By Al Dozier

The Irmo Okra Strut Festival should not be canceled but it could be downsized to assure the safety of visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.

That was the view expressed at Tuesday’s Irmo Town Council meeting about the plan for the popular festival scheduled for Sept. 25-26. Instead of a Friday-Saturday event it could be a one-day event with scaled down activities.

“We are looking at options with due diligence,” Okra Strut Chairman Larry Slaughter said.

He said it could be a full-day event on Saturday, with extensive safety preparations in place. But Slaughter also pointed out that current mandates issued by the state does not allow festivals.

“Cancelation should not be considered”, said Councilwoman Kathy Condom.
“People get upset when you cancel the Okra Strut.”

Mayor Barry Walker Sr. said the Okra Strut Commission should come up with a Saturday event that brings in revenue but does not spend too much. Slaughter agreed to bring a budget proposal for the town to consider.

The council also approved holding a “Movie Night in the Park” during the summer. Walker said citizens are “stir crazy” after staying at home so long during the coronavirus pandemic. The project will cost the town $900.

In other action the council was advised that a town “workshop” planned to address crime problems in the Harbison Gardens area has been scheduled for June 30.

The meeting with town officials and law enforcement leaders throughout the Midlands will provide an opportunity to consider ways to control repeated incidents of shootings, break-ins and thefts in and around the apartment complex on Columbiana Drive. It was scheduled for June 4 but was postponed due to the recent protests and demonstrations that have preoccupied law enforcement agencies throughout the Midlands.

The council gave final reading to an ordinance amending the town code to allow the council the authority to remove persons serving on appointed boards and commissions. The measure was amended to make the vote requirement a majority vote (3 of 5) rather than a super majority (4 of 5).

In other action, the council gave first reading approval to an ordinance to annex five Richland County properties near I-26 as General Commercial.

The council also gave second reading approval to an ordinance that puts in place international standards for residential rental units as established by the International Property maintenance Code (IPMC).

The council also approved a contract with CC&I Services to provide South Carolina Code Compliance Services for the town through June of 2025.

The council approved a proclamation introduced by Councilman Bill Danielson proclaiming 2021 as the “Year of the Small Business” in Irmo.
In conjunction with the Irmo Future Growth Corporation recognizing small businesses that have survived recent hardships, partnerships with the town, the New Irmo News and Lexington-Richland School District 5 will be spotlighting local businesses and encouraging people to engage, shop and dine in the community.

The council also approved a proclamation designating June 19 as Juneteenth Day, also known as Freedom Day, recognizing the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free.

The council also received an update from Blue Granite Sewer System President Donald Denton on the latest efforts to deal with water leaks in the Friarsgate neighborhoods.

Denton made a video presentation showing the different projects in place to address damaged water lines that have contributed to flooding and sewage problems. He said Blue Granite has spent $4.2 million for rehabilitation projects throughout the area.

Denton said his company is also working on a community engagement plan that will provide residents with new saplings when tree removals are required to do repair work on residential properties.

Irmo residents have complained about Blue Granite’s services and protested a rate increase sought by the company. Those protests have been credited with prompting the Public Service Commission to sharply reduce the amount of the increase.