The November election will start a new chapter for Pickens County, bringing in a new chairman of the board of commissioners. The debate opened with Shouse telling how he’d lived with a 100 families before being adopted at age 11 and starting a security company 22 years ago before trying contracting in 2011. He pointed to his success as a businessman as proof he could run the county. The debate aired live on FYNTV.com.
“I’m not here for self-gain or recognition. I’m here to give hope back to the county,” he said.
Stancil pointed to his experience serving in the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Chamber of Commerce as points to his capability to managing the business of Pickens County.
Transitioning to a new chapter
The winner of the November election will replace current Chairman of the Pickens County Board of Commissioner, Rob Jones. Jones has served for 16 years, the first eight as sole commissioner and the last half of his career as the chairman with Becky Denney and Jerry Barnes serving as board members. His long tenure means many employees and department heads have only worked for Jones, and some are concerned what to expect when the new chairman takes the reins.
Stancil said the county has been fortunate to have the best department heads and staff.
“When you take a look at what they are to do with little resources, they are incredible,” he said. “I’ll bring a new stay of leadership, not so much a new direction and offer challenges to succeed and encourage them to be fiscally sound.”
His said his belief in fair service to everyone and being consistent and respectful something “we can all rally behind.”
Shouse said he spent about 18 hours with Jones and in the county departments learning and pulled no punches.
“They want to work for me,” he said. “There are a lot of employees who don’t want to work for Stancil, there is a lot of tension and animosity and I don’t think they are going to be the employees you think they are.”
He accused Stancil of not being transparent or honest at the Sheriff’s Office.
“It will go south very quick,” he said of a Stancil administration.
Stancil was given a chance to respond to the accusations.
“As far as transparency, I’m not here to run for sheriff. In terms of his office, the voter’s have spoken. As far as overseeing new hires, professional development and public affairs, many times, we receive questions we legally can’t answer, but I don’t believe anything should be done behind closed doors,” he said.
“I came into this with my integrity and I’m going to live with it,” he said.
“You have said you’d answer every question but there people here who have asked you questions and I know you saw it because they tagged you (in the post) and you refused to answer them,” Shouse said.
“I’ve answered questions on my page. I don’t go to other pages and I don’t believe in getting into debates on Facebook. It’s not professional. If that person here had emailed or called, I’d talk to him. He was your supporter and was asking baiting questions,” Stancil answered.
Stancil said he has not plans to let anyone go if elected.
“Some have mentioned retirement and we have to be prepared for that,” he said.
Shouse said he has only fired one employee in 22 years and the person returned to work for him. “It’s a life decision to fire someone and every department head I worked with was impressive,” he said, adding some employees may not be at the best position for them to grow and he’d like to move some around to boost morale.
Budgeting for the Sheriff’s Office and themselves
Stancil led the debate on discussion about budget, particularly the budget for the sheriff’s office, which is the largest entity on the roll.
“The sheriff has said he’s getting a raise if my opponent is elected. I’ve never said he’s getting a raise,” Stancil said. “I only said he would have a seat at the table, just like any other county office, like that coroner.”
“The chairman does not set the budget, he works with the Chief Financial Officer on it and makes recommendations,” said Stancil.
He said there are some issues with the budget he’d like to change and that’s when discussion begins. “We need to meet earlier in the year and start these conversations
sooner, not just for the following year but the years after that.
Shouse said he had a different philosophy about budget.
“It’s everyday, we’re checking and balancing,” Shouse said. “(Stancil) said he’s on the budget committee and it’s a disaster. The budget went from $4-million to $7-million and they can’t manage it. He can’t manage his personal finances. I never said the sheriff would get a raise, only that he’d have the money he needed to get the job done.”
Stancil rebutted Shouse’s claims. “I’m responsible for the administration’s budget and it’s been under budget and run well. Since you mentioned my personal finances, we’ve both filed bankruptcy.”
Fire and EMS
Stancil and Shouse mostly agreed on issues pertaining to county’s fire and EMS services, noting that the county had a hard time keeping employees due to pay and benefits.
“They are only collecting about 60-percent of money owed on ambulance costs,” said Shouse. “And they are hindered by retirement and pay. It’s a waste to spend a year training them only to lose them. It’s costing us triple to replace them.”
Shouse said he’d ultimately like to see the city and county combine services, even though it may add additional cost to the county. “It would give us better coverage. I don’t want grandma waiting 30-minutes for an ambulance. We also need ham radioes on site in case we have a disaster.”
Stancil agreed that staffing was an issue.
“We’re the most northern non-metro county, so they can travel south and make significantly more. I know several who are working two and three jobs. To bump them up (to a competitive rate) would cost money, but it can found, we just have to go through it with a fine tooth comb.”
Stancil suggested looking at surrounding counties to see how they stay competitive.
“Cherokee does a small tax on the meters that goes straight to the fire department’s budget. I’m not for raising taxes but it’s something to look at. Finding a way to fund them is my main concern,” he said.
New Chapter for the animal shelter
Stancil and Shouse also agreed on the animal shelter and animal control issues and wanting to see a better facility for animals to be kept in. They agreed animal welfare needed a new chapter, including separating animal control from the animal shelter.
“I believe the animal shelter and animal control make a unique situation. They’ve been together for a long time and I’d like to find a way to move animal control to the marshall’s office,” Stancil said.
Both candidates said they wanted to see a new facility for the animal shelter.
Stancil said the employees at the shelter have worked hard to decrease the number of animals put down.
“They’ve gone from a high-kill shelter to a virtually no-kill shelter.” He explained that before they could be officially designated a “no-kill” shelter, there were several requirements to meet, but that they worked hard with rescue agencies to place animals.
Both agreed that separating the two and placing animal control under the marshall’s office would expedite investigations, which now have to rely on a strapped sheriff’s department.
The candidates explained how, if elected, they would build growth in Pickens County.
Stancil said understanding everyone’s role and place in the process while Shouse sees the chairman position as more active in the process.
“We’re not the developer,” Stancil said. “We’re here to make sure everyone has the same rules and the same opportunities.”
Stancil said the county and the city have a joint development authority who has hired an economic developer to recruit potential businesses.
“It’s not our job to compete with the developer. It’s our job to role to support the economic developer and hold them accountable.
Shouse said the county lacks the necessary tourist stops, like rivers, and trails to capitalize on that industry, but the county can build destinations — specifically parks and recreation, catering to travel ball teams that play all-year. He said travel ball teams could bring a new chapter of revenue to the county.
“They need hotels, so there is a hotel tax, they spend $500 at Walmart. This county survives on SPLOST (special local option sales tax),” said Shouse. “They don’t want to go to Mrytle Beach in July. That’s how you change the community.”
Shouse said he has people willing to donate land for projects, if he wins the chair and the plan would make “unaffordable houses, affordable and unaffordable cars affordable.”
Stancil said building up parks and recreation, more toward active living rather than ball, is a good idea. “But if you are doing to climb in bed with one entity who is willing to donate, then it’s going to be investigated. When they pull out, then the taxpayers are going to be stuck with the bill.”
New chapter for roads
Shouse said he’d like to improve communication where residents can directly email a form to the roads department for repair or clean up that would automatically have a tracking system in place.
He also said h’d like to put money toward major paving projects in order to lure bigger businesses to the county.
Stancil said the county is the “best it’s ever been” when it comes to roads, thanks to SPLOST, but he understands the some with unpaved or damaged roads might not share that belief.
“Some of the people on the dirt roads don’t want them paved,” he said. “They don’t want the traffic.”
Other issues that need to be addressed is getting right-of-ways for some of the older roads where they were not granted.
New chapter for public input
Both candidates said they wanted to increase public input on county matters. Stancil said he wanted to have town hall style meetings in addition to public input at the meeting. He said sometimes county business takes up much of the meeting and having public participation can be limited, but he wants the community to be heard.
Shouse said he wanted to use all available options such as Zoom, to increase public involvement.
Both said they would certainly attend the upcoming budget hearings and meetings since the budget that will be approved will be the budget they work under for the first year.
Stancil said he came into the chairman’s race two years ago wanting to serve the community and building stronger relationships. It’s been a main goal of his career to protect citizens and provide for their needs.
“I came into this race with my integrity intact and I’ve taken accusations but I will leave with my integrity intact,” he said.
Shouse said he’s worked hard to bring services to the county, such as the VA Clinic and DaVita Dyalisis.
“I’m not running for whatever. I’m running for 32,000 people. We need to tear down the walls holding Pickens County back,” he said.