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Kershaw Town Council gives water department supervisor hiring power

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By Johnathan Ryan

KERSHAW - Kershaw Town Council gave final approval Monday to a measure that will allow its water department supervisor to hire a full-time wastewater treatment plant operator.

Council approved second reading of the ordinance, 4-2. Councilmen Harold Williams and Wade Hunter opposed the measure. Councilman Eddie Coates Jr., who voted against first reading of the ordinance at a special meeting Nov. 26, was absent.

The Rev. Bobby Price voiced opposition to the ordinance, saying it would create conflict between the water department supervisor, Don Rutledge, and Town Administrator Tony Starnes.

"If you pass this ordinance, you'll be giving two men the same responsibility," Price said during the public comment period.

A town ordinance says the town administrator has the power to make personnel decisions, except with regards to department supervisors.

Council, however, voted Nov. 5 to allow its water department supervisor to hire a wastewater treatment plant operator.

Some council members and residents argued that move by council violated a town ordinance. That's when council drafted the ordinance that explicitly gives the water department supervisor the hiring authority in his department.

Town Attorney Bob Davis never agreed with the contention that there was a problem with council's Nov. 5 decision.

He has said while a town ordinance does give the town administrator personnel power, it does not belong to him or her exclusively. Council has the power to make personnel decisions, too, Davis has said.

Speaking during the public comment period, resident Morris Russell cited an October evaluation conducted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contractors. He said the evaluation noted the improper maintenance of solids and drying beds, and inoperative aerators.

"This angers me to no end to see this going on at the plant," said Russell, who is opposed to allowing the water department supervisor to have hiring and firing powers.

Mayor Tommy Baker responded by asking Starnes when the town was last fined for environmental violations at the plant.

Starnes said that was about three years ago.

"It's been over three years since we've had a violation," Baker said.

Baker said there are still aesthetic issues visible if one passes the plant, which council has considered addressing.

But he reiterated that the plant has been effective in treating wastewater.

Hunter, who led the charge against the measure, said he still questions the need for a full-time operator at the plant. He cited a study that indicated a part-time contractor would suffice.

"I still don't understand how it will benefit the town to spend an extra $50,000 a year to hire this person," Hunter said.

Contact Johnathan Ryan

at 416-8416

or jryan@thelancasternews.com