Bonds worth up to $17.2 million will be issued in December to help fund a series of upgrades to Kershaw County’s three main industrial parks. Work at Governor’s Hill, Heritage Point and Steeplechase industrial will likely begin in early 2016. The county will start paying for the bonds -- $390,000 annual payments from $4 million in reserve funds -- in either 2017 or 2018.
Kershaw County Council passed a resolution and third reading of an ordinance setting up the bond issue, each on 4-2 votes Tuesday night. Councilmen Jimmy Jones and Willie Mickle voted against the issue; Chairman Julian Burns and councilmen Dennis Arledge, Tom Gardner and Sammie Tucker Jr. voted in favor of the bonds. Councilman C.R. Miles Jr. left the meeting early, prior to the votes.
Two people spoke against and one in favor of the bond issue during the public hearing. A third person spoke against the bonds during the meeting’s public comment section.
Council voted first on the resolution. County Administrator Vic Carpenter explained how things would work -- the timeline of when bonds would be issued and when bond payments would be made. Carpenter said the earliest point at which millage could be increased, if necessary, would be during Fiscal Year 2018.
Without any further discussion, council passed the resolution 4-2.
A few minutes later, council took up the vote for third and final reading of the bond ordinance itself. Councilman Jones started the discussion by stating he would be voting against it, but added he would also work with council to make sure the plan succeeds.
“I hope I’m wrong. I hope you guys are right,” Jones said. “This is a 30-year debt. I realize it could be no tax increase, it could be a tax increase, but it could also be a $30 million payback over 30 years, so I hope you’re right. I’m going to be rooting for you -- I’m voting against it, but … we all need to be on the same boat. Once we have voiced our opinion and once we have fought our fight, we gotta get on board and make sure this county is successful.”
Mickle also said he would vote against the measure, asking what would happen if the money was put toward the proposed combined Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC) and Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC), to produce a work-ready workforce.
Gardner said Mickle’s idea would be wonderful, but expressed concern such a workforce would have no jobs in Kershaw County without industry to employ them.
Gardner agreed one could argue both points, and asked Jones to consider the education side of the equation when the Kershaw County School District requests additional funds. Tucker likened the argument with the age-old “chicken and egg” problem, calling both workforce education and economic development “very important.” Tucker said the county is already working in tandem with the district by supporting the CCTC/ATEC concept.
He also said he would hold Jones to his promise of working together to succeed in economic development.
Ultimately, council voted 4-2 to go forward with the bond.
Earlier in the meeting, KershawHealth Board of Trustees Chairman Derial Ogburn reported on the takeover of the hospital by Capella Healthcare and MUSC Health, and the future of the board itself.
Ogburn said the Capella/MUSC deal includes the sale of furniture, fixture and equipment throughout the hospital system, but also includes the sale of certain KershawHealth real estate. Capella is purchasing the Sleep Diagnostic Center, Primary Care at Camden, Surgery Associates, Pulmonology, Gastroenterology and the Health Resource Center in Camden; West Wateree Medical Complex in Lugoff; the Healthcare Place at Bethune; and Physical Therapy at Kershaw in Lancaster County.
For 40 years, Capella and MUSC Health will lease the main medical center at Haile at Roberts streets in Camden along with the Elgin urgent care, outpatient and primary care facilities. The board, which will begin governing the Health Services District of Kershaw County on Monday, will retain ownership of the Karesh Long Term Care Center, portions of the former Pine Tree Hill Elementary School property and the old Burndale Shopping Center. The board and Capella have entered into a one-year management agreement to operate the Karesh unit, with a 6-month “out” clause.
Ogburn said Capella originally asked to reduce the lease/purchase price by $5 million in exchange for the board keeping the Karesh wing.
“So we went back and said, ‘OK, we will keep the Karesh wing, and now that we come to think about it, we’re going to keep our $5 million, too,’” Ogburn said.
He also confirmed several times one of the board’s first concerns will be finding another partner to operate Karesh.
Ogburn said it is his hope Karesh would be rebuilt on the PTHS site. He explained there are mingled costs with Karesh housed in a facility shared with Capella. He said moving the unit to a new site would separate those costs.
In a lighthearted moment, Jones asked Ogburn whether he would have joined the board three years ago if he knew what he knew now.
“Mr. Jones ... I would’ve grabbed my hat and ran for the county line as fast as I could go,” Ogburn said. “No, I’m just joking. It’s been a challenge, but sitting around that table with my colleagues, addressing the issues, has been as rewarding to me, personally, as anything I’ve ever been involved in.”
He also said he is “extremely optimistic” about the hospital’s future under Capella and MUSC Health. Ogburn cited Capella’s commitment to invest $55 million in KershawHealth during the next 10 years; a four-year commitment to not change the hospital’s indigent care policy; $400,000 during the next four years to support the Healthcare Place at Bethune; and $90,000 in each of the next four years to the Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County.
Jones expressed his feelings about the board’s accomplishments.
“This council overhauled the entire board over the last few years,” Jones said. “If we hadn’t had done that, and you folks hadn’t come on board, the hospital would’ve ended up as a ‘band-aid’ facility.”
Ogburn also asked council to consider a nominee to fill a seat vacated by Paul Napper in February, and to “evaluate talent” throughout the community to fill outgoing trustees Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom and Bobby Jones’ seats on the board. Burns said council would move “quickly” to fill the open slots on the board. After further discussion, it appeared council will wait until January to do so.
Ogburn also said:
• he does not know Capella’s intentions for the West Wateree Medical Complex;
• transaction documents were being signed Wednesday, Thursday and today as part of the closing;
• the board has no plans regarding the Burndale Shopping Center property, “other than a bowling alley,” Ogburn joked, prompting Jones to say the board could hold a raffle; and
• the board plans to hire an executive director not just to oversee the Karesh agreement, but to make sure Capella and MUSC adhere to the lease/purchase agreement; oversee the old hospital pension fund; and the investment of the $35 million lease/purchase funds.