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'One big nail in Bamberg County's coffin' Print E-mail

If the referendum fails it would a detrimental to the district and county said Chris Wallace of Ehrhardt at Tuesday night's meeting in Ehrhardt.

“This will be one big nail in Bamberg County’s coffin if this fails next month,” said Wallace. “You’re going to enjoy saving your $200 for five years then the cost will be twice as much. We lost the hospital because it would be built a few miles up the road, self destructive behavior again and again. I think this is a good opportunity, if you don’t agree with it fine, but don’t vote against it because it is a 'us against them' situation,” Wallace said, adding, “when I moved here 16 years ago I was told there were three towns in Bamberg County, Ehrhardt, Bamberg and Denmark, and they all hated each other.”

Bamberg School District One Superintendent Phyllis Schwarting told those in attendance that the district’s proposed $29 million bond referendum on March 16, that would build a new 4K-6 grade elementary school and do significant renovation on the middle and high schools, did not have to divide the citizens in the district.

“I want you to know the truth, this money will not come this way again, this is a once in a life time opportunity,” Schwarting told the approximate 45 people in attendance, adding “this is an issue that does not have to be divisive, we must think about the children.”

Schwarting said the newest building in the district is over 50 years old. The buildings are affected by mold and mildew problems, outdated wiring, kitchen equipment that was obsolete and buildings could not be brought up to state required safety codes without significant renovations.

“These are some of the situations we face; we make do with what we have. We’re going to have to build some schools in five or ten years. We’re not going to be able to survive in what we have much longer.”

Judy Brown wanted to know, what the projected growth in the district was noting that she saw no growth. Brown also wanted to know about the possibility of moving the proposed school to the center of the county.

Schwarting said the population in the district had remained consistent at approximately 1500 students the last couple of years with the district not losing many students.

As for locating the proposed new school outside the city limits of Bamberg, Superintendent Schwarting said that she was informed that the school would no longer have the services of the Board of Public Works but would fall under the domain of the Edisto Electric Cooperative or SCE&G who could not provide water and sewer lines. The school would be built on land adjacent to the present Richard Carroll Elementary School on land owned by the district.

Gill Hackney who represents Ehrhardt on the school board stated that tax payers in the neighboring county of Hampton paid 419 mills in taxes compared with the present 64 now in Bamberg District One and 123.2 if the referendum passes. “Our millage if this were to pass is still lower than Hampton County, and we’re not even talking about Colleton County,” Hackney said.

Another citizen said the referendum if it passed would force people to choose between buying gas and food.

“I wish I had a magic remedy, I don’t have a solution,” Schwarting said.

Clyde Beard noted that the district was proposing to build a new school during a depression. “We’re in a depression not a recession; I’m on a fixed income, where do the poor people get the money? Everybody is moving out of Bamberg County. Why are the schools in the mess they are,” Beard asked.

A contentious moment in the public information session occurred when Bill Edinger of Ehrhardt accused the Superintendent of not being honest about the mold, leaks and door problems in the schools. “In 2008 you promised the people sitting out here that there was no mold in that school. You told us that those schools were in good condition and our kids would get a good education up there, now you’re lying to me, and I don’t like that,” Edinger said.

Superintendent Schwarting replied, “And I don’t like being called a liar, when I told you there was no mold in those schools, there was no mold.”

Edinger noted that taxes on a new car, truck or boat would also be affected by the bond referendum. “If you add it all up that’s a lot of money people here don’t have. I don’t know where the money’s coming from but that’s a lot of taxes. I won’t vote for this thing.”

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