MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING
OF THE WALHALLA CITY COUNCIL
August 18, 2020
Present: Mayor Danny Edwards, Councilman Dennis Owens, Councilwoman Sarai Melendez, Councilman Danny Woodward, Councilman Keith Pace, Councilman Josh Roberts and Brent Taylor, City Administrator.
Absent: Councilman David Underwood
Guest: Jennifer Moss, Oconee History Museum and Ben Wilson, Superior Sound Solutions
The Mayor led the pledge of allegiance.
There was no public Input.
Approval of Minutes: On a motion by Mr. Pace, seconded by Mr. Woodward and unanimously carried, the minutes for the regular meeting on July 21, 2020 meeting were approved.
Reading of Resolutions and Ordinances:
Mr. Roberts made a motion to approve RESOLUTION 2020-6 RECOGNIZING THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 19TH AMENDMENT AND WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE Ms. Melendez seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.
Discussion: The Mayor recognized Mrs. Jennifer Moss, from the Oconee History Museum to speak on the resolution. Mrs. Moss said, “The suffrage movement began in 1848 and took approximately 72 years before women earned the right to vote with passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. She said, “It is hard to believe but it didn’t make the front page in many newspapers. However, Oconee County was one of the few counties in the state to endorse the amendment.
Discussion of Audio System
Mr. Ben Wilson from Superior Sound addressed the Council on the progress of developing live-streaming system during Council meetings. He said,” We have been in business 20 years specializing in audio/visual systems. We have been meeting with the Administrator to develop a cost-effective means to perform live-streaming services. I’m here to answer any questions. The Mayor stated live streaming is important, but we are also having problems hearing each other. Mr. Owens stated the acoustics in the Depot are terrible. It would be nice to have everyone on council to have a microphone. Can a multiplexer be installed to help with that?
Mr. Wilson said, “It is important to have good integration of the microphones with live-streaming. We can put in a system with audio reinforcement, but this is different than what we have been discussing.” Mr. Woodward asked, “What would be involved in installing a sound system here and then transporting it back to our City Hall Council chambers.” Mr. Wilson said,” It is designed according to the space. It will be easier to do it at City Hall.” Mayor Edwards asked, “If we spend money here and then transport it to City Hall, then we would lose some of that expense. In other words, it will cost to move it?” Mr. Wilson said, “Yes.”
Mr. Wilson stated, “It would cost between $8,000-$10,000 each to put a permanent solution in both places. Hardware could be transferred, but there will still be labor cost.”
Ms. Melendez asked, “If there are recurring maintenance cost? Mr. Wilson said, “No, other than some fees from streaming services.” Ms. Melendez asked, “Is it wireless?” Mr. Wilson said, “There are systems out there that are wireless.”
Mr. Roberts asked, “If it is labor intensive and do they provide training?” Mr. Wilson stated the portable systems are, because you have to set them up each time. The permanent systems are not and they would provide training.
Mr. Pace said, “We don’t have as much of problem at City Hall hearing as we do here.”
Ms. Melendez asked, “Are these two separate types of projects?” Mr. Wilson said, “The live-streaming is different than enhancing the audio in the room.
Mr. Roberts said, “He can’t see spending $8-10,000 for a system here and then having to do it at City Hall. Mr. Pace said, “He can’t see spending that twice.” Mr. Owens stated he agreed.
Mr. Wilson suggested to wait and put a system in when we are ready to go back to City Hall.
Ms. Melendez asked, “How long will it take to install it?” Mr. Wilson said, “It is about a 2- month process.” The Mayor asked, “Who maintains it and how long does the system last?” Mr. Wilson said, “The estimated life is about 5 years. Mr. Owens asked, “If the internet speed was tested? Mr. Wilson said, “Yes it was about 1MG. We would want it to be about 6 MGs.
Discussion of the Census
The Administrator stated that due to the Pandemic the Census has taken longer to complete than originally anticipated. The County has asked for more participation from us to help promote it. Therefore, I am asking if you want to do more than what we have previously done?
Ms. Melendez showed some promotion materials that could be used and asked if we could do a mailing like we did a few months ago in the water bills.
Mr. Pace said, “You could bring some of the materials to the “Cruise-In” on Saturday. Ms. Melendez said, “That would be good.” The Mayor said, “We should blast it more on social media.”
Discussion of Face Coverings
The Administrator said, “At the last general government committee meeting they discussed options regarding face coverings. He said, “You can do nothing, pass an ordinance requiring it or a resolution strongly encouraging it.”
Ms. Melendez made a motion to pass ORDINANCE 2020-12 AN EMERGENCY ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF WALHALLA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TO REQUIRE THE WEARING OF FACE COVERINGS OR MASKS IN PUBLIC PLACES AND IN SETTINGS WHERE THERE IS A RISK OF EXPOSURE TO THE COVID-19 VIRUS. Mr. Owens seconded that motion for the sake of discussion. The motion carried by a vote of 4-2. Ms. Melendez, Mayor Edwards, Mr. Owens and Mr. Roberts voted in favor. Mr. Woodward and Mr. Pace voted in opposition.
Discussion: Mr. Pace said, “He believes 100% wearing mask saves lives. He estimated that in the grocery stores he visits that 40% of the people didn’t wear them. He went into an auto parts store where he was the only one wearing one. If we pass an ordinance, it is going to put a burden on our police department.”
Mr. Roberts said, “Some people say the mask helps and some say they don’t. People in restaurants can’t walk in without one. I have concerns on how to enforce it. I would like to see what happens in schools.”
Ms. Melendez said, “With school starting this is the reason to have one and not to wait until we have more cases. How will we enforce it?”
The Administrator replied, “The police department will have to write tickets.”
Ms. Melendez said, “I had the virus and we all know people who contracted it. There are business owners who would like to see this so they know they have the City’s support when they tell people to put a mask on.”
Mr. Roberts said “There are medical exceptions.” Mr. Owens said, “You don’t have to wear one if you can maintain six feet outside.”
The Administrator said, “There is no jail time only $100 fine.” Mr. Woodward said “I don’t see how the police department will have the resources to enforce it. I support wearing a mask.”
Chief Brinson said, “A private business can ask them to put it on and if they don’t, then the police can put them on tress pass. We will be addressing more calls if an ordinance is passed.” Ms. Melendez asked, “Would an officer have to see it?” Chief Brinson said, “Yes.”
Mr. Woodward said, “I would like to recommend people wear a mask and not put a burden on police.”
Chief Burton said, “The number of cases has gone down, but we will see what happens when school starts.”
Mr. Roberts suggested tabling it. Ms. Melendez asked, “Will this apply to City buildings?” The Administrator said, “Yes.”
Discussion ensured about a grace period.
The Mayor stated he would like to see the fine reduced to $25 and the first week issue only warning tickets. Mr. Owens asked, “Do we need to restrict how many times a person is issued a ticket?” The Chief said, “It will be treated like a seat belt violation.”
Mr. Roberts made a motion to amend the ordinance that tickets won’t be issued until August 31, 2020 and the fine to citizens reduced to $25. Mr. Owens seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Chief Brinson asked, “Are we going to provide mask to businesses?” Chief Burton said, “We could help some but we have already spent $10,000 on PPE.” The Mayor directed the Administrator see if it is feasible to supply mask to businesses. Mr. Woodward asked, “If people attending Octoberfest would have to wear a mask?” The Administrator said, “Yes.”
Mr. Pace made a motion to amend the ordinance that business owners also only be fined $25 for violating the ordinance. Mr. Owens seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Discussion on the ARC Grant
The Administrator reported the City received the Appalachian Regional Commission grant for the Greenway project. Ms. Melendez asked, “When will construction take place?” The Administrator replied, “12-18 months.” The Mayor stated, “Remember we have to come up with $500,000 in matching funds.” Mr. Pace stated, “In the future we will need to increase man power to maintain it.”
Mr. Roberts made a motion to amend the agenda to have discussion about purchasing a police car. Mr. Owens seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Discussion of Police Car
Mr. Woodward stated the police department has come a long way in obtaining police cars. Having cars assigned to an officer goes along-way in preserving the life of a car. We have 4 high mileage cars with two of them having over 200,000 miles. He asked Chief Brinson, “How long does it take to get a car?” Chief Brinson replied typically 2- 4 months, but with Covid issues it is taking longer. Mr. Woodward asked, “Didn’t we have a plan to purchase cars? The Administrator replied, “We are tacking ahead of the plan because the department got a grant to purchase two cars. We don’t have any for in the budget this year.”
The Chief stated in the past 3 years we have gotten 2 Tahoes. 2 Chargers a K-9 Tahoe and a Ford Taurus. The Taurus was wrecked and replaced by a Durango. The K-9 Tahoe was also wrecked and replaced by a Tahoe. The foundation has bought us a vehicle.
The Mayor said, “This is the best we have done during my 9 years on Council.”
Mr. Woodward asked, “Do we need one?” Chief Brinson said, “If we got one this year, we wouldn’t need one next year. If we get the Narcotics grant that comes with a car.”
Chief Brinson stated we wouldn’t be able to get a car until Feb. or March of next year. Mr. Owens asked, “Is every vehicle is pursuit rated”. Chief Brinson said, “Going forward they will be.”
Mr. Woodward asked, “How much do cars cost?” Chief Brinson said, “Chargers cost a little under $30,000. Tahoe is a little over $30,000 and both will cost about $15,000 to equip them with a police package.”
Mr. Woodward asked, “If we could amend the budget to purchase one?” Mr. Roberts stated he would like to bring it back up. Mayor Edwards replied, “It is unusual to amend the budget 2 months into a new one.” Ms. Melendez said “We should also consider adding more money for training and overtime.”
The Mayor asked, “Where do you want to take the money from?” Mr. Owens stated, “The Capital Fund or General Fund.”
The Administrator was asked what are the options to fund police car. He replied, “Either take it out of reserves or cut other departments budgets.”
Mr. Owens asked, “What are the options to purchase a vehicle? The Administrator replied, “A lease purchase will be a smaller hit this year and will be a commitment for four years.” Mr. Woodward asked, “Are there more cost on a lease purchase?” The Administrator said, “You do a lease purchase because you don’t have the money right now to do it. Of course, there are interest cost associated with it.”
Mr. Woodward asked Chief Brinson about training requirements. Chief Brinson replied the state requires 40 hours of training every three years to keep up with certification. They do qualifying every year for weapons and tasers. We try to take advantage of free or less expensive training opportunities.”
Mr. Pace said, “Every department had to take cuts this year, we set it up according to our revenues”
Ms. Melendez said, “Even though there is a movement nationally to defund the police, we need to look at every way to support them. Even though all departments matter we need to revisit the police department funding.
Mr. Pace said, “There is a six month back log on vehicles. What is the reason to spend money now?” Chief Brinson said, “If you happen to find it one on a lot.”
Mr. Owens explained a lease purchase to Ms. Melendez.
Chief Brinson gave a historical background on the overtime and training line items. He said he would like to see additional $200 an officer for training and $20,000 more for overtime.
The Mayor and Mr. Woodward agreed they would like to see a better breakdown at a future meeting.
Ms. Melendez added we need to start budget discussions in January or February.
Fire/Codes: Mr. Pace reported the Department had
131 calls for service.
Staff trained 230 hours.
The department was involved in planning for Independence Eve and Pandemic Issues.
They have had several rescues between Yellow Branch and Stumphouse.
Mr. Roberts reported:
- Discussed video and audio system to live stream and record meetings.
- Was shown a sketch form SCDOT of S. Catherine St. as a one-way street with parallel parking.
- Discussed whether the City should require face coverings within the City.
- Asked the administrator to look into developing a policy for hanging banners across Main St.
Mr. Owens reported:
He complimented the department on the way the streets look.
Ms. Melendez said she had a good ride on the garbage truck and appreciate the work they do.
The County didn’t have the monthly information available in time for this report.
Delivered 33 roll carts and collected 9.
Department oversaw the installation of new poles that will allow the City to hang banners and Christmas decorations.
The Department is involved with the Farmers Market.
Ms. Melendez reported:
We have 267 participants registered for youth sports.
We discussed about having fall sports during the pandemic and the best response to having a safe season.
Ms. Melendez said “She would like to see an internship program in the department to help them because they are understaffed. Especially, to work with social media.”
Mr. Woodward reported the committee received the following information:
Issued 277 tickets
835 Calls for Service
153 extra patrols
Hire two new police officers.
The department has performed a review of their policies and procedures.
Mr. Pace reported the committee:
Mr. Parris updated the Council on the SCDHEC consent order conference call.
Briefly spoke about the de-commission of the existing plant.
We were updated on testing of the new water plant.
Brent Taylor, City Administrator