BAMBERG – Bamberg County Council got to meet its new director of voter registration and elections during a Monday night meeting.
Curtis Tyler Jr., chairman of the Bamberg County Voter Registration and Election Commission, introduced Athena Moorer as the new director. Moorer replaces Director Melinda Johnson, who resigned for health reasons.
"I've had the experience of being a lot of different places all over the world. I've met some good people. I don't want to say I'm a good judge of character, but character is very important. This young lady is one of the best individuals that I've ran across in my professional experiences," Tyler said.
Moorer said, "I just want to say that the mission of the South Carolina boards of voter registration and elections is to ensure that every eligible voter is allowed to register to vote [and] vote in fair and impartial elections. My job is to make sure that they have the assurance that their vote is counted."
She said she supports County Administrator Joey Preston's goal to make the county's Office of Voter Registration and Elections one of the state's best.
"Me and my staff will to the best of our ability make sure that we make that happen for him," Moorer said.
In other business, Laura J. McKenzie introduced herself as the SouthernCarolina Alliance Be Bamberg coordinator.
She said a county-wide fall cleanup will be held from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 23.
"We're real excited. Be Bamberg is a county-wide campaign to promote pride and progress and unity in Bamberg County," McKenzie said.
Individuals can preregister their teams, select a cleanup site and get cleanup supplies for the event by calling McKenzie at 803-943-6587. Free T-shirts and water will also be provided.
“We want y'all to please promote it within your districts because this is a county-wide effort," she said.
Preston gave a report on the county’s latest COVID-19 statistics.
The county had a total number of 1,735 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a seven-day moving average of 13.9 new cases per day.
Preston said an increase in both cases and the seven-day moving average since his last COVID-19 report in August is not good news.
"Fifty-eight Bamberg County residents have died, and four new deaths have been reported since the August update," the administrator said.
There are 54.6% of county residents who have had at least one vaccine, up from 47.4% in August. There were 45.8% of county residents who have received both vaccines, up from 41.2% since the last report in August.
“We've asked employees to tell us if they've been vaccinated or not, and we're right at the state average here for county employees, maybe a little bit higher as of lately. I think we asked about 30 days ago. So we're going to do it again before too much longer. I mean, we're encouraging our employees to get vaccinated,” Preston said.
He continued, “There's no mandatory testing here. I'm not doing any of that. I mean, if y'all tell me differently, I will, but I'm not doing any mandatory testing. ... I'm not sure exactly how we fit up under what the federal government guidelines are for federal employees. I know that we receive federal funds. I've got that question out there right now to see.”
Preston also reported that the Bamberg County Sheriff’s Department has received a $14,000 grant from the state Department of Public Safety to purchase body-worn cameras.
“This is the first time ever in the history of our county all of our deputies are going to have body cameras,” the administrator said.
He also reported that the Glass WRX SC company will be recycling the county’s mixed glass.
“We haven't been recycling glass at our convenience centers. ... This is mixed glass, and they take it and make these little stones that you can mix in or put with concrete, and it doesn't expand or contract. You can use it for seawalls."
The administrator also reported on the SC Stay Plus program through which county residents can apply for rental assistance. Residents can apply from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at The First Baptist Church Activity Center at 161 Allen St. in Barnwell. Call 803-255-5594 for an appointment.
The administrator said the county will hold a retreat at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 29, at the County Airport and that a tour of the hospital renovation work site is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21.
The work has been slated to be complete in early May 2022. Another tour is planned in the next two weeks. “This is for the public, too,” he said.
County Treasurer Alice Johnson gave financial reports for July.
For July, the county had $228,274.62 in income and expenditures of $1,035,852.28, leaving a negative balance of $807,577.66. When the positive bank balance at the end of June ($616,695.38)) was added, the county's regular account stood at a negative $190,882.28.
Johnson said the expenses were high in part because the county had three payrolls in the month of July. She said the county's coffers would be healthier upon the receipt of real estate taxes.
County Controller Gina Smith reported that the county closed on its 2021 capital project sales tax bond issue on Sept. 9. They received three bids, with Zions Bank coming in the winner with an interest rate of 1.02 percent.
"That is the lowest interest rate that Bamberg County has ever received in any debt issuance ever,” Smith said.
County Finance Director T.M. Thomas reported that the county's general fund had year-to-date revenues as of the end of July of $493,090, with expenses coming in at $446,854, for a positive general fund balance of $46,235.
He said all departments continued to operate within their budgets.
- Council approved a resolution honoring Bamberg’s state champion baseball team after their third-place finish in the Dixie Youth Division 2 Baseball World Series played in Laurel, Mississippi. They were recognized as county ambassadors per the ordinance.
- Council approved a resolution that names the field of the Bamberg County Airport Tobul Field in recognition of the Tobul family.
- Council heard from Yvette McDaniel of the Community Rural Arts Work League of Bamberg County, or CRAWL, about its upcoming Muscadine Festival to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at Saltcatcher Farms in Denmark. For more information, visit www.allthingsmuscadine.com.
- Council heard from county resident Sue Clayton, stating, “As concerned citizens, we’ve entrusted our county to you and hope you’ll be good stewards of it. We want a financially stable and fiscally responsible government, but so far the jury is still out on whether or not y’all are actually going to come through with that. I’m hoping that you’re going to prove public opinion wrong.”
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