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Williamsburg County Sheriff Stephen Gardner reported in 2019, the department filed over 2,000 written reports, not including calls and solved 8 of 10 murders. Gardener joined over a dozen departments reporting a year-in summary to council.

Photo by Michaele Duke

Williamsburg County Council was presented a departmental summary during a February 3, meeting.  Each department discussed topics that ranged from what the department does to how grants are being used.

During her presentation, County Treasurer Kimber W. Cooper said since the department started the Advanced Installment Plan (an ordinance passed by council in 2014), 1% of the county’s population has taken advantage of it. She asked the public to pass the word about the plan, which allows citizens the option to pay their taxes in installments.

Chief Codes Enforcement Mike Kirby explained building permits, plan reviews and inspections are being conducted on a timely manner and permit fees are in the process of review. The department is also tackling eyesores (dilapidated houses, junk cars, etc.) by taking a proactive approach. One part-time person is handling those issues while another part-time person is conducting systematic searches beginning on the primary roads and moving on to secondary roads then the county will be sectioned off. He added letters to the owner have followed.

County Economic Development Executive Director Gilleon Frieson updated council on his current status. He is undergoing three certifications and is scheduled to attend classes with the South Carolina Economic Development Association Institute and Project Management Institute. Though he wasn’t able to expand on certain projects he said he looks forward to coming back to council with good news.

Williamsburg County Fire Chief Randy Swinton reminded the public that the county’s ISO rating (4-4Y) means lower homeowners insurance for citizens who qualify. He said folks have seen and should see a continued decrease in their insurance. He invited anyone with questions to call the department. The department, which has 118 volunteers and 11 paid firefighters covering over 800 square miles, responded to over 14,000 calls in 2019.

Sheriff Stephen Gardner reported his department, which consists of a barebones staff struggling to cover the county. In 2019, the department filed over 2,000 written reports, not including calls. The county experienced 10 murders (a 150% increase) with all but two being solved. Other crimes such as aggravated assault, burglary, and auto break-in decreased. He touted the success stories such as grants that provided SRO deputies in each high school and a middle school. Funding was also provided to hire an additional victim’s advocate. The Sheriff’s Office provides active shooter classes and community involvement.

In an emailed statement, Williamsburg County Supervisor Tiffany Wright wrote, “Williamsburg County Government faced many challenges in 2019.  There were changes in leadership, audit issues, budget issues, and that is, to name a few. During the February 3, county council meeting, team members from each county government office and department demonstrated their resilience in putting aside the negative plight that has affected the county during the 2019 year.  The governmental team came together in unity, proving that “we may have been bruised, but we are not broken.”  This level of resilience speaks to the many talents, experiences, and dedication. The men and women of Williamsburg County have to provide the best services we can to our citizens no matter what. I am proud to work alongside this group of people. No one person controls the Williamsburg County government; it takes a vision of many working towards a common goal.” A video of the meeting can be viewed on The News - Kingstree social media page.