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County Council, April 18

Ban on texting while driving goes nowhere
Upgrade for control systems at parking garages
Warwick Jones

A resolution, to be sent to Columbia requesting some action to curb texting while driving, was presented to the Finance Committee last night. Staff might be asking why they bothered putting it together. When the issue was discussed two weeks ago, there was little agreement over the appropriate course of action. What was likely to change? Last night, the Committee was more certain of the appropriate action. It killed the resolution, with only two Council members supporting it.

The action of the Committee was no surprise considering the comments at the last meeting where Council member Qualey sought to have the County impose a ban on texting whilst driving. There wasn’t much support though a few Council members opined that it was the state’s responsibility to enact such an ordinance, not the County’s. Others were plainly against any ban, not that they thought that texting and driving were OK, but because of the difficulty or impossibility of enforcing a ban. To get the process moving, Chairman Pryor suggested a Resolution to the state, to be viewed by the Committee at last night’s meeting before approval.

Council member Qualey opened the discussion last night and reported that many constituents had supported his proposal. He had also contacted the City of Beaufort which was happy with the ban it had instituted. He added that he was not happy with the resolution as he preferred that the County impose a ban. But he would support the resolution. Council member Schweers also supported the resolution but it did not seem whole hearted. He spoke of the need for individuals to act responsibly.

Council member Summey continued to oppose any ban because of inability of enforcement. He noted that he had recently bought a new I-phone. It gave him the ability to text by using only voice commands. He also confessed to tinted windows on his car and wondered out loud how a police officer would be able to tell whether he was texting or speaking on a call?

Council member Rawl said he would support the resolution but conditionally. The ban on texting was prompted by the possible distraction of the driver, he said. What about all of the other distractions while driving such as road side advertising? If the resolution sought to remove this as well, then he would support it. Not surprisingly, nobody rose to support its inclusion.

Other items on the agenda were:

  • The upgrading of the Control systems at the Cumberland, and Queen and King Street garages. The present Secom systems were installed some years ago. The cost of replacing them was estimated at $900,000. As the cost exceeded what was budgeted, the Committee chose to upgrade the present system at a cost of $509,000. The upgrades will result in enhanced security features, reduced personnel cost, reduced maintenance cost, and improved customer service, staff said.
  • A new contract with Trinity Services, to supply 3 meals a day at a cost of $2.58 a day to each of the inmates of the County Jail. The contract was for the remaining three months of the financial year. The overall cost was estimated at $370,000. Viewers may be surprised at the very low meal cost. But they may be surprised that Trinity was not the lowest bidder. There were bids at $2.43 and $2.50 a day but the bids were not considered, one because of inadequate quality and the other because the terms of the bid were not met.
  • It was not on the agenda but rose at the tail end of the meeting. Council member Summey sees merit in another half-cent sales tax to help finance needed road projects in the County and CARTA. In view of his recent comments, he may have only lukewarm enthusiasm for greenbelts, also funded from the current half-cent tax. He plans to form a committee and seek the input of the public before adopting a plan.

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