BAMBERG –The Southern Carolina Alliance says it’s working to promote Bamberg County.
SCA Vice President Kay Maxwell said the group is working with the S.C. Department of Commerce on a marketing campaign. The effort includes Aiken-based Alison South Marketing Group as well as local leaders from throughout the county.
"This is to help us unify everyone and channel our need for change and progress into a positive effort that will actually benefit Bamberg County and help us to market Bamberg County to others to not only live here, but to work here and to locate and invest here,” Maxwell said.
Internal and external marketing plans have been developed, she said. They’ll be shared with the steering committee and county council.
“We would like to basically roll that out at the next county council meeting and share that with the public and get things underway," Maxwell said. The next meeting is Sept. 9.
Maxwell discussed the marketing effort and economic development at Bamberg County Council’s Monday meeting.
She also announced that Project Pegasus is moving forward. It could bring 132 jobs and $2.1 million in capital investment to the county.
"We look to have something to announce on them very soon, as soon as that deal closes. We're real excited about that," Maxwell said.
Council Chairman Trent Kinard said, "I just want to thank y'all for all y'all are doing. It's exciting, it really is."
In his report, County Administrator Joey Preston said that work is being done to make the county and city more attractive for potential industries.
"We're not sitting around not doing anything. It's just we can't talk about a lot of this stuff until we get to a point where we can talk about it. I know everyone wants to see the community grow and we've got to make the county seat into a place that's attractive for these industries that come through here and look," Preston said.
The county plans to work with the City of Bamberg on the development of a downtown revitalization plan.
"I think we're pretty good about getting available grant money that's out there. If we know about it, we're going to try to get it,” he said.
The county is working with the Lower Savannah Council of Governments Transportation Advisory Committee to try to get money to improve downtown Bamberg.
"At the same time, we're doing a recreation master plan, too, at the Ness (Sports) Complex ... to where we can encourage outside tournaments to come to Bamberg. You can't build a hotel until you have a reason for people to come here," Preston said.
He said the county is also poised to work with Denmark Technical College, which has asked the county to "help them maybe develop some sort of a regional recreation master plan."
"We could tie the two together. We could marry the Bamberg and Denmark Technical recreational facilities together to get even bigger programs here," Preston said.
He encouraged council to attend a community reception which will feature Sixth District Congressman James Clyburn. The event will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4 at Voorhees College in Denmark.
"Within him sitting on some powerful committees right now ... we need to thank him for what they're doing for us through the USDA, including a new fire substation and fire trucks,” Preston said.
Also in his report, Preston stated that the granite for the county's Veteran's Memorial should be delivered later this week. Brickwork and flag pole installation will follow.
"Our goal is to have a ribbon cutting sometime this fall," he said.
The county secured a $50,000 state grant (which came with a $10,000 match) for the project.
The administrator said construction on Dally Road in Denmark should begin later this summer. Pelion-based R&T Grading Inc., one of four contractors who put in bids for the project, came in with the lowest bid of $629,000.
"Right now those bids are being evaluated by the engineers to make sure they comply with all of the state law. ... I know we're all looking forward to seeing that done," Preston said.
He also reported that the county is working with the City of Bamberg to clean up the remains of four downtown buildings which were damaged in a March fire. The process has not been easy, however, since federal tax liens have been placed on the buildings.
"We've invested in some major equipment. So we can certainly go out there and help them do that. But you’ve got to get to the point to where you can because it's still private property. ... We have to go to the federal government and ask for those tax liens to be lifted, and that's not an easy task. ... It's going to be a site that you're going to be proud of once we get it cleaned up. And it'll be a site that'll be available for economic development," Preston said.
The administrator said he's also been working with the SCA and the City of Bamberg to try to secure a grocery store for the area.
He declined to go into specifics, but said "all of that right now is underway."
"I don't want to mislead anyone and say we're going to get a grocery store, but we're a heck of a lot further along this week than we were two weeks ago," Preston said.
Also during the meeting:
• The council OK'd, with Kinard abstaining, a resolution for the approval of the terms letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its new Ehrhardt fire substation. The county is procuring the substation through a federal grant/loan package from the USDA's Rural Development Facilities Program.
Judy Capehart, an area specialist for the USDA Rural Development office in Orangeburg, said, "The funds have come in for the construction of the new fire substation in Ehrhardt, South Carolina. You all have made application in the past and I understand have been approved in the past. But now that the funds are available, we still need to know that you want the base funds."
• During public comments, county resident Dean Fralix asked about the administrator’s contract and when the public will be able to see a copy of it.
Attorney Adam Ness of the Bamberg-based Ness & Jett LLC law firm said, “as soon as it’s signed it becomes public.” County Attorney Richard Ness of the same law firm was not present at Monday's meeting.
County Council voted 5-2 to approve an employment contract for Preston during a special called meeting on June 27. Council Vice Chairperson Sharon Hammond and Councilman Clint Carter were opposed.
The contract has since remained unsigned.
In a text message on Tuesday, Kinard said, "All I can tell you at this time is that the county attorney is working on it and will present it to Mr. Preston's attorney for clarification."
Preston in a text message on Wednesday said his contract was not the subject of discussion during an executive session that the council entered into Monday night. It lasted less than 30 minutes.
"The contract was not what was discussed in executive session. I am still on waiting on Richard to give me the final document. What was discussed was another contractual issue. No action was taken," he said.
When contacted Wednesday, attorney Adam Ness said he had "no comment on the matter."
• Council heard a report from interim County Chamber of Commerce Director Jerry Bell stating that Carol Durgan had resigned from her position because of health reasons and that he would be filling in until a permanent director is chosen.
Upcoming events include a free Small Business and Farmers Grant and Funding Opportunities workshop set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, at S.C. State University's School of Business (Belcher Hall). Individuals can contact Jim Johnson at 803-536-8445 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
• Council approved a resolution for the installation of a one-inch domestic water line across county property for the Rockland Industries Inc. facility located at 51 Industrial Road off of Highway 78 near Denmark.