On Monday, Aiken City Council agreed to amend a City code allowing horse-drawn carriages to offer rides for hire during extended hours in the evening from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
The original ordinance did not permit rides for hire, tours or special events after 5:30 p.m. EST and 8 p.m. daylight saving time. The new ordinance allows carriage tours from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day; no tours will begin after 10:30 p.m.
Horse-drawn carriage rides also will be offered throughout the year from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT; no tour will begin after 7:30 p.m. Rides also will be made available from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST; no tour will begin after 5 p.m.
The Equine Commission approved the matter at their Nov. 11 meeting; the Aiken Department of Public Safety reviewed the change and did not object to the extended hours, according to officials.
Jessica Campbell, the director of the City of Aiken’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, reiterated the horse-drawn carriages would just stay within the Aiken downtown historic district, and any and all routes would have to go through PRT for approval.
Answering a residents’ question, City Solicitor Paige Tiffany said although the horses would not be required to wear bags for their waste, an already established City ordinance covers animals and their owners taking care of waste on a regular basis.
A few residents, including Jack Wetzel, a current member of the Equine Committee, addressed the issue of safety regarding horse-drawn carriages at night. Wetzel said safety is a “major issue,” and said permanent moves beyond just extended holiday hours should be forwarded to another Equine Committee meeting for further discussion.
During Council’s regular business of approval of appointees for committees, commissions and boards, Council member Philip Merry publicly addressed an issue that occurred during an earlier meeting this month, after resident Jane Page Thompson told Council the attorney general would be issuing an opinion on Council and the approval of appointees.
Thompson never made clear what the opinion would be or when it was going to come through, and instead of going through with the vote, Council decided to hold up the appointments.
Merry said it wasn’t fair to the individuals up for the appointment to be called into question, calling the situation “entirely undeserved.”
“I suggest that if anyone has any questions or decides that they think we are not doing a good job of appointing members to the boards and commissions, I suggest that we not handle that in front of this audience, that if there is anybody who questions in any of our appointments, let us handle that behind closed doors,” Council member Gail Diggs added. “That was totally embarrassing, and I too apologize.”
In other business, Aiken’s new Mayor Rick Osbon was sworn in, after former Mayor Fred Cavanaugh convened his final meeting. Council members Diggs and Dick Dewar were also sworn in after running unopposed in the Nov. 3 general election.
Maayan Schechter is the digital news editor with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.