Discussing county government

Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

January 3, 2014

Note: This is the second part of Margaret Brackett’s interview with County Councilmen Scott Cain and Henry Livingston.

• A group of citizens recently approached County Council about using the Old Library building downtown as a museum. Councilman Cain, what is the status of this request?

Council approved a resolution allowing the group to develop a business plan for this purpose. The long-term use of the building as a museum is contingent upon Council approving that plan. Council’s current plans involve renovation expenditures aimed at preserving the shell of the building and preventing damage from the weather. Obviously, making the building suitable for use as a museum will require more work than this. The group that petitioned Council will be seeking grants to do all or part of this work. They will also be determining how day-to-day operations will be funded. There is no doubt that this location would be a great improvement; the issue right now is finding the funding commitments for renovations and operations.

• What is the status of construction on the new Sheriff’s Department headquarters on Wilson Road?

We are anticipating a move-in date in late March or early April. Soon after that we will remove the mobile units currently used to house the Department. Construction of the emergency operations center (EOC – the new construction out front) has been delayed substantially by the weather, and it will be the last part of the project to be completed. Both the Old Armory portion of the project and the EOC are now “dried in,” however, meaning there should be no further delays on interior construction. There is still some site work to be done, including sidewalks and utility connections, and these areas will continue to be both weather-sensitive and dependent upon contractor schedules. But there is no reason the project should not be completed in the spring. The project is scaled such that it should be able to house operations of the Department until at least 2025, and the property is large enough to ensure the Department’s location there almost indefinitely.

County Chairman Henry Livingston, what will be the primary goals of the Newberry County for 2014?

The County is obviously laying the groundwork for industrial development and job creation. Ultimately, more job opportunities and higher discretionary – income above what is necessary for mere subsistence – are driving factors in improving quality of life. Council has set the stage for that, and we won’t be starting from scratch in pursuing those goals.

It’s also time to determine what consensus is attainable with respect to recreation. In this case, recreation is not the answer it’s the question. Given how widely our programs are scattered geographically, and given the desires for recreation to be community-based, what is politically and practically attainable? There is no “magic bullet” answer that makes everyone happy and that does not require compromise. There is a burden on the recreation community to reach that consensus. People cannot be led in 10 different directions, and they cannot be led where they do not want to go. We will be counting on our recreation leaders to be statesmen. Anyone who thinks that his or her burden in this process is only to be dissatisfied if they don’t like the outcome will not be a productive participant in the debate.

As has been the case over the past several years, Council also wants to keep the rate of taxation stable. Doing that means continually improving the services within existing limitations. Of course, this means that no line item in the budget should feel that its place is sacred. We don’t need great increases in taxes; we need continually improving accuracy in delivering the types and levels of services that are needed.