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CALHOUN COUNTY COUNCIL: Recreation/sports complex to be 'nice amenity'

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Calhoun County is planning to build a recreational/sports complex in St. Matthews.

The recreational complex will be located on 57 acres at Chestnut Street and Saints Avenue near the Family Health Center.

The complex will include a football field, two soccer fields, two pickle ball courts, two tennis courts, fieldhouse, a playground, fitness area and walking track. It will also include a building for concessions, restrooms and changing space.

"We are trying to make a nice amenity for the county," Calhoun County Councilman Ken Westbury said following council's Monday meeting. Westbury gave an update on the county's pursuit and plans to build the recreational park.

"We are also hoping to get tournament play as it is relatively close to I-26."

Westbury said the goal is for the complex to be a place where parents can drop off children for athletic practices while also being able to safely bring other children.

The park would take up about 60% of the acreage, with other plans for the remainder of the property unannounced.

The target date for construction is the spring of 2022, with completion in the fall of 2022.

The park's architect is North Charleston-based Meadors Inc. The county has used Meadors in prior projects, including the renovation of the county's courthouse.

"We are pleased with them," Westbury said.

The sports complex will be paid for via a $2 million recreational bond. The bond will have about a .99% interest rate. The entire project is expected to cost between $1.5-2 million.

The county is looking to close on the bond Nov. 12.

In addition, the county will be working with other entities to receive grant funds, Westbury said.

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Westbury informed council Monday that he met with the Calhoun County public schools board members about a memorandum of understanding that would establish the fee schedule the district would pay the county for use of the complex.

The recreational complex is a partnership between Calhoun County, the Calhoun County School District and the Town of St. Matthews.

The facility would be utilized during the day by the school and after hours, weekends and nights by the county, County Administrator John McLauchlin said.

In other matters, a 2-2 split council decided not to transfer federal COVID relief funds to the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office. The vote failed and was tabled for another time. 

Voting to transfer funds were Councilmen John Nelson and Cecil Thornton. Voting against were James Haigler and Westbury. Council Chairman David Summers was not in attendance at the meeting.

There was no public comment on why the vote was divided, but after the meeting Westbury said he voted against the funding because he believes council needs to look at all county departments before distributing COVID money.

"We govern the whole county," Westbury said. "I certainly expect the sheriff to look after his department when he brings it to us. But I feel like we need to look after the county as a whole and further consider how others might warrant some kind of bonus."

Councilman John Nelson, who voted for the transfer of funds, made the motion to transfer monies.

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Nelson, who has served as an emergency responder for the last 14 years with LifeNet South Carolina, said he understands the challenges first responders have had to contend with during COVID.

"We did not have a choice," Nelson said, noting first responders had to respond in-person to scenes and care for individuals with or without COVID. "When the sheriff is called to a house, they have to serve and arrest warrant or do an arrest. They don't get an option."

Nelson said because of the frontline nature of the sheriff's office, those employees are different than individuals who could work from home during the pandemic and still receive the same pay.

"I think the sheriff made his case," Nelson said, adding that council had been delaying a vote on the matter for a few weeks. "I think we owed the sheriff a vote."

County Sheriff Thomas Summers requested on Sept. 14 that the county conduct a budget transfer of about $110,400 to compensate deputies who worked during the pandemic.

Council at that time said it would take the issue under advisement.

Meanwhile, council unanimously approved a zoning change of property from residential neighborhood to community commercial. The zoning change was previously approved by the Calhoun County Planning Commission. Full access for 6 months for just $1

The property is located on Old State Road in the Sandy Run area. The property is about four acres and is located near a gas station and convenience store. Locally, the stores are known as Pete's Store from the property's original owners.

"It makes more sense to be community commercial," McLauchlin said.

Council also gave unanimous and final approval to authorize the Calhoun County Historical Commission to sell properties included in the Dick Banks Estate in St. Matthews. A public hearing was held before the final reading. No comment was made during the public hearing.

The property was donated to the county. The property consists of 32 parcels that vary in size from one to two acres, and the property was appraised at $5,000 to $7,000 per acre.

In other business:

  • Council approved the millage and local-option sales tax credit for 2021-22. There is no millage increase for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

County voters in November 2018 approved the local-option sales tax increase by 1%, raising the county's total tax to 8%.

The 1% tax is expected to generate about $6.6 million over the eight-year duration of the tax.

  • Council agreed to enter into a one-year contract with Anderson-based Paragon Advisory Services LLC for financial services. The term will be $107,000 for the year without benefits.

Paragon will provide financial and accounting services for the county until the county can hire a full-time chief financial officer. The company has experience working with governmental accounting.

  • Council held a public hearing to amend the county's ordinance related to excessive noise and nuisances. There were no comments nor discussion during the public hearing. Second reading was placed on hold until the county is able to get more information.

The county is looking to add language that would allow it to enforce the ordinance beyond the imposition of taxes if deemed necessary.

  • Council held a public hearing to amend the county's ordinance related to mobile homes. There were no comments made during the public hearing. Second reading was placed on hold until the county could get more information. The amended ordinance would remove obsolete language and define how many mobile homes can locate on a parcel.
  • Council appointed Carson Krasselt to the Fire Commission. Krasselt is from the Jumper Fire Department.
  • Fie new county employees were introduced. The employees are in custodial, maintenance and clerk.
  • The public was reminded that Friday, Oct. 15, is a countywide litter pickup day. For more information, contact the Calhoun County Administration office at803-874-2435.
  • Council went into executive session to discuss a security issue; a personnel matter in administration, and economic development projects under the code names Project Honey and Project Big Paw.

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