BAMBERG -- Industrial prospects continue to look at the county as a potential location, a regional development official reported at Bamberg County Council's Monday meeting, but some council members say more work needs to be done to recruit additional industry.

“We’ve had 16 active projects in Bamberg County this year. We’ve submitted county properties on 35 active projects,” SouthernCarolina Alliance Development Director John Fleming said, noting that SCA has seen the creation of 411 new full-time jobs and $128 million in investment in its seven-county service region. 

Activity at Bamberg’s CrossRhodes speculative building has included the installation of new signage to increase its visibility, with the next phase to include the creation of an “open pad site” for potential industry expansion, Fleming said.

The SCA’s marketing trips have included a Nordic mission, where SCA officials networked with Volvo suppliers who could potentially consider Bamberg County as a location given its proximity on U.S. 78, he added.

“We think some of the connections we made there are going to work out very well,” Fleming said.

County Councilman Trent Kinard said the county has only gotten one industry in the past five years he’s been on the council.

“What is the status of SouthernCarolina on trying to do something about it?” Kinard asked.

He said he’s tired of hearing the same “old song and dance” about potential reasons why Bamberg County isn’t recruiting more industry, including workforce education levels.

“Allendale’s not much better than we are," but has netted 19 industries since he’s been on council, Kinard said.

Councilwoman Sharon Hammond suggested that “a detailed report” from the SCA to assist in improving the county’s chances of snaring industry would help.

“What do they have that we don’t have? Internet service? We need some detail because there’s something that’s missing that we’re not getting. … We know that it’s skilled labor, but it’s not just us. It’s Allendale, Barnwell and Hampton, but they’re getting industry and we’re not,” Hammond said.

Fleming said, “I can definitely look at that,” noting that the SCA is working with Walterboro-based Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative to extend fiber optic Internet services “near or very close” to all of the industrial parks in the service region. 

Councilman Rev. Isaiah Odom said he thinks the SCA has provided valuable resources to the county.

“I think we’ve got a reasonable amount of resources from joining SouthernCarolina Alliance. I think it’s a lot more we will be getting in the future if we just hold on a little while longer.”

Also during the meeting, Treasurer Alice Johnson reported the county's total income for September was $430,863. Expenses came in at $622,830, leaving a negative balance of $191,967, she said.

“We have started collecting our property taxes,” which will result in a revenue increase, Johnson added.

Finance Director T.M. Thomas reported the general fund had generated $1,113,414 in year-to-date revenue as of the end of September. Expenditures stood at $1,702,923, leaving a negative balance of $589,509, he said.

“As we continue to close our books and make our necessary year-end adjusting entries and allocate revenue to the current fiscal year, this will increase our revenues in this area,” Thomas said. “Overall, we continue to stay within our budget."

In other business, County Administrator Joey Preston reported only a couple of construction projects, which were included under the capital projects sales tax approved by voters in 2012, are left to be completed.

“We’re ready to get into the next phase of this thing and start planning for our next one. Next year, you all can approve your committee and start work on that,” Preston said.

The administrator also reported that the county’s litter control division had been very busy over the past few months in monitoring illegal dump sites and patrolling the roadways. Eleven warnings have been issues so far this year, with 23 tickets issued and $9,750 in fines written, Preston said. Two large tire dump sites have been clean up and another is being investigated, he said. Volunteers have also assisted in litter cleanup throughout the county, the administrator reported.

In addition, Preston reported it is going to cost from $280,000 to as much as $500,000 to paint and do the required maintenance on the county-owned water tank located near the airport.

He said he hopes to secure a grant, with the help of the City of Denmark, to renovate the tank, particularly since Denmark buys the water in the tank from the Bamberg Board of Public Works.

“It needs to be paid for by the people that use it. How can they afford to do that? ... It’s grant money ... but we own the tower. So, we may have to put some into it,” Preston said.

Also during the meeting:

  • It was reported that the administrator’s contract had been finalized, with the council approving Preston’s one-year contract totaling $119,311. Anderson-based Preston Consulting LLC, which is owned and operated by Preston, will provide administrative services for another year under the contract.
  • Council approved second reading of an ordinance to amend the county’s master road list to include Big Boy Lane and McMichaels Road.
  • Council passed a resolution to enlarge a joint industrial park shared by Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell and Hampton counties to include three solar farms. The projects, which are expected to bring in $333,000 in capital investment, will locate in Hampton County.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter @DionneTandD.

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