Sales tax referendum headed to voters after council approval

First Byline: 
Will Whaley - Staff Writer

Council unanimously approved the referendum for the 1 percent local option sales tax even after public comments were made against it.
Some citizens responded with questions of why taxes needed to be raised.
James Williams, a business owner in Barnwell, said he hopes council understands the small business owners are dependent on every penny they can get.
After public comments, Chairman Freddie Houston Sr. said the tax is not isolated to one group of people.
"The tax is only implemented on goods and services," said Houston. "This is not the same as a property tax. Everyone pays for this including people who come through Barnwell."
"I can assure you with what needs to be fixed, sales tax is the only option that we have," said Councilman Jerry Creech. Creech also asked the people who made public comments to reconsider their feeling about the possible sales tax.
Other councilmen said the renovations of the courthouse will be done regardless, saying the public could watch the courthouse fall and that the scale house at the landfill is well past its prime.
"I encourage everyone to know what the tax is," said Houston. "It is a small tax and a fair tax."
"We hope that this brings business to Barnwell," said Councilman Joe Smith.
"It is better than raising property taxes," said Councilman Lowell Jowers, talking about alternate ways to have the money to do the projects council put on their sales tax wish list.
"There are just some things that have to be done," said Houston adding how if voters want to vote down on this referendum, they will have a chance to make the choice in November.
If this referendum is passed, projects like the courthouse and courthouse renovations will be complete, the sewage line from Barnwell to the SouthernCarolina Alliance Technology (SCAT) Park will be completed and Reynolds Road water line improvement will be done.
In other news:
• Sheriff Ed Carroll delivered reports for the litter pick up. Around 2,242 bags of trash have been picked up in the county using the Barnwell County Detention Center inmates. The sheriff's office will continue to try and have one litter day per week.
• New retro reflective traffic signs have been distributed throughout the county, according to administrative updates from Pickens Williams.
• A motion was approved to match a $10,000 grant with Axis 1. This comes after Axis 1's request for more funding was denied in June.
• The third reading of an ordinance to sell a lot of land on Charles Street was approved.
• No action was taken after closed session that was added on the agenda at the meeting. The closed session discussed the drug task force with Carroll.
• The finance committee made two recommendations which were unanimously approved.
In order to pay the bond acquisition payment, which was issued for the construction of the jail, that is due soon, permission was given to use the Evergreen Fund -- a reserve fund the county set up to borrow from itself instead of outside sources -- in the amount of $186,500 with a 1.7 percent interest to be paid back as well.
Council also approved the finance committee recommendation to allow County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. to borrow as necessary from the Evergreen Fund to pay for the PAX winter storm cleanup that the state has yet to reimburse the county for. The amount for this is $750,000.