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Capital Project Sales Tax Referendum Print E-mail
Written by Mallory D. Biering   

Bamberg County citizens will make a decision to vote yes or no for the Capital Project Sales Tax, also known as the penny sales tax, on November 6th. This tax, if voted for by the citizens, will be collected from any person making a purchase in the county for the next eight years. The total estimated amount to be borrowed upfront is $4,405,727, which will be split between nine projects throughout the county. It is crucial for citizens to understand they are not voting yes or no for each individual project come November, but a yes or no for all nine projects.

Each community in the county was asked to submit project's for their community for committee approval. Nine projects were approved and added to the referendum list. The projects consist of renovations, beautification, and/or new structural buildings. Chris Wilson, Bamberg County Councilman for District 1, said because the money will be borrowed upfront, "each project will begin upfront. You wouldn't have to complete the courthouse project and then move to the next project, complete that project and move to the next." Paying back the bonds might seem to be a concern, but he said, "We think we projected things conservatively enough [to pay back the bonds] not just within the eight years, but sooner than the eight years."

The amount of money given to each project was based on the cost estimates and potential overruns presented in the applications. "Each one of these projects have had to take into account potential overruns and make provisions to handle overruns outside of the penny sales tax," stated Wilson who also added, "Potential overruns of budgets will not be dealt with by cutting out money from another project."

The renovations to the county courthouse and the expansion for judicial and administrative needs in Bamberg is the first project listed. It's a project Clair Guess, III, Councilman for District 7, says is, "indisputably necessary and critical." A total of $3,541,423 will be spent on this project alone and will include updates to address security, structural, and technological issues the current facility faces. It will also include "a new 7,600 square foot Court Annex Building [that will] house Circuit Court, Clerk of Court, Judges Chambers and other support program functions," to be built between the courthouse and sheriff's office, which will involve the closing of Second Street. Wilson stated, "We aren't trying to build a Taj Mahal, we are just trying to make sure the courthouse has the proper administrative and court space needed." The site plans for this project were drawn by Watson Tate Savory Liollio Architecture and will focus on concerns like office space and storage, holding cells for inmates during General Session, a private conference area for attorneys and their clients, a waiting area and a larger courtroom for General Session.

Project five consists of renovations to the Civic Center in Bamberg with the use of $589,000. The veterans memorial, project nine, will be erected between Bamberg and Denmark costing $82,500. Two of the four council members interviewed made comments about the location of the veterans memorial. However, this project is the beginning of more projects to come, like the Wellness Park Councilwoman, Alzena Robinson is currently coordinating.

A regional water system, which Wilson and Isaiah Odom feel is greatly needed in the Olar and Govan area in order to attract industry, is listed as project two. The $14,604 placed toward this project will include a back-up pump and chlorination system for the community's use. As stated previously, the Olar Community will build a park shed, as well as renovate the Community Building, known as the Grey Den with the $37,000 they will be given. Govan will have a park shed and other park improvements made with the $15,000 assigned to project eight.

The Dane Theatre, project six, will be receiving a new roof, along with other renovations, with $60,000. Another $60,000 will be used for the restoration of the former town hall and beautifying the downtown area in Ehrhardt, which is listed as project seven.

There were a variety of answers concerning specifics of each project including the different amounts of money given to each project and community. For example Guess, said he didn't, "understand why the Town of Bamberg got ten times more than Denmark," and added, "but that is what the committee recommended."

Even though members may not agree with the specifics of each project, four of the seven have openly stated they agree with the referendum. Evert Comer, Clint Carter and Larry Haynes never submitted to an interview. Therefore, their constituents are unaware of their opinions of the overall referendum or the individual projects.

As reported in previous articles, without this penny sales tax, it was stated millage would be increased. Millage being increased happens to be a another topic all council members do not agree on. Some say it will be increased like Odom, while Guess says that's not possible. Robinson, says, "everyone can help or just property owners." Either way, the courthouse will be fixed. So, it's up to the citizens of Bamberg County to decide the fate of the referendum on November 6th.

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