I want to thank the people who responded to our call for attendance at Monday night's County Council meeting. The most gratifying thing to me is that I could identify a direct relation to my telephone calls and emails and to at least 40 Pickens people. I give the County Council credit for admitting their mistake in the way the fire fees were presented to the people. At the same time, they left the door of possibility open for this problem again. The farmers of this county will not accept any, I repeat any, sort of fee or tax on farm land. Some of the County Council members don't realize the importance of being able to bank tracts of land in agriculture. Trees, grassland etc. produce oxygen for the atmosphere and for our breathing. Cattle, vegetables, and fruits and lumber products are produced for the health and very lives of the people. Without these things there would be no need for a fire department. However, we all realize the value of first-responders who protect our homes and perform valuable other services. This county owes a tremendous debt to the volunteer firemen who for so long have provided services.
Now we are faced with a growing demand for full time employees and expensive equipment that the people of Pickens County cannot afford. There are some folks on fire boards and the public that are swayed by trumped up analysis of brush fires. In 2007-2008, I was provided computer documents that showed that some of the fire departments were trying to convince people that brush fires constituted 40% of the total fires in Pickens County. Upon analyzing them myself, I found such things as the same fire was recorded two, three, four times. A member of the Fire Board told me this problem was created by a volunteer chief that wanted to be full time and get a state retirement. The chief even went so far as to stage a brush fire at a County Council meeting where all the firemen rushed from the meeting to a raging fire. The fire was supervised by some firemen. Yet, the County Council saw fit to thrust a fire fee in 2015 of high proportions on the farmers of this county without looking at the evidence of 2007-2008. They have ignored the fact that the forestry department is responsible for these fires. They have allowed the fire districts to raise the fees on everyone ~ especially mobile home owners. As everyone should know, fire districts cannot raise fees without the approval of the County Council. According to state law and multiple Supreme Court decisions; an unelected body cannot raise taxes or fees; an elected body must approve all their actions as far as taxes and fees are concerned. So if you want something done about this problem, a citizen must go to County Council. They are responsible.
Then enter Johnnelle Raines with a plea for the County Council to stop the importing of unvetted (no background check) Syrian refugees into Pickens County. Johnnelle spent many hours researching this problem, posted all her reasons on the internet, and sent them to the County Council. She presented a referendum to the County Council through the Conservatives Of The Upstate approved by Junius Smith, President. The County Council approved the plea of Mrs. Raines who is a board member of the Conservatives of the Upstate. The Council remarked that they were not against refugees, but that we had many aliens already in Pickens County that needed attention. We praise Johnnelle for here diligent efforts.
President of Conservatives of the Upstate