County council questions cultural commission

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS COUNTY — County council members agreed Monday night that there is a place for the Pickens County Cultural Commission, one of its advisory boards.

But they’re not sure yet what the board will look like going forward.

Council members considered a recommendation from committee that the cultural commission be dissolved.

But that idea didn’t sit well with them.

The recommendation came after county officials were told by a cultural commissioner that the board had lost direction and that its recommendations were seldom listened to by staff.

Another cultural commissioner disputed those notions in letters to local media.

“I’m not in favor at this point in time of dissolving the cultural commission,” councilman Tom Ponder said. “The question I have is, what is their function?”

The commission’s function had been fundraising, he said.

“I think they’ve gotten away from that,” Ponder said. “There is a need for that type of thing, but I’m just not so sure that some of the people who’ve been serving in that capacity can serve in that capacity, based on their actions of the last couple of years.”

Boards and commissions are an arm of council, Ponder said.

“When it appears that these boards and commissions have a different agenda, move in a different direction, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear them,” he said. “But we sure don’t want to be attacked by them.”

One commissioner had said the commission’s opinion was not taken into account concerning the termination of a former museum director.

Orientation sessions for boards and commissions would be helpful, Ponder said.

“The board doesn’t have the authority to hire or fire anybody,” Ponder said. “They don’t have the authority to spend money. There are a lot of things they don’t have the authority to do. But sometimes these boards feel like they do have, and they expect us to answer to them.”

A former county administrator was known to tell council members not to overreach, to “stay in our lane,” Ponder said.

“We need to understand what our responsibility is and live up to our responsibility,” he said.

Council members suggested that staff meet with the commission.

“To see that there is a purpose and that they understand what their purpose is,” Ponder said. “With all the things going on in Pickens County, with the Hagood Mill property, and we need to do more with the museum, it might not be a good idea to dissolve the commission. It might be a good idea to look at what the commission’s function is to ensure that the people on the commission understand what its function is. If they can’t buy into the program, they need to go somewhere else.”

Councilman Trey Whitehurst also questioned dissolving the commission.

“People on a dysfunctional board can be replaced,” he said. “It was created for a purpose. There had to be a need. We have to figure out what that need was. Do we still need that need today? And if we do, does that board properly fulfill that need?”

Council chair Jennifer Willis agreed.

“Does the board have a proper function, or do we need to change the function of the board?” she said.

County administrator Gerald Wilson said staff members had met with the commission and are seeing “positive progress.”

The motion is dissolve the cultural commission failed unanimously. Councilman Neil Smith was absent from Monday’s meeting.