Originally created 04/01/97

County council may wait to OK video poker limits



AIKEN - The Aiken County Council has said it plans to give final approval to new limits on video poker, but that likely won't happen during today's council meeting.

County Administrator Bill Shepherd said it's doubtful the county's attorneys will let the proposal be considered on third and final reading. The ordinance would keep the machines at least 150 feet from the side and rear property lines of neighbors.

Attorneys representing local operators have objected to a portion of the proposal that would require poker parlors to meet the new limits when they renew their licenses in two years.

"As far as I know about video poker on the agenda, the attorneys (for both sides) haven't met," Mr. Shepherd said. "I'm not sure they're going to let (the ordinance) be discussed by council."

Assistant County Attorney Dennis Gmerek said he wants to try to talk to the operators' attorneys one more time Tuesday before deciding whether the ordinance should remain on the agenda. Mr. Gmerek is handling legal advice for the county on video gambling.

A circuit judge ordered the county in January to issue permits to businesses that had machines before payouts from the games were banned in Aiken in 1994. The county had refused to issue the permits while considering the ordinance.

The state Supreme Court threw out the ban in November in Aiken and 11 other counties.

Meanwhile, the council is expected to give final approval to an ordinance that lets animal control officers write tickets to owners of annoying animals, such as dogs that bark late at night.

The ordinance would remove problem animals from the county's long, drawn-out nuisance process, which is applied to neighborhood disputes ranging from junk cars to unsanitary living conditions at some houses. Some disputes have taken as long as a year to resolve.

Owners would be given a warning at first, but could face a maximum penalty of $200 in fines and 30 days in jail for violating a county ordinance. A magistrate also could decide to have the animal seized.

At the same time, the council is expected to approve a proposal to handle planning and zoning for Burnettown, since the town has no tax base and only charges residents for water services.

However, the idea has drawn the ire of Councilman Jim Baggott who has said the town has an obligation to offer a certain amount of services, such as planning, and not rely on the county.

In other business, the council is expected to:

  • Award Gene Ray Fulmer Co. Inc. a contract to install a wastewater treatment plant at the Savannah River Cooperative Research Center.
  • Approve on first reading a new policy requiring annual checks on driving records of employees who use county automobiles.
  • Discuss a proposal by Councilman Joel Randall to keep DuBose Road in the county system, even though residents who pushed for the county to maintain it originally now want it to be private.