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Public backlash over Georgetown County's plan for surplus funds leads to plan deferment

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Georgetown county council meeting (copy)

Georgetown County Council met Feb. 23 and deferred an ordinance on how to allocate the remaining $7 million from the 2014 Capital Project Sales Tax.

GEORGETOWN COUNTY — After several community members spoke before the Georgetown County Council's Feb. 23 meeting, the council deferred an ordinance to allocate the remaining 2014 Capital Project Sales Tax surplus.

A total of 11 community members spoke in strong opposition of the ordinance, demanding it be deferred and saying that they were unhappy with the current allocations. Specific admonition was given to Lillie Jean Johnson, the District 4 representative and vice chairman, with several community members saying she has failed her constituents by not ensuring the community has adequate flood drainage and parks for their children to play in.

“I don’t see the face up there, I’m not sure if she can hear us or not, but I would hide my face too. If I represented the people in this district the way you did, I would hide my face too,” said Terry Reed, a Spring Gully resident. 

Johnson's remote camera was off for the entirety of the meeting.

In 2020, the county council passed an ordinance allocating $4 million of the $12 million total surplus from the 1-cent tax voted for in 2014 to more capital projects. On Feb. 9, the council had a second hearing for the ordinance, honing in on what would be done with the remainder of the surplus, or $7 million — ultimately pointing to projects such as an emergency vehicle traffic control system, Waverly Road Multimodal Pathway and library improvements.

Community members said that allocating the proposed $1.1 million to library improvements and $1.8 million to a Waverly Road Multimodal Pathway was unacceptable while their roads are filled with potholes and their homes lack adequate drainage systems for the flooding that has recently occurred.

One resident, Dedric Bonds, brought pairs of his family’s rain boots to the meeting, and explained the issues his home faces with flooding.

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“These boots are not because we are anglers and we are fisherman of the many bodies of water around us, they’re not because we enjoy with any regularity any of the five rivers of the county for sport … instead, these boots represent what it takes to navigate the swamp that becomes my yard after any degree of rain,” Bonds said.

After public comment, council member Everett Carolina said that the community's concerns had been heard before making a motion to defer the ordinance until constituents could weigh in on what the surplus funds should be used on.

Council member Steve Goggans stepped in with time concerns, and asked when the ordinance would be brought up again.

In conversation with county administrator Angela Christian, the board decided to bring the ordinance back up in conversation at the next board meeting on March 9, to do a check-in on those conversations with constituents, though a decision may not be made at that time due to the reevaluation process.

Christian said the process to reevaluate the allocations will involve the state highway department and more, and that it may take some time.

The next board meeting March 9 will not be held virtually, but at the Howard Center in Georgetown starting at 5:30 p.m.

Follow Demi Lawrence on Twitter @DemiNLawrence.

Demi Lawrence is a reporter who graduated from Ball State University. Before joining The Post and Courier, she was an intern at The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana and Indianapolis Monthly.

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