Florence City Council defers mask mandate, hears resident’s crime concerns

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — The Florence City Council will revisit a possible mask mandate in January after council members voted 5-1 Monday to defer action on the issue.

Mayor Teresa Myers Ervin was the lone member to vote for the mandate on Monday. Councilwoman Pat Gibson-Hye Moore previously voted for a mandate, but did not attend Monday’s meeting.

Councilmen Chaquez McCall and George Jebaily voted to defer the mandate on Monday, citing information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows Florence County has a 71% vaccination rate among those who are 18 or older.

“And whether this council passes a mask mandate or not, it is recommended that you wear a mask,” Myers Ervin said. “It is not a political statement. This is a health issue, and until we as a nation address this as a health issue we will be stuck in this vicious cycle.”

Another topic at Monday’s meeting was crime. Robynn Stembridge pleaded with city council to do something about the increase in crime in the area. She told the council that she lost her godson, Tyrin McCullum, to a shooting in West Florence.

“September 30, 2021, someone senselessly and abruptly ended his life,” Stembridge said. “Shot once in the back of the head. Just 11 days shy of his 21st birthday.”

Increased police patrols would help contribute to a solution, she said.

“My son was killed on Carver Street in West Florence,” she said. “Three young men lost their lives on that street this year alone, in the same spot, in the same way. That should speak volumes to our local law enforcement.”

According to News13 crime-tracker reports, there have been at least 68 shootings just this year in the region. Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler credited Stembridge for speaking up.

“It takes people like you to come out and say enough is enough,” he said. “The community has to stand up. They have to be advocates for speaking to the police and for providing information. It’s one of the biggest detriments we have right now.”

Stembridge said she just wants answers and solutions, and argued that people with violent crimes shouldn’t be let out of jail.

“If I stood here and said I knew how to fix this I would be lying, but I can stand here and say I’m going to try my best to figure out a way to make our city just a little safer,” she said.

No arrests have been made in the case. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Florence Police Department at (843) 665-3191.

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