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Smoak revisits joint city, county recreation proposal

Posted: November 29, 2012 6:00 p.m.
Updated: November 30, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Reoffering a request proposed in January, Kershaw County Councilman Stephen Smoak extended a new invitation at Tuesday’s Kershaw County Council meeting for county and city of Camden officials to jointly work towards replacing Rhame Arena.

Smoak said he was re-extending the offer due to the defeat of the city’s sports complex referendum as well as sentiments expressed by newly elected Camden Mayor Tony Scully.

Camden voters struck down the city’s Nov. 6 general election referendum that would have seen the construction of a $5 million to $6 million sports complex. City council had proposed engaging a third party -- likely the YMCA of Columbia -- to administer the facility.

Scully, an opponent of the city’s failed proposal, has expressed a desire to “pay special attention” to recreational needs in the community, particularly in the light of the 249 vote difference in the referendum’s final tally.

Smoak said he felt the joint venture would be a “good first step” towards fostering more collaboration between the city and county when it comes to recreation.

During a council meeting in January, Smoak reached out to city officials to gauge support for the same venture. At the time, he said the project should avoid any third party collaboration. He reiterated that stance Tuesday.

“I think we have an excellent opportunity now to put our best foot forward and enter into some very serious discussions with the city,” Smoak said. “This could serve the needs of our citizens both in the city of Camden and Kershaw County, while at the same time hopefully building or creating a facility that will attract others into the county.”

He requested council consider the proposal “in the coming weeks and months” in order to make progress on the idea when the New Year starts and the next budget cycle begins.

City officials, with the intent of replacing Rhame Arena, purchased a portion of the former site of Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy in March 2011 in order to build a sports complex.

In July 2011, Camden officials approached the county to request $1.5 million to help the city create a sports complex that would have potentially been managed by the YMCA of Columbia. The county, however, did not join the project. Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise in January that the county didn’t want to “just write a check for $1.5 million,” suggesting revenue streams generated from the facility would have been collected by the third party and not the county.

The city, however, continued to move forward with the proposal. The plans were then put on hold due to a lawsuit over the use of hospitality taxes to construct the proposed facility and a petition to hold a referendum so city residents could vote on whether to move forward with the project. On Nov. 6, voters ultimately said “no” towards continuing the project on a vote of 1,936 to 1,687, a 7 percent difference.

Smoak said his proposal is only preliminary at this point and that certain factors will help shape its outcome.

“It’s just too early to speculate. It just all depends on what the city has to say and what things look like when we look at our budget coming up,” Smoak said, “but certainly it’s time for Rhame Arena to be replaced in some fashion.”

In other business Tuesday, council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes (FILOT) agreement with Diversified Information Technologies (DIT). The measure was supported on a 6-0 vote with Councilman C.R. Miles absent due to a family health issue.  

Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter said council had already approved the agreement with DIT at an earlier meeting and that the resolution was simply “part of the law.”

“There are no changes in the investment. No changes in the job creation. It is just required by law,” Carpenter said.

In September, council approved a FILOT with DIT that outlined the company would generate at least 20 full-time jobs and make an investment of approximately $5.8 million during its first five years. The agreement also calls for an 8 percent assessment ratio during a period of 10 years. The ratio would drop to 6 percent based upon an investment of at least $10 million.

DIT recently took over the former SPX Filtran building, located on U.S. 601 across from the Heritage Pointe Industrial Park in Lugoff.

Other items unanimously approved Tuesday included second reading of an ordinance approving the county’s comprehensive plan five-year review, and a proclamation recognizing World Aids Day.

Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Kershaw County Government Center on Walnut Street in Camden and is open to the public.

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