Williamston Council reluctantly approves funding for indigent defense


By David Meade
Williamston Town Council approved first reading on an ordinance allocating funds for Indigent Defense and immediately following, unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Indigent Defense Proviso by the State.
They also approved a dispute settlement and funding for sound improvements in the town’s auditorium.
At the beginning of the business portion of the meeting, Council amended the agenda to set the date for the town’s July 4th Freedom Celebration and fireworks, which will be held on Saturday, June 30.
Council reluctantly approved funding of $4,547 which will go to the Tenth Circuit Public Court for indigent defense service for 2017-18.
Mayor Mack Durham said the state requires municipalities to pay into an indigent defense fund to provide legal representation in court for people who can’t afford an attorney.
The proviso in the state budget bill prohibits Circuit Public Defenders from using state funds to provide indigent defense in municipal courts.
Durham said he objected but “We really have no choice in this.”
Both the mayor and Councilman Rockey Burgess spoke out adamantly against the state requiring municipalities to provide the funding when residents outside the town do not have to pay into it.
Burgess said it was another unfunded mandate from the state forcing funding back down to taxpayers. He urged residents to contact their state representatives. The vote for funding was approved 3-1 with Burgess opposed.
Council then unanimously approved a resolution opposing the indigent defense provision in the state budget.
The resolution states that citizens of the town of Williamston pay Anderson County property taxes, state income taxes, state sales taxes and other taxes and fees to Anderson County and the State at the same rate as citizens that reside outside the municipality.
It also states that a portion of fines and fees collected by the town court are remitted to the state and some of those funds are already specifically allocated to indigent defense.
It also states that Williamston Town Council considers this to be just one of many instances in which citizens of municipalities are treated unfairly and inequitably by the State of South Carolina.
The resolution also requests the General Assembly to remove the proviso from the state budget appropriations bill for 2018-19.
In other business, Council approved first reading on an ordinance repealing accessory land use regulations.
Town Attorney Lee Cole said wording was changed to allow outbuildings appropriate for the zoned land use and eliminated wording that was inconsistent with planning commission approved use in a zoning district.
He said wording changes dealt primarily with setbacks and a maximum size limit on outbuildings.
Council also approved a resolution amending the zoning fee schedule to allow the town to charge an administrative fee of $100 to $500 for special exceptions.
Attorney Cole said the fee schedule was adopted in 2016 but since then the town is seeing more requests for special exceptions.
The town’s zoning fee schedule for Manufactured Home Application to Planning Commission $50; Request to Planning Commission for Special Exception $50; Request for Change of Zoning $150; Filing Fee for any request to Zoning Board of Appeals $150. An additional administrative fee may be added if the Zoning Board of Appeals grants a request for a variance to any applicant.
Council approved first reading on an ordinance authorizing the lease of the armory (Artory) property to Williamston Fitness.
Under terms of the ten year commercial lease, the town will provide some repairs to the facility. The lessee will pay rent of $2500 for 57 months and $3000 for the remaining period of the lease.
The premises will be used for commercial exercise and gymnasium facility. A second reading will be held on the lease ordinance.
Council then went into executive session to obtain legal advice on a contractural issue and to discuss an installation in the auditorium.
Upon returning to open session Councilman Chris Alexander made a motion to settle an issue between Capital Construction and the Town of Williamston for $5000.
Council also approved an expenditure of $17,300 for acoustic sound boards to be installed in the town’s auditorium.