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County Council, October 13

Summeygate!
A step forward on the new MRF
Warwick Jones

Chairman Summey dug himself a deep hole. It is a very deep hole and we doubt that he will be able to climb out. The comments he made about fellow Council members, black people and local politicians were offensive and crude. His private and public views and actions on I-526 were extreme perfidy. Also very telling is his naivete, if we are polite, or his arrogance, if we are realistic. To think that he could make these comments to groups and not be reported in the press or elsewhere begs belief.

The transgressions of the Chairman were revealed in the Post and Courier over a week ago when it published excerpts from recordings made by The Coastal Conservation League and the Nix 526 group. Press Download file to see story;
These groups were opposed to the completion of the road. But they were told by the Chair that he was not in favor of completing I-526 but was publicly supporting it to ensure that the state funds would remain available for the County. His comments were recorded. Seemingly both groups were OK with the perfidy, but with the passage of time and the aggressive support by the Chair for the completion of I-526, they felt betrayed. Hence the release of the tapes.

At the opening of last nightís Council meeting, Chairman Summey apologized to Council for the remarks he made, acknowledged his errors and denied that his remarks had racist overtones. But we doubt that it was enough. The words were appropriate though they did not deal with all the comments he made. But to this writer, there seemed little contrition and indeed a degree of defiance in his comments. Like the Post and Courier, we would have expected him to give up the Chair of Council. That he didnít reinforces our opinion of shallow contrition.

Not surprisingly there were representatives of groups, one the North Charleston NAACP that took Chairman Summey to task for what he said. One sought a written apology. But surprisingly, there was little comment from fellow Council members. They had their chance to comment at the conclusion of last nightís meeting. Council member Johnson, who bore the worst insult from the Chair, reacted mildly in our opinion. What has been said canít be taken back, she said - an indication that forgiveness, for her, will be hard. Council member Rawl had little to say but noted that if you canít say good things about people, donít say anything at all. Council member Darby spoke heatedly and passionately about the need for transparency, and the self- interest of staff and Council members. But his ire was directed more to the dealings over the development of the old Naval Hospital in North Charleston and now subject to a law suit.

We donít know whether there will be fall out from this issue. The absence of comment from other Council members was surprising. The difficulty in electing the Chair should Summey resign, may be a factor. Most Council members have full time occupations and unable to fulfill the obligations that fall to the Chair. We suspect that Council member Pryor would take on the mantle but he works for the City of North Charleston whose mayor is the father of Chairman Summey. Understandably, he may be reluctant to put his hand up.
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If there were reluctance by Council members to criticize the Chair, they certainly did not hold back in their praise of County staff and others during the recent hurricane. All the systems were in place to deal with the hurricane and its aftermath, and from all accounts, all worked perfectly. Council member Rawl was effusive is his praise noting a degree of coordination between the County departments, SCDOT and other agencies that he had never seen before.
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Again the discussion over the Material Recycling Facility (MRF) was long. But at least last night there was some resolution though not supported unanimously. Council awarded a contract to Mashburn Construction to the do the preliminary design and engineering work. On the completion if this work, the final shape of the MRF could be determined and at that time, the project could be put out for bidding. The value of the initial contract was $1.31 million.

We canít say we followed all of the discussion on Council last night. Considering the years that the MRF has been proposed and discussed, we thought that Council members should have been better prepared than they were for the vote. There were lots of questions about the size and nature of the MRF, and alternatives to the MRF.

Council member Qualey again suggested that a decision be deferred until the Berkeley County MRF was up and running and whereby Charleston County could better assess available technology. But the motion to defer the project was voted down.

The new head of the Environmental Management noted that the proposed 60,000 sq. ft. facility was bigger that what was presently needed. This would not only allow for expansion but for the provision of new technology as it was developed.

We sympathize with Council member Schweers who was embarrassed by the length of time it had taken to proceed with the MRF. He moved that the Staff recommendation to proceed with the contract with Mashburn be adopted. Council agreed though Council members Rawl, Darby and Pryor voted against.

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