County Council approves raises for 4 employees

Barnwell County Council voted unanimously Aug. 8 to approve pay grades and associated raises for four county employees. This is on top of the 3 percent raise approved in June for almost all county employees.

The vote came after a closed session at the end of the council’s regular meeting “to discuss personnel matters related to the Building and Grounds, Sheriff’s Department and Magistrate’s Office.

Councilman Jerry Creech moved to approve the pay grades. His motion was seconded by Harold Buckmon.

There are two employees in the Building and Grounds Department, one in the Coroner’s Office and one in Finance who will receive the raises.

County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. said after the meeting that no increase in the budget was required. He said “anticipated savings in the departments” made the raises possible.

Project Lodgepole

Council held a public hearing and voted to approve third reading of an ordinance related to Project Lodgepole, a solar energy farm located on 1,300 acres outside of Barnwell.

The ordinance provides fee in lieu of taxes incentives and special source revenue credits for the project. It also includes Lodgepole Solar, LLC in the Quad-County Industrial Park.

Harry Johnson of Cypress Creek Renewables, developer of the project, said Lodgepole is a $150,000 annual investment.

Johnson said his company is also involved in Project Beacon, another solar project which was approved earlier this year.

He said the project is “on the grid and sending power to the system.”

In a separate matter the council voted unanimously to add property in Hampton County to the Quad-County Industrial Park.

Equipment for landfill

At the beginning of the meeting Councilman Creech asked the agenda be amended to include a resolution related to the purchase of a piece of equipment for the landfill.

Administrator Williams explained that BB&T, who was the low bidder to finance the purchase, requires a resolution by the council authorizing the loan of 2.24 percent.

The council agreed unanimously to amend the agenda and later to approve the resolution.

SCA update

John Fleming of SouthernCarolina Alliance gave a quarterly update on the efforts of the 6-county economic development organization.

Fleming said SCA is currently working on 100 active projects in Barnwell, Allendale, Bamberg, Hampton, Colleton and Jasper counties. Eighteen are in Barnwell County.

“We have had eight site visits in Barnwell County this year,” said Fleming.

He said there have been six announcements in the region this year including the Aug. 8 groundbreaking of the Bamberg-Barnwell Regional Emergency Center.

Fleming said SCA is currently working with the Department of Energy for projects in the South Carolina Advanced Technology Park. They are also “engaging with the Jasper Port Authority” to learn where it is considering projects to provide logistical support to the port.

“We want to thank you for your support of all the projects,” said Fleming.

Boards & committees

The council approved David Dangerfield and Ann Loadholt to serve on the Museum Board.

Buckmon, who chairs the Judicial Committee, said the Barnwell County Detention Center “is losing officers left and right.”

He said officers are working there long enough to get certified but, because of the pay scale, are leaving for other opportunities. “We need to look at some means of retaining these employees,” said Buckmon.

Kinlaw noted the need for detention officers “is a problem statewide”.

Buckmon also chairs the Services Committee and reported that Guinyard-Butler Middle School is participating in the recycling program this year.

“We will have all four schools in District 45 that will be 100 percent recycling,” reported Buckmon.

Councilman Jerry Creech, who chairs the Healthcare Committee, noted the groundbreaking earlier that day for the Bamberg/Barnwell Regional Emergency Center just outside of Denmark.

He said that groundbreaking, coupled with the Barnwell Urgent Care opening and the proposed contract with Air Methods for medical air transport insurance, are all positive for residents. “We have turned the healthcare situation around in Barnwell County,” said Creech.

Creech informed council that MedShore Ambulance Service had planned to offer an emergency medical technician course at the Barnwell County Career Center. “There were 22 kids who signed up last spring but only one actually came through. They are having to cancel that class,” he reported.

He said the cancellation “was a disappointment” as MedShore officials had hoped to hire some of the graduates of the class.

Administrator’s report

Administrator Williams reported that balloting in the 2018 elections will not be held in the National Guard Armory as it has for “40-plus years.”

He said statewide the armories are not being allowed permission from Homeland Security for events outside the scope of the S.C. National Guard.

“We’ve reached an agreement for use of the health department which is a county-owned building,” said Williams.

Williams also reported two new tankers have been ordered for the Barnwell County Fire Service.

He said a tanker has been set up on Fire Coordinator Timbo Williams’ truck “to assist with brush and small fires.”

Williams said a bid opening has been held on the construction of the transfer station. “We are in the process of finalizing the contract with the successful bidder.”

“This is our first penny sales tax project,” said Williams. He said the solid waste transfer station was built in 1997 or 98 and “has had a rough life” since then. He said a fire damaged the building but a tornado in January “finished it out”.

“We will have a period of time we will have to haul our waste to Bamberg County. We prefer not to do that (due to cost) and are working with DHEC (the Department of Health and Environmental Control) on alternative plans,” said Williams. He said Bamberg County “has been very helpful” to Barnwell County.