Colleton County Council Meeting Notes

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By Andy Ann

On Tuesday, Jan. 10 the Colleton Council met for its monthly meeting. Recently elected and sworn-in council members Scott Biering and Jimmy “Bubba” Trippe were in attendance. With the new changes in board members, Councilman Steven D. Murdaugh was elected to serve as the new chairman, and Councilman Phillip M. Taylor, Sr. was elected to serve as the new vice-chairman.

Council approved the reading of the minutes from the Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, meeting.

The county council also received a “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting” from the Government Finance Officers Association for its annual comprehensive financial report for the fiscal year ended. This is the seventh year in a row that the county received this achievement.

The award is in recognition from the administration all the way down to each department. Councilmen gave thanks to each of the county employees, department heads, and administrators for all the work that they do. Special thanks and recognition were also given to Colleton County Treasurer, Becky S. Hill, for her contributions and work in keeping the fiscal house in order as the county treasurer.

During the appearances and public presentations portion of the meeting, Lisa Langdale made a presentation on the behalf of a growing group of concerned citizens regarding Shield Ministries and its plan for bringing a men’s transition house to Barracada Road.

The purpose of the presentation was to make the members of the council aware of the proposed halfway house and shelter for men with a variety of criminal offenses, including sexual crimes. The goal was to provide the council with enough information about Shield Ministries, one of its founders David Truluck, and some information about the proposed halfway house project to convince councilmen to block the organization from moving forward with the project.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, the “Community Development Block Grant Public Hearing Concerning the Needs Assessment” (CDBG) was presented by Kimberly Mullinax. She explained that this is a program to help the community and that fair housing is a very important part of the program.

The CDBG program is aimed to benefit low to moderate-income communities while helping revitalize the area. These programs are for neighborhoods, towns, and counties that are in areas that are more than 51% low-income. Funding through HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) has a projected allocation expected for this year of just under $20 million for the state.

There is a draft action plan that can have comments through Tuesday, Feb 7. The program categories that are included are Community Development, Business Development, and Regional Planning.

A report was also provided regarding a current CDBG project known as the “Gadsden Loop Neighborhood Revitalization Project”, CBDG #4-NR-16-002 is nearly complete. The final closeout is projected for March 31, 2023. The project benefited approximately 1,095 residents with an estimated 61.2% having low to moderate income.

Anyone with questions about any programs or projects can reach Kimberly Mullinax from the Lowcountry Council of Government at 843-473-3990.

Under new business, councilmen approved the reading of Ordinance 23-O-01, to amend Title 14-Land Management, Section 14.08-2 zoning district regulation of the Colleton County Code of Ordinances related the residential care facilities. This will be submitted to the planning commission on Monday, Jan. 23 for a recommendation to the council. There will be a public hearing on Tuesday, March 7. This is regarding the new planned medical facility, Genesis Health Care, Inc., coming to Walterboro in 2024.

Councilmen approved the resolution of 23-R-01 to authorize the expenditure of funds related to special projects as recommended by the Colleton County Accommodations Tax Committee from the State Accommodations Tax Fund - Fund 152 During the Fiscal Year Ending Friday, June 30, 2023, and other matters related.

Councilmen approved the resolution of 23-R-02 to authorize to approve acceptance of a grant from Coastal Electric Cooperative, Inc. in the amount of $139,000 for Industrial Infrastructure Development.

Councilmen approved the resolution of 23-R-03 to declare February as Black History Month in Colleton County. Black History Month is an annual celebration to recognize the achievements of African Americans and their central role in United States history.

Councilmen approved the resolution of 23-R-04 to advertise board vacancies. The Colleton County Accommodation Tax Advisory Board has one vacancy.

Councilmen approved the resolution of 23-R-05 to appoint members to board vacancies. The Colleton County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs had one vacancy. The council appointed Paul Mears to fill that vacancy.

During public comments, one county resident voiced her concerns and request to have a traffic light installed at the intersection of Rivers Street and Robertson Boulevard. She also indicated that streetlights are needed along those streets as well.

Other public comments were regarding the halfway house that was mentioned during the public presentations. Ashley Pennington, former chief public defender for Berkeley in Charleston County spoke on behalf of Shield Ministries. Jamie Jordan, chairman of the board of directors for Shield Ministries, also spoke. According to both representatives, the program is vetted, regulated, and extensive to help serve the men that are in the program. They also insist that the housing program and those involved will be assets to the community and good citizens. Jordan also said that the program is not a halfway house and that the men residing there would not have a lot of freedom.

Joanne Goodhope presented the council with over 1,500 signatures for a petition against the Barracada Road project.

During council time, several councilmen took a few minutes to recognize the passing of Walter “Gene” Whetsell, his legacy of community service, his role as a family man, and his service with the council for the last 20 years. Several remarked on how Whetsell will be missed and how he impacted a lot of lives within the community, and he will be remembered for that.

Several councilmen assured everyone in attendance that this council have listened to their concerns. They want to show community equity and they are hearing the voices within the communities.

The council also verified that they had not received any applications or notifications from Shield Ministries nor anyone that is affiliated with them regarding the proposed men’s transitional house. It was also expressed by councilman Mardaugh that there are grave concerns about the program and the boundary matrix not maintaining the property boundary. No actionable steps were taken at the time of the meeting regarding the housing on Barracada Road.

For more information or to review agendas and minutes visit www.colletoncounty.org/county-council/agendas-minutes or call 843-549-5221.

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