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KCC awards ATAX funding

Posted: December 13, 2012 5:19 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2012 5:00 a.m.

“It is the holiday season,” Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise said during council’s meeting Tuesday night.

Wise’s lighthearted comments came with council’s decision to approve a total of $383,000 in new funding for several community organizations. The funds were distributed as part of local accommodation tax (ATAX) money accrued over the past several years. The ATAX, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue, is imposed on the gross proceeds derived from charges for any room, lodging, or sleeping accommodations furnished by a hotel in the area.

Council unanimously agreed 6-0, with Councilman C.R. Miles absent, to appropriate $250,000 to the S.C. Equine Center, $45,000 to the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, $41,500 to Historic Camden, and $46,500 to the county’s new Tourism Department.

Councilman Jimmy Jones, who made the motion to approve the funding, said he believed the money needed to “go back out into the community,” explaining his reasoning behind the dispersal of funds.  

Councilman Stephen Smoak indicated that the funding approved Tuesday was a one-time appropriation since ATAX funds will now solely be awarded to the Tourism Department.

“This money has been sitting there for a long time,” Smoak said, referring to the accrued ATAX fund balance. “Future accommodation tax revenues, however, will be obligated towards our Tourism Department, running it, and providing for some of its capital needs.”

He explained, however, that if another funding source became available to such local groups, council would certainly continue its financial support.

Council previously appropriated $50,000 in ATAX funds to the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County.

According to Laura Thiel Shull of the S.C. Equine Center, the $250,000 awarded to the organization will help alleviate costs associated with a planned phased expansion of the park. The center, located on Cleveland School Road near Camden, encompasses 40 acres and is designed for a full range of horse-related activities. Shull said the park has netted an economic impact of about $4.6 million for the county.

Chamber President Chip Galloway said its $45,000 would go towards repairs to historic Robert Mills Courthouse, which serves as the chamber’s home. The project includes exterior and interior painting, water seepage repairs, installation of storm windows and interior application, and parking lot repairs, resurfacing, and restriping.

According to Kershaw County Tourism Director Darron Kirkley, the $41,500 provided to Historic Camden will be used for restoration and repairs to the historic John McCaa House. The $46,500 awarded to his department, he said, will go towards operations and signage improvements throughout the county.

Also Tuesday, council unanimously agreed to accept $16,000 for the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) as part of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Sheriff Jim Matthews said the funds, distributed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), would be used to purchase and install cameras in patrol cars.

“It keeps everybody honest,” Matthews said, referring to the cameras. “If I have an officer who is out of line, I want to know about it and the camera will record that. If a citizen makes an unsupported complaint, we can look at it and review the film. It reduces the county’s liability.” According to the DOJ’s website, the purpose of the grant program is to allow local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime based on their own local needs and conditions.

Additionally, council heard a county financial audit report from the firm of Sheheen, Hancock, and Godwin.

Marc Wood, a partner with the firm, indicated that the county had a “pretty good year” overall and said county staff should be commended for their fiscal responsibility.

Wise also acknowledged county staff, particularly County Administrator Vic Carpenter and Finance Director Angie Helms, for “controlling expenses exceedingly well.”

In other business Tuesday, council unanimously approved:

•a proclamation honoring Councilman Bobby Gary for his service to the county. Tuesday was Gary’s last council meeting after he lost his reelection bid in November to petition candidate Willie Mickle. Before approving the proclamation, Wise described Gary as the “conscience of county council,” referencing Gary’s recognition of the needs of the hungry and homeless in the community.

•third reading of a five-year review of the county’s comprehensive plan. The plan, developed by the Kershaw County Planning Commission, provides a “snapshot of where the county would like to be in a variety of areas, including infrastructure, facilities, programs, and services,” according to Carpenter.

•first reading of an ordinance amending the zoning classification of Sun Valley Subdivision in Elgin. The proposal would rezone the property from R-15 (low density, single-family residential district) to RD-2 (rural resource district).

•first reading of an ordinance authorizing the conveyance of real property on Pheasant Walk in Elgin. Carpenter explained that the proposal was related to a “sliver” of property that needs to be paved.

•a resolution establishing the regular council meeting dates of 2013.

Council’s next meeting will be held Jan. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Kershaw County Government Center on Walnut Street in Camden. The meeting is open to the public. Council regularly meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, but will not meet Dec. 25 in light of the Christmas holiday.

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