Barton, Bunker reflect on County Council service

  • Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012 11:01 p.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, December 23, 2012 8:48 a.m.
Barton
Barton

Members of Aiken County Council recently said goodbye to two of their own this month – Gary Bunker and Charles Barton.

Bunker chose not to seek re-election once his term as the District 7 representative expired, and Barton was appointed to fill the unexpired term of former County auditor Cyrus Spradley. Barton was elected auditor in November and will serve out the term for which he was duly elected starting in July 2013.

Barton represented District 6.

Both men served several terms on Council, sat on several of its work committees and each served as vice chairman during their tenures.

Aiken Standard sat down with Bunker and Barton to reflect on their years of service in local government.

Gary Bunker

Aiken Standard: What three things have you accomplished in your time on Council are you are most proud of?

Gary Bunker: I am proud of my work on the budget – doing disciplined reviews of revenues and expenditures and spending time and energy on the budget amendments – to make expenditures match with a reduction. Budget amendments are offered in pieces, instead of together, so Council members have choices. I haven't supported a millage increase. I am proud of my opposition, along with other Council members, to FineDeering's TIF (tax increment financing). It was a tremendous issue, a mistake. It would have privileged one developer over others and put the County in a bind to provide services without any incoming revenue. I am proud of the input I provided in drafting the LMO (land management ordinances). The first draft was tyrannical on the rural areas. The final is more moderate. Andrew Marine, my appointee on the Planning Commission, and I went paragraph by paragraph.

AS: What three things didn't you accomplish that you wish you had?

GB: That can be summed up with Athol Avenue, Vanderbilt Drive and Hackamore Drive. That translates into drainage, drainage and drainage. There is money to address that in Capital Projects Sales Tax II, but we can't get the rights-of-way. Some neighbors are not willing to help. I inherited those from Rick Osbon, and now I give them to Andrew Siders. My hope is, with new development standards, we'll see less of these problems.

Siders was elected to District 7 in November. He'll be sworn in in January.

AS: Speaking as a former Council member, what is your hope for Council and Aiken County in the future?

GB: I hope Council holds the line on millage, pursues economic development and works on the property reassessment appeals process. I still have doubts of the mass appraisal process, that it doesn't take enough into account.

AS: Do you have any words of wisdom for your successor?

GB: Far be it from me to tell Andrew Siders how to do his job. But, prepare, prepare, prepare. Read everything, ask questions because the devil is in the details, and don't vote for anything you don't understand.

AS: What would you like to say to your former constituents?

GB: It has been a privilege to represent them. It's a unique district – divided between the City and County. It's a good group of people.

Charles Barton

AS: What three things have you accomplished in your time on Council are you are most proud of?

Charles Barton: I am proud that the chairman, Kathy Rawls, and I defeated the referendum. That was one of the best and hardest-working things I've done. I am also proud of the new County Complex, the industrial growth we've seen, and of our low taxes.

The referendum asking Aiken County voters if they wanted to change the form of government was shot down in November. Had it passed, the County treasurer and auditor would no longer be elected, but appointed.

AS: What three things didn't you accomplish that you wish you had?

CB: I don't feel like I was a help to some working people. One thing that bothers me to this day is Northside Grocery. I also did not agree with the condemnation of Mr. Black's property in Graniteville. I never would have thought County Council would have condemned a piece of property to benefit a company. Also, ever since the school shooting in Connecticut, I would have liked better security at the County's buildings.

Northside Grocery, a small country store on New Bridge Road, was shuttered in 2007 after it was brought to the attention of Aiken County Planning and Development that the business was not a permitted use in its residential zoning district. Area residents said they were shocked that zoning regulations seem to outlaw many of the small and home-based businesses that have operated in the area for decades, despite the fact that the properties have all been zoned residential and these businesses have been officially illegal there since 1992.

In June, Council voted to direct the County attorney to begin drafting potential condemnation documents to assert eminent domain over 0.43 acres on Bettis Academy Road in Graniteville owned by Toni and Dennis Black. The property was needed, at least partially, to accommodate major alterations to the road for the expansion of Bridgestone's existing plant and its new plant. Initially, the Blacks refused several offers from the County to purchase the 0.43 acres. Then, in July, the Blacks agreed to sell their property for $20,000.

AS: Speaking as a former Council member, what is your hope for Council and Aiken County in the future?

CB: My hope for the future is that Council continues to work for the betterment of all citizens and Aiken County continues to prosper with new jobs.

AS: Do you have any words of wisdom for your successor?

CB: Use good judgment and common sense.

AS: What would you like to say to your former constituents?

CB: I cannot say thank you enough to the voters for electing me to three terms on Council.

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