NEWBERRY — Newberry County Council unanimously passed first reading Wednesday of an ordinance that would make it illegal to text while driving.
The proposed ordinance would allow drivers to use a cell phone only in hands-free mode.
County Administrator Wayne Adams said that currently there are measures before the state Legislature that would make texting while driving illegal. Should a state law pass it would supersede the county ordinance.
Adams said the public safety and courts committee recommended to advance the county ordinance.
“It is possible the final act of the Assembly action could leave open some areas of local regulation depending upon which bill is approved,” Adams said.
Adams said if the General Assembly fails to address an area that the county chooses to regulate and that the proposed ordinance could be revised during the reading process.
The ordinance defines distracted driving and penalties to be handed down to motorists who engage in communication with electronic devices while driving.
In other business, Adams reported on the county budget, which he said is balanced to the revenue at this point with the exception of a possible shortfall in the local government fund (LGF). Adams said the Senate version of the LGF fund is $100,000 less than the county’s current budget.
The House version at this time meets up with the proposed county budget.
Councilman Les Hipp said that if the county receives more LGF money than is in the Senate version, he has some minor changes he would recommend to the budget.
One potential change could come under county emergency services, though that change is still being researched.
County Emergency Services Coordinator Tommy Long reported to council on the public safety and courts committee meeting.
Long said the committee discussed the texting while driving ordinance as well as consideration for adding paid firefighter coverage in the community.
There have been concerns over daytime fire coverage and Long said the committee will continue to research the feasibility and/or need for more firefighters. Long said the committee also discussed updates on renovation of the courthouse and sheriff office buildings.
Hipp asked Long how soon he would have the research complete since potentially adding personnel impacts the county budget process. Long said they had spoken with Sumter County and were looking to discuss the issue to learn from the system in Dorchester County.
Hipp requested the input come before the next county council budget work session.
In other business:
• After Gene Times spoke on behalf of the zoning change on Lake Greenwood, council voted unanimously in favor of ordinance 12-24-01 to change zoning from single family residential (RS1) to single family residential (RS1A).
• Council unanimously passed second reading of Ordinance 04-07-14 approving the creation of a 2014-2015 budget.
• Council unanimously passed second reading to provide appropriations to the Newberry County Library, Piedmont Technical College and Newberry Agency for Disabilities and Special Needs.
• Council voted unanimously to extend the Adams’ contract through 2016. Council met in executive session before coming back into open session to vote.
• Council issued a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Flags will be flown at half staff on county government buildings in observance.