Lee County Council frustrated with area's legislative delegation

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Some members of Lee County Council are not pleased with the area's legislative delegation.

The General Assembly appropriates money targeted at increasing recreational opportunities in the state. Receiving agencies must match at least 20 percent in in-kind donations or monetary expenditures.

Members of the General Assembly must also sign off on projects before the money can be spent.

Complaints arose at Tuesday's council meeting in Lee County Courthouse that it has been difficult to get approval from some legislators.

Councilman Charles Beasley expressed frustration at delays in getting money for recreation, noting that improvements to area parks had to be rescheduled because delegation members failed to respond to funding requests.

"We had almost $100,000 we put in for the summer, and we weren't able to use it," he said.

Councilman David Addison echoed Beasley's concerns.

"In the past five years, it seems like the legislative delegation seems to want to hold on to it," Addison said of the recreation money. "They need to represent us."

"That's a lot of money sitting there; now they seem to want to be more involved," he added.

"They're building all kinds of stuff in Hartsville," commented councilman Ron Fountain.

Hartsville is the home of state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, one of the delegation members who can sign off on projects in Lee County.

In other business, the final reading of an ordinance approving a new contract with Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center was approved. The contract was needed to accommodate the change from Sumter County operation of the detention center to its being operated by the Sumter County sheriff.

County Administrator Alan Watkins said a separate contract concerning rates for such things as keeping inmates at the center was still under consideration.

Nothing will change about how inmates are processed in, he said.

Council also approved the purchase of a new excavator at Tuesday's meeting. County Manager Alan Watkins said the excavator will be a big help to the county.

"Based on all the flooding, we have more work to do than our equipment can handle," Watkins said.

He said the purchase of the excavator was approved through the budgetary process. Watkins said the committee reviewing bids recommended the county purchase a John Deere excavator.

He said there is no dealer in Lee County for the competing bid's equipment, and the John Deere equipment typically has higher resale value.

"We have a John Deere dealer in town, can get parts and repairs more easily," he said.

By using John Deere financing with a 36-month no-interest loan, a portion of the money can remain available for emergency uses, Watkins added.

The county already owns a large backhoe, he said, but the excavator can do additional work the backhoe is not ideal for.

He said the cost of the excavator and trailer would be $166,000.

The final reading of a resolution allowing Lee County Planning Commission to review zoning for Lynchburg was approved. Watkins said Lynchburg approached the county about reviewing zoning questions because its planning committee is not active.

He said the county or Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments can provide Lynchburg with consulting on planning and zoning issues as well.

Watkins emphasized, however, that final approval on any zoning issues must come from Lynchburg Town Council.

Board Chairman Travis Windham said both county council and Lynchburg Town Council had reviewed the resolution and both were "comfortable" with it.

Council also renewed a contract with AshBritt Environmental for storm debris removal. Watkins explained that the contract costs no money up front but locks in prices and rates for the services if they are needed.

He praised the work of county employees preparing for the threat from Hurricane Irma.

"We spent several days planning for what we thought would be a Category 3 hurricane," he said.

He also thanked First Baptist Church for providing a meal for more than 40 first responders to commemorate 9/11.