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  • Go Laurens/Go Clinton Staff

Penny-tax commission is set ... but it wasn't easy

STAFF REPORT Nov 13, 2019 Updated Nov 14, 2019

The Capital Initiative Commission, which will write the ballot question for a 1-cent addition to the Laurens County sales tax for a Nov. 2020 vote, is now final after 1 hour, 20 minutes in closed session and seven ballots by the County Council.

The council-chosen members are George Austin, John Irwin and Bobby Smith. Clinton selected Walter Hughes III, and Laurens selected Sharon Brownlee. Hughes and Brownlee chose Scott Cook.

These six will consider which projects will be included for voters to decide on, which could total as much as $51 million. The Laurens County Council’s role in the process now ends, and no public money can be spent on the sales tax vote, pro or con. County personnel will be allowed to answer questions from The Capital Initiative Commission.

By state law, voters can decide these issues -- whether or not to enact an additional 1-cent sales tax for capital projects -- only every two years and only during a general election (no special election or municipal election).

The council was choosing from among a list of seven nominees -- an eighth was disqualified as not meeting the proper criteria. Council met for an hour in closed session -- allowed under state law to consider, by name, nominees for public positions -- discussing the nominees and three other matters. After five unsuccessful ballots, council members went back into closed session for 20 minutes to discuss the remaining five nominees (after Austin and Erwin received majority votes). Two votes later, the three positions were filled by a 6-0 vote. Council Vice-chairman Joe Wood walked out before the vote.

In other business at the Laurens County Council’s regular meeting Nov. 12, the council:

-- Authorized County Recreation to proceed with a demonstration trail on county-owned property behind Laurens County Hospital. This is the first step in extending the popular Swamp Rabbit Trail from Greenville County through Laurens County.

-- Agreed on a 4-3 vote to have a consultant study a potential new Sheriff’s-Coroner’s Office building; council previously had authorized a study of a new EMS-Emergency Preparedness building. Council members Wood, Kemp Younts and Garrett McDaniel voted “no”; Wood said the feasibility study will simply “sit on a shelf” because the county doesn’t have the money to build a new sheriff’s office.

-- Saw a slideshow of renovation work that has been done in the basement of the former county library in Laurens. The area now houses E-911; the program’s director, Joey Avery, said the county is close to rolling out a new program, “Text to 911.”

-- Heard a presentation from Public Works Director Dale Satterfield about “chip sealing” on county roads. Satterfield said it could be an important process in saving and repairing 401 miles of county-maintained roads. The work is financed by a $15 per vehicle county fee; Satterfield said a $7 annual increase in that fee could provide enough funds for proper maintenance of the county’s most valuable asset, its roadways.

-- Authorized a $24,000 expenditure for an Airport Layout Plan; it was last updated in 2005; the money could be reimbursable from the Federal Aviation Administration. Council also allowed a $93,000 transfer from a clerk of court special projects fund to complete Phase 4 work at the Hillcrest Square building. The funds are to be used for flooring, bathroom renovation, painting, etc.

-- Agreed to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27, at the Northern Laurens County Emergency Services Building, Old Laurens Road, near ZF Transmissions. The council will assess how much more money this building, paid for by a $900,000 state grant, will need before it is ready for occupancy, and how the space can be divided among the Sheriff’s Office, Fire Service and Emergency Medical Service to supplement the emergency services already in place in the Gray Court/Owings community, and for quicker response to industries in the I-385 Corridor.

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