County wants to improve Quality of Life

Citing the need to improve the “quality of life” in the County of Bamberg, only a small number of county officials turned out to the Thomas N. Rhoad Center Tuesday night, January 31, to what was billed as a joint meeting of Bamberg County Council and elected community officials. The purpose of the meeting was to provide the public with updates on the proposed Bamberg County Community Wellness Park and County Rural Wastewater Project.

In an update on the countywide wastewater project, County Councilmember Alzena Robinson noted that at one point everyone was on board with the project being done to the point that County Council agreed to fund $50,000 for the study of the $30 million project. Councilmember Evert Comer stated that the City of Denmark “agreed with the concept” of the county-wide water project but “not the mechanics” of it. It was noted the idea of the project was to tie wastewater systems of the various municipalities in the county together. County Administrator Rose Dobson-Elliott noted that a lack of water and wastewater in the county has been a hindrance to economic development.

“The biggest thing we’re told when we try to recruit new industry is we don’t have capacity for water and sewer. Industry wants to locate outside of municipalities because they don’t want to pay that extra tax.”

Bamberg County Councilmember Alzena Robinson stressing the need to improve the quality of life in the County said, “I’m passionate about the wellness park,” Robinson said, adding “we must have a quality of life. We will get industry here. We need to ask ourselves, when we get industry, what do we have to offer?”

Kell Anderson, County Economic Development agent with Southern Carolina Alliance presented an overview of the proposed wellness park developed by the Bamberg County Economic Development Commission. Anderson noted that it is estimated Phase 1 of the wellness park projects would cost in the neighborhood of $526,000 for the entire project. Phase 1 would include a playground, parking, a shelter, restrooms, a walking trail, benches and picnic tables for family reunions and a possible multipurpose sports field. He said the wellness park would promote “healthy life styles” and “cross community interaction” in both communities. Anderson stated that the park would be developed around the “natural elements” already in place at the location. He noted the budget for Phase 1 of the project could be adjusted with some items deleted if needed.

Anderson noted that some “ambitious and exciting” things are being looked at for Phases 2 and 3 of the wellness park project, which included: an aerobic exercise space, meeting rooms, parking for RV’s and possibly a suite for the Bamberg County Chamber of Commerce, whose officials have expressed interest in a more visible location. Total cost for Phases 2 and 3 of the project have not been determined at this time.

It was also noted that Bamberg County, which funded $15,000 to have Clemson University develop a plan of the preliminary design for the park, is now in the process of applying for a grant. County Administrator Rose Dobson-Elliott noted the trails portion of the project could be eligible for an up to $100,000 in grant funding (with an 80-20 match) through the department of Parks Recreation and Tourism. The application for the grant is due on April 17. “I will be working hard toward that,” Dobson- Elliott said, adding “we have a good shot at it, getting the first stage kickoff.” It was noted that the $300,000 cost of the land owned by the county at the site off Highway 78 near the Elite Equine Shavings Company would be applied toward the total cost and Councilmember Alzena Robinson noted that Denmark Technical College, Voorhees College and the Bamberg Job Corps Center were on board with the project and were committed to providing in kind support. For example Voorhees is willing to work with the wetlands development at the site and DTC and BJCC are willing to provide help with the shelter and picnic tables. Considering all the in kind support the first phase of the project could receive, the actual cost of phase one could be in the area of $160,000.