County Council's Jan. 23 meeting

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Sumter County Council on Tuesday, Jan. 23, passed first reading to revise a sign ordinance, heard a report from Sumter County Coroner Robbie Baker and passed second reading of an ordinance to purchase automated flood gates for the dam at Second Mill Pond.

City-County Planning Director George McGregor told council members that the sign ordinance amendment would match the city’s language and “what it essentially does is increase the amount of allowable signage.” A presentation will be made at the next council meeting, he said.

Councilman Artie Baker thanked McGregor for his work as Baker has fielded complaints about the size of signs in the county compared to signs in city jurisdiction.

Sumter County Coroner Robbie Baker gave an update about his first year in office as he wants to keep the public informed about his office.

Of the 719 deaths in Sumter County in 2017, the overwhelming majority were natural, with 10 homicides, 22 motor vehicle accidents, seven fire fatalities, three drownings and six drug overdoses.

Sumter County now has its own morgue, he said, as well as a mutual agreement with Shaw Air Force Base. His office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday if anyone ever has questions, he said.

Baker has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce the county’s cost for equipment and hopes to hear back in September. Baker acknowledged the great help given by full-time Deputy Coroner Bryan Rogers and part-time Deputy Rob Robertson.

“I could not personally do what I do without these two assisting me,” Baker said, noting that it’s an “honor and privilege” to serve the citizens of Sumter County.

Council Chairman James T. McCain Jr. thanked Baker and his deputies for their hard work.

Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon spoke to council about second reading of a budget ordinance that would allocate $281,000 to buy a new automated spillway system. Doing so would greatly increase the safety factor, he said, and wouldn’t put anyone in harm’s way if a possible flood event occurs in the future. Part of that money -- $16,000 – would pay for right-of-way acquisition to expand the dam system and the legal fees involved in doing so.

He also spoke about a $500,000 request from the Hospitality Fund to pay for a new Veterans Park. That amount is to be matched with city funds and paired with $200,000 from the state for the park, which will include a P-51 Mustang to honor the Tuskegee Airmen.

McCain thanked County Attorney Johnathan Bryan for his hard work in negotiating the right-of-way acquisition and second reading of those requests passed.

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