More calls for action on Martha Dendy community center
Martha Dendy, Cannon subject of public comment at Clinton City Council.
Clinton City Council meeting was relatively peaceful and positive last night, despite 11 people speaking during public comment.
Most every speaker addressed Martha Dendy or City Manager Bill Ed Cannon. At last month’s meeting, the Rev. Steven Evans and Cannon were separated during a verbal confrontation concerning the future of the former school.
Rev. Carroll Wells of Friendship AME Church opened public comment. He said Cannon inherited the Martha Dendy problem, but action was needed. He talked about Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.
“If you believe you can, you can and you will,” he said. “I ask Council to help us. I’ve seen God do a whole lot of things because people are ready to work.”
The Rev. Jackie Aiken of Mt Pleasant AME recently toured the building.
“I saw potential for a positive place for gatherings for all ages,” she said.
Mary Jackson, CEO of Calvary Life Inspirations Community Development Corporation, said her group has a plan and was ready to immediately move to do something with the building. Mayor Bob McLean was receptive to a meeting.
Susan Tallman expressed her frustration with Cannon in a letter to the editor. She asked that Council listen to their constituents and give the public a voice.
“Try to decrease the divide,” she said. “Believe in the people.”
Charlotte Strickland, a Clinton resident, spoke on behalf of Cannon and McLean, who she publicly referred to as good friends.
“There is a small group working against the City Manager and the Mayor and they are hurting the City,” she said.
Strickland said Cannon has done more in the last two years than previous City managers and listed Cannon’s accomplishments. Several members of the standing-room-only audience erupted in laughter.
Ricky Johnson, another citizen, focused on security cameras being moved from the basketball courts to the building at Martha Dendy and for them to be monitored. He said Council needs to work for equal opportunity on both sides of the track.
Rosa Booker, with Community Outreach of Laurens County and a former Council candidate, spoke on race and directly to Cannon.
“Bill tells everybody they are going to get Martha Dendy and then it doesn’t happen,” she said. “He needs to be consistent in telling the truth. We need a City Manager that loves the people no matter what color.”
Much of the audience applauded Booker at the end of her allotted 5 minutes.
The Rev. Kenneth Murray Jr. of Mt. Mariah Missionary Baptist called for action on Martha Dendy. He asked that it be addressed in the next budget. He said the school could be a place for senior citizens, after school programs, computer labs and education.
“(Area Baptist associations) are ready to partner with you and make a difference,” he said.
Lashon Goodman, pastor at Hebron Baptist Church, said Martha Dendy could be like the Magic Johnson Community Center in Greenwood.
“People perish with lack of vision,” he said. “We have some visionaries here.”
Emma Harrison, with ties to the community, said Cannon inherited the Martha Dendy problem and that something is wrong if people can’t work with him and Council.
“Cannon came in and got things rolling,” she said.
Several in the crowd talked during Harrison’s words and McLean called fore decorum.
Harrison ended quoting Psalm 55:22: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
Costelle Little Jr. with Concerned Citizens for the Preservation of Martha Dendy, said the City was pushing for others to take control of the school.
“We first partnered with the City for preservation and it worked well for a while, but now you’ve started pulling back,” he said. “We ask that Council gets back on board and let’s resurrect Martha Dendy. This can be a viable place for Clinton, not one group, but all citizens.”
In other business:
• Council approved second and final reading of the City Budget by a vote of 6-1. Shirley Jenkins voted no. The budget totals $30,838,428. No one addressed Council concerning the budget during a public hearing prior to the vote.
• Council approved the Laurens County Fire Contract by unanimous vote. The contact term is $293,068.
• Council approved second and final reading of an ordinance to allow Sunday alcohol sales. This must be done every six month.
• Jimmy Young was honored for his years of service as a Council member.
• Tim Douglas was sworn-in as the City’s Code Enforcement Officer.
• Council passed a resolution in honor of the South Carolina Science Olympiad Champions, Clinton Middle School. The school has won 17 years in a row.
• Proclamations were approved for: National Safety Month (June) , PTDS Awareness Day (June 27), Carolina Day (June 28) and Park and Recreation Month (July)
• Public Works Director Joey Meadors spoke about $20,000 in TD Green Street grant money that will be used to plant trees and for storm water management at Martha Dendy. He spoke of a $26,000 PARD grant to be used at Pine Street Park for new facilities and parking.
• Tink Barnes, city building inspector, talked of an annexation request that was rejected by the city planning commission. A 46-unit apartment complex was proposed for the 20 acres near Dollar Tree. Barnes said an engineering report showed the sewer could not provide service for the development.
• After an executive session of more than two hours, Council returned to take no action.
• During Council member reports, Megan Walsh said the public has lost trust in Council. She called for more open communication with each other, the community and the press. She said the Council should not be scared of people questioning its decisions and authority. “It only makes us stronger,” she said.
Walsh and all Council members were pleased with the progress made in hearing and listening to the public during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Black or white, we all have the same blood and serve the same God,” said Councilwoman Shirley Jenkins. “We must respect each other.”
McLean called for the public to call its representatives and leaders with questions and concerns and if that doesn’t work address Council at its meetings.