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County approves consulting contract, denies another

The Laurens County Council voted at its Tuesday meeting to hire a consultant to help create plans for a new headquarters for EMS, the emergency operations center and fire services.

The $25,000 consulting contract will go to Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects of Gastonia, North Carolina.

“We want to engage a consultant to help us find the right answers for Laurens County,” said Public Works Director Dale Satterfield.

Before voting to approve the contract for the emergency services facility with a 4-2 vote, however, council did not approve a similar consulting contract that would have addressed needed repairs and upgrades to the county’s law enforcement center.

That motion failed when the council was deadlocked with a 3-3 vote. Garrett McDaniel voted with Chairman David Pitts and Vice-Chairman Joe Wood in the tie. McDaniel later voted for the consulting contract on the emergency services facility.

“We’ve struggled to find the answers for Laurens County,” Satterfield said, noting that he believes a consultant can help create a plan to address EMS needs.

Wood said hiring a consultant is a waste of taxpayer money in both instances.

“We don’t need a consultant to tell us what we can find out by talking to our employees ourselves,” said Wood.

Pitts agreed, adding that anything learned and planned by the consultants will have to be repeated by the architect that is eventually hired to complete both projects.

He also said the plans and cost estimates could become obsolete by the time the county is prepared to move forward.

Councilwoman Diane Anderson voted in favor of both proposals and said the county needs to make plans for the future.

“We are putting tape on everything and anything,” she said. “It’s time that we started looking at our future and what we need.”

In other action:

  • Council approved third and final reading of a $4 million bond ordinance that will fund a new roof and HVAC system for the county offices at Hillcrest. It will also help pay for stabilization projects at the Historic Laurens County Courthouse.

In approving the ordinance and refinancing the remaining balance on a prior bond issue, the county will also be taking advantage of lower interest rates that will potentially save an estimated $100,000.

  • Former councilman Jay Wiesner addressed council with a 30-plus-minute presentation on rights of way obtained by the Carolina Piedmont Railroad.

Wiesner said the rights of way have been expanded well beyond the original deeds and are depriving property owners such as himself of their land.

“This affects taxpaying property owners in the county,” he said. “It’s not just me.”

  • Laurens County Coroner Nick Nichols reported that his office has dealt with 447 deaths this year, a trend that would see more than 600 deaths in 2019.

That number would be the most possibly in count history. In 2017, the office reported 582 deaths in 2017 and 583 in 2018.

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