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BAMBERG – The vice president of marketing at Southern Carolina Alliance updated Bamberg County Council on how it has begun a new internal marketing campaign to help promote the county.

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"We talked at the last monthly meeting about the internal marketing and branding campaign that we were starting for Bamberg County in partnership with the state Department of Commerce," Kay Maxwell said July 1. "We have begun that process. In fact, we had our first focus group meeting, which is called a map meeting, by Alison South Consultants, and that was to get some input from citizens across the county,” Kay Maxwell said.

“They had a very good group that met in the first meeting. I think they covered all sectors within the county. .... We got some good ideas. I've been in contact with that group almost daily. They're working now on that internal marketing campaign, and they've begun crafting some information for us,” she said.

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As part of that campaign, Maxwell said a promotional piece is being a done on the growth at Freudenberg, formerly Tobul Industries. Stories are also being done on Blackwater Barrels LLC, talking with Black Water President Greg Pierce about his unique business as a Bourbon barrel maker in the county. 

“And then they're doing a story on the new emergency room center. So be looking for those videos ... on social media. And they're also creating a special news channel for us to help share Bamberg County news. So we're looking forward to that. Even with all the internal marketing that's going on, we're continuing to work with projects,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said the county’s news will be distributed through a variety of ideas. 

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“So we're looking at ways, whether it's through social media, creating our own news channel, creating other types of printed media as well that we could get news out. And we're looking at trying to help develop a vision among our citizens to better market ourselves," she said. 

Maxwell also shared information on federally designated Opportunity Zones. The SCA is a regional development group serving seven counties, including Bamberg. Those counties contain areas designated as federal Opportunity Zones, which are able to give tax incentives to encourage long-term, private investment in low-income communities.

“We're now accessing the Opportunity Zones in all of our seven counties and looking at the best areas of Bamberg County and how they would best be utilized, and then trying to help work with this group to identify Opportunity Fund investors that would utilize this tax credit and invest in our community, whether it be in manufacturing operations, housing or other types of community development funding,” Maxwell said.

She also announced the departure of former SouthernCarolina Alliance Senior Project Manager Darrell P. Booker, who has taken a new position closer to his home in Columbia. She said the county would be covered by her and other SCA staff members, including SCA Development Director John Fleming, until someone else is hired.

In the area of business development, council gave second reading approval to an ordinance authorizing a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement between the county and Project Pegasus, along with special source revenue credits. The project could bring 132 jobs and $2.1 million in capital investment to the county. 

In other matters, Denmark Mayor Dr. Gerald Wright requested on behalf of the city, ownership of the 40-year-old water tank between Bamberg and Denmark in order to receive grants to improve its water system.

The county currently owns the tower.

The system received an unsatisfactory rating from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The water quality was rated satisfactory.

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“That tank gives us assurance that we have adequate pressure for a major portion of our distribution system. The other tanks are on the opposite of the water distribution area. There are not many customers in that area. We would benefit from that tank. And we have good reason to believe we can secure funding to upgrade that tank. It does need repair and upgrade.

"It will be easier for the City of Denmark to secure funding with ownership than it would be if we are using it, and I suspect easier to get funding than the county getting it because the county doesn't operate the system. So that is my primary purpose for being here,” Wright said.

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He added, “We have currently a project being implemented. I won't give any specific numbers, but we've had a project going for a number of years. And so it's continuous progress in upgrading, expanding and changing the water system. I'm not sure of what promises have been made, but we were unaware that there were any specific requests from the city that have not been addressed. But we do ask that you consider the tank."

Council Vice Chairperson Sharon Hammond asked Wright how long it would take the city to make the tower a part of its infrastructure.

“We're in the process of developing a grant proposal. And it would change from being a tank that we're using that belongs to the county to a tank that the city owns, thereby making it possible to get grants. ... It would serve the purpose it's serving now. There would be no expanded use necessarily. It would simply make it possible to get it repaired with hopefully grant money rather than direct cost to the city or the county,” Wright said.

Of Wright’s request, Council Chairman Trent Kinard said, “We'll take that under advisement and (Bamberg County Administrator) Mr. (Joey) Preston will get back with you.”

Prior to Wright’s request, council heard from Denmark resident Deanna Berry, a member of Denmark Citizens for Safe Water, who requested a “copy of either the proposal or the contract because the last time you said you offered the tower to the City of Denmark, but they refused to accept the offer.”

“I’d like to know so that we can take back to the citizens what was in that provision to cause the City of Denmark to no longer want that tower, or to reject whatever the proposal was. It’s important that we get that information so we can progress and move forward with the water crisis that we have in Denmark,” she said, noting that the group wants to work alongside the city to fix the water infrastructure.

Wright said, “The distribution system in in good shape. ... There’s not a water crisis in Denmark. We just recently released the annual report on the water quality and copies are available to as many of you as you wish.”

In other reports, Preston said the county was getting new voting equipment to be delivered toward the end of July.

“It creates a little bite of a problem for us because we still have the old equipment, and we have a limited storage area. ... And we’ve got Homeland Security requirements now on the protection and security of all this equipment. So it’s gonna probably require some expense from the county to get a secure site,” Preston said.

Also during the meeting, county residents commented on their various concerns, including Miriam Beard, who suggested that the council come up with a “citizen liaison group.”

“You have citizens from each one of your districts that could speak to you, especially about the needs of the community. ... I see Bamberg County as a place that needs to updates its systems, its policies to meet the growing needs of a modern society,” said Beard, who also asked what the $60,000 increase in this year’s budget would go to.

Preston said, “As we talked about in the last meeting, it goes to help pay for the increases in the state insurance and retirement. And we cut the budget by over two-hundred-something thousand dollars. We still have to pay for that.”

Brad Hudson asked if he would be able to get a copy of the administrator’s contract.

Preston said, “As soon as it’s signed, yes.”

Hudson said, “As soon as it’s signed? So it hasn’t been signed, it’s just been voted on?”

Kinard said, “That is correct.”

The contract was approved 5-2 by council following an executive session during a special called meeting on June 27.

At the time, Councilman Joe Guess Jr. said, “I move we vote to approve the employment contract for a county administrator, specifically a contract to employ Joey Preston and to confer upon our chairman the authority of the majority of council to enter the same.”

Councilmen Kinard, Guess, Evert Comer Jr., Larry Haynes and the Rev. Isaiah Odom voted to approve the contract. Council Vice-Chairperson Sharon Hammond and Councilman Clint Carter voted against it.

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

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