About $314 million in business deals are coming to Greenwood County, among three economic development projects discussed Tuesday at County Council’s meeting.
Council voted unanimously on second reading of a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement for a $90 million capital investment by a company identified only as “Project Wahoo.” The FILOT offers a locked property tax millage for 30 years, and comes with other incentives.
The company hasn’t been publicly identified yet, but is expected to be named at a council meeting next month.
The same goes for a company identified only as “Project Commodore.” Split into two identical $112 million capital investment projects, council voted on ordinances to promise incentives for these projects, and had first reading on an ordinance to offer a 30-year FILOT agreement to that company as well.
Before tackling any of their business, though, council brought up members of the county EMS staff and read aloud a proclamation honoring the work they do to save lives and recognizing May 21-27 as emergency medical services week.
Council approved second reading of the 2023-24 budget. County Treasurer Steffanie Dorn said the budget includes no property tax millage increases, although there are a few fee increases for the landfill, vehicle fees and the fire fee.
About 78% of county fire fee payers will see an increase of between 75 cents and about $6 on their annual fee. The largest increase is among multi-family residences and industrial fire fee payers, Dorn explained.
The $57.3 million budget covers all the county’s funds, and includes a 5% cost of living increase for county employees.
County Fire Chief Steve Holmes and EMS Director Derek Oliver asked council to consider changing how the county fire department is structured. Since starting the paid fire positions with six firefighters, Holmes said it’s grown over the years and needs a restructure to stay competitive.
“Now we’re trying to make the next step and create a rank structure,” he said.
The new program removes an EMT requirement for firefighters and removes the stipend associated with it. The rank structure would include positions for a captain, one lieutenant, fire specialists and firefighters at rank one and two.
In other business:
Council voted to update its retiree insurance premium subsidy policy so that retired staff who come back to work for the county no longer lose their health insurance benefits. Instead, the benefits are paused until the employee leaves their work with the county again.
The county offered a 20-year property tax abatement under the Bailey Bill for the property at 135 Grace St., which is a historic property recently renovated and planned to be rented to Lander University students, according to Planning Director Carol Coleman.
Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.
Krystal Robinson remembers the experiences that led her to want to be a teacher.
Coming from a family of teachers, she recalls people telling her mom about the impact she had on their child’s life.
She wanted that same experience.
Now, as a sixth-year teacher and next year’s teacher of the year for Greenwood School District 50, she has had those experiences.
Robinson is a fifth grade teacher at Woodfields Elementary School, which she said is the best age for her to teach because they still like learning and are beginning to mature and form social skills.
She’s looking forward to being a voice for teachers when she takes on her role as teacher of the year. She has already had friends who have mentioned things they want to see implemented or changed.
Robinson’s teaching lineage extends from primary school teachers up to college professors. She was pulled toward the career by that connection, but also by some teachers of her own. She remembers her own fifth grade teacher who inspired her to be a better person.
She also recalls when she came from the Virgin Islands, she had a dialect and people in her class would remark on her “sounding funny.” Her teacher pulled her aside and told her “You’re smart, please don’t listen to all that.”
“So he made me feel really comfortable and I want to do that for somebody else,” she said.
“I want to be that person that helps them to feel comfortable and know that it’s OK to be here, I want you to learn and I want you to feel OK away from home. That’s the feeling I want to evoke in other kids.”
The best part of the job, Robinson said, is experiencing and helping kids through their emotions, which she likened to a roller coaster. But people often don’t think of the fact that teachers do carry students’ emotions home.
“At the end of the day, we technically clock out, but we don’t mentally clock out,” she said.
“It is a lot that’s brought to us at 7:30, 7:45 in the morning. They do bring home to school, and we end up taking their home, home with us too.”
The worst part of the job is testing, she said. “The test doesn’t get to see my babies and their highs and lows,” she added.
Robinson has been able to keep up with former students. She was a long-term substitute for seventh graders early in her career, and those students have graduated and are working and have children. Seeing them out and about is exciting, she said.
She got an email from a former student when she was announced as teacher of the year, a football player who wrote “I remember you telling me to love math.” He talked about the math he has to do on the field calculating yardage.
“That is really exciting that they even remember anything I said to them years down the line and just seeing them grow and be, like, amazing humans, that’s always a good part (of it.)”
Contact staff writer Lindsey Hodges at 864-943-5644 or on Twitter @LindseyNHodges.
McCORMICK — County Council on Tuesday approved second reading of an ordinance authorizing the sale of the old Willington School and 7.54 acres to the nonprofit group Organized Uplifting Resources and Strategies (OURS).
OURS focuses on education, ownership and leadership for people in Black, Indigenous, People of Color — BIPOC — communities. Founder Erniko Brown, a McCormick County native, spoke to council about her plans. The county is selling the property for $15,000.
Brown said she wants to use the school and property as a community resource hub and an organic landscape administration site that supports green community spaces. She is pursuing grants to help fund the $1.5 million project.
“The objective is promoting and growing a thriving community that is self-sustaining to support places like Willington that are also considered food deserts,” she said.
A food desert is an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. OURS’ gardening program teaches people about sustainability through agriculture.
Brown wants to renovate the existing property and modernize the school to be an energy-efficient building that serves as a mixed-use property for the community. She hopes to create five to 10 jobs. Brown said she has relatives who attended Willington School and that it’s important to her to preserve its history.
“Benefits to the community will include equity, access and opportunities,” Brown said. “Willington has very little access to food. People will be able to access education, hands-on learning and be a part of virtual communities — and learn about impact from a global perspective.”
Brown is state NAACP chairperson for environmental and climate justice, a master gardener, and has a master’s in organizational leadership from Columbia College. She’s working on a doctorate.
Other speakers during the meeting included Tamala White, Jimmy Collier and Marge Elmore.
White and Collier spoke against a possible fire tax. White said a tax would hurt people in unincorporated parts of the county. Collier talked about a desire to better locate fire hydrants and increase the amount of money available for fire department services.
Elmore talked about the agreement between real estate investment firm SLV Windfall Group and Nassau Enterprise.
SLVW initially entered into a purchase agreement with Foodbase Group Inc., a subsidiary of AnPac Bio-Medical Science Co., which is headquartered in China. Concerns from residents about a Chinese-based firm buying property in McCormick County spurred residents to speak out, saying they worry the Chinese Communist Party is trying to gain a foothold in the U.S.
The deal between SLVW and Foodbase Group was nixed, and SLVW announced it entered into a new deal with Nassau Enterprise, which it said is fully owned and managed by U.S. citizens.
Elmore said “the only interests that the new owners of SLV Windfall Group have is their own profit.” She said the EB5 program is “fraught with fraud,” and argued no money will be invested in McCormick County schools, public safety and public infrastructure.
In other business, council:
Approved second reading of ordinances to raise revenue to adopt budgets for the county, school district, water and sewer department and the Savannah Lakes Special Tax District.
Approved second reading of a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes and incentive agreement with WCTEL for installing fiber optics to provide broadband internet service access to underserved areas of the county.
Authorized County Administrator Columbus Stephens to sign a task order for obstruction removal at the county airport. Economic Development Director Mark Warner said the county received a grant from the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission to pay for the removal of trees at both ends of the runway.
Authorized Stephens to accept a bid proposal submitted by Burdette Farms LLC for $305,000 for three years of landscaping and grounds maintenance services. Burdette Farms was the low bidder.
Authorized Stephens to enter into an agreement with Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. for services provided for water, sewer, roads and bridges projects. Thomas & Hutton’s services will replace those of the retiring county engineer.
Approved first reading of a revised schedule of zoning fees. A comparison of current and new fees will be available before third reading.
Contact staff writer Greg Deal at 864-223-1812 or follow on Twitter @IJDEAL.