NEWBERRY COUNTY — Newberry County Council approved paying an $18,000 first quarter invoice to Central South Carolina Alliance during its meeting Wednesday night.
Rick Farmer, director of Economic Development, said that the continued partnership with the Central South Carolina Alliance was valuable to the county.
“Newberry County was one of the original members of the Central South Carolina Alliance. It continues to be a valuable alliance for us, but my number one reason for continued partnership with the Alliance is we would be at a tremendous competitive disadvantage not in an alliance,” he said. “There are only two counties in the state right now that are not in an alliance. The vast majority of counties continue to be in one alliance or another.”
Farmer presented a list of items the Central Alliance has worked on with him, including working on a proposed existing industry expansion. The Alliance also did fee runs and a cost benefit analysis, is organizing a trip to Sweden for this October, in which Farmer will participate, and is working on a flyer for the Caterpillar building.
Councilman Kirksey Koon said that, as in the past, he could not support giving Central Alliance $72,000 a year.
“I have not seen where they have brought any industry to our county. I believe if I was working for a car dealership for seven and a half years (the amount of time he has been on council) and I had not sold a vehicle, I believe they would fire me,” he said.
Councilman Leslie Hipp said he understood and agreed with Koon that there has not been as much obvious progress made.
“On the other hand, the South Carolina Department of Commerce is the major marketer of properties in South Carolina for major industries, and has basically, in our discussions, said you need to be a part of an alliance,” he said. “You and I both know that we have researched other options that were available and this was our only option, other than no alliance at all.”
Hipp added that Central Alliance, in addition to locating industry, does a lot of marketing and gives assistance for the county’s economic development.
“Am I overjoyed with the success that he’s been able to specifically identify to the Alliance? No,” Hipp said. “Do I think we need to continue to be a part of an Alliance? If we want to continue to have the support of South Carolina Department of Commerce, which is absolutely necessary, then we need to continue to be a part of this alliance until some other option is available to us.”
Council approved paying the invoice with a 4-1 vote after Hipp made a motion and Councilman Scott Cain seconded. Koon voted against it.
In other business, council approved contributing $1,000 to the Community Christmas Tree Sponsorship.
“Since 2012 Downtown Newberry has been decorated with upgraded lights and Christmas displays, thanks to the donations and support of our local businesses, families and local government,” said Christy Pomeroy. “These decorations, and events which celebrate them, are enjoyed by our families throughout the county and attract tourist to our county for the holiday season.”
For the 2016 holiday season, the Community Christmas Tree Sponsorship plans to provide the same quality of decorations but this year would like to add a new lighting element downtown.
“The crowning glory of the holiday decor is a 500-pound 20 foot tall community Christmas tree. The tree alone costs $1,000 to purchase and transport back to Newberry, which is why we are asking the county to consider sponsorship to the Community Christmas Tree once again at the $1,000 level,” Pomeroy said.
Hipp recommended approving contributing the $1,000 and Cain seconded. Koon said he was not in favor of donating to the Community Christmas tree because he sees it as a special interest group.
“I am not in favor of donating county funds to special interest groups. That does not have anything to do with Christmas groups, but any group. County taxpayers, I feel that they feel, or the majority of them feel, that their taxes should go towards supporting public safety, public works, upkeep of county property,” Hipp said. “For that reason, I can personally give a donation to something like that, but I cannot support using county funds.”
The motion passed with a 4-1 vote, with Koon voting against.
In other business, County Council:
• Recognized three county employees for their years of service to the county: Grallin Bullard, public works, 10 years; Keith Suber, public works, 10 years; and Amelia Shields, probate, 15 years.
• Approved second reading to rezone one parcel totaling three and four tenths acres designated as Light Industrial to Single Family Residential (RS3).
• Approved second reading of an ordinance to rezone a 2.10 acre parcel from Single Family Residential (RS-1) to Single Family Residential (RS3).
• Approved second reading of an ordinance to create the Fox Briar Subdivision Special Tax District.
• Announced that Newberry County Council will not meet Aug. 3. County officials will be at the annual South Carolina Association of Counties conference.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.