A year ago, when I was elected as Mayor of the Town of Chapin, I could never have predicted where we would be today. When I first took office I was new to politics and there was a learning curve as I started to understand the functions of local government. I had to get to know the staff and, even though I knew all of the Council Members, we had to find our footing in how we would conduct business. One of our first actions was to amend our meeting schedule so that our Council Meetings were back to the first Tuesday of the month- except for January, nobody wanted to hold a meeting on New Year’s Day. We also instituted monthly strategic work sessions with the Council and our Directors so that they are aware of major activities and initiatives.
I ran on a campaign promise to be honest, accountable and responsible. In the spirit of team work, we took several actions this year to ensure that we were operating in an honest and transparent manner. We amended ordinances to reflect the actual conduct of our operations by separating the duties for the clerk and the treasurer. This was already being practiced but we adopted ordinances to reflect the current job responsibilities which have been greatly expanded. We established several departments and director positions through ordinances including the Director of Public Works & Utilities and the Director of Planning & Zoning. Andy Metts continued in his capacity as Director of Public Works & Utilities and we hired Nathan Powell as the Director of Planning & Zoning. Halfway through the year, the position of Director of Public Affairs was created and Nicholle Burroughs was hired to fill that role. For the first time in several years, we amended the Town Council compensation ordinance to reflect actual pay schedules. In order to keep an accurate record of our ordinances and a timely update of our codes, Town Clerk, Julie Hammond, undertook the massive effort to get all of our codes and ordinances established in an online repository. Through municode, we will now have quarterly updates of our ordinances.
As an elected official, I am accountable to our citizens for my actions, the actions of our council and our employees. We established purchase limits for the Mayor, Director of Finance and the Director of Public Works & Utilities. We also revised the Utility Code and Policy to clarify the authority of the Mayor and the Director of Public Works & Utilities to approve sewer extensions to unserved areas. With the help of our Director of Finance, Laura Culler, we approved the 2019 budget in September, working on it in a work session so that the public had access to the decision making process. We established surcharge rates for high strength waste water discharge, aligned water rates in conjunction with the City of Columbia, amended utility extension policy to areas not served and aligned the zoning ordinance with the comprehensive plan as it pertains to residential uses. Lastly, we adopted new Mid Carolina Electric Cooperative and South Carolina Electric and Gas long term franchise agreements for electric and gas service.
I could not do my job properly as Mayor without highly capable and diligent staff. It has been a great honor to work with the employees of Town Hall. We have established a highly qualified, extremely knowledgeable team of experts from administration to utilities. Through this team we have led several efforts that will have a major impact on our community such as the new state of the art Waste Water Treatment Plant. Construction began on the facility to meet increasingly strict SCDHEC water quality standards. Under the direction of Andy Metts and his team, construction has been within budget and on schedule.
As we enter 2019, we will continue to focus on a major project which, when completed, will forever change the face of Chapin. There is a master plan which proposes to widen I-26 to six lanes from exit 101 to exit 85. This will include a new multi-lane bridge at our exit and will create a new four lane boulevard from Columbia Avenue to Amicks Ferry Road. We are communicating with project managers to pursue enhanced lighting, traffic signals, landscaping, pedestrian sidewalks and bike lanes while exploring ways to finance such improvements.
I was elected by the citizens of Chapin to act in the best interest of our Town. Part of that responsibility is to establish a dialogue and develop opportunities to engage with the public in meaningful ways. With the help and guidance of our Public Affairs Director, Nicholle Burroughs, we have formed the Community Engagement Council. This will be an opportunity for our community citizens to be involved in the decision making process by creating solutions for current and future development of Chapin.
We want to keep our beloved Town safe. An important aspect of maintaining the high quality of life we have in Chapin is a staff of highly trained and skilled police officers. Under the leadership of Chief Zeigler, a lifelong resident, our Police Department has worked hard to develop positive community interactions over the past year. We are proud of the work they are doing to protect our Town, in particular to reduce the problem of driving while under the influence. South Carolina ranks second in the country in DUI related fatalities, as reported by The State. We are doing our part to hold violators responsible for their actions and to protect our citizens from harm.
To address the inevitable civil legal issues, we have retained the services of Lisa Lee Smith, an experienced Chapin attorney. Criminal matters are now handled by our own qualified police officers under the direction of Chief Zeigler, except for jury trials and other complex matters requiring the services of a part-time prosecutor. Our Clerk of Court, Inga Whelchel, is very proficient in managing the criminal court docket for efficient administration by Judge Reinhart.
In 2019, we will build on our relationships with the business community, we will work on developing a walkable Town Center, improve our current comprehensive plan, evaluate potential opportunities for annexation, and update data for 2020 census. These areas are key to developing a thriving Town.
It has been a pleasure to serve this past year and I look forward to the next three years. Thank you to our community members for taking an active role in our government and providing me with this opportunity. Finally to our council members and staff, thank you for all that you do for our Town. I appreciate all your support and input; I couldn’t do my job without you. My platform for the 2017 election was “Restore Democracy to Chapin” and together we have done that. Thank you.
Mayor David Knight