Consolidating county, city services being considered

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By Stan Welch – The Anderson County Council addressed several issues Tuesday night, ranging from the potential for consolidating services with the city to zoning to aborting a proposed change in the county’s sewer rates.

Finance Committee Chairman Francis Crowder reported on the progress being made towards a study of possible consolidation of services. He explained that any such merging of services with the city of Anderson would have to meet certain criteria, such as both short term and long term cost savings, as well as the maintaining of the level of service provided the taxpayer.

He reported that an RFQ, or request for qualifications, has been prepared and will be issued. That will attract consultants and experts in the field of consolidation to bid for the contract for conducting the study to determine consolidation’s feasibility.

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson expressed her support for the idea, saying that it made fiscal sense to “combine forces” where ever it was feasible. Some areas that might benefit from consolidation could include permitting and building inspections, animal control, information technology, and some aspects of law enforcement.

Councilwoman Gracie Floyd complained that she had repeatedly asked to be appointed to that committee since she claimed she had been involved in the issue for several years. “I have asked and asked to be put on this board but I have not. I am still willing to work with this. But I am asking again to be placed on this board.”

The Council then moved on to give third reading and final approval to three new zoning classifications. Those were low traffic density office district, a blended neighborhood commercial district and a planned commercial district. Councilman Francis Crowder explained that the refinements, as he called them, would allow even closer controls over what was allowed in a certain area.

“If someone seeks and obtains a zoning change based on an application to build a nursing home, for example, and then the nursing home isn’t built, I think the rezoning process should start all over, if they decide to build something else. “ Crowder offered an amendment to bring the definition of the low traffic density district into line with state law, by defining it as an area that generates no more than 99 trips during peak hours.

Councilman Tommy Dunn added that he plans to propose additional refinements to the zoning ordinances in the near future. “These zoning classifications are tools to help the people of Anderson County.” Councilwoman Floyd complained that the most recent changes had not been run by her public works committee, a complaint that Dunn, a member of that committee, refuted.

Another ordinance, also up for final approval, would have rescinded a special summer break on sewer rates for approximately 4000 customers of the county operated sewer system. That break maintains the monthly rate at the average per month, even during summer months when water usage for things like watering lawns always increases.

The proposal to end that practice would have generated an additional $170,000 for the sewer fund, which is historically and chronically in the red. Instead, Councilman Dunn moved to table the ordinance and seek other sources for those funds. Following the motion, which under parliamentary procedure allows no debate or discussion, a twenty minute discussion ensued.

Councilwoman Floyd, who had opposed the ordinance, opined that it was “refreshing to see the Councilman see the light.” She also brought forth open laughter and gasps of amazement from the audience when she told Councilwoman Wilson that if she had issues with the Beaverdam sewer line in the past she “should have said something then.”

Floyd has apparently forgotten that the first eight years of Wilson’s tenure on the Council was spent in a bitter legal and political battle with administrator Joey Preston over precisely that issue.