Kershaw County could spend up to $17 million to improve its industrial parks in order to make them more attractive to potential new industries. Kershaw County Council voted, 4-3, Tuesday evening to proceed with a plan which finance projects through general obligation bonds while also tapping the county’s reserve fund.
The vote came after a lengthy discussion and after motions on two other proposals failed to pass. It also comes after County Administrator Vic Carpenter’s reports of companies choosing to locate in other counties in South Carolina because their industrial sites are more developed than Kershaw County’s allowing industries to envision how facilities would work and saving them time and money as they move in and start to produce their products.
Carpenter and his staff originally presented four project proposals, along with their costs, to council last month. While councilmen have all agreed industrial parks need more development, they have differed on how to finance the projects. One idea brought up in previous meetings is industry itself would pay back the debt through taxes and fees paid to the county. However, it was also pointed out this would happen only if the industrial park upgrades actually did bring in those businesses.
Councilman Jimmy Jones offered two proposals which would have only used reserve funds, thereby financing infrastructure upgrades on a smaller scale. Jones said this would avoid putting the burden on taxpayers if new industries failed to take the bait. He also said more projects could be done down the line if new industry did come calling. Carpenter said the county has approximately $10 million in the reserve fund.
“The total payback, with interest, could be more than $30 million. Before we saddle the taxpayers with this obligation I presented two alternative plans which would not require Kershaw County to borrow any money,” Jones said. “Both of these options require no bond issue, no borrowing of money, no long-term obligation for the citizens of Kershaw County.”
Jones said he preferred his first option, which would take $3.5 million from reserves for roadways, clearing, grading and landscaping at two of the county’s industrial parks. His other option would have cost $3.7 million and entailed clearing and grading land at Heritage Point Industrial Park while also constructing a 50,000-square-foot spec building.
Jones’ motion on his first option failed 3-4 with fellow councilmen Willie Mickle and C.R. Miles voting to approve. Chairman Julian Burns and councilmen Dennis Arledge, Tom Gardner and Sammie Tucker Jr. voted against Jones’ motion.
Council voted the same way again, failing to approve Jones’ motion for his second option.
Gardner then made a motion to approve “Plan 4,” presented by Carpenter in August. He said the plan would use reserve funds spread over the first 10 years to lessen the impact on county taxpayers. Gardner said the estimated millage increase would be 1.8 mills for the first 10 years. The plan would include improvements at three of the county’s industrial sites, including three spec buildings, one each at Governor’s Hill, Steeplechase and Heritage Point industrial parks.
“This plan gives us the best opportunity to invest back into our county and a quicker, viable means to get new business and new economic development here and get that return on our investment,” Gardner said. “It would enable us to pay off this bond even faster. It would also save individual taxpayers money down the road. Believe me, if we don’t have economic development the only taxes that are going up are the individual taxes. If we don’t have businesses to pay the taxes, then the individual is going to have to pay it. We’re going to continue to grow and continue to have the needs for more fire service, sheriff’s deputies, recreation, and that doesn’t even include schools that we’re going to have to build.”
Gardner’s motion passed, with councilmen voting exactly the opposite as they had on Jones’ proposals: Arledge, Burns, Gardner and Tucker in favor; and Jones, Mickle and Miles voting against. Carpenter said an ordinance finalizing the plan will still need to have two more readings and a public hearing before going into effect.
In other business, council held a public hearing and passed third reading on an ordinance regarding a “fee-in-lieu-of-taxes” agreement with DuPont/INVISTA. As County Attorney Ken DuBose explained during a previous meeting, the agreement was already in place, but a state law in effect when the agreement was made required the county to be listed as an owner of the property. DuBose said changing that detail would be prudent to protect the county from any potential liability should there be an accident or other mishap at the facility.
Council passed first readings on two ordinances to change the zoning designations on two separate land parcels. They also approved the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office entering into a mutual aid agreement with Spartanburg County.
Council voted to have Jeffrey Graham, Kenneth McCaskill and John Lee Sr. represent Kershaw County on the Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Government board and appointed Richard Simmons to the Kershaw County Planning and Zoning Commission.