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South Carolina General Assembly may need to help Project Star move across the finish line

South Carolina General Assembly may need to help Project Star move across the finish line

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FLORENCE, S.C. — The Florence County Council may need the assistance of the South Carolina General Assembly to move forward on Project Star. 

The county council voted unanimously Thursday morning to keep two ordinances related to the economic development project on its meeting agenda despite the ordinance failing to move forward for over a  year. 

One of the ordinances kept on the agenda authorizes a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement between the county and the unidentified company in exchange for the company's investment of $6.7 million in the county. The other ordinance adds property owned by the company into a metaphorical joint county industrial park in Florence and Darlington counties. 

As it involves a joint county industrial park, the second ordinance also required the approval of the Darlington County Council. This was accomplished at the December 2019 meeting of that council. 

The organizational code of the county council calls for the automatic removal of an ordinance if it fails to move forward for a year. 

The two ordinances were introduced at the Oct. 17, 2019, meeting of the council and second readings and public hearings were held on Nov. 21, 2019. Action on the ordinances has been deferred from the December 2019 meeting until the meeting Thursday morning. 

Councilman Kent C. Caudle made a motion to stop the automatic removal process at the meeting. In specific, Caudle made a motion to suspend the automatic removal provision as it relates to the two ordinances. 

County Administrator K.G. "Rusty" Smith Jr. updated the council on the progress of the ordinance after Jason Springs seconded Caudle's motion. 

"We're still negotiating," Smith said by phone. "I've met with the attorney, [state Rep.] Jay Jordan and the Darlington County administrator [C. Marion Stewart] and they're still working on a legislative fix to rectify this situation." 

Smith was ill and attended Thursday's meeting by telephone. He did not specify which attorney was at the meeting or what the situation is that requires legislative rectification. 

The area Jordan represents in the South Carolina House of Representatives includes portions of south and west Florence. As he is involved, this would suggest that the project will be in that area. 

Project Star was not the only economic development project on the council's agenda Thursday. 

The council unanimously the third and final reading of an ordinance that approves  a development agreement between the county and Marlboro Development Team for the construction of another spec building in the Pee Dee Electric Cooperative Touchtone Energy Commerce Park near the intersection of Interstate 95 and S.C. 327. 

Smith told the council that the county's investment would be $190,000 per year in upkeep of the building and that Pee Dee Electric Cooperative would contribute $200,000 per year. He added that the county would be under no obligation to purchase the building at any point. 

In other action Thursday, the council also:

>> Approved third and final reading of an ordinance that amends a development agreement with Jonathan Chandler to allow for an additional number of townhomes to be constructed in a gated community near the Darlington County line and the intersection of Ebenezer and Pisgah Roads. 

>> Approved the second reading of an ordinance authorizing the issuance of the $120 million penny sales tax bond. 

>> Introduced an ordinance amending a joint county industrial park agreement with Marion County to include properties owned by Projects Jigsaw, Maly, and Splash.

>> Approved resolutions recognizing William "Sam" Breeden Jr. for his community service, amending the county policy manual regarding training status of EMS personnel to allow for EMT trainees to be employed and  amending the policy manual regarding certification pay for central dispatch personnel to allow for certification by the county's own trainer. 

>> Appointed Elizabeth Chase "Diddy" Anderson to serve on the museum board to represent Council District 3 (Al Bradley); Connie Haselden to serve on the policy commission on recreation representing District 6 (Steven DeBerry), Mac Matthews to serve on the Pee Dee Workforce Development Board representing industry/business; and A.J. Melton to represent the area served by Howe Springs Volunteer Fire Company on the unified fire board. 

>> Approved the expenditure of up to $219,790 to assist Florence County Clerk of Court Doris O'Hara's office with the digitization of county deeds, mortgages and plats. 

>> Approved the purchase of a Lenvo Bearcat armored vehicle for $233,097 from Capital Project Sales Tax III funds that will replace the sheriff's office's current armored vehicle. 

>> Approved the purchase of the former Johnsonville City Hall for $45,000 from the county's contingency funds. 

>> Approved the expenditure of up to $8,750 in Council District 1 (Jason Springs) road system maintenance fee funds to provide road stone for Margie Lane. 

>> Approved the expenditure of up to $5,250 from Council District 7 (Waymon Mumford) road system maintenance fee funds for road stone for Cooper Lane. 

>> Approved the expenditure of up to $1,750 from Council District 2 (Roger Poston) road system maintenance fee funds for road stone for Gainey Road. 

>> Declared one charger, two trucks, a tractor, a trailer, a field groomer, and a bush hog as surplus property and authorized their disposal via GovDeals. 

>> Declared a shotgun as surplus to allow the weapon to be given to an officer at the Florence County Sheriff's Office who retired. 

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Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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