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County sets efficiency, prosperity as targets

Posted: February 24, 2011 12:23 p.m.
Updated: February 25, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The 2011 Kershaw County Council is off to a quick start. First, we were faced with the resignation of the county administrator. Fortunately, Frank Broom, a seasoned county and city administrator, stepped forward. The Council unanimously voted for Mr. Broom to become the interim county administrator. Mr. Broom has wasted no time in demonstrating his exceptional leadership skills in the public arena. Many lingering issues were immediately resolved and many new initiatives were suggested.

One of the most significant of Mr. Broom’s recommendations was for council to establish a work-study session. The first meeting was conducted Thursday night, Feb. 17. This non-voting work session provided all council members with comprehensive information pertinent to the operations of the total county, plus our current financial position by department. In addition, council members were able to get timely answers to their in-depth questions. Previously, information was provided to a council member depending on which committee they were assigned to and it usually related to that specific committee. Individual council members could also request information about a topic. However, the new work- study session provides all members with the same information at the same time. I noticed a much more participative environment; in fact, councilmen were volunteering to captain various projects. The new approach also widens the council’s scope from a policy body to one that will now include a level of oversight. In future sessions, the county council, along with the county administrator, will schedule meetings with department heads and examine performance results, level of service to the taxpayers, as well as, discussing departmental plans going forward. The meetings will be held every two weeks and are open to the public in the council chambers.

Two other topics discussed at the meeting were the establishment of a capital budget and streamlining the various taxpayers-owned county entities. First, I proposed that as future revenues increased due to the potential economic recovery and/or economic development activities, 10 percent of those new revenues, above our current base budget, be allocated to a capital budget. This would minimize the future need to ask residents for a tax increase or increase county debt in the bond market every time we needed to fund a project. Secondly, I have invited the school district, KershawHealth, the city of Camden, and other taxpayer-owned entities, along with the county, to explore how we can save tax dollars by combining or jointly utilizing assets, purchasing power, services, and other resources to avoid future expense. 

There is tremendous excitement with economic development centered on the 1,500-acre mega site located off U.S. 601 and I-20 at exit 92. We are very fortunate to have Progress Energy donate $100,000 for site readiness. In about four months Kershaw County will have the only Midlands state-certified mega site. Landing a large employer will have a huge positive ripple effect for our schools, county, and employment levels.

Economic development is usually involved in the recruitment or expansion of business and industry. However, in Kershaw County we are adding tourism. The new tourism economic development activities have included a renewed focus and effort.  Specifically, a new private/public taskforce is being formed promoting Kershaw County’s “brand” of horses and history. The National Parks Service’s high interest in Kershaw County’s and Camden’s Revolutionary War importance as well as a $100,000 grant to the equine center have created excitement and energy to ensure we develop world class status for both equine activities and a historical experience for tourists. This will provide a significant return on investment by driving sales tax revenue to the county.

Luckily, we have been blessed with a huge competitive advantage for economic development. We are unique to have one of the greatest natural resources in the state, the Wateree Lake and River. Without it, economic development for business, industry, and tourism would be very difficult. It is the common thread that binds us together as a county, as residents, and as the economic engine we need to leverage for economic development, and this certainly includes tourism.

 

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