Mr. Pinckney followed an agenda that addressed various issues that are impacting the taxpayers of Berkeley county. He conducted the meeting very fairly by giving his take on each issue and, then, soliciting questions and comments from the audience.
He began by discussing the recent reassessment and explaining how the process works. Several attendees were concerned that their October tax bills would be higher than last year's bills. Mr. Pinckney explained that property owners could appeal if they disagreed with the reassessed value placed on their property.
Mr. Pinckney encouraged the attendees to actively support the Cross area schools. He stated that, since these schools have been designated Title I, students would be allowed to transfer to other schools in the county if they wished.
Then, Mr. Pinckney brought up the issue of the Cross area's newly installed water lines. As would be expected, the mandatory tap-in ordinance was the main topic of discussion. Also, many attendees said they took offense that they had not been consulted before the water lines were installed.
GE&P asked Mr. Pinckney if he, as Chairman of the Water and Sanitation Committee on County Council at the time these water lines were approved, had received any documents from W&S, such as feasibility studies or community surveys before he recommended approval of the contract to install the waterline on Hwy. 311.
Mr. Pinckney said he hadn't received any such documents simply because all the preliminary work on this particular project had been done during the Rozier administration in 2002, which was before he was Chairman of the W&S Committee. Mr. Pinckney was very sincere and seemed to be totally convinced of the validity of the information contained in his statement.
GE&P was compelled to correct his misconceptions on this issue. We pointed out that, during a W&S committee meeting on Feb. 10, 2003, Council removed the Hwy. 311 water project, along with others, from the W&S approved projects list. This information can be found on the official Berkeley County web site under agendas and minutes. To further support our contention that the Hwy. 311 water line was never approved by Council, we called Mr. Pinckney's attention to the fact that the Hwy. 311 project did not appear on the W&S Capital Improvements list, the Five Year Survey of projects, or the W&S budgets from 2005 to date.
Since these documents are the only sources of information for County Council to know which projects are being proposed by W&S, how would Council know about the Hwy. 311 project if it was never mentioned on any of the documents? Also, when the $2.24 million contract that installed the Hwy. 311 project was proposed to Council in April 2008, it was approved, but, since that time, 6 of the 8 members who were on Council at the time the proposal was made have publicly stated that they were not made aware the contract was for the Hwy. 311 water project before the vote was taken.
Mr. Pinckney said he couldn't discuss any particulars of this issue without the benefit of having these documents in front of him. We assured him we would have copies of these documents for him to review at the next District 7 meeting.
GE&P continues to have several unanswered questions pertaining to this issue:
How could a capital improvement project the size of the Hwy. 311 water line be undertaken without the benefit of a feasibility study or even a community survey?
How would W&S know the Hwy. 311 water project was under consideration if it didn't appear on any of the project lists or even the budget?
Who approved the Hwy. 311 water project if, as they have stated, 6 of the 8 members of the 2008 County Council were unaware that the project existed?
Where did the $2.24 million that paid for the 2008 Hwy. 311 water project come from if the project did not appear on the W&S budget since 2005?
Since the Hwy. 311 water project did not qualify for a CDBG grant, how did W&S plan to fund the "free tap-ins" promised to some residents of Hwy. 311?
GE&P has been asking these questions for a year and a half. So far, we have not been able to get any answers. We have submitted FOIA requests to the Berkeley County Water and Sanitation Authority to no avail. We can only hope that Mr. Pinckney will be able to provide some answers after he reviews our documents at the next community meeting.