BAMBERG – Bamberg County is being considered for nine potential economic development projects, a SouthernCarolina Alliance official says, but some council members and residents want to know what can be done to lure more industry to the area.
“Right now, we currently are at nine active projects looking at Bamberg County … . We have, to date, 10 site visits,” which is up from eight in October, SouthernCarolina Alliance Senior Project Manager Darrell P. Booker said at Bamberg County Council's Dec. 5 meeting.
Booker said the two additional site visits were made “to the Wolf Site in Denmark, a food processing-related company. So we’re pretty excited about that opportunity that they may bring to the region.”
Promising projects for the county include Project Golden, a $5 million investment anticipated to bring in 104 jobs, but Booker noted, “We don’t see any new activity coming from that project before the year’s out."
“Project development has stayed the same since October, and I don’t see us doing any more development to the park here before the year is out."
Booker reported at council's October meeting that 20,000 square feet of six-inch concrete flooring had already been installed at the county’s CrossRhodes spec building to provide warehousing space to accommodate Freudenberg's new product line.
The SCA has updated the wetland delineation at the CrossRhodes Industrial Park. The agency has also engaged an engineering design consultant to permit future site clearing.
Councilwoman Sharon Hammond said Council Vice Chairman Trent Kinard had been meeting with Booker to discuss ways in which the county can begin to attract more industry. Hammond suggested starting those meetings back up in January.
“I’d like for us to start getting back together and going over some things, trying to find a way to do what is necessary in order for us to get some industry here,” she said.
Kinard said, “I concur with Councilwoman Hammond. We met a few times … and I would like to continue that and do a little more talking. Like we said in those meetings, unless we know what’s going on or what needs to be improved, it’s kind of hard to do it on our end.”
Booker said the SCA will make a bigger push to do more marketing trips to recruit additional industry in the coming year, “and being the first one to talk to these companies.”
During public comments, Ehrhardt resident Danny Singleton expressed concern about the lack of new industry coming into the area.
“What is the problem with Bamberg County landing some of these projects? … We’re in the 21st century. We’re looking worse than we were in the 20th century," he said. "What resources do we have to offer these guys when they present for bringing industry in this county?”
He said the county must be able to offer amenities that companies are seeking.
“When these big boys come to town, when they got spare time, they want to go to a nice golf course. Their wives want to go to a good shopping center. We don’t even have a good grocery store here in Bamberg, South Carolina, and we fight over everything that becomes available. We fight over everything,” Singleton said, noting that disunity was no way to lure industry.
The high tax base is also something that needs to be worked on, he said.
“One of my automobiles - I pay over $800, and $500 of that goes to the school system. We are a small county. Why can’t the council get with our legislature and put Denmark and Bamberg schools together? I know it’s gonna be a lot of fuss, but somebody’s gonna have to get thick skinned and bite the bullet," Singleton said. "Time's got a way of healing things. They’ll get over it."
Singleton added, “If you wanna save some money, we’re gonna have to kill some of the fat because we are a small county and we’re losing” in different ways, including a declining population.
“We got to start with resources. We got to see what the people want first. You can’t just ask them to come in and take a look. See what they want and if you ain’t got it, work on getting it,” Singleton said.
Hammond said, “That is why I asked for Booker to come back and let’s start getting together so we can start laying down some plans or some ground rules” for what they can to do attract industry.
Bamberg County resident Raymond DeRienzo Jr. had a list of questions he wanted answered, including how the list of projects that were considered for funding under the county’s penny sales tax were chosen. His questions were later presented to County Administrator Joey Preston, who would be addressing them.
“Why are we spending money on a tourism building when we’re trying to so hard to bring in industry into this county and we need to educate our workforce? Wouldn’t that money that would be put aside for a tourism building be better spent to educate our workforce and draw in industry?” DeRienzo asked.
He added, “I’ve never seen taxes quite as high as they are now … . I’m fully aware that change is needed in this county. It does take funds to operate to make change happen. I understand that … . But along those lines, I think I can speak for all the property owners and landowners here in the county that it feels as though that we as property owners are being punished … ."
“Where does the taxation end and how far do we go before too much is too much?" he asked. "Where’s the line in the sand?”
Kinard responded, “Look at your school taxes on your property taxes … . I’m not blaming the schools … but a lot of your problem is at the school. We are capped on our millage … . I just feel like we’re always the punching bag … but it’s not always the county.”
In other business, Preston reported that the county would be receiving an $11,340 grant from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide all county fire departments with first responder trauma kits.
He also reported that the county’s three new fire trucks, which were applied for through a federal grant/loan package from the USDA, will be delivered in March.
In addition, the administrator notified council of the worsening problem of stolen street signs, particularly in the rural areas of the county.
“We’ve been kind of lenient, but I’m gonna start prosecuting these (cases) if I can … . We’ve got an ordinance, there’s a law on the books … . We just have to get a solicitor or somebody willing to prosecute it … . We’re gonna do our best to do that,” Preston said.
Also during the meeting:
- Council presented Sgt. Lessie Meeks with the county Employee of the Quarter Award. Meeks has served 26 years at the Bamberg County Detention Center and will be retiring next year.
- Bamberg County Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Bell announced that Carol Kilgus Durgan is the Chamber's new assistant director.
- Councilman Joe Guess Jr., a member of the Lower Savannah Council of Government’s Housing Consortium, reported that applications were being taken for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation assistance. Applications are being taken through Dec. 15. Individuals can visit http://www.bambergcountysc.gov/applications-for-lscog-owner-occupied-housing-rehabiliation-assistance to apply, or go through the LSCOG website at https://www.lscog.org/housing/.