Bamberg County Council Chairman Trent Kinard questioned the S.C. Regional Development Alliance’s value to Bamberg County during a Monday night meeting.
The alliance was created 23 years ago to market area counties to industry, but has been expanded to include Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper counties.
"That has put us in the back burner," Kinard told alliance Senior Project Manager Darrell Booker. "Here we are and the citizens of Bamberg County are struggling while Beaufort is getting an industry every day, Jasper is getting one a week and Colleton is getting one daily as well. Bamberg is getting nothing.
"I have never yet heard an answer from y'all of the benefit to Bamberg County to get Colleton on board, to get Jasper County to join or Beaufort County to join," Kinard said.
Economic development was discussed at Monday’s county council meeting, but the issue was largely overshadowed by taxpayer concerns.
Booker said the state Department of Commerce asked the alliance to take Beaufort County, but says regional development does indirectly help Bamberg County.
"If we can get them to Jasper County, we are going to try to get them to Bamberg County," Booker said. He noted Bamberg County does have some challenges in that it does not have the infrastructure that Beaufort County has.
Kinard expressed a desire to see if Jasper County would be willing to work with Bamberg County to perhaps receive 5 percent or 10 percent of the revenue from industries that locate in those counties.
Booker said it is council's job to facilitate that revenue-sharing agreement.
Kinard questioned Booker, “What are we paying you for?"
Booker said he would be happy if both he and alliance President and CEO Danny Black met with council in the near future.
Booker said there are nine projects currently looking at Bamberg County, including two industries looking at Denmark that could bring a significant number of jobs.
"They are looking not only at Bamberg County but other areas of the state as well as Georgia," he said.
In other matters:
• Denmark resident Deanna Berry pleaded with council to do something about the Denmark water situation.
"Denmark is bleeding," she said. "We need the help of our county ... because we are a part of Bamberg County, too."
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and town officials have said the water is safe to drink, cook with and to bathe in.
Berry expressed her disappointment with District 5 Councilman Isaiah Odom and District 6 Councilman Evert Comer Jr. for “not being a voice for or a face to the people during our time of crisis.”
Comer defended his actions.
"I have not come out on the side of Ms. Berry," Comer said. "She sued Denmark. She wants some money from Denmark."
Berry said, “That is so not true.”
Comer said Berry's social media posts have been “part of the problem and not the solution.”
"Even though we have gotten all these certifications, she is still on the same track and criticizing Denmark," Comer said. "Industries are looking at Denmark and, if you have negative issues out there like water, it can cause that to tip the scale of industry."
During the meeting, Berry vocally called for people to not re-elect Comer.
• County Council tabled first reading of an ordinance to establish a six-phase installment payment plan for property taxes. Taxes will still be due by Jan. 15.
The matter was tabled until the next meeting to discuss the time and cost impacts of implementing such a plan in Bamberg County.
• Council reported the closure of S.C. 70 (Barnwell Highway) over the Little Salkehatchie River until Aug. 31 for a bridge improvement project.
• Council gave first reading to a resolution amending the master agreement for the Quad-County Industrial Park I, Park II and Park III to include Project Can Can (EOC Naturals) and AKPA Kimya Organic Peroxides into the park. The companies are locating in Allendale County.
Bamberg County will receive 10 percent of tax revenues paid from the industries as soon as the companies are operational.
The Quad-County Industrial Park is not a physical park but a way for counties to incentivize economic development by allowing counties to share in the tax revenues generated by a company and any spin-off development.
• Council approved a resolution to improve the transparency and bring clarity to the distribution of dollars received by the county, city and school district on tax notices.
• Council honored former Council Chairman Clint Carter for his service as chairman in 2018.
• Council honored Clerk to Council Rose Sheppard as the Bamberg County Employee of the Quarter.
• Interim Denmark Technical College President Dr. Christopher Hall asked council members to think of reasons why Bamberg County should be home to a flight school as part of a state feasibility study to determine a location for the school.
The S.C. Technical College System has proposed having a flight school stationed both at Denmark Technical College and the Bamberg County Airport.
In order for the school to become a reality, modifications would need to be made to the current airport to bring it in compliance with FAA standards, as well as to make it suitable to house the flight school. The school would be funded by the state and federal governments.
• Bamberg County Office on Aging Executive Director Kay Clary discussed the transportation program, noting the office has about 27 vehicles and makes about 400 trips daily.
The program transports individuals to work, grocery shopping and for health care appointments.
Funding comes through the lieutenant governor's office.
• Keep Bamberg County Beautiful Director Mary Tilton provided an overview of the group's efforts in 2018. She said the group had about 156 volunteers putting in 312 hours. Efforts included boat landing cleanups, Earth Day plantings and recycling efforts.