County planning public forums to discuss courthouse
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
At their October 2 regular meeting, Darlington County Council voted to contract with a facilitator to set up five public meetings where Council will receive public input about the pending decision to rehab the existing county courthouse or construct a new facility.
Council approved the expenditure of $9,250 to hire Weathers Group of Columbia to preside over these forums, which will be held in varying locations convenient to all county residents. The exact dates and venues for these forums have not yet been finalized.
County administrator Charles Stewart said that ideally the forums would occur in November, December, and January, which would give the county adequate time to assess public feedback and determine a course of action. Stewart said that if public opinion indicates support for a new courthouse, the county would need to draft and approve a referendum by the end of July, 2018 for inclusion on the November 2018 ballot.
At a work session held August 29, Stewart said that ballpark estimates to build a new courthouse range between $30 and $40 million and would require a new penny sales tax to finance. Rehabbing the current building and adding needed security measures could cost $8 or $9 million, which could be financed by general obligation bond. This option would not levy any additional sales tax on Darlington County shoppers and would not require voter approval.
Also on the agenda, Council carried over second reading for Ordinance 17-12, which would repeal a requirement for county department heads to reside within Darlington County. The old requirement was never enforced and now, the ordinance says, several department heads reside outside county limits. Repealing this restriction would remove the possibility that these employees could be dismissed with notice for not relocating their residence inside the county.
Public hearings and final readings were held and approved for two ordinances.
No. 17-09 increased the number of lots off an access or utility easement from two to six. Previously, developers and landowners had to go before the Planning Commission and request a variance before creating more than two lots with access to a public road.
No. 17-10 cleared the receipt and expenditure of $17,191 in supplemental State Aid Funds for the Darlington County Library System.
A public hearing was held on a the proposed lease of space in the Society Hill Neighborhood Center at 223 Hall Street to Crystal Jackson and I Am Visible LLC (a tutoring and academic enrichment after school program), but a vote on the matter was carried over pending receipt of further information regarding the lessee’s insurance requirements.
After the regular agenda, Council held an executive session and briefly reconvened. They voted unanimously to extend county administrator Charles Stewart’s contract for another two years. Stewart’s contract was set to expire at the end of October.