The Lowcountry Economic Alliance's effort to reorganize and attract more private-sector participation has stalled as Jasper County continues to mull changes to the organization's bylaws.The alliance, founded as a partnership between Beaufort and Jasper counties, needs the approval of both county councils before its new governing rules can take effect.
With new bylaws in place, the alliance could move forward with recruiting board members and creating a business plan. Its mission statement is "to market the Lowcountry to potential new businesses creating jobs that pay about the state average wage level," according to the revised bylaws. Beaufort County Council approved the alliance's new bylaws in a 9-1 vote in November, but Jasper County Council has not taken a vote.
Martin Sauls, the only person who sits on both the alliance board and the Jasper County Council, will explain why his county is withholding approval at a 3 p.m. meeting today at 108 Traders Cross, suite 100 in Bluffton, according to alliance staff member Kim Statler.
Attempts in the past week to reach Sauls for comment were unsuccessful.
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Councilman Henry Etheridge said the Jasper Council has not decided if it will accept the changes to the bylaws but declined to explain why the panel has not already taken a vote.
The amendments, among other things, expand the board of directors to include at least 30 members elected from the private sector and require that its public investors -- Beaufort and Jasper counties -- provide funding based on population. The counties would be allowed one representative each on the board.
Beaufort County Councilman Steve Baer cast the dissenting vote, and Councilman Brian Flewelling was absent. Baer said he is uncomfortable with how vaguely funding is outlined in the new bylaws.
As they are written, the county would have only one-thirtieth of the vote but could foot the majority of the bill to fund the group, Baer said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Jasper County has similar issues with the bylaws," he said.
Follow reporter Anne Christnovich at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.