plats and inquires.
Mayor Durham said, “This administration has done “a lot of work on communication” in the community including community policing efforts. The mayor said the town is using positive engagement with our police in dealing with nuisance abatement.
“Most of these issues are resolved,” he said. “We will continue this positive approach with community policing and improving communication and try to move forward in a positive way.”
Durham said the town’s annual audit is underway and it also reflects positive on the town.
Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison reported the department has answered 139 calls this year. There have been ten in the last six days, he said, including a housefire, wrecks, a ceiling collapse, five business building inspections, a cook stove and weather related.
He said fire department officers met with Medshore about the EMS situation and explained that all EMS services in the county, including Williamston, are being put out for bid. He said they also met with county dispatch about the problem of not having enough dispatchers.
Ellison said the problem is common and that other counties are also having trouble keeping dispatchers, adding that with three percent unemployment and better pay opportunities, “people can find jobs with more money.”
Ellison also said his department, and others in the county, are looking at changing communication radios from the 800 MHz standard radio to save money.
The problem, he said, is they will not be able to communicate with agencies from outside the county.
Chief Ellison reported most WFD volunteers are on the engineer level and training.
The department has 27 firefighters, two recently resigned and three joined.
He said there are five area fire chiefs who also volunteer with the Williamston Fire Department.
“They are the highest trained and highest in attendance,” he said.
Eighty percent are FF2s and have maximum training. Twenty four are ladder trained.
Chief Ellison also said that ISO standards are coming soon and that the Williamston Fire Department will be ready. “We should be able to score really well,” he said.
Ellison also reported the department recently received five refurbished Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) units.
He said the cost for a new one is $8000 and they were able to get five refurbished for $12,000.
According to Ellison, the equipment was originally purchased twelve years ago with a FEMA grant.
He said the used units are obsolete and do not meet standards. “We will have to replace them all,” he said..
Ellison told council members that a $150 sponsorship from McDonalds is used for a cash giveaway for cruise in participants. He said it brought back $860 which is being used to purchase trophies for the Spring Water Festival Auto Show coming up on August. 25. “The show does not cost the town any money,” he said.
He also invited the mayor and council to attend a family dinner being held at the Fire Department on August 24.
Public Works Director David Rogers reported on the town’s Water and Sewer Departments.
Rogers said there were sixty non-pay cut offs; forty-four non-pay cut ons; twenty nine leak notifications, 12 lock off non pay; 10 water leaks; seven sewer backups, and two new meters installed.
The departments also addressed four miles of maintenance on sewer rights of way and five miles on road rights of way. They also conducted fifty four locates.
The Street and Sanitation staff picked up or delivered forty four tipper carts averaging 1.5 per day, he said. They hauled 237.65 ton of limbs and 198.05 tons of household garbage. Seventy three tires were hauled off and three culverts cleaned.
Mayor Durham said employees in both departments, “work for the Town of Williamston,” and often flex from one department to another.

Sims honored on retirement
Donnie Sims was presented a plaque in honor of his retirement from the town’s Parks and Recreation Department. Sims has been with the town for eight years and has overseen the department for several years.
In the only business of the evening, the council approved a recommendation by the planning commission to change the setback requirement for Multi-Family residential.
The change amends the setback ordinance requirement for Multi-Family residential (MFR) from 25 feet to 15 feet. The ordinance currently has a 35 feet setback for large lots identified as R1; R2 is 15 feet and R3 is 15 feet.