Beaufort County Council identifies six 'top priorities' for 2014

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.com

February 15, 2014 

Beaufort County Council set six priorities for the coming year Saturday on the final day of its annual three-day retreat.

Those issues top a list of two dozen tasks on council's 2014 to-do list.

Council pared down the list from more than 150 tasks and ideas with the help of consultant and retreat facilitator Lyle Sumek.

Sumek, County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville and county administrator Gary Kubic will delegate the to-do list to the council's committees and county staff, Kubic said. In the coming weeks, they will dole out responsibilities and deadlines to monitor the county's progress, Sumek said.

Council also identified seven other high priorities including making an inventory of county-owned land; developing the Mitchellville historic site; establishing a business retention program; adopting the Community Development Code on zoning; creating a telecommunications infrastructure plan; building a new animal services facility; and improving parking at Pinckney Island.

Here are the top six things:

November referendums: Council is considering two 1-cent, sales tax measures. The local-option tax measure would provide property tax relief and additional revenue for the county and area municipalities.

The second would pay for big-ticket capital improvements.

Both would require voter approval in November. They would first have to be vetted by the county and approved by County Council this summer before they could appear on the ballot.

Trash transfer station(s): The county will review whether developing one or more trash transfer stations will improve its solid waste management plan. The county is currently negotiating extending its contract with Waste Management for use of the Hickory Hill landfill in Jasper County.

Business license fee: Council will examine either an overhaul of the county's business-license rules or eliminating them altogether. Council hopes to make a decision during the budget process in the spring. A public workshop to discuss the rules has been tentatively scheduled for March 11, Councilman Jerry Stewart has said.

Pepper Hall: Council will prepare a report on development options for a portion of the Pepper Hall tract along U.S. 278 and the Okatie River.

In December, council agreed to pay $4 million for 18-acres of that property. Plans are to conserve that acreage.

It now has an 18-month option to purchase the remaining 102 acres for $12 million, but must find a way raise that money, Sommerville said.

County campus plan: County staff will create a plan for the county's main government complex on Ribaut Road in Beaufort. The campus includes the county detention center, the sheriff's office and county administration buildings, which need several million dollars in renovations and upgrades, Kubic said.

Economic development funding: Council will consider annual funding for economic development. That could include assigning a portion of the county's business license revenue for that purpose, should the fee continue to be collected. In September, council agreed to pay $190,000 to partner with the Lowcountry Economic Alliance to study and attract new economic drivers to the area.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

Related content:

Beaufort County Council considers sales-tax referendums, Feb. 14, 2014

Beaufort County Council votes down trash transfer station on Chechessee site, Nov. 18, 2014

Beaufort County Council seeks feedback on business-license requirements, Jan. 9, 2014 Beaufort County Council approves Pepper Hall purchase, Dec. 9, 2013

Lowcountry Economic Alliance still Beaufort County's recruiter despite setbacks, Nov. 29, 2013

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