County delays Center Theater bond
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
Darlington County Council convened a regular meeting on May 18 and voted to delay authorization of a $2 million bond by the Hartsville Community Center Building Commission (aka Hartsville Township), a special purpose tax district that operates the Hartsville Center Theater.
Theater manager Kim Cranford and attorney Lawrence Flynn addressed council on this issue, with Cranford listing a number of important repairs and upgrades necessary to keep the building viable. These include fixing or replacing parking lots, ceilings and roofing, carpeting, making restrooms wheelchair accessible, and installing an elevator. Cranford said many of these repairs are long overdue.
“It’s just years of neglect,” he said.
Flynn explained that as a special purpose tax district, the Hartsville Township has for over thirty years levied a tax of 2 mills on residents of Hartsville (and those living within a roughly five mile radius) to fund Center Theater operations. Such districts are restricted by law from issuing debt exceeding 8-percent of their total assessed value, and this district’s value is about $61 million.
Cranford and Flynn said that projected repair costs are around $1.5 million, and the $2 million bond target would allow a bit of leeway and elimintate the need to return to council for additional bond issuance approvals. Although this bond would not be debt incurred by the county, council’s approval is required before Hartsville Township can proceed.
Council member David Coker (Hartsville – District 8) was not present at this meeting, but had conveyed to council chair Bobby Hudson that he would like to see a map of the Hartsville Township district to be clear on who this bond issue would affect. Flynn said he would obtain the requested information and provide it to council.
Council member Mozella “Pennie” Nicholson pointed out that this meeting represented only second reading for the relevant ordinance, No. 15-13, and council could vote for approval and still have time for changes or clarifications before third and final reading next month. Council voted to honor Coker’s wishes and carried over the ordinance, which will come up again for second reading at council’s June 1 regular meeting.
In other matters, council approved second reading of Ordinance 15-12, containing a batch of incentives for Sonoco Products Company, which plans to expand its Hartsville headquarters with a $12 million research and development facility. Council voted unanimously in favor of a new Fee In Lieu of Tax (FILOT) agreement that reduces the assessment ratio on Sonoco’s manufacturing facility from 10.5 percent to 6 percent and locks in millage for 30 years for each phase of investment, a 30-year extension of an existing 50-percent special source revenue credit from 2006, and a new 50-percent credit to reduce property taxes on the R&D expansion.
Council passed second reading of Ordinance 15-17 providing for the issuance and sale of a $2.1 million general obligation bond to purchase equipment for the Darlington County Fire Protection District, including safety gear (breathing apparatus, thermal imaging cameras), staff vehicles, a new dual-purpose tanker engine, and tanker upgrades.
Roads and Bridges director Bobby Richardson provided council with cost estimates for repair and repaving work requested by residents of the Timberchase community, specifically Pinehaven Road and Timberchase Drive. By current estimates, stabilizing the road base with concrete mix and surfacing with two inches of asphalt would cost about $398,300 for Pinehaven Road, and $725,900 for Timberchase Drive. Council received Richardson’s memo as information.
Budget workshops for the 2015/16 fiscal year budget will begin in earnest soon, with special work sessions scheduled for June 9 and June 11 at 10 a.m., and a public hearing and third reading of the budget set for June 22 at 6 p.m. These meetings are open to the public, and will be held at the Courthouse Annex located at 1625 Harry Byrd Hwy in Darlington.