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Businesses ask for KCC support of CCTC expansion

Posted: January 16, 2014 5:13 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Several Kershaw County business leaders expressed their desire for Kershaw County Council to support a proposed expansion of Central Carolina Technical College’s (CCTC) campus near the U.S. 521/I-20 exchange.

Kershaw County Economic Development Office Marketing and Administrative Assistant Lauren Reeder led a presentation on CCTC’s possible expansion during council’s first 2014 meeting Tuesday night. Reeder said a well-trained workforce is vital in expanding business opportunities in the county.

“We understand the importance and need of Central Carolina Technical College in the present and in its continued growth in Kershaw County,” Reeder said. “Labor is consistently ranked the number one factor in a company’s site location decision. Cost of labor and availability is important, but just as important is the skill set of the people in the area.”

Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liz Horton spoke as well.

“In business today, no competition is tougher than the race for talent,” Horton said. “In every industry, every job sector, every size of business large and small in every part of the world, including right here in Kershaw County, employers have cited difficulties in finding the right people to hire. How are we going to find, train and retain the best workers? For Kershaw County the answer is simple: we need to encourage and support the expansion of Central Carolina Technical College’s campus and facilities.”

Greg Newman, of the Kershaw County Committee of 100, spoke next.

“From the industry perspective, when we have a prospect coming into town to look at our community, they want to know we have a way to educate their workers and provide the skills they need,” Newman said. “From an existing industry standpoint, they also need that support that is provided by Central Carolina Technical College.”

Finally, INVISTA Plant Manager Paul Little addressed the council.

“Do we have a use for these graduates and for this institution (CCTC) itself? The answer to that is yes. The types of skills they provide are the ones we need,” Little said. “The college gives these guys and girls the starting place. We have a number of people who graduated from there and we have to train them further, but that’s a great building block for us, for them to have that skill.”

Councilman Tom Gardner asked how an expansion might be funded.

“It’s going to be a tremendous undertaking to expand it. It’s going to come with a cost. Would you support a tax increase if that were necessary in order to fund this expansion?” Gardner asked the business leaders.

Horton said that is a question the chamber would take to its members.

“It’s my understanding that there is possible funding that would allow us to do this expansion without increasing taxes,” she said. “That’s what we’re in support of at this time.”

Councilman Jimmy Jones claimed no tax increase would be needed.

“We’re in a unique situation this year,” Jones said. “We have some debt services we’re going to clean off our books. We have a wonderful opportunity that this is coming together at the same time where we will have the opportunity to reinvest that debt service with no tax increase. We need to live within our means and make sure we do everything we can to protect our interests, as well as reinvesting into our community, such as Central Carolina. I will not support a tax increase for this because it’s not necessary. The money is there.”

Gardner, however, said he wasn’t advocating a tax increase, especially since the cost of expanding the college isn’t known at this time.

“How can we assume that we have the money to do it? We don’t even have a cost on what an expansion would be,” Gardner said. “If we’re going to undertake a project and endorse it and move forward, we need to look at every possible scenario there is.”

Vice-chairman Stephen Smoak, conducting the meeting in the absence of Chairman Gene Wise, said the key word in the discussion of expanding CCTC is investment.

“To make this happen, it’s going to take the investment of several different players, including Central Carolina, who is ready and willing to step forward,” Smoak said. “So, whether or not there is a call for additional funds that would require a tax increase or fees, it’s an investment that’s going to come from public dollars and that’s going to be necessary to make this project happen.”

In other business:

• Council unanimously approved accepting bids for storage tanks at the county’s convenience centers. Six 400-gallon oil tanks and one 500-gallon tank for water, oil and gasoline mixture will be fully funded by a DHEC grant.

“This is for when you change your oil at home, it gives you a place to dispose of it so it doesn’t get poured into our creeks,” Carpenter said.

In a related matter, Jones encouraged his fellow councilmen to pass a resolution stating the council’s opposition to House Bill 3290 and Senate Bill 203, which are both pending in the S.C. General Assembly. Jones said the bills, if passed, could take away local government’s management of solid waste disposal and could result in Kershaw County residents paying more for trash disposal. Critics have also said the bills would allow out-of-state waste collection companies to bring trash to South Carolina for disposal.

“The large majority of councils in South Carolina have already adopted some means of opposition to these bills. I’d like to ask that we make sure that our local legislative delegation gets a copy of this resolution so they will vote no,” Jones said.

Jones’ resolution passed, 4-1 with Smoak abstaining, citing a conflict of interest.

• Council unanimously passed first reading of an ordinance that would update county regulations regarding storm water collection and treatment. County Administrator Vic Carpenter said the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) periodically upgrades its regulations, and that counties and municipalities must do the same.

“Every five years, roughly, DHEC modifies the permit we operate under for our storm water program. The federal government passed regulations a few years ago that have been slowly trickling down to local governments,” Carpenter said. “We got drawn into that a couple of years ago and had to develop a storm water program. It’s concentrated around the town of Elgin.”

• Council unanimously passed first reading of an ordinance that would change the zoning of properties on Wildwood Lane and Cook Road from RD-2 to R-15. Kershaw County Planning Director Carolyn Hammond said she supported the change that would allow the vacant properties to be divided into smaller lots for single-family homes.

“They conform absolutely 100 percent with the surrounding area,” Hammond said. “Back in 2000, when the county first did county-wide zoning, the northern side of Wildwood Lane was zoned RD-2, rural. As you can see if you’re out there, it has now become R-15.”

• Council unanimously approved third and final reading of an ordinance regarding the rules of who is eligible to serve on the county’s recreation commission.

During the council briefings portion of the meeting, Jones asked County Attorney Ken DuBose if there is a law prohibiting the reckless discharge of firearms in the county. Earlier in the meeting, resident Cheryl Hinson posed the same question, saying a neighbor has been shooting guns on a regular basis and she had safety concerns.

“It’s a hazard due to the fact that there are children living on that property, but there’s also the noise,” Hinson said. “This is becoming a very bad nuisance. We have animals that have been disappearing during the time of these shootings. Our dogs will not go outside while this is going on because they’re scared. This has been an ongoing situation.”

“Would you look into these issues and get back with me and let us know if there’s something negligent being done?” Jones asked DuBose. “I certainly would not like someone shooting a gun in their back yard toward my house if my family were out in the yard.”

DuBose said Sheriff Jim Matthews had brought similar concerns to the council in the past, but there are no regulations in place at this time restricting firearm use in the county.

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