County resurrecting economic development board
Barnwell County Council approved in a 5-2 vote the second reading of an ordinance to create a county economic development commission (EDC).
The proposed board would have 11 members-four appointed by county council and one each from the municipalities of Barnwell, Williston, Blackville, Elko, Kline, Snelling and Hilda. A third reading is needed for final approval.
This latest reading is just another installment in the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) saga when last year the EDC gave money and lands to the three major municipalities in Barnwell County. After the original EDC disbanded, the county and municipalities started to dispute about who should keep the assets. Now, with this ordinance, County Council hopes to take another small step in reorganizing the EDC and building trust between the city councils and the county council.
The ordinance states that neither the county nor any municipality shall appoint anyone to the Economic Development Commission and the EDC who is also serving on another type of Economic Development entity. Any removals of a board member requires majority vote of the Economic Development Commission Board and by Barnwell County Council.
Councilman Lowell Jowers said he feels that trust is a one-way street saying the County Council "trusts them and they do not trust us."
"We have a tough situation on our hands," said Councilman Keith Sloan. "Communities do not have the abilities to develop properties."
Sloan also says that the main goal is to restore the EDC back to an independent corporation instead of being part of the Southern Carolina Alliance (SCA). This is the main goal because EDC will just concentrate on Barnwell County as opposed to the SCA, which covers a six county region.
Some of the municipality members feel the opposite way. Dwayne Cagle of Williston Town Council said he thinks the city councils are "the victims because we did not know we were getting the land until the deeds were sent to us."
Litigations to recoup the land and money deeded to the municipalities are still pending. The closed session at the county council meeting May 13 to discuss litigation over the EDC ended with no action taken.
The next meeting between Barnwell County Council and any of the municipalities is the town hall meeting for the city of Barnwell on May 27 at 6 p.m. tentatively at the Barnwell County Public Library Community Room.
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