In a previous post, I described a situation where a former City Councilman approached me about reporting on the actions of the Dillon City Government. At the time I was understandably confused given the history of my blog reporting on the City Council, but things have come to my attention that begin to explain why I was approached.
First, when we received our monthly mortgage bill around the first of the year, we were understandably concerned about an almost $50.00 increase in our monthly payment.
For months we have been trying to figure out why our mortgage payments increased by that amount (totalling nearly $600 a year). We checked to make sure our mortgage insurance didn’t go up (it had but not by $50.00 a month), we checked to make sure our property value didn’t go up (property values have slightly decreased in the Dillon area) and then we started looking into our actual annual taxes. That is where we found where the majority of the increase came from. Unfortunately, getting information about your taxes – where they come from, where they are going and who is levying them – is like pulling teeth.
Then, today I happened to pick up the front section of the weekly Dillon Tribune to read on the porch while I smoked my morning cigarette. Lo and behold, things became crystal clear…
About four years ago, Dillon Mayor Marty Malesich tried to pull an end run and pass an SID to repair Glendale Street near Downtown Dillon. This street was badly constructed in the first place – it was paved on concrete and annually develops massive potholes, it is graded incorrectly so runoff doesn’t work the way it is suppose to, and it has been a problem for years. Unfortunately, this street is lightly populated with a combination of businesses, churches, a school and a few private property owners. An SID (Special Improvement District) would have dropped the $800,000 cost of the street repair on those few residents, businesses and schools. Needless to say, the people occupying that street flatly protested the project and, under the law, were more than able to halt the idea of an SID.
It was proposed that the City Council put a vote to the people of Dillon to raise a bond for the project but this idea was flatly refused by Malesich. It had to his way, or it wasn’t going to happen. Sadly, he found another way around the problem that denied the citizens of Dillon a voice in the decision.
Last year, during the budget process, Malesich proposed a massive hike in the Street Maintenance Tax – from 80 cents a linear foot to $1.60 a linear foot. This tax is levied on all property owners in Dillon and it is specifically for doing annual street maintenance and snow removal. There are specific rules to the usage of these funds as well.
The Situation Now -
Imagine my surprise when I open up the paper to see a front page story about Malesich declaring that the Glendale Street Project is a go and will begin work shortly. Huh?!?!?!
It appears that this $800,000+ project is going to be funded from the Street Maintenance Fund. With the added $238.000 generated by the increased Street Maintenance Tax this year, the Street Maintenance Fund now sits at $870,000. Further, when the Glendale project is completed, Malesich is going to work a block of Walnut Street (something not included in the original project).
House Purchase -
In addition to the Street Repair that is taking place on Malesich’s say so, it appears that the City of Dillon has also purchased a home on Thompson Avenue. This was done so that the City of Dillon can extend Walnut street all the way to Thompson Avenue. JS Turner, the City Director of Operations claims this project (not including the purchase of the home) will cost approximately $80,000. The article does not indicate where the funds for the purchase of the property came from or where the funds for the street extension will come from though the context is that it came from the Street Maintenance Fund.
The Kicker -
You knew there had to be a kicker if I am writing about, right? Well, of course there is…..
All this was done without City Council approval. Yep, if the author of the story in the Dillon Tribune got it right, all of this was done on Malesich’s say-so, not the duly elected representatives of the City of Dillon.
Here is where things go south rapidly. According to the City Charter, the City of Dillon cannot enter into a contract without the expressed approval of the City Council. Therefore, the purchase of the property, any contract for street replacement or repair, any contract for engineering services etc could NOT be legally made without City Council approval. The Mayor’s response – The City Council approved the projects by approving the budget. This is utter and complete horseshit. There is no other word that fits.
The REAL kicker -
This story actually has an even deeper kicker to it. The City Council of Dillon is in a VERY tricky situation. If they pursue the idea that Malesich did these things without City Council approval, they implicitly admit that Former Mayor George Warner and Former City Councilman Martin Breneche were correct in their denial of having a remote water meter installed on their property. They both contended that the water meter project was never explicitly approved by the Dillon City Council (a contention that they have backed up with evidence) and the City’s reply was that the water meter project was “approved” because the City Council budgeted for it. On the other hand, if the City Council allows Malesich to bypass them in seeming violation with the City Charter, then Malesich has effectively minimized the duly elected City Council – the representatives of the citizens of Dillon. This is a lose/lose situation and sadly, the ones that will REALLY lose are the tax payers of Dillon as they shell out tax money for Malesich’s pet projects.
In discussing this situation with another City resident, he asked the question “Well don’t you think Glendale Street should be fixed?”. This is a valid question and one that should be answered.
As I stated up above, Glendale Street is a mess. Of course I think it should be fixed. I was one of the people supporting a bond issue to address the problem. These are my reasons -
1) Barring an SID (that would have put the cost on a relatively small group of businesses, Churches and residents), the bond issue is the right way to fund a repair of this nature. This isn’t simple annual maintenance (what the Street Maintenance Fund was designed for) and as a major City center street, it should be something that the entire city population funds. A bond issue is the most responsible way to address it. People would hedge and complain about it, but in the end they would step up and approve it just like the bond issue to fund the Police Retirement Fund.
2) By allowing Malesich to bypass the rules, we are yet again allowing him and his administration to break the rules without consequences. The only reason he continues to do this is because no one has been able to prevent him from doing it (or more accurately, the people that should be doing it are refusing to do so). Malesich and his pet hit attorney will continue to get away with anything they want to do until someone stops him. When he had me arrested, not one… NOT ONE… City official stepped up to denounce his actions.
Why should he stop acting like King Malesich the First? Until the duly elected city officials grow a set of balls and step up to the plate, King Malesich will continue to do pretty much whatever the hell he wants to do – on the taxpayer dime.