In other business during Camden City Council's work session Tuesday afternoon:
• Camden Police Department (CPD) Chief Joe Floyd recognized Sgt. James Steele for the second time in two months for his efforts in combating DUI on Camden’s roads. A month ago, Floyd recognized Steele for being a finalist for Officer of the Year in the S.C. Law Enforcement Network’s (SCLEN) 5th Judicial Circuit. Being a finalist on the circuit level made him eligible for one of SCLEN’s overall Officer of the Year awards. Floyd announced that Steele won that accolade among law enforcement agencies with 25 to 50 officers. While Steele was being recognized for DUI work in 2013, Floyd noted that during the past 10 years, Steele has been responsible for 23 percent of all DUI arrests at the CPD.
• Pearson officially introduced newly hired Tourism Director Suzi Sale to council, noting that she is the former owner and operator of The Camden House Bed and Breakfast Inn. He said she has more than 25 years of both agency and client-side expertise with “a strong track record of successfully leading and executing comprehensive communications and growth strategies for a wide variety of public and private enterprises through the eastern U.S.” Pearson said she has planned and executed tourism and traffic building efforts; and brand identity programs for community, hospitality and resorts, major sporting events and retailers, among others.
• Camden Fire Department (CFD) Chief John Bowers discussed the CFD’s partnership with the S.C. Fire Marshal’s Office free smoke detector “blitz” which started Thursday. CFD personnel and other volunteers hoped to reach as many residents in the Kirkwood community near Dusty Bend to replace outdated smoke detectors with ones featuring lithium batteries that can last 10 years.
• Scully reminded those present of the city’s May 3 Mother’s Day celebration, which will include a parade from Camden City Hall down Lyttleton Street to Zemp Stadium where a program will take place. He said there will be food and other vendors, and musical acts that will continue after the program itself.
• Pearson announced that the city hopes to obtain further S.C. Parks and Recreation Development (PARD) grant money to make improvements at Edgewood Park. Mayor Scully said the improvements are being made in direct response to residents’ requests.
Dr. Tim Hardee, president of Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC) and Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter want the city of Camden to become a partner in CCTC’s proposed expansion of its campus at I-20 Exit 98. Hardee and Carpenter spoke before council during its work session Tuesday afternoon; there was no evening meeting.
Hardee began the presentation by quoting Camden Mayor Tony Scully from a recently published column that included statements regarding economic development.
“‘Council and staff have as their primary goal economic development. We want greater prosperity for the business community. We are intent on creating jobs,’” Hardee read. “I brought that up because … (we’re) geared toward jobs; that’s what we do. Economic development is the reason technical colleges exist.”
Hardee said CCTC expanded to Camden in 2001 with its downtown campus on the bottom floor of what is now the Kershaw County Government Center. In 2010, CCTC established the Exit 98 campus.
“About five years ago, we had 150 students in Kershaw County … and today we have 900 students as Kershaw County residents,” he said.
Now, Hardee said, CCTC wants to help Kershaw County School District students attending the Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC), and others, transition to more advanced programs at the technical college.
“We’d love to see an expansion of the campus here; it would give us the ability to add some additional programs here in Kershaw County,” he said, noting that many Kershaw County students have to travel to Sumter for certain classes. “What this would enable us to do is have students and residents of Kershaw County complete their programs here in the county. We see this as an opportunity to provide meeting space (and) cultural events, and bring those to Kershaw County in conjunction with the county. Certainly, we’re in the business of job creation and economic development, but we also want to enhance the community and see those types of events as beneficial.”
Hardee said CCTC also wants to get to the point of giving Kershaw County students the chance to pursue the first two years of a four-year degree at the school before transitioning to a four-year college or university. That, he said, might also help students pay for college.
“The main part of that, though, is that right now in South Carolina, the average graduate from a four-year institution graduates with $35,000 in student (loan) debt,” Hardee said. “I think anything we can do to be able to provide an economic benefit for our students to be able to … do that in a way more cost effectively is certainly a plus.”
Carpenter said the project is part of Kershaw County Council’s vision for the county’s future.
“As our chairman might say: synergy -- working together, sharing resources, in order to come up with a better product, a better outcome for our county,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said CCTC’s presence in Camden is not that of a “true” campus.
“If you look at what makes communities great, typically you find a campus,” he said. “Colleges help make a community greater than it is. It brings together resources, it brings together vision, it brings together just a variety of talents … and puts them in one place.”
Carpenter said Kershaw County Council is in the processing of committing $5 million toward the expansion, and described the project as a 10- to 20-year process. County council took up first reading of an ordinance Tuesday night that, if approved on two subsequent readings, would have the county enter into an up to $8.5 million installment purchase agreement that would include the $5 million for the CCTC expansion.
Carpenter said the county and CCTC are looking to form partnerships not only with the school district and the city, but KershawHealth and area universities as well. Carpenter said that could be economically beneficial for Camden and Kershaw County.
“Seventy percent of our employed citizens leave Kershaw County to go to work. That’s not good; that’s not what’s going to build a community that will last and grow, and that’s going to make itself better,” Carpenter said, noting that the campus is located near an industrial park.
Hardee noted that one of its campuses, in Clarendon County, serves as a business incubator and thought it would be “great” to have such a space as part of the Exit 98 expansion.
Councilman Willard Polk agreed, talking about how he had spent part of Tuesday in the Hartsville area.
“I’ve seen, over time, what higher education facilities can do for communities such as Hartsville,” Polk said, citing partnerships between Darlington Tech and Coker College with companies such as Sunoco and Nucor as well as county and city governments. “It’s just amazing the transformation that this educational synergy has done for Hartsville and Darlington County. Just four or five years ago, Hartsville had no downtown hotel. Now what do they have? Right there, nestled between the two campuses is Fairfield Inn, and what’s going on Main Street but a boutique hotel. As soon as one store closed, a developer came in and started developing that property.
“So, the economic impact that these campuses have had on that small community, I can envision happening here in Camden.”
Polk suggested Camden could do that, but with an emphasis on tourism and hospitality.
“Camden is focused in on tourists and hospitality and I would envision that, at some point down the road, Camden would become a -- I won’t say Mecca -- but a training ground for folks going into tourism and hospitality and that Central Carolina would host such a program in conjunction with the University of South Carolina’s school of hospitality and tourism. That is where it seems Camden can come into play (by) sharing some of our hospitality tax in funding some of those programs,” Polk said.
Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford asked exactly what a “partnership” with the city would entail.
“I think it starts with the positive comments that I’ve heard,” Hardee replied, eliciting laughter from council and others present. “That’s encouraging from that standpoint. We’re in the early process of designing that facility. We need the city to be a partner with us on this. What that might look like in terms of financials I think is a decision for a later date.”
Hardee and Carpenter also agreed with Drakeford’s conclusion that CCTC and the county would like the city’s input on designing the expanded campus. Carpenter noted that CCTC and the county invited City Manager Mel Pearson to some of its meetings and said community participation is key to the project’s success.
Councilman Walter Long suggested the city’s partnership might also be in the realm of providing or upgrading infrastructure to the Exit 98 campus.
“We realize how big a deal this is for Camden and for Kershaw County. In my opinion, it is probably the single biggest component in economic development and industry recruitment for Kershaw County,” Long said.
Carpenter said he hopes the county’s financial pledge speaks well of council’s commitment to the project.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve spent $5 million on anything,” he said. “We’re still looking for partners; our goal is to bring the state into it, bring federal dollars to it as well, so that this … initial part of this component will get built, and will expand the campus into a real campus. From there, we’ll go into additional phases. I think it’s safe to say that, in the future, a capital project sales tax would probably be a viable source of funding. But, at this point, we just want to get this phase completed successfully. Once the public sees how successful this campus will be, it should be a no-brainer for this community to understand (its) value.”
Pearson rounded out the discussion by saying that the city has to look at getting behind the project.
“As we wrap up a $35 million project for handling wastewater treatment … we’re very fortunate to be able to support the kind of growth that corridor could experience, that Camden could experience over the next 10-plus years,” Pearson said. “As the dust settles from starting up that plant, I think we -- our council -- has to consider funding this project as well. The other things we’re doing out in that area with infrastructure will support the vision, but funding is going to be something to discuss sooner than later as the details of that plan come together.”