Florence City Council passes budget and moves forward on crime prevention plan

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FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) — Florence City Council passed its budget for the upcoming fiscal year at its meeting on Monday afternoon.

The new budget is approximately $45 million. The board voted unanimously to pass it with a last-minute amendment.

Councilor Lethonia Barnes offered to reallocate $25,000 from the $775,000 community development fund to Helping Florence Flourish. Helping Florence Flourish is a community organization made up of volunteers from local churches.

“Note that the budget has been amended to reflect the change,” said Mayor Teresa Myers Ervin. “That this reflects that Bill number 2022-18 as amended has passed second reading.”

The budget creates several new positions, including that of student police officers, and provides for a 3% increase for employees.

Council also voted in favor of a crime prevention resolution. It aims to promote the goals of Project Ceasefire, part of the national initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods. Both initiatives aim to reduce gang violence and gun crimes.

The resolution calls on city staff to create a comprehensive crime strategy, which Ervin said will be modeled after the efforts of Columbia’s Project Ceasefire.

Reverend Leo Woodberry, founder of the advocacy group Cease Fire USA, said he has partnered with more than 80 local businesses to create “ceasefire zones” across the city. He praised the board for taking action and said he looked forward to continuing to work with him.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Councilman Barnes, Chief Heidler and others to ensure our communities are not only cleaner, but safer as we move forward in building a greater Florence,” Woodberry said. “Thank you very much for what you are doing.”

Councilman Pat Gibson-Hye Moore spoke about the importance of reviving Camp FEVER, a youth outreach initiative involving the Florence Police Department.

Chief Allen Heidler of the Florence Police Department briefed the council on several crime reduction efforts, including installing a network of CCTV cameras and ensuring witnesses feel safe to come forward.

The council paid tribute to Frank Willis, the former mayor of Florence who died after a long illness on Friday.

The members placed a small memorial to him in the room and shared memories of him at the start of the meeting, thanking him for his service to the city.

Ervin thanked Willis’ family and praised several of his initiatives, including the Mayor’s Coalition Against Youth Crime and Florence Without Drugs.

Mayor Pro Tempore George Jebaily called him a visionary leader and a dear friend.

Gibson-Hye Moore spoke about his acts of kindness to those in need and called him an active mayor.

“Mayor Willis, you have done more than was asked of you,” she said. “He is a fine example for all the mayors who will follow after him. Until we meet again Mayor Frank Willis, thank you.

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