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DENMARK CITY COUNCIL

DENMARK CITY COUNCIL: City hoping for new fire truck

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122019 Denmark council

Ashley Jordan of Community Rural Arts Works League (CRAWL) said the group is in need of Christmas trees and thanked the city of Denmark for their donation of a tree last year. The trees will be used for a Christmas and three-year birthday celebration of CRAWL on Monday, Dec. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the vacant lot the group has adopted and decorated in town.

DENMARK – The city of Denmark may be purchasing a new fire truck soon, as discussed during the December town council meeting

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Three new fire trucks, obtained through a USDA loan and partial grant by Bamberg County, were dedicated for three other Bamberg County towns in late October.

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Denmark is technically not rural and is listed as a city and could only obtain a similar USDA loan for a fire truck to serve its outlying, rural areas, according to officials.

Denmark Councilman Calvin Odom mentioned the need for a new fire truck in Denmark. City Administrator Heyward Robinson said that a new fire truck was already in the works.

When asked specifically about the funding source, Robinson said Bamberg County Fire Coordinator Paul Eubanks could answer further questions.

Contacted by email, Eubanks said, “The county does not purchase fire trucks for the City of Denmark or the City of Bamberg. The county does not levy a fire tax in the City of Denmark or the City of Bamberg. The county levies a fire tax in the rural areas and pays these cities $53,025 each year to provide fire protection in the unincorporated part of the Denmark Fire District.

“The city is obligated to use these funds solely for this purpose by covering incurred expenses and purchasing any needed equipment or apparatus. County-owned fire engines have been placed in two smaller municipalities but not for the specific use in the towns. These units were issued so that these smaller, far less funded, departments could meet their obligation to rural fire service contracts and the needs of our rural citizens,” he said.

So Bamberg County will not be purchasing the fire truck for Denmark, and Denmark will need to seek its own separate grant funding or municipal funding for it.

A fire truck was not the only purchase mentioned during the meeting. Rusty Munoz, city accountant, stated the town was in the red the past month in municipal funds under the police department category by $38,070 because of an extra police vehicle.

“We budgeted for one police vehicle, but it ended up being two police vehicles. We are caught up now (on the funding),” Munoz said.

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According to budget paperwork, Denmark had budgeted $30,000, essentially the cost of one vehicle, but figuring in the cost of two vehicles made the actual cost $68,070, and that made a $38,070.00 deficit which Munoz said has been taken care of.

“Also, the auditors gave us an unqualified opinion on our audit,” Munoz said.

Mayor Gerald Wright said that it was a clean audit and that it reflected quality work.

Robinson mentioned the city’s acceptance of $620,000 from the South Carolina Water Quality Revolving Fund for improvements for the Denmark water system.

“The principal forgiveness on the loan is $620,000. The net repayment is zero. Interest does not accrue on the loan,” Robinson.

“It’s a loan, but, in effect, it’s a grant,” Wright said.

“This does not have to be paid back,” Robinson added.

Charles Michael Shugart, public works director, was asked by Councilwoman Hope Long Weldon, “Is January our month in which we will have to do the end part of our report to DHEC?”

Weldon was referring to some areas for which the city was fined by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Shugart said what is holding them back is the work on the water tank and filling in the wells, but that the water improvement funding will help with this and that the town been granted an extension until later in 2020 to have the work done.

Shugart gave comparisons of water rates in the area, showing that Denmark had the lowest price per 5,000 gallons at $22.89 where Bamberg’s rate was $32, Ehrhardt’s was $28.04 and Olar’s was $35.50.

A citizen asked during public comments if the improvements to the new water system will reduce bills. Wright said that they will not and cited Shugart’s report about Denmark’s bills already being low.

The same citizen expressed concern about the new housing development being built in town affecting water bills, and Wright replied that it would not. She also expressed concern about the DHEC fine, and Wright asked her to meet him at city hall to discuss the matter later.

Council again discussed Robinson’s pending resignation and retirement, effective at the end of December.

“He has found for us and has secured for us approximately $8 million in grants in his 17 years here,” Munoz said.

The mayor and council expressed their appreciation as well.

Council went into executive session to discuss a personnel issue.

Upon return to open session, Weldon said, “As a result of our session, I make a motion that we charge a committee to explore the administrator’s role and to explore options.”

Wright clarified the motion that they would have a committee to meet on two matters regarding Robinson’s retirement and also would make some changes to the calendar for the next year.

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Council approved the motion.

Shugart said the town’s newest garbage truck will be back within 10 days after some minor repairs. He also said Denmark City Hall will be closed Dec. 24-26 and no garbage will be picked up by Public Works during those dates. For the west side of Denmark, garbage will be picked up Monday, Dec. 23, and for the east side, garbage will be picked up Friday, Dec. 27. Denmark City Hall will be closed New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, but the town will be on a normal schedule for garbage pickup.

Contact the writer: rbaxley37@gmail.com.

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