Jasper County, Alliance remain at odds months after split

cconley@islandpacket.comJuly 31, 2012 

Despite parting ways more than two months ago, the spat between Jasper County and the Lowcountry Economic Alliance isn't letting up.

Alliance members on Tuesday accused Jasper County of hiring lobbyists to steer passage of a state budget provision earlier this summer that cost the alliance almost $600,000 in state matching funds.

That claim followed a sharply-worded letter Jasper County sent on July 16 requesting the alliance stop acting on its behalf, claiming it could confuse business prospects. The letter also insisted the alliance's new website be taken down until all references to Jasper county are removed.

Jasper County left the Lowcountry alliance in May, leaving Beaufort County as its only member.

The dispute appears to center on differnt interpretations of whether the Lowcountry alliance can still pursue economic development opportunities in Jasper County.

"If we are (out of the alliance), they can't have a website that says 'If you want to do an economic deal in Jasper County, call us,'" said Andy Fulghum, the Jasper County manager. "They can't do our economic development for us."

He added, "There is no harm in being friendly to Jasper County. There is harm in pretending to represent it when they don't."

Jasper County's July 11 letter asked the alliance to remove all mention of Jasper County from its website and make clear the two parties are no longer affiliated.

"We remain dismayed ... that your organization continues to assert that you represent Jasper County, and at least inferentially, that it is with the approval and participation of Jasper County," Council Chairman Samuel Gregory wrote. "You know that this is not the case."

David Tigges, chair of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, said he was preparing a response to that letter but declined to share its contents. He said the LEA's website, which along with a new logo cost $50,000, would not be taken down.

"Our mission is to promote economic development in the Lowcountry, and that is Beaufort County and Jasper County" he said, adding that the alliance is a nonprofit corporation that operates independently of both Beaufort and Jasper counties.

Tigges said recent "lobbying efforts" made little sense because they didn't bring additional money for economic development for Jasper County.

"I don't wish them any ill will," Tigges said. "I don't think what they did helps us, in fact they hurts us, because there are less dollars coming to the area, but it is what it is."

In other action Tuesday: The Lowcountry Economic Alliance board approved a $537,860 budget for 2012-13 and approved two new members to its board of directors.

Related content

  1. New budget puts Beaufort-Jasper economic alliance in funding fix, June 29, 2012
  2. Split with Jasper County could affect state funding, June 14, 2012
  3. Lowcountry Economic Alliance appoints new members, despite Jasper County attorney's objection, May 21, 2012
  4. Jasper County Council votes to leave Lowcountry Economic Alliance; will join new group, May 16, 2012

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