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Bamberg County illustration LIBRARY

BAMBERG -- Bamberg County Council gave final third- reading approval to an ordinance allowing a vote on the capital projects sales tax in November during a meeting on July 2.

Voters will be asked if they want to continue the 1 percent sales tax to pay for construction projects.

The ordinance includes a list of 10 projects that could be funded by the tax.

Proposed projects include:

  • County law enforcement and health and human service complex -- $3.8 million
  • Renovation of old Denmark City Hall and relocation of police department in Denmark -- $400,000
  • Upgrade of the Town of Olar's water system -- $71,000
  • Renovation of the Little Swamp Community Center -- $15,000
  • Welcome center and tourism building in Bamberg -- $150,000
  • Completion of Ehrhardt Park -- $105,000
  • Renovation of Govan Town Hall -- $50,000
  • Construction of a walking berm in Bamberg to include lighting, ditch repair and walkway upgrades -- $125,000
  • Installation of a bicycle and walking trail and fountain lighting in Raider Park in Bamberg -- $125,000
  • Renovation of Olar Town Hall -- $3,000

County voters approved the first round of the 1 percent sales tax in November 2012 to fund $4.4 million in construction projects, including courthouse renovations. Attorney Sidney Evering said during the meeting that the debt from the first capital projects sales tax would be paid off no later than 2021, “but it’s projected to be paid off earlier than that.”

For the second round of penny sales tax projects, the county would be allowed to issue bonds to borrow money and begin construction before all the money comes in. The new ordinance states that a bond issuance for the second round of the capital project sales tax would not exceed $5.6 million.

In other business, Treasurer Alice Johnson reported the county's total income in May was $606,834, with expenditures coming in at $741,028, for a negative balance of $134,194.

“We have a negative bank balance at the end of April and with that negative balance, we ended up with a negative balance of $189,022.37 for the month of May,” Johnson said.

County Finance Director T.M. Thomas reported the general fund had generated $6,239,336 in year-to-date revenue as of the end of May. Expenditures stood at almost $6,218,001, leaving a positive balance of $21,336. He said all departments continued to operate within their budgets.

Administrator Joey Preston reported on the county’s preliminary approval of a direct loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Facilities Program for the addition of a fire service substation in the Rivers Bridge community. The loan would not exceed $150,000.

“I’m hoping that we can have some sort of groundbreaking by the end of the year at that site … . If not, it’ll certainly be the first of the year,” Preston said, noting the county is also poised to receive nearly $74,000 to be used in different county programs this year, including a solid waste grant for purchases and facility upgrades and a waste tire grant.

“We’ve (also) been awarded $453,949 from the Department of Commerce to complete the upgrades for our (spec) building at the CrossRhodes (Industrial) Park,” he said.

Also during the meeting, council heard from Kristin Beckham, external affairs manager for Dominion Energy South Carolina.

Beckham said the Virginia-based energy company has not finalized its proposed purchase of SCANA Corp. and its subsidiary, South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, but still believes its fix to include refunds and rate cuts following SCE&G’s failed nuclear construction project is the best, most permanent solution to moving the state forward.

SCE&G has filed a federal lawsuit against the S.C. Public Service Commission, which recently approved following the General Assembly’s passage of a law to temporarily cut the bills of the Cayce-based utility’s customers by 15 percent.

Beckham said, “That’s a 15 percent short-term rate reduction,” noting that Dominion’s proposal includes customers seeing an immediate 7-percent electric rate reduction and no rate increases for at least three years. She said average residential electric customers would receive a $1,000 cash payment and $1.7 billion in existing debt from the failed nuclear construction project would be absorbed by the company.

“We have some industrial customers that are going to get tens of millions back in cash payments. State agencies are going to get $36 million back. Municipalities are going to get $22 million back in total, and churches will get about $2.6 million,” Beckham said.

Depending on how the state PSC rules in a hearing on SCE&G’s permanent nuclear rates in December, SCE&G customers could possibly have to pay billions of dollars more to pay off the failed nuclear project’s remaining debt.

“We can’t fix what’s happened in the past, but we’re trying to move South Carolina forward … . A decision has to be made by the South Carolina Public Service Commission by at least Dec. 21,” Beckham said.

In other business, council:

  • Received as information a presentation from Wes McAden, membership manager of the AirMedCare Network, an air ambulance company.

“Our standard rates start at $85 a year for a household,” McAden said, with discounted memberships also available and members having no out-of-pocket expense if flown by an AMCN provider.

Anyone in the county seeking more information on the member-based program can reach McAden by at 843-708-6192 or Wes.McAden@AirMedCareNetwork.com.

  • Gave second-reading approval to an ordinance restructuring the Keep Bamberg County Beautiful Advisory Board. The ordinance includes the creation of an executive committee composed of no less than seven members and no more than 12.
  • Heard a report from Bamberg County Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Bell on upcoming events, including a four-mile river trip at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, beginning at Brabham Landing on Cannon Bridge Road. The “Dog Paddle” will benefit the Mary Ann Morris Animal Shelter, and donations of any type of dog supplies are welcome. To learn more, email info@bambergcountychamber.org or call 803-245-4427 or 803-300-1972.

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

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Staff Writer

Dionne Gleaton has been a staff writer with The T&D for 20 years. She has been an education reporter, regional reporter and currently writes features with an emphasis on health.

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