Construction of a training building near Interstate 95 is one step closer to fruition thanks to agreements between Orangeburg County and several entities.

There were no comments during a public hearing Monday on an ordinance authorizing a deed-lease agreement between the county and Jafza South Carolina, LLC. Orangeburg County Administrator Bill Clark said second reading will take during a special called council meeting, which could be held Aug. 23.

Stephen McCrae Jr., Jafza's attorney, said the company will deed five acres to the county for the development of the structure.

"At the same time, the county will lease that land back to Jafza with the responsibility on our part to construct a facility called The Training Center," McCrae said. "The funding for the construction will be through Tri-County Electric Cooperative. It has some funds from Rural Economic Development Land Grant and other funding.

"The construction must be completed by January 1 because we already have one tenant identified. This is a wonderful opportunity, not only for Jafza but for the county, which brought it to us."

McCrae said the tenant is an organization involved in workforce training. Jafza will have the sole responsibility for the building, including finding tenants and paying taxes.

Clark said Tri-County is able to obtain almost $1 million through REDLG, which it will make available to the county at no interest for ten years under a separate agreement. The agreement also allows for the deferral of payments for the first two years.

"These are extraordinary, beneficial terms that cannot be touched in the private sector," Clark said. Tri-County, "will have a separate agreement with Jafza to construct the building, which will make lease payments sufficient to cover the debt service on the loan.

"It's a win-win for all parties."

McCrae said the final terms of the agreement, such as the construction budget, still need to be ironed out. He promised the documentation, once completed, will be made available for public inspection before second reading next week.

"This is virtually risk-free for the county," McCrae said. "Jafza has land that will be made available to the county if there is a default on the lease."

Also during its Monday meeting, council agreed to enter an intergovernmental loan agreement with Santee Cooper for up to $4 million for ten years. Clark said the money would likely be used for the development of a regional wastewater facility in eastern Orangeburg County.

"We have a wastewater facility under permitting review right now that should become operational in the next two, three years," Clark said. "If we need funding assistance to proceed with the development of either the water or the wastewater utility systems in that area, Santee Cooper has just made themselves available as a partner, if needed."

If the county were to use any of the Santee Cooper funding, "payment would not occur until either six months after the facility was constructed and permitted to operate, or two years from the time the funds were drawn down," Clark said. "Principal payment could be deferred to the end or be prepaid at any other negotiated period."

Santee Cooper spokesman Mollie Gore said the agreement must win approval of that utility's board of directors next week before it becomes final.

"This arrangement would be similar in structure to an agreement Santee Cooper had with Berkeley County in order to help attract development," Gore said.

In other action council:

* Unanimously gave final approval to a new county waste tire policy. Clark said accepting the policy keeps the county eligible for waste tire funding from the state.

* Awarded South Carolina State University Head Football Coach Emeritus Willie Jeffries a resolution of honor in recognition of his accomplishments in the field of athletics and role in community service to Orangeburg County. Jeffries was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame July 17.

* Entered executive session to discuss economic development, including the terms of the Jafza agreement.

Contact the writer: psarata@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5540.

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