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Kershaw County to use SCAC program to collect debts

Posted: July 5, 2016 8:26 a.m.
Updated: July 5, 2016 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution which would allow Kershaw County to collaborate with the South Carolina Association of Counties (SCAC) to collect debts from residents of Kershaw County. The vote came during council’s June 28 meeting.

The program would allow the county to collect money owed by residents to the county with the assistance of the SCAC and the South Carolina Treasure’s Office. 

“Currently the county participates in the debt set off program with the state. This will allow the treasurer’s office to begin participating, which will allow that office to use the debt set off program to go against delinquent taxes,” County Administrator Vic Carpenter said.

Carpenter also explained that the amendment would allow council to collect unpaid emergency medical services (EMS) fees and that the money collected could potentially come from income tax refunds.

“This is a program for the state of South Carolina and the Association of Counties is their agent. They do all the work … so there is no cost to the county. It is a set off against income tax refunds,” Carpenter said.

County Councilman Jimmy Jones asked Carpenter how the program would help with the EMS collection.

“It allows you to go against income tax funds of those individuals who perhaps would not be willing to pay their EMS fees. If they have a tax refund coming to them and they owe the county money then we will be able to collect it,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter was also asked if he would be able to give a projection of the dollar amount the county would gain from the program.

“We won’t know the collection figures until income tax season. Council asked us to endeavor to collect unpaid fees with every possible mechanism we could come up with … one way is collection agencies going against tax refunds,” Carpenter said.

Councilman Sammie Tucker asked Carpenter to clarify that the service would be free of charge to the county and Councilman Bobby Gary asked if the collection agencies council previously approved would still be utilized.

“This would be the first step. If they do not have a tax refund or if the refund is not large enough and they resist or ignore efforts to collect, we will use a collection agency,” Carpenter said, confirming the service would be at no cost to the county.

Council also adopted a resolution of Project Ernest, which would allow Ernest Health to build a rehabilitation hospital in the county. Jones asked what the estimated economic impact of the project would be once the project was completed. 

“When it is completed, they will be adding approximately 110-112 jobs. They are investing $17.8 million into the project itself and their payroll will probably be about $5.9 million a year at full staffing,” Carpenter said.

County Council Chairman Julian Burns said Project Ernest was good news for the county.

Council also unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance concerning the creation of an airport industrial park. The property would be converted into the airport industrial park with the intent of taking the airport revenue and investing it back into the airport facility.  

“It would not only become self sufficient, but the county would have a dependable source of income to be used to operate, repair and to renovate that facility,” Carpenter said. 

In other business, council discussed appointments to the county’s Accommodations Tax Committee. Carpenter suggested council consider extending terms three years and reviewed qualifications for the board.

“There is no limit to the number of terms that may be served by a member of the board but there are some conditions. A majority must be selected from the hospitality industry … and geographic area from where most of the taxes are derived. This board meets once a year prior to the recommendations they make to council for the allocation of the accommodation taxes received by the county,” Carpenter said “What I would ask the council to do … is to reappoint the members currently serving … to extend the existing term by three additional years so as to allow the continued staggering of the board terms.”

He said doing so would allow board members to be replaced individually. 

Jones made the motion to apply the change to the board, after which Tucker suggested Jones’ motion be amended to include appointing County Recreation Director Joe Eason to the board.

Gary brought up an objection during voting, stating he could not vote for Eason because of a point of order.

“It was always stated that an application must be submitted for us to appoint someone to the board … so I cannot vote on this candidate because the application was not submitted,” Gary said.

County Attorney Ken DuBose agreed Gary had brought up a valid point of order. Council agreed to table the vote until the following meeting to allow for Eason’s application to be added.

Council also called a special meeting for August 23 at 4 p.m. for a WeylChem Pretreatment hearing.

“Kershaw County operates a water treatment plant and entered into a consent order with DHEC last June involving a violation at our treatment plant caused by a particular industry, WeylChem. The order between Kershaw County and DHEC issued a fine to the county for $8,000 and it is also required that the county come up with a corrective plan.” Carpenter told council.

Burns stated he believed the county as well as Weyl-Chem recognized the importance of correcting the issue.

“I will say we have an obligation to respond to DHEC on these violations. This has been a very detailed process that I’ve been witnessing,” Burns said. “We have a very fine CEO at WeylChem and this will be of first importance to them and to us to create a healthy business climate for businesses.”

There will also be a special called meeting July 26 at 3 p.m. to discuss a Palmetto Utilities proposal.

The discussion will look at a proposed agreement between Palmetto Utilities, Kershaw County and Richland County. Richland County Council recently approved the proposed agreement, which would modify the region’s 208 Water Plan.

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