A divided Cheraw Town Council voted this month to give the Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce an emergency $25,000 bailout even though the chamber said it couldn’t meet town leaders’ conditions for the cash infusion.
Fred Harris, chairman of the Finance Committee, presented the panel’s recommendation to give the chamber board a $25,000 contribution at the Nov. 10 town council meeting.
During the September meeting, council members voted to give the money to the chamber with three stipulations in order to receive the funding.
The chamber board responded to the council in writing, stating it could not meet the stipulations.
After meeting with the board, Ingram asked the finance committee to re-examine the issue.
Harris said the committee recommended the town provide a one-time contribution of $25,000 immediately. Officials will discuss any future annual contributions when the council reviews the upcoming town budget.
Councilman Jim Crawford recused himself from the vote, noting his role as First Bank’s board chairman and the chamber’s primary account with the bank.
Councilman Reid McBride and Councilwoman Jacqueline Ellerbe-Shannon both opposed the recommendation.
McBride said he feels chamber board President Roger Jones has inherited a problem because of the poor economy and the loss of industry in Cheraw.
“I am more than willing to give the chamber $25,000 to keep them afloat, but I feel in turn that in turn the chamber should be willing to accommodate the town by agreeing to at least one of our stipulations,” he said. “Without this willingness on the part of the chamber, I regret I will be unable to vote in favor of a no-strings-attached bailout in any amount.
“We’re talking about $25,000 of taxpayers’ money, whether it’s coming out of hospitality, the general fund or anywhere else. It makes no difference. We were elected to be good stewards of the town’s finances and I feel that a yes vote on this matter will compromise our effectiveness as a mayor and council.”
He said if the chamber would reconsider the stipulations, he would reconsider his positions as well.
The recommendation passed 4-2 with Crawford abstaining.
Cheraw Town Council members granted a request for additional funds to complete the purchase and installation of special-needs playground equipment at Arrowhead Park during its monthly meeting Nov. 10.
The council agreed to purchase the equipment a couple of months ago. The town received a $17,500 Parks and Recreation Development Grant from the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to assist with the purchase of the equipment. The town had to match the grant with $3,500 and also received $2,500 from the Chesterfield County Board of Disabilities for the project.
Town Administrator Michael Smith told the council Tuesday night that after adding specialized features, taxes and installation, the cost was a little bit more than what they had originally thought.
Fall material, which will be a mulch material in case a child falls off the playground equipment, is also needed. Town officials estimate that will cost an extra $1,000.
Items to be purchased are a swingset, a 50-inch ZipKrooz line — a zipline with a molded bucket seat to accommodate kids of all abilities —and a mini-igloo stand-alone climbing apparatus with border material. Smith requested approval for an additional $2,000 for the project to be taken out of the hospitality funds.
Mayor Andy Ingram mentioned the playground equipment will be the first of its kind in Chesterfield County for special-needs children.
“So we are real proud of that,” he said.
The council also voted to award contracts for additional repairs to the former Cheraw National Guard armory, which will be the new Public Works Department headquarters.
Council members are hoping the work will be completed and the department will be able to move in by the end of the year.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 843-537-5261.