Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – David Knight, a retired real estate attorney who has lived in the town of Chapin for many years, picked up the gavel and the title of mayor tonight after being sworn in at the town’s council meeting. His wife Holly held the Bible, and The Honorable Gary W. Reinhart, a magistrate from Lexington County, gave the oath of office. Knight defeated one-term Mayor Skip Wilson in the November election to take his place in the town’s government and history. His platform was to allow more input from the residents of the area and to foster more cooperation within the council itself.
Al Koon, a retired engineer who worked for SCE&G at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit #1 in Jenkinsville, was also sworn in as one of the town’s councilmen tonight. He was accompanied by his granddaughter Sabin Koon who held the Bible for him. Judge Reinhart also gave his oath of office. Koon is well known in the community, is a member of Mt. Horeb church, as is Knight, and is married to Susan.
After Koon, Preston Baines, an employee of GIS in Chapin, was sworn in. He has been active in Republican politics in the state for many years, although this is his first time holding a public office. He had his mother Reida Baines hold the Bible for him while the crowd looked on. Baines is the youngest of the group and appears to be ready to get started with the business of the town.
After each was sworn in, there was a round of applause given for the public servants taking their rightful place in the town’s government. There was very little business conducted at the Tuesday night meeting. Most agenda items were deferred so that the new council could study the issues more closely before taking any action on them.
The council did approve the first reading of an ordinance that would move the monthly town council meetings back to the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. That was changed a few years ago to a Tuesday later in the month to allow for the department heads to have more time to prepare their reports. Mayor Knight said that the new group planned to hold public work sessions where those department heads could give their monthly reports later in the month.
At the close of the meeting, the public was given an opportunity to step up to the microphone and make comments freely. Most were well wishes, one was a Hebrew blessing from an area resident, and Kim Murphy, a well-known area activist, once again made accusations that there’s a secret saving account or slush fund that was filled with cash from the utility customers of the town. She said that she was worried about another rate hike for sewer customers that is already planned for a future date, and this fund is, in her opinion, just sitting somewhere in a bank. She did not say how she knew of this secret account that’s not listed with other accounts under the financial section of the town’s website, nor did she present proof of the account to the council or the public. Mayor Knight assured her that the council would look into the issue and her concerns.
Murphy speaks out about one issue or another at most meetings. She has been against the construction of a new sewer plant for the town since the idea was in its infancy. According to the town’s utility director, the town has been told by DHEC that they have to build a new sewer plant because the old lagoon system they’ve been using doesn’t clean waste sufficiently. The discharge has levels of certain chemicals and organics that don’t meet the newer clean water standards. Murphy has disagreed many times, and said that the new sewer plant is being built to meet the demands of new developments, but is being paid for by the existing utility customers. The old council had voted unanimously a number of times to borrow the money to build the new plant against Murphy’s repeated objections.
The meeting was adjourned, and well-wishers crowded around the new team to shake hands and pat the newly sworn members on the back. Even Murphy seemed to be pleased with the new council and the hope that they might uncover the secret accounts Murphy has alleged.
The room was filled to capacity with the town’s employees, family members of the newly elected, and friends. There were also a number of other elected officials in the room that included Senator Ronnie Cromer and West Columbia City Councilman Mike Green.