Citizens question Veterans Memorial location and upkeep
Written by Jerry E. Halmon   

At Monday night's county council meeting Michael Duval said that he didn’t see how the proposed veterans’ memorial “fit in” as a capital sales tax project and he wanted to know who would be responsible for its up keep? He was informed the veterans memorial came under “historical facilities” and it’s up keep would be provided by other groups.

Candice Fralick wanted to know if all nine projects would be voted on as one on the November ballot? She was told they would be voted on as one on the ballot. Fralick said the problem she had with the veterans’ memorial is that it should be put in the county seat on the courthouse grounds. “A memorial deserves a better place than that,” she said.

Barbara Way wanted to know if the veterans’ memorial is attached to the wellness park. She was informed that voters are not being asked to approve the wellness park. Way said she thought the veterans memorial should be placed on the courthouse grounds.

On the advice of their attorney, Bamberg County Council members agreed Monday night to delay a third and final reading on a list of Capital Sales Projects until Wednesday morning, August 15, at 8:30 am in the Bamberg County Courthouse. Sidney Evering, an attorney with Parker Poe Law Offices in Columbia, in making the case for Council to “reconsider” taking the third reading vote on the Capital Sales Tax Projects Monday night, stated that looking back through the minutes, the Capital Sales Tax Act requires that the Council appoint a commission and the commission is tasked with coming up with a list of projects.

“We just want to make sure that the resolution that was passed initially is legally adequate. And so I want you guys to look at another resolution to make sure it covers everything that needs to be covered in the resolution,” Evering said, "to make sure that the matter is taken up Wednesday morning after a 24 hour notice to the public."

Council member Clair Guess said that Bamberg County Council has done everything it was required to do by law pertaining to the Capital Sales Tax Projects list and attributed the re-doing of the Capital Sales Project resolution to an “administrative problem” associated with the previous county administrator. “The problem is with the last of the term of the last administration. The minutes were unclear, her documentation was unclear and we’re re-stepping those steps,” Guess said.

Councilman Guess questioned attorney Evering as to whether the location of the proposed veteran’s memorial could be changed without “adversely” affecting the meaning of the law. Evering told Guess that “generally speaking” the project should be followed as recommended by the commission. But he would propose that the commission put some language in the referendum that would give council some “leeway” to make changes “if appropriate” based on the condition that may present itself. It was also noted that once the Ordinance passes the commission has done its job.

The Capital Sales Projects Commission will formally vote on the projects again Wednesday morning, August 15, at 8:30 am Bamberg County Council will take that report for third and final reading “to make sure it is in exact compliance with the state statues.”

In other business:

Council approved an Ordinance authorizing a payment of a fee in Lieu of Taxes agreement with Tobul Accumulator of Bamberg, the new owner of the Rhode Park Spec Building on Highway 301 south of Bamberg. It was noted that the Tobul expansion is projected to bring on a minimum of 46 new jobs, with a minimum investment of $2.8 million dollars that could reach $5 million dollars. Construction work on the spec building should begin the first of September and should be completed by February or March of next year. “It’s a big win for Bamberg,” Kell Anderson of Southern Carolina Alliance said of Tobul expanding its operations in Bamberg.

In the financial report it was reported that for the month of July the county collected revenues of $207, 650 and had expenditures of $496,691. “We continue to watch spending through these slow revenue streams,” Finance Director Thomas M. Thomas said.

Unaudited figures from the last fiscal year show year-to-date the county collected $7,348,942 and spent $7,220,366 for a positive of plus $120,000.

It was also reported that open bids on four county surplus vehicles totaling $5,951 were taken with the highest bids as follows: Vehicle number 1, a 1973 GMC Tanker awarded to Gene Searson for $1,101.00; Vehicle 2, a 1968 Sebring Truck awarded to Sunshine Auto Salvage for $800.00; Vehicle 3, a 1972 Dodge Tanker awarded to Sunshine Auto Salvage for $2,250 and vehicle 4, a 1972 fire engine awarded to Stillinger Body Shop for $1,800.00.

A bid for fencing job at the Bamberg County Airport that was secured through a grant of $220,000 was awarded to Long Fence Company out of Virginia.

In the Public Comments:

Bamberg resident Becky Swindell asked if all the projects were judged based on some criteria? She was informed that they were judged by a set of criteria. It was also noted in discussion that there were no guidelines on how to come up with projects, but there were guidelines as to how the commission should operate.

Sarah Guess Noel asked if all the projects met the objective for capital projects and she was informed that they all met the criteria.

Bamberg County Councilman elect Trent Kinard wanted to know if there were statues in place to make sure the projects after they are funded are insured. He also wanted to know what would happen in eight years if the bonds were not paid back. Kinard asked what the actual cost to repair the courthouse was? He was informed that County Council couldn’t control the continued operations of places it put money into other than county operations. If after eight years the bonds were not paid they become an obligation of the county. The assessment of the needs of the courthouse was a “barebones assessment” enough to make the facility “functional.”

Charlie Swindell wanted to know the status of the hiring of a new administrator. “What’s going on?” He was told 25 people applied for the job and six have been interviewed so far. “It’s still in the process,” Chairman Chris Wilson said.