Talking government: Legislative Delegation meets | News | The Press and Standard

by | September 21, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: September 20, 2017 at 1:25 pm

The Colleton County Legislative Delegation took over the meeting room at the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market Monday night to visit with the governmental officials and interested residents.
Five of the eight-member delegation attended the delegation session.
S.C. Sens. Margie Bright-Matthews (D-Walterboro) and John Matthews (D-Columbia) joined S.C. Reps. Robert Brown (D-Hollywood), Patsy Knight (D-St. George) and Michael Rivers (D-Ladys Island) started out the session by offering their insights into the work of the previous legislative session and what they anticipated being the big issues facing legislators during the new session next year.
Missing from the delegation meeting were S.C. Rep. Justin Bamberg (D-Bamberg,) S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) and S.C. Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg.)
Sen. John Matthews said he sees the Senate focusing on two issues that have been topics of discussion and one that has not.
He sees the Senate spending much of its time in the next legislative session seeking a fix for the troubled state retirement system and a solution to the state’s teacher shortage.
The one issue that has not been a topic of discussion that he anticipates will be drawing attention is a state initiative to address the skill shortage of potential employees that businesses relocating into the state are facing.
Rep. Brown sees the next legislative session readdressing the replacement of the state’s antiquated school buses. The legislature had provided additional funding to replace the old buses, but Gov. Henry McMasters vetoed it.
Much of the legislative session, he added, is sure to be taken up with the fallout from the decision to abandon the construction of a nuclear power plant in the state.
Rep. Knight said she sees the legislature looking a problem in the state’s higher education system and a revisiting of the Local Government Fund allocation system.
Rep. Rivers envisions a legislative session that will continue to look at educational funding.
Next on the agenda was hearing from local governmental leaders and agenda heads.
Colleton County Planning Director Phillip Slayter came to the podium, representing county government, with an update on one project and a request for funds to undertake a second project.
Rep. Brown had previously asked county government to give consideration to installing a sidewalk for residents on McDanieltown Road in the Cottageville area.
Slayter informed Brown that based on his request, the Colleton Transportation Commission had allocated $6,000 for a feasibility study and the study is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
When the report is received, his office will go back to the CTC with a recommendation.
Slayter also asked the delegation to allocate a $30,000 PARD grant to establish a parking lot for the ACE Trail, the recreational trail in the Green Pond area. The delegation handles the allocation of PARD funds.
The delegation decided to postpone a decision on the request for two weeks.
Rep. Rivers asked Slayter about the lack of a swimming pool in the county and the lack of a water safety instruction program for Colleton County youngsters.
Slayter told Rivers that the best avenue to establishing a public swimming pool would be to submit a request to the county administrator.
Rivers also brought up the swimming pool question again when it was Walterboro Mayor Bill Young’s turn at the podium.
Young said that decades ago the city had a municipal pool but it had been closed.
He said that “towns and cities hardly have financial ability to take care of that on its own.” Liability concerns, the mayor added, would also be a concern.
Young said he concurred with Rivers’ concern about the lack of water safety education for the area’s youngsters, suggesting that “there are other ways to accomplish that.” One of the alternatives, he said, is the use of portable swimming pools that could be transported into a community to conduct swimming lessons, a possibility that Young said Walterboro Councilman Bobby Bonds has mentioned in the past.
Young also briefed the legislators on the status of the city’s I-95 Business Loop, Discovery Center and other community and economic development projects.
He voiced concern about previous and future legislative attempts to amend the state’s business license program and the impact the continuing annual increase of local contributions to the state retirement system will have.
Water safety was also the focus of Edisto Beach Mayor Jane Darby’s visit with the legislators.
But in Darby’s case, it was a discussion of how Edisto Beach was dealing with the ramifications of last year’s Hurricane Matthew and the problems associated with Tropical Storm Irma.
Darby thanked everyone, the state and local leaders and agencies, that have been supportive of the efforts to counter the damage of Irma. “Recovery is in speed mode,” she said.
Irma arrived while Edisto Beach was continuing to sift through the aftereffects of Matthew.
Darby said that the town is still trying to weather Matthew’s devastation of the beach’s economy and the town’s finances.
Now, in the aftermath of Irma, the town is facing “the uncertainty of FEMA support at this point,” Darby said.
Rep. Brown, who made a trip to Edisto Beach following Irma, said he wanted to thank Darby “for your hard work. I’ve seen you in action.”
Brown’s thank you drew a round of applause from those attending the delegation session.
Darby suggested that Brown’s thank you had to be shared with the town’s council and staff. Then she drew laughs, “I have to admit, my cuss jar is full.”
AHEC’s Diane Mathews was the lone agency official to visit with the delegation. Mathews is the director of AHEC’s Lowountry Regional Center in Walterboro, one of four regional centers in the state.
The general public, she said, “might not know we exist.” Legislators aren’t among that group — the state has been funding Area Health Education Centers for 45 years.
Mathews explained how AHEC is involved in health career education on the high school level, professional health care education and continuing education for those working in the health care industry.
A new focus, she added, is the implementation of Tele-Health, a program that opens up the availability of specialized health care in rural, underserved areas of the state.

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