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Sales tax project closer to November ballot

 

By Heather Walters

 

Colleton County Council gave its second reading to an ordinance preparing a list of potential publicly-funded projects for the November ballot.

Colleton residents will decide in November’s general election whether or not to add an additional one-cent sales tax to county goods: groceries, prescription drugs and medical equipment are exempt from the additional tax. A third reading from council will put it on the ballot for voters.

The additional one-cent tax would begin May 1, 2015 and will last for eight years. It is expected to generate up to $4 million a year for the next eight years, giving the county an estimated $32 million pool of money to use for the compiled list of projects.

A citizen-comprised Sales Tax Commission compiled a list of 13 countywide projects that this money will be spent on. Those projects were selected from a list of more than 35 submitted ideas that came from all municipalities in the county, and from the county itself. Council’s approval of the ordinance at its Tuesday night meeting does not include its approval of the list: county council has no power over the projects on the list and cannot remove or add items onto it, according to Kyle Clampit, the county’s overseeing chairman of the Sales Tax project. “We are pleased that we received feedback from every community in the county,” Clampit said, in relations to the comprised list of projects. “This sales tax is a funding option to improve lifestyle-improvement projects for the citizens of this county that would otherwise likely not get annual budgeted funding from the county or the municipalities,” he said.

The projects will be completed in chronological order, as the funds become available from the generated one-cent tax.

Topping the list is the beach renourishment of Edisto Beach. The $10-million project is combined with federal funds that will replenish the county’s biggest money maker with sand and ensure the beach maintains its current status.

Coming in second is $6.6 million toward the Interstate 95 Loop Project. This city-based project is being funded with a variety of grants, in addition to the allotted sales tax money. It will beautify the city from one interchange to another.

Rounding at the top three for the project priorities is the airport terminal expansion. The $1.69-million project will enhance the current Lowcountry Regional Airport. “There is a need in the economic development field to provide a terminal for prospective businesses,” said Clampit.

Also on the list are: a new law enforcement center; a new county solid waste transfer station; refurbishments to the Hampton Street Auditorium; improvements to the county’s rural water system; new water lines on Hampton, Ivanhoe and Washington streets in Walterboro; new well pump and generators for the Town of Lodge; expansions to the recreation center and the creation of a new splash pad; construction of a new parcel at the airport and the creation of infrastructure for a new industrial park; turning the Harrelson Building into a customer-service area; and a new recreation complex for the Town of Cottageville.

A book of all of these projects and details of each project will soon be available for citizens’ review at each municipalities’ town hall. This will help prepare voters for the November referendum.

At the end of the 8-year stretch, Colleton County Council can decide to renew the one-cent tax for up to an additional seven years, said Clampit.

• Colleton County Council took its first step Thursday night toward legalizing Sunday alcohol sales in the county. Walterboro already has legal Sunday alcohol sales, a municipal-level law that some say make it harder on both consumers and businesses. “A small business is tough enough to run. It’s hard when people come in and can’t distinguish between the city and the county, and those individual rulings. And we have to turn them away,” said Jerry Crosby, co-owner of the Forks Convenience Store in Walterboro. Crosby and his wife, Donna, own the store and spoke to council, favoring Sunday alcohol sales. “It’s hard on both of us, the customer and us,” Crosby said. Council passed the first-reading unanimously and without discussion.

• Council unanimously voted to enter into a “Fee in lieu of tax agreement” with Project Meter, a Colleton County company. The council also voted unanimously to amend an agreement for the development of a joint county Industrial Park between Colleton and Hampton counties to include additional county property in the park.

• Council voted unanimously to renew lease agreements between the county and the Old St. Bartholomew Chapter for Genealogical Research and with the Lowcountry Action Agency for its use of county facilities on Black Street in Walterboro.

• County officials are considering building a new recycling/trash station in the Jonesville area. The idea is a preliminary one, with no budget information yet prepared. “It looks like we can do most of the work in-house,” county Administrator Kevin Griffin told council. Councilman Steve Murdaugh said that the county may need to consider hiring security to work at all of the county’s trash drop-off facilities, particularly on holidays and weekends.

Colleton County Council typically meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. inside its council chambers, located on the second floor of the Old Jail/Probate Court building in downtown Walterboro.

Heather Walters (1738 Posts)