BAMBERG -- Bamberg Police Chief James Smoak introduced his newest officer at city council’s July meeting.

City hires new police officer

Officer Steven Gunnells has worked in law enforcement for 15 years and comes to the city from the Bamberg County Sheriff’s Office.

City approves 1st reading of $2.46M budget

Smoak said, “I know Steven, I’ve worked with him and know how he works, and I think he will be a huge asset to the city. I believe we will all be pleased.”

Dale Brown read the 2017-2018 Bamberg city audit report.

In response to a question from Mayor Nancy Foster, Brown said, “It means you got a clean opinion and everything looks good. It takes about six to eight lines to say you got a clean opinion.”

Cleanup after downtown fire still going slowly

In the budget and finance report, Bruce Watson said, “The budget report is current -- ending June 30 and the audit report Mr. Brown just read ended a year ago – June 2018. The audit on this current budget will begin in the next couple of weeks. We ended the year with a bank balance of $405,000, and with investments, we have access to $564,952. We also have money in reserves.”

In other business:

• Councilwoman Robin Chavis thanked the police and fire departments for all their hard work during the Fourth of July festival. Smoak also thanked his officers and the fire department for work during the festival.

“We even had some citizens assist us with traffic control during the parade,” Smoak said. “Overall, everything went great.”

During the month of June, the police department had 56 case files and 110 cases written. Smoak gave an update on a new community crisis and intervention program dealing with mental health cases and said a plan is in place. It won’t be the same as before. Instead of having a video-type call, it will now be basically just a phone call. The call will be between the doctor and the client and should save the department time and money.

“On the abandoned vehicle issue, we have one family, which is no surprise to us, not wanting to comply. Others have made arrangements for their vehicles to be picked up, and now they are just waiting on the tow drivers to get them. The tow companies have not followed up on their end, but I will take care of that this week,” Smoak said.

Smoak asked council to consider changing the city’s breach of peace ordinance to remove the age limit for the charge.

“If someone is showing out and disturbing the peace, it shouldn’t matter what their age is, and we should be able to enforce the ordinance,” he said. “One advantage is with the offense being a city ordinance, it would not go on their permanent record and not affect the possibility of obtaining employment.”

• In the fire department report, there were a total of 16 calls. City fires and fire alarms were 11, city EMS calls were two and county calls were three.

• Councilwoman Bobbi Bunch commented on how well the Fourth of July festival went. She thanked Phoenix Specialty for providing the wonderful fireworks display. Bunch said that the city doesn’t even have to ask the company, they just do it every year.

• “It’s just a done deal. They just take care of it,” she said.

She also said that the crowd was almost double what it’s in the past.

“I also want to thank David Cooler, our hometown singer/entertainer. He got the little ones involved, and he got the elderly involved. Heck, he got all of us involved.

“I also want to thank all our citizens who came out and enjoyed it. We had a wonderful crowd that came out, and they were respectful and very well behaved.”

Foster had similar praise for Phoenix Specialty. She said they spend a lot of money, and the city could not put on the fireworks display without them.

• After executive session, Foster said the city had considered selling a downtown business but has decided to hold off for the time being.

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• During the questions/comments from the audience, a deacon from St. John Baptist Church said the church will hold a “back-to-school bash” Saturday, July 27. He asked council if the church would be able to close off Weimer Street from 3-5 p.m. that day. Foster and Smoak said it would be no problem and that the police department will assist.

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