Tri-County Electric Cooperative will receive tax breaks from Calhoun County to expand broadband internet infrastructure to all cooperative customers.
"This will bring high-speed, true gigabyte service to every Tri-County member," Tri-County CEO Chad Lowder said. Non-members will also have access if they are within the cooperative's service area.
The electric cooperative is investing a total of $50 million in its broadband project throughout its coverage area. About $10 million to $12 million of that will be spent in Calhoun County.
Calhoun County Council on Monday gave first reading by title only to an ordinance allowing a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement with the cooperative for the project. It also passed a resolution related to the incentive.
Industries that invest at least $2.5 million in South Carolina may negotiate to pay a fee in lieu of property taxes. This can result in a savings of about 40% on property taxes otherwise due for a project.
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Calhoun County Administrator John McLauchlin said the terms of the fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement are still being finalized. It most likely will extend for about 10 years.
The cooperative started the project in December 2020 and expects to be finished by June 2022.
The fiber network is currently under construction in the Sandy Run area of the county.
The co-op has about 2,000 customers connected to high-speed internet throughout Calhoun County and in lower Richland County.
The services will be built into the Santee and Elloree areas as well.
The cooperative has a total of 18,000 meters and is hoping about 3,000 customers will have service by the end of the year.
“It is awesome,” Lowder said. “We are having people call us and saying ‘We never thought we would be able to get service like this.’”
There is a $100, one-time connection fee. A residential 100 megabyte service starts at $49.99 a month and 1-gibabyte service starts at $79.95 a month.
Business 100 MB service starts at $79.95 a month; 500 MB for business at $249.95 a month; and 1 GB service starts at $449.95 a month.
Lowder said the project is ahead of schedule and will be done in about two years rather than the initially projected three years.
The co-op’s subsidiary, TriCo Link, has been responsible for the project.
Information on how to sign up can be obtained by going to www.tricolinksc.com or calling 877-874-1215.
In other matters:
• Richard Hall was introduced as the county's new deputy administrator and building official. Hall began his new position Monday.
In this role, Hall will oversee all aspects of planning, zoning and building throughout the county.
Hall is an International Code Council-certified master code professional, American Planning Association-certified planner and certified floodplain manager with over 16 years of experience in government administration.
Hall served as Orangeburg County’s planning director for about four years before being named the Orangeburg County Community Development Division director in 2017.
Prior to working for Orangeburg County, Hall worked for the City of Orangeburg from 2005 to 2013. Hall served as a building inspector until 2010, when he became a building official/zoning administrator.
Hall holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is currently pursuing an MBA at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
“He is a huge asset to Calhoun County,” McLauchlin said. “Certainly he will help us out tremendously.”
Council members welcomed Hall to the county.
• Council voted to place the Lone Star Solar farm into a joint county industrial and business park with Lexington County.
The joint county industrial park is not a physical park but an incentive mechanism used to attract economic development.
Charleston-based Southern Current LLC announced in May 2018 its plans to build a 66-megawatt solar farm that will sell energy to Dominion Energy. The solar project will be situated on about 490 acres near State Road 287 and Lone Star Road near Cameron.
• It was reported 163 bags and 4,100 pounds of trash were picked up during a countywide litter cleanup on Oct. 15. The cleanup was conducted by county staff and residents.
• Council appointed Caroline Sandlin to the Calhoun County Rural Fire Commission from the Fort Motte fire station. Ashton Elmore resigned from the commission due to employment conflicts.
• McLauchlin reminded council about the need to appoint someone to the Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees to fill the seat left vacant by the departure of Dawn Robinson.
Calhoun County has three representatives who sit on the 17-member RMC board.
• Council unanimously approved the amendment of a resolution due to a clerical error.