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No fed grant for airport terminal
  • Updated

The decision to build a new $3.5 million terminal at the county airport had leaders bickering among themselves at the Monday, July 18, Lancaster County Council meeting.

It was hoped that the county would get a federal grant to pay 95% of the cost to build a new multi-million terminal at the county-owned airport. But that has fallen through. However, the money for the terminal was included in the county budget.

“We did not get the BIL (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) grant this year. We can apply again next year, and we actually have five years we can apply,” said Lancaster County Administrator Dennis Marstall of the five-year grant program.

Marstall said Thursday, July 21, that the county has been awarded $500,000 from the S.C. Aeronautics Commission to help pay for the terminal.

Not on agenda

Last month’s testy vote to build the new terminal barely squeaked by with a 4-3 margin.

Council members Terry Graham, Larry Honeycutt, Charlene McGriff and Billy Mosteller voted to include $3.4 million funding for it in the budget, which took effect July 1.

Council Chairman Steve Harper, Brian Carnes and Allen Blackmon voted against it.

The terminal was not listed on the agenda for Monday’s meeting and council never amended its agenda to add it. But Blackmon brought it up during the discussion phase of the meeting.

A motion for reconsideration can be made at any time, according to parliamentary procedures. However, the motion to reconsider must be made by someone on the “winning side” of the vote, which meant Graham, Honeycutt, McGriff or Mosteller would have to make it.

Blackmon sought to have the terminal vote reconsidered and the project delayed for a year after the county’s grant application was rejected.

The funds are available through the Airport Terminal Program, included in the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed earlier this year.

Airports within the national air transportation system — whether they are owned by airport authorities, cities, territories or tribes — are eligible for the grants.

In the past, the FAA and state aeronautics provided more than 90% of the funding for airport improvements, but none for terminals. The BIL grants do.

“I’m in favor of the terminal if we get the grant money, but if we’re not, I just don’t see us doing that,” said Blackmon, during the somewhat heated discussion.

He noted that constituents have questioned him over the need for a new terminal and the huge expenditure that was included in the county’s 2022-23 fiscal budget.

Legal ramifications

Blackmon also requested that a “pause in construction” be placed on the agenda for the next council meeting. The money, he said, could be set aside for now.

That pause, however, could have legal ramifications.

Marstall told council that based on its direction and the inclusion of the funds in the budget to build the new terminal, he had already executed the contract. The bid is good at the current price through July 28.

Last year, County Council directed staff to move forward on the airport’s capital improvement plan to build a new terminal, so a preliminary design concept and plans for the new terminal building were drawn.

N.C.-based Hayco Construction was selected to build the new terminal.

Marstall told council he signed the contract on behalf of the county and he understood that Hayco had signed its contract.

“I’ve executed that contract to go forward with the bids. That is in process,” Marstall said.

Blackmon argued since the contract is in process, that it has not been fully executed. That, he said, means the county could pull it back if it chose to do so.

County attorney John DuBose said while the contract has not been officially awarded, Marstall’s action to sign it had been authorized by council, based on its prior actions.

That worried Mosteller, who was listening in by phone. Carnes has tested positive for COVID-19, so he was not at the meeting, but also listening in by phone.

“If you’re going to do this tonight, you’re going to spend more in attorney fees than this airport is going to cost because with this company, there is going to be some lawsuits,” Mosteller said. “This thing has moved too far along and somebody is going to buck that.”

In the past, Blackmon questioned the design of the terminal, as well as the $3.5 million needed to build it.

He noted in recent budget discussions that the airport doesn’t operate at a profit and is losing about $400,000 annually, according to the last four county audits.

Confusing motion

One of the caveats of a motion to reconsider is that it must be made at the very next council meeting. Since the budget was adopted June 28, the motion would have to be made at Monday’s meeting.

Plus, the motion must be made by someone on the prevailing side. McGriff, Honeycutt and Mosteller had no interest in making the motion.

Honeycutt noted that during a recent visit to the airport, he saw two jets parked there.

In 2021, the facility was upgraded from a third-class rating to a second-class rating, which makes it capable of handling much larger jets. The airport is off S.C. 9 Bypass near the Chester County line.

“In my 16 years on council, we have talked about that airport yearly. Last meeting, we voted to do something about it. We can keep putting it off if we want to, but I think it’s the wrong thing to do,” Honeycutt said. “We’ve got all kinds of possibilities for us to keep delaying it and putting it off. I say four councilmen voted for it last time to approve it and I don’t plan to change my mind.”

Honeycutt said he has grown tired of the constant brouhaha surrounding the decision to build the terminal.

“We’ve discussed this so many times that it’s getting ridiculous. We voted to move forward and hopefully we’re moving forward.”

Graham recently called the airport an asset that should be developed because it has room to grow, while other small airports in the region do not.

Graham initially made a motion to reconsider, contingent on the construction contract with Hayco not being executed.

“I’m not opposed to the terminal. I’m a little apprehensive about the money and not getting the grant,” he said.

Blackmon then seconded the motion, but admitted that it may be pointless if the contract had been executed and given to the construction company.

Blackmon, McGriff spar

McGriff then asked Blackmon if he was against building the terminal using county funds or against the design of the building.

“Both,” he said.

In March, Blackmon, Carnes and Harper wanted to change the drawings after opposing the inward-sloped design over four sections of the roof, which they said, may cause stormwater to pool.

“I do want an airport, but as I stated in the other discussions, this is putting the cart before the horse. We’re spending without the grant money — $3.5 million probably for a terminal, when in fact the terminal we have there is a good terminal. There is nothing wrong with that terminal.”

Neither council member was willing to give up any ground on their differing views, which led to a heated exchange.

McGriff asked Blackmon, “Who told you that?”

“I’ve been out there,” he said.

“I said, who told you that, other than you seeing it. Did you have a expert tell you it was suitable or not suitable?” McGriff said.

“It’s just in my own eyes, it’s suitable,” Blackmon said.

“All right, that’s what I’m after,” McGriff said.

Blackmon then asked McGriff if she had a expert who would say that the existing terminal building is not suitable.

“I think I’d much rather [have] expert opinions other than my own,” she said. “I’m not an expert in saying whether the airport is sufficient or not. I don’t think I have that expertise.”

That, Blackmon told McGriff “is something you will have to justify your opinion on tonight, just as I am going to base mine on everything I’ve read, my visitation out there and the fact we have no plan to generate more income out there to make that airport more self-sustaining.”

McGriff told Blackmon that one of the purposes of airport improvements is so the facility’s bottom line will improve.

One of the projects listed in the third capital projects sales tax that voters passed in November 2020 was $900,000 for a new airport hangar that will hold corporate jets.

Blackmon said the hanger is needed more than the terminal.

McGriff urged Blackmon to talk with airport consultant Ken Holt about the needs.

Blackmon also gave council members a portion of a detailed 2016 study on the needs at the Rock Hill Airport. Lancaster County, he said, needs a similar detailed study on the airport here.

He also called Holt’s role as the construction manager for the terminal project a possible conflict of interest that he wants DuBose to look at.

Blackmon however, acknowledged that he was only in favor of the reconsideration, if the contract has not been executed.

The visibly frustrated McGriff didn’t see it that way.

“Allen, you’re in a position where you want to stop the building of the terminal because you don’t like the design and the fact that we are not making any money from it…. You didn’t win in that vote, 4-3, so you are trying it again. That’s the way, I’m looking at it — you’re trying it again,” she said.

Blackmon made no comment.

DuBose told the council that the motion to reconsider would also void the final reading of the county’s budget ordinance because it would take the money out of the budget.

“You are essentially holding a very discreet, surgical vote,” DuBose said, in noting that the motion would result in a lag in the July 28 execution date of the contract.

After more wrangling, Graham pulled his motion to reconsider off the table.

“I might withdraw it; I’ll withdraw it,” Graham said.

“Ms. McGriff, Mr. Honeycutt, it’s over with,” said a dejected Blackmon.

“Thank you,” McGriff said.

“We’re moving forward on the airport,” Harper said to end the heated discussion.

Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at 803-339-6869.

Mission Serve helps Lancaster residents
  • Updated

A mission group from Georgia was in Lancaster this week helping with different projects throughout the community.

Mission Serve is a nonprofit ministry group that travels the Southeast, primarily to help with building and repairing people’s homes and structures for other community groups.

“Mission Serve always wants to serve and share the love of Christ to communities,” said Helen Smith, administrative project specialist.

Smith is also a former worker with the organization, who went on service projects as a teen.

“It was always special to know I was doing something for someone,” she said.

Mission Serve had about 200 people in Lancaster, working on 15 different projects. The group, which included youth and adult leaders from 11 churches divided into 14 work squads, stayed at Covenant Baptist Church.

“It is kind of like summer camps, but it is work service projects,” said Bliss Steele, chaplain with Nutramax, which helped fund the projects.

“We are working on roofing, access ramps, decks and porches for the elderly.”

One of the places they are working at is Camp Clyburn on Taxahaw Road. Since COVID-19, the place had fallen into disrepair.

“It was always used as part of the Baptist Association,” Steele said. “It has been used for church softball things. This year, they have a plan to revitalize the property and the camp.”

Steele said he has been involved in Mission Serve for 25 years.

“I have always wanted to do a project in Lancaster,” he said. “This is our third project in Lancaster. I am thrilled to make a difference in the community.”

Nutramax, Founders Federal Credit Union and Comporium, along with Capital Group in Charlotte and individual donors, helped fund the projects, which cost $60,000 in materials alone. The projects are free to the homeowner or property owner.

“It is a community effort in what we are doing here in Lancaster,” Steele said. “If you live in a safe and comfortable home, life is that much better than living in a home that has water pouring through the roof and stuff like that. Making that physical repair has an emotional and spiritual connection to share the love of Jesus Christ.”

Local roofer Joey Caskey was one of the adult supervisors helping with the renovations at Camp Clyburn. He said as different squads finished up at other locations, they would come to Camp Clyburn to help finish that project.

Caskey said the main thing about Mission Serve is that it not only gives back to the community, but it builds followers for Christ.

“It gives these kids a sense of purpose,” he said. “Doing this is basically to further God’s kingdom and be servants of the Lord. It gets them to do more things for God.”

Follow Mac Banks on Twitter @MacBanksFM or contact him at 803-339-6867.

breaking featured
Two busts net six people on multiple drug charges
  • Updated

Six people were recently arrested in two Lancaster drug busts, where a total of 34 grams of methamphetamine, 7 grams of fentanyl, 180 grams of marijuana, oxycodone and other drugs were seized.

The most recent bust was Monday, July 18, in the 2000 block of Pardue Street, after agents with the Lancaster County Multijurisdictional Narcotics Task Force agents got evidence that fentanyl was being sold out of the apartment.

In the bust Monday, four people at the apartment were arrested after the search by the task force, along with members of the Violent Crime Task Force, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and its K-9 unit and SWAT team, Lancaster Police Department and Lancaster County EMS.

Laverne Craig, 64, was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana in proximity of a park and possession of a stolen pistol.

Donquindrick Nikontia Cunningham, 20, and Nykeithous Geormojhae Cunningham, 22, were each charged with trafficking oxycodone 4-14 grams, trafficking meth 10-28 grams, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute in proximity to a park (four counts), possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime (eight counts) and possession of a stolen pistol.

Shyhiem Jondae Williams, 23, was charged with trafficking fentanyl 4-14 grams, possession with intent to distribute meth 10-28 grams, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute in proximity to a park (four counts), possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime (eight counts) and possession of a stolen pistol.

Agents seized 6.5 grams of suspected fentanyl, nearly 22 grams of suspected meth, 1.33 grams of suspected cocaine, 179.6 grams of suspected marijuana and suspected oxycodone pills. They also found several sets of digital scales, baggies, $1,841 in cash, three handguns and an AK-style pistol.

“We found a little bit of everything on this search,” said Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile. “Significant amounts of fentanyl and meth, along with three other drugs, were removed from the supply line. We also found items usually associated with the drug trade — scales, paraphernalia, cash and guns.

“This was a very successful operation and illustrates the effectiveness of the joint efforts of the sheriff’s office, the police department and both of our multijurisdictional task forces.”

Craig was able to post a bond of $7,500. Bond was denied for the other three, who remain at the Lancaster County Detention Center.

Two arrested in separate incident

In a separate incident last week, Michael Wayne Hall, 41, Hailey Elizabeth Hunt, 24, and James Clarence King III, 58, were at a house in the east block of East Michaw Street on Friday, July 15, when police showed up with a warrant.

“We have been receiving complaints on this location and were able to buy methamphetamine from Hall at the house,” Faile said. “The buy led to this search warrant, and a good bit of meth, along with fentanyl, marijuana and narcotic pills, were found. It is obvious this house was a hot spot, and we are happy to have gotten the drugs out of it and made these charges.”

Agents found 12.49 grams of suspected methamphetamine, 0.53 grams of suspected fentanyl, and three sets of digital scales in various locations in the house.

Hall and Hunt were arrested and each was charged with trafficking methamphetamine 10-28 grams and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl.

King was found to be in possession of 1.78 grams of suspected methamphetamine, 0.89 grams of suspected marijuana and six acetaminophen/oxycodone hydrochloride pills. He was not taken into custody, but he was charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance.

Bond was denied for Hall, and Hunt also remains in the detention center on bonds totaling $30,000.

Follow Mac Banks on Twitter @MacBanksFM or contact him at 803-339-6867.

Green to run for school board in District 3
  • Updated

It is time for things to change, according to Courtney Green.

Green, 32, plans to run for the District 3 seat on the Lancaster County School Board, currently held by Bobby Parker.

A Lancaster County native and 2007 graduate of Buford High School, Green has previously been a district employee. She worked in the school district from 2011 to 2019, when she started a family later that year.

Often a regular at school board meetings, Green has been vocal about her feelings regarding how the school board is doing.

Green said she feels good about her chances of getting elected.

“It is clear that Lancaster County School Board needs new leadership,” she said. “It is time for accountability and transparency and time to get some answers the current leadership refuses to give.”

Green said she first started thinking about running earlier this year. She said a lot of the people she has talked to also want to see change on the school board.

“I started talking to people and realized that a lot of people in the community wanted the same thing I wanted, and weren’t getting answers,” she said.

Green said she has been knocking on doors for a while and despite not being able to officially file to run until August, she already feels like she has the upper hand in getting elected.

“People are absolutely ready for a change,” she said. “People are ready for something different.”

One of her goals, she said, is to get students caught back up from when they struggled and fell behind during the COVID pandemic.

“I want to make sure the ESSER funds (from the federal government) are being used for that reason,” she said. “I just want to make sure the public who votes for us can trust us. There is no trust with the school district and school board right now from the people that vote for them.”

Green said having the district under a state fiscal watch is just one example of how there is a lack of trust in the community.

“People are wondering where their tax dollars are going,” she said. “Nobody is being held accountable for putting us on fiscal watch. There are less than 10% of districts in the state that are on fiscal watch and we are one of them.”

She added another example is the handling of the construction of the new Indian Land High School.

“It was grossly mismanaged when it comes to money,” she said. “There was a lot of money that better planning could have saved.”

Green did say the district is doing well in things like planning for school safety, but should continue to do more.

“The district is doing some great things with that, but there are some other ideas that can be brought in,” she said.

Follow Mac Banks on Twitter @MacBanksFM or contact him at 803-339-6867.